The day has finally arrived that I trained so long and hard for--the beginning of the four day and three night trek through the Snowmass Wilderness on the Maroon Bell -Four Pass Loop.  As I packed BB the night before, I think at best you could color me apprehensive.  After finishing packing, we pick up all the packs---guess whose pack is the heaviest---I cannot really figure out why.  I do have the tent and water filtration kit in my pack--but what else could cause mine to be heavier?  I still have not figured that out--but rest assured--the next trip---I will be carrying only the bare necessities and all of them in the ultra light category.  I estimate my pack weighs 35 pounds-at least and I had only trained up to 30--HUMM!

We leave EARLY for us---traveling up yet another winding road, but thankfully without fear of spilling over the side.  As we check in at the Ranger's Station, we learn we are not quite as early as we thought we would be---we are assigned the REMOTE parking lot. This means a half mile hike to the spot where you walk another quarter of a mile to the Maroon Bells Lake and then another quarter of a mile around the lake to the trail head.  I have not even gotten on the trail and I am already huffing and puffing (NOTHING NEW!)

As we strapped on our packs, I notice a car with chicken wire around the wheels-all the way around---STRANGE.  I later have read the porcupines and marmots will get under your cars and do extensive damage  ---SORRY CAR RENTAL COMPANY!

We sign in at the trail head log--you know just in case we die or get lost on this great adventure---they can then search for our earthly remains.  The trail immediately takes off up--what else is new?  It is one thing to go up, but when each step must be measured because the trail is filled with boulders and you have a huge pack on your back--it can be pretty tiring.  I am more than a little annoyed that I am not able to take in the scenery since I have to be looking down most of the time.   This makes all the breaks that I need to catch my breath welcome since at least then I get to look at the gorgeous scenery.  It becomes apparent quickly that I need frequent breaks to get my heart and respiration rates slowed.  Fortunately, Jim is kind enough to stick with me as we climb to the crest of the mountain.  We spot Cathedral Lake-which is a huge local tourist draw since it is only two miles up the trail and our hiking buddies are sitting on a log resting.  Since they have been there 20 minutes, they are rested and ready to go----NOT SO FAST I need a break too!

When I asked about the hike to come---Sam told me, "You don't want to know!"  Should have listened to that warning better!   Sonja kindly takes the tent from me to help lighten my load.   The 3 mountain goats that we are hiking with take off--it turns out not only do you need to race up the mountain to beat the thunderstorm curfew, but also to get a good camping spot.  The race to the camping spot everyday seems to be some local sport that few of us have ever heard about.  

The ranger has given us a lecture on where to camp and what that camp needs to look like.  We are told to camp at least 100' off the trail, and cook 100 yards away from the tents, and hang/place our bear canisters 100 yards away from that---AND OH YES---you need to be near the water source for the night.  WHO KNEW it would be this complicated to camp in the wild?  

Fortunately by the time Jim & I made it to camp, they had two of the tents up--because the rain had started.  I tucked all of my stuff in our tent and climbed in to regroup and rethink and rest.  Quickly I noticed the biggest problem of the trip so far---our tent was leaking.  It never occurred to me to test the waterproofing of the tent while in civilization--just thought that was a given---I have NOW learned it should be retreated every year and the heat that the tent had been stored in had broken down the protective seal.  GREAT!  Sonja never climbs in, but sits in the rain for a while and then finally crawls in the tent with the other girls.  I sit in the tent, hoping it is just a small leak---after I had soaked my WARM coat and hat--trying to mop up the puddles-I gave up.  I had rested long enough that I thought--OK--I can do this---but then the tent leaked---GROAN!  I crawled in the tent with the others and we sat through about 3 hours of rain.  When it finally stopped, we assessed the damage----and ended up pulling the tent up and pouring the water out of it.  Sonja took my camp towel and tried to dry it out and we left it open hoping the wind would help---but things were pretty soaked.

Time for supper---YUMMY dehydrated New Orleans rice and ham for me.  This entails a trip to the stream where you first fill your containers and then filter the water out and finally put a steripen in the water to kill the bugs--a slow process.  The little camp stoves are pulled out and we begin heating the water to re-hydrate our food.  I was pleasantly surprised that not only was the food good, but very filling.  All of this has to be cleaned and washed---NO FOOD SMELL should be around---then we hike out to find a place to hang the bear sack and wedge the bear canisters.  The bear canisters are wedged between rocks and another large rock placed on top of them.  The sack must be hung at least 10' off the ground and between 2 trees to keep the bears out of them. 

Sonja & I blow up our sleeping pads and put our sleeping bags on top--ready for the evening.  We then sit in a huddle on a huge rock playing cards for a few hands.  I graciously lost every hand.  Finally we all admit it is freezing--wind is blowing--no sunshine after the rain--and temperature is dropping.  We all retire to our tents for the night and I am pretty sure I was asleep shortly after 8:00.  Sonja and I both woke up almost at the same time shivering--around midnight.  I have on 3 shirts and my rain jacket on and my long winter running tights---but it is COLD!  We get as close as possible to try and produce more heat--but the damp tent, mountain wind, and cold night make for a very miserable few hours.  We finally doze off again, but are awake and dreading getting out of our sleeping bags by 6 AM.  Finally we have to get up and make our breakfast--repeating the process of the night before after retrieving the food from our stash.  

Camp must be broken and the race to the next camping spot over 2 passes must begin---BUT I have made a difficult but smart decision----check back tomorrow and hear the story!

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