Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Will NOT Think About Trolls... I Will NOT Think About Trolls... I Will NOT Think About Trolls...

So, I guess I am living the dream.

I get to do fun things.

And by fun, I mean insane.

You might remember me talking about the time I climbed Crosier Mountain, got to the top at dawn, and tried (and failed) to take a picture of the moonset.  If not, you can read about it HERE.  Or HERE.  Or even HERE.

Well, it was time.  Time to try this shit again.

And I have to say, I was much better at not thinking about trolls this time.  I didn't say the T-word all morning.

This time I kept thinking about mountain lions.  Might have had something to do with a dream I had recently where this mountain lion was stalking us on the North Fork trail (only a few miles from where we were), or maybe I am just ridiculous.

You can see the moon through the clouds.  Sort of.  

It was 4AM and the wind was howling when we reached the trailhead.  The plan was for Myriah, Chris, and I to climb Crosier before the sun came up.  I don't quite understand how I ever managed to get friends awesome enough to wake up at 2AM to go for a hike with me, but these guys win.

Today was one of those rare occasions where the moonset is close to the sunrise, and I was going to succeed this time.

We were going to succeed.

It would happen.  A photograph of the moon setting over the Continental Divide right when the sun illuminated the snowy peaks with glorious sunshine.

Unless, of course, it was cloudy.

The forecast was not hopeful.  Apparently, there was a severe winter weather alert for the foothills between six and nine thousand feet.  The top of Crosier is about 9200. This could be tricky.  There were so many things that could go wrong.

It might be cloudy.  It might be windy (gusts up to 49 miles per hour).  It might snow on us.  We might get eaten by mountain lions.

We went anyway, because we are just that adventurous.  Or stupid. 

Looking east towards Loveland about 45 minutes before dawn.

None of us were in tip-top shape this year.  We tried to plan a nice slow walk, but we were all feeling it.  

The trail was a mix of ice and dirt, with some snow.  We all wore YakTrax so we wouldn't slip, but it made the dirt and rock parts a little harder to deal with.  Our feet sparked as we walked.

I was actually pretty hopeful that we would get to the top and I would get my glorious photograph.

For some reason, I was walking in front.  None of us were using our headlamps because the moon was making the snow on the ground glow.  Every once in a while, I would stop and flick it on to make sure we were still on the trail, or to check out tracks I saw.  There were a number of animal tracks along the ice-packed trail, and I had to check for claws whenever one was the right size for a mountain lion.  Claws in the footprint meant a dog.  Big kitty cats don't have them.

After about an hour, I started to calm down a little.  I realized that we would probably be OK.  We stuck close together, and I figured we were making enough noise that the big predators would leave us alone, even though dawn and dusk are their favorite times to hunt.

The wind was making the trees talk and creak.  Once I stopped worrying about mountain lions, the wind brought up another boogie-man from my childhood.

It's called a wendigo.  My version of the wendigo has little to do with American Indian mythology.  There was a story when I was little in one of those "scary stories to read around the campfire" books where the main character was picked up by the wind on a dark winter night, screaming.  I don't even remember the story that well, and I remember thinking it was stupid when I was little.  But the idea stuck with me.

We were about to be snatched by some huge, unseen wind monster.

More and thicker clouds were moving in.  The temperature was dropping.

We were going pretty slow.  According to my best map calculation, it should only be three and a quarter miles to the top, but we were going for about two hours and we still weren't to the main fork in the trail.  The fork is about the halfway point, time wise.

A decision was made to head back.  The clouds were getting thicker, to the point that the headlamps had been broken out.  It was getting colder.  And we weren't going to make it to the top before dawn.  Even if the clouds broke at the right moment, we were not going to be there to see it.

We decided to head back down and drive to Estes Park to try to get the photo from Lake Estes.  It was only a few miles from the trailhead.

As the top receded, the sky brightened.

Myriah and I were in front, talking about nothing.  She stopped suddenly.  "Did you hear that?"

"Hear what?" I asked.  I knew what she was talking about.  I just didn't want to admit it.

"I thought I heard something."

"Maybe it was a dog?"

"No..." she said, "It wasn't a dog."

There was a pause.

"Maybe it was a tree."

The trees were squeaking and groaning in the wind.  It could have been a tree.

I don't know why I didn't tell her.  Probably because I had been thinking about it the whole trip.

A while later, I heard it again, further off.

It sounded a bit like a woman screaming, only rougher.

It sounded like a mountain lion.

Again, I said nothing.

We got back to the trailhead about 7AM, and piled into my car.

I finally admitted what I heard.

Myriah thought it sounded more like a child screaming.

Maybe it was nothing.  A figment.

But I was pretty happy we didn't get eaten.

Lake Estes made little booming noises from the water hitting the ice.  The moon was obviously nowhere to be seen.

We drove the rest of the way up to Estes Park, hoping to be able to see something of the moon.  What I saw instead was how bad the weather was turning.

About 30 minutes after "dawn", a little but of sunlight leaked through to the east.  It mostly just made the landscape look colder.

Considering how cold we got in our 10 minute jaunt to Lake Estes, I was not at all upset that we turned back.

We had a big breakfast at Ed's Cantina and headed home.

Some day, I'll get the moonset over the mountains in the wee hours, but that day was not today.  I am not particularly upset that I failed again.  I didn't die.  Again.

Good enough.


LTD said...

Love the story --- and that first photo! You had me from beginning to end!

We used to occasionaly canoe on the Mississippi River at night. Night-time outdoors is a whole different (and wonderful) world!

Watch out for that cat!


jodys said...

Good story, good pictures!

PudMonkey said...

I had no idea Ed's did breakfast!!! Maybe we just never got there in time...

Leauxra said...

What's funny is that I have only ever had breakfast at Ed's. Even though the bar is right there, I have never actually had a drink there.