It was 4am and my alarm clock was jarring me from sleep. I had only just laid down a few hours earlier, after midnight to sleep a bit before we hit the road. One of our team members was not able to make it due to a back injury. Unbeknownst to him, this would be the most strenuous trip I have ever embarked on.
After an uneventful drive, we arrived at the Taos Ski Valley around 4:30 pm mountain time. We immediately started setting up camp at the trail head we would take up to Bull of the Woods. We knew the light would begin to fade in just over an hour. We used one of the reinforced tarps to construct a quick shelter that would due for the night. Dwight and I slept on either side and James laid across the back. After a quick meal everyone was quick to jump into the sack. It got down in the single digits that night. The sky was clear and the stars were amazing!
The next morning, we woke with the intent of embarking up the trail between 9 and 10. After breakfast and a quick stop into the ski shop for supplies, we headed up the trail at 9:10. It was very slow going. The trail head is around 9,500 feet. If you have never tried doing anything at this elevation, everything is difficult. Your thinking gets groggy and even getting dressed in the morning will wind you.
Our goal today was to setup camp at Bull of the Woods meadow. This area is 1.75 miles up the trail at an elevation of 10,880 feet. This would be a 1,380 foot elevation gain. The first few hundred yards up the trail seem now to be the hardest part of the trail. It seems to me that we had to stop and rest every 20 feet up the trail or so.
We finally arrived at what would become our base camp around 3:30pm. As soon as we got there we started processing water. We used everything we carried up the trail except what would be needed to prime the snow melt and we were all starting to get dehydrated. James jumped on the water production while Dwight and I started the shelter construction. After a few hours we had a decent shelter, water to drink, and we started dinner.
We decided on putting two tarps end to end setup in a typical "A" frame. We dug a channel down the center of the shelter for both a walk way and to act as a cold sink. The first night the shelter worked pretty well. The next day we decided to improve the shelter and incorporate a fireplace. We added some snow walls all the way around the shelter and started building the fireplace. I brought welding blanket that we used to make a hearth and mantel. We then built up a chimney using snow blocks. It was a little smoky that night but was pretty nice the next morning. As long as the wind was not blowing the smoke would go up the chimney as intended, but a little breeze would fill the shelter with smoke. Plans are already in the works to look into a wood burning stove for next year. We also used some sticks to prop out the sides of the shelter to give a little more head room in the shelter. Since the temperature inside the shelter was still below freezing any moisture on the shelter would condense on the ceiling and form a layer of frost that would brush of onto anything that touched it.
We saw three hikers today that indicated the weather might be taking a turn for the worst. This would prompt us to try and get a weather report.
The next morning we decided to get a closer look at the yurt. This was a structure that was a few hundred yards from where we were camping. It had snowed quite a bit the night before so everyone donned snowshoes before setting out.
The Yurt was empty, but we made a most remarkable discovery! The outhouse for the yurt was not locked. It is amazing what you will accept as luxury when you are looking for a bathroom. While there we met a remarkable gypsy/hippy. He didn't know what the weather would be doing the next couple days. He had been couch surfing from up north with a few traveling companions who were currently skiing.
After saying our good byes we decided the next course of action would be to try and get a weather report. This would require getting a decent signal on a cell phone. We thought our best chance to get a signal would be to climb to the top of the closes mountain. Trail 64 started close to our camp and would crest a mountain in half a mile at approximately 11,551 feet. This would be a 670 foot climb.
The trail was not too bad in how steep it was. However, it had not been traveled recently. It was a good thing we had our snow shoes. With them on I was sinking about to mid-calf. If you stepped off the defined trail, you would sink almost to your waist. Once at the top of the mountain we had enough of a signal to check the weather and send messages back home as to our status. As a reward for making it to the top, James spotted a white bunny. Some of the first wildlife we would see on the trip.
We returned to camp, collected firewood, processed water and got ready for our campfire service. The temperature began to plummet so we decided to eat our dinner in our shelter that night. The fire that night was plagued by a breeze that kept sending the smoke directly into our shelter. SO, after snuffing the fire, our "campfire" service was held around a stove... James did an amazing job with the devotion in speaking about the requirement of actions along with faith that is required from every growing believer. Action without Faith is dead, but so is Faith without Action.
That night it snowed over twelve inches. I could tell it was getting deep outside because when I turned over on my side to sleep I could feel the snow load on the shelter brush the top of my shoulder. By the time morning came the snow load was sitting on top of my chest while laying on my back. I was hoping that someone else would awake first, and that I could persuade them to dig the snow off the top of my side of the shelter so that I might be able to get dressed without getting too wet from the frost! Luckily I heard Dwight start moving and he graciously dug me out.
After eating breakfast and gathering water, we broke camp and set out for the trail head
We left our camp around 10:30 and arrived at the trail head around 3:00. It had snowed so much the night before we could barely make out where the trail was supposed to be. It was only a light indention in the snow. With snow shoes on we still sank almost to our knees and the top of the sled was level with the top of the snow. We took turns breaking the trail. When the lead person would get tired we would all pass him and then he could take a break at the back of the line. There were several spots it was so deep the snow came up to our waists.
My shower that night was a welcome relaxation. The removal of the last vestige of deeply engrained cold invigorated me. Dinner that night was most welcome. We decided on a local Italian restaurant that night. The chef himself served us that night and it was one of the best meals I have had. I am not sure if it was just because of all the dehydrated food we had been eating or not.
We awoke the next morning at 2:00 am to head back to Dallas. On the way out we saw a bull and cow moose, and deer.
The whole trip I had been waiting listening for God to speak. I longed to hear his voice. I had been praying for weeks before the trip that he would reveal to me what he would have me learn. It wasn't until the drive back home I realized what He had been saying. This week I had come face to face once again with someone's story of divorce and how that destroys everything it touches. God was telling me that I needed to be more attentive to my wife and family and to be present fully. Not just in the same room. I needed to engage better. Sometimes we just start to coast when things are easy. When that starts and is not nipped in the bud, resentments begin and hurts come easier. God was telling me to invest more in my family. Stop coasting. To not take anything for granted because the things of this world are here today and gone tomorrow. I need to live every day to its fullest and extract every bit of goodness from it. In all things I need to point back to my Father in heaven who loves me as the reason for my joy.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I prayed many times during this trip for God to give me strength to continue. It is this never ceasing prayer that I need to enact during my time at home as well, not just in the face of the adversity of the mountain. I need Gods strength to live each day the way he would have me. Father help me love my wife the way you love the church.
Article submitted by: David Rickey