Sunday, December 26, 2010

Always Take a Buddy...

... or at Least Lots of Handwarmers

The long fingers of a frozen night creeped deep to the bone. Attempting to hunker further down into my bag, I made another futile attempt to rub my feet together and warm the ice-blocks at the ends of my legs. But like each of the dozen attempts I'd made before, I couldn't get them to budge. In my half sleep/half frozen, middle-of-the-night haze I dreamed the entire weight of the world were holding my feet down. In reality, the force that held them was a mere 33lbs of lean, never mean, usually happy, bouncing dog machine. But this night, she was not happy with me.

Summer Sausage and Cheese. Yum.
In a desperate attempt to pacify my inner forest gypsy, I'd ventured down a trail off I-90 over Memorial Day Weekend alone. I'd had enough with winter! My bullheaded desperation to get out wouldn't keep me cooped inside another minute. So despite not having any willing human partners to join me, I did what any forest gypsy HAD to do; I packed my pack, tied my sneakers, and coerced my ever-eager hiking sidekick to come along (this is not hard to do - she is an EXPERT trail lover). Since it was a particularly lovely week leading up to the weekend, I packed my spring/summer gear. Sunny and warm in the city means sunny and warm in the mountains, right? Oh, the sweet misleading and transfixing blindness of being bullheaded!

It was all sunshine and daisies until I reached mile 2.5 of the planned 6 and found the trail fully snow-covered. Of course, bullheaded forest gypsies dont let snow stop them. It also doesnt stop dogs who love that white stuff, even if they sink to their bellies. After post holing until the light began to soften into dusk, I finally back tracked to a different lake miles short of my original destination to make camp.

Is it a fox? No! Its Maile the Great!
Thats when my sidekick started getting cranky. She actually ate my sandwich out of my hand when I distractedly looked the other way (i swear she planned a diversion on purpose). Normally, she would spend the evening prancing after bugs, but before the sun fully went down she'd tucked her frozen little body in and nested down into my sleeping bag. Then I tucked right after sunset because it was too damn cold to stay up any longer and I was shivering through all the layers I'd brought.

It was at that point I realized the thin blanket I'd brought for her wasn't warm enough and the only warm place for her to sleep was between my feet. Or rather, kinda between my feet and mostly on them - I was sleeping in an efficient tapered bag after all.

Sleeping Bag Bandit
Between the dog-induced pain of feet gone numb from lack of blood flow along with the simple bloody, f-ing coldness of the night, my twilight bed time resulted in a collective 4 hours of sleep. I was up in flash the second a hint of daylight appeared. I've never packed a tent so fast. The dog, who if given the choice will sleep in past 10am, was up and ready to run before I could utter "summer sausage". Despite the beautiful, clear, peaceful morning, we were on the trail, back at the car and heading down the highway towards home by 7am. A full day before our planned return.

Most trips, I find, turn out to be nothing like they were planned. Most turn out better. Others, well, they turn out less than better. But usually with some not-so-bestness comes (hopefully) a bit of wisdom. Never again will I go on a snow camping trip without a second sleeping bag for my dog, another buddy who's larger body will help keep the tent warm, or enough handwarmers to line my entire sleeping bag and the dog's blanket with resupplies for halfway through the night. My inner forest gypsy will be running amok again soon. Hopefully she'll remember to pack a bit more carefully.

**Snarky Bumbler's Note: While I realize its time to ski not hike and I cant get enough of the deep white these days, this little memory pops up often, no matter the time of year. It reminds me to treasure the bits of goodness found in even the least pleasant of situations, to be like Maile and smile and bounce down every path - snowy or not, to breathe in every sunrise and sunset (even if I'm silently shivering down/up the trail in solitude), and to always pack an extra layer, a flask of whiskey, and handwarmers no matter the season.

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