Monday, April 27, 2009

The Story I Never Posted (Until Now)

I was reminded of this story quite recently and I have told it on several occasions, but I never provided it in infinite form in all its glory on the web. I will not provide any embellishments because this story needs no embellishing. Anyways without further ado... the Camping Fiasco.

This story takes place in September of 2006. That is one month after I moved out to ABQ. One of our fellow grad students (Paul Harrington) was an avid camper and hiker and he wanted to take a trip up to Pecos Baldy Lake (note the map isn't the exact location, but it was somewhere near Santa Fe). We dubbed it the "Man trip" because no women were allowed (really his wife at the time was going on a trip and we didn't know any girls otherwise). We were going to hunt and kill and dance naked and do other things that ancient man did to survive. Only we were going to do it with tents and with awesomeness.

A few days before our planned departure, I went to the UNM Johnson Center to see if I could rent camping gear. I picked up two of each: sleeping bags, mats, backpacks, and one tent. I sat there for a good 10 minutes trying to decide if we should have 3 individual tents or one big tent. I opted for the one because I didn't think we each should carry a tent and all the other stuff we had. Of course, Paul criticized this to no end (until it ended when we started the hike). This would prove to be vital later.

The day of the hike we packed up tons of food. We packed some hot dogs and rice for dinner, tons of power bars, some granola bars, and pre-hike sandwiches. Paul only had roast beef for meat. That sucked because I hate roast beef. I tried to eat the sandwich, but I just gagged for a while and stopped after a couple bites (that's how much I don't like roast beef). Time to begin the hike.

We had 8 miles to cover before we could set up camp. After about 2 miles in we hit the main trail. This is when everything took a turn for the worse. We managed to reach a snow line. Apparently the night before there was a blizzard. Also the trail is for horses too. Nothing is worse than hiking on a trail that is covered in snow that horses can trek through. Why? Because then there really is no snow. Now the trail is super muddy and there are huge holes where the horses trudge through.

Guess what I (and Larry) was wearing for my hiking/camping adventure. I didn't own any hiking gear so I wore basketball shoes and 2 layers of clothes (socks and everything). So here we are hiking in our bball shoes on this very muddy trail. It was safe to say that our shoes were a little wet by the end of the trek.

After about 7.5 miles of uphill climb (I think the ascension was around 5000ft) Larry and I grew tired of this endless hike. We decided to run out the rest of this. We just wanted to get there. About 3 minutes later, we were there... finally at the top. Unfortunately everything was blanketed in snow and the sun was setting. Setting up camp was going to suck.

Larry and I pitch the tent and we hear some wolves howling in the distance... awesome! After that it was time to gather some wood for a fire so we could eat. Paul managed to scrounge up some kindling and I went off to look for dry wood. Larry and I searched for at least an hour with nothing. Everything was either alive or soaked from the snow (or the nearby lake). I managed to find a huge dead tree to pick from. Larry and I used whatever energy we had left to tear that tree to pieces. Then we had to carry all that wood back to camp which was several hundred feet away. That was no easy feat, especially since we had just manhandled a tree and run a half mile with full gear on.

The rest of the night was peaceful as we warmed ourselves by the fire and just chilled out. Then it was time to go to bed.

This was hands down the WORST night of my life. I have no clue how long I slept but I can't believe it was more than 20 minutes total. It was freezing that night. Let me say that again... It was freezing that night. Literally. It was so cold the lake froze overnight. Think about that.

I slept in all of my clothes and shoes and with my sleeping bag fully bundled and everything. I could only sleep for 1 or 2 minutes at a time as if I slept for any longer my fingers and toes would go completely numb. I thought I was going to end up with serious frostbite the next morning. Every second that went by, I just prayed that the sun would rise so I could get up and get ready to leave.

The plan for the next day was to hike up to the 12,000 ft summit, but luckily the trail was hidden from the snowfall. Thank goodness! A student of mine had given Larry and I some military MRE's (meals ready to eat I believe), and they were self warming. It was the single most awesome thing ever (for me at the time). When the sun came up I was so happy. To my surprise and also my hope, Larry experienced the exact same thing that night.

After such an awful night, we packed up the tents and gear so quickly and sped down the mountain. Seeing cars, showers, heat, etc was the greatest experience of my life. I haven't been camping since.


Mom said...

Next time look at the weather before you go:) Camping is great and you must give it one more try before you decide that you don't want to do it again. Survival training at it best, come on one more try:)

Dad said...

Sort of gives you a new appreciation of mother nature and never underestimate the power of nature. the lake freezing just over night said it all. your story was a little scary and i am glad that you are able to tell it. i could really see you guys racing to get out and back to civilization.... that is one for the archives...

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