The long night is barely 3 hours old. I am set up in my Big Sky Products Revolution 2P UL huddled under down so I can keep warm. Inside the tent the temperature is 24 °F, the vestibule is cooler and no doubt outside is cooler still. I think I will be OK though as long as the tent stands up through the night. The tent has already given me enough grief. I swear it took an hour to make a campsite and pitch the tent. Much of that time was spent doing the latter. I just had no end of trouble with the poles popping out of their grommets. I hope I got all the vital stake out points. We will know come morning. Carol got her Oware Alphamid up much more quickly.
But I am jumping the gun a bit here and I should start closer to the beginning. After spending hours and hours at airports Carol arrived. She was in such a rush to greet her luggage that she zipped right by where I was sitting (sure I failed to see her, but that is hardly the same). Once we got a rental car that worked we found our way to the Comfort Inn (Sandy, Utah) and began getting stuff set for our big days. Bedtime around midnight (2:00am by my body clock) and a pretty good night's sleep were what we both craved and got before rising just before 8:00.
It was a gloriously bright and clear morning. We took a bit longer getting out of the hotel than we had planned, but that is the way it goes sometimes. After a fast-food bite and trip to REI for somee necessary stuff we were on the road to the trail just 7 minutes behind schedule. Not bad. The road was clear but we drove by 2 major wrecks on the way. Go figure. When we pulled into the parking lot at White Pine Trailhead we found several cars there. As we donned our last bit of hiking garb a couple poeple came out and drove off in separate vehicles. It was 44 degrees in the sun and we knew we were going to be overdressed if we stayed in the sun while snowshoeing. We set foot upon the trail at about noon. What a wonderful day even with the road noise in the distance.
We climbed through fir (I think) and pine. The trail at first was easy going, not that steep, and wide enough that you didn't have to worry about sliding into a patch of deep soft snow. The traul was quite packed down. We saw some boot prints on the surface mixed in with xc skis, snowshoes, and snowboards. As we moved into the woods we met a couple skiers and severaal snowboarders coming down from the other direction. I wonder how far up they go, especially the boarders who have to carry their boards up. At least a skier could skin up. The views were an excellent study of winter canyons covered in deep snow. We marched on.
Eventually we came to a long stretch where we had to climb a side hill on trail that was easy , fir me anyway, to slip on. More than once my right snowshoe was planted in the far less firm snow just a tad to the right and I would lose all momentum at best and at worst (a couple times) slide deep into the snow on the right and have to pull out. It was slow climbibg up the ridgeline around 8200 feet. Carol was moving much better than I. The day snowshoer we met gave us some useful info especially when we finally left that ridge entering a shady area a little before 3:00pm. On we went.
And it got tougher. I was definitely feeling the altitude as I tried to climb the now steepening ascent. My heart was pounding and I was breathing hard. It wa torturous slow going. We plodded, at least Carol got to take many breaks, up and up for an hour with no end in sight. It didn't help that a couple times I made a slight detour and ended up making my own trail which is very hard to do especially on steep slopes. We decided, after a short scout ahead by Carol, that descending back to a flat area was prident. Down we went. And then down I went sliding into a deep powder hole near a massive pine or something similar. I turtled. Getting up from that took several minutes. I had to get out of my pack without making thing much worse. I had to get my pack on ground where it would stay put. I had to get myself out of the powder which ws made tougher by the the of 12 by 30 inch snowshoes on my feet. It would be funny if it wasn't serious. OK, it was funny in a way. What took us an hour to climb took about half that, perhap much less, to descend.
As we set up camp and the sun slowly vanished we had what I expect will be our last human visitor come by. He wanted to know what the going was like up ahead and when we told him he decided to turn back. He may well have made it down befire the light went away. Now it is just us, the winds, and the snow. Sure their are other critters out here, but I doubt I will encounter them. I hope we have a good night and that my shoes don't freeze. With luck I will have better luck with both the tent and stove (the Coleman Xtremes gave us both fits. They just would not light. Perhaps we need a short course in their use in the cold, but a lot seems to have to do with how you get the canister on the stove and we just were not doing it right.)
It has been a long day. A day of success and failure and our first sustained snowfall (about 23:00). We started moving in earnest around 8:00am with the usual angst surrounding leaving the warmth of your bed for the chill, no matter how pretty, of the outside morning. Compound this with continued frustration with our stoves and you might wonder how we got going. Of course the answer is because you must. We'll figure the stoves out yet (we told ourselves). While niether of us had a perfect night we slept well enough. I doubt the temperature ever got below 20 - certainly didn't in my tent. If only my sleeping platform had been a bit wider and more level things would have been better, but you get by.
While no one passed us during the nealy 3 hours we took to strike camp some people had gone by a bit before 8:00 going who knows where. As we walked down the trail with the sun at our backs we would run into a handful of other skiers coming up to ski a route back down (we saw none of them come back our way). It was a fine morning, eventually warming up into the low 40s.
We felt good and happy. Even my slide off the trail down the mountain a couple feet into deep powder by a pine tree was worth a smile once I worked my way out of dodge We took nice breaks on the way down enjoying the grand bright morning.
We found the side trail to White Pine Lake and then learned we had not. We later found the right path but by this time we had decided to just head to the car, grab a bite and visit the hot springs. It had taken us 2 languid hours to snowshoe the 2.75 or so miles back down. It was just after 13:00. After a good lunch we set out on the hour drive to where we thought the springs (Fifth Water Hot Springs also known as Diamond Fork) were. We found the right place, but the road was snow covered and Carol dind't want to drive down it in our compact rental car. All that way and we were stuck. Had we arrived in the morning we could have hiked the 5 miles of road and mile or so more to the springs. Maybe aome other time we will do this or have a car and driver willing to drive the road. But this was hardly a wsted trip. As we drove by Diamnd Fork Campground (we did not go down their unplowed road either though we woul learn later others do in small cars) we saw several massive cows, turkey beyond number crossing the road or just hanging out, and a handful of deer browsing nearby. What a nice sight. Discovering the family sledding on a good hill really topped things off. We juat had to stop. Out came my 3/4 Therm-a-Rest and Carol's P.O.E. Uber-mtn pad - our sleds. We joined the family who let us use two of their sleds and we frolicked in the snow on some quite fine sled runs. It was a great way to end the changable afternoon evem though we were still not sure where we would camp. One fellow, maybe the Dad, made a good suggestion but it turned out that campground was not open. In the end we drove back to The Little arriving at about 7:00pm and setting foot on the trail for a short night hike about half an hour later.
At least this time I got my freestanding tent structure in place inside ten minutes or so, but staking it out still took quite some time--easily a 100% improvement in pitching time. I wish I could say I was able to light my Xtreme. I am just not getting the connection right. Carol is having almost as much trouble as I am. This is a Bad Thing and maddening since once you get a good connection it lights easily and works great. Unless something changes I may well return the stive to REI.
It is passing 23:30 and the wet heavy snow shows no signs of stopping. At last check the external temperature was 30 degrees. I hope my tent is taut enough to handle it. I know I could have done a better job, but perhaps you can argue I am testing to extremes - too bad I am not doing a test. We will see what tomorrow holds when light returns and I come out for air on what I hope will be another fine day.
Our last mroning did indeed dawn bright and clear though not too cold. I don't think the nighttime low dropped below 17 degrees and when the sun really started to warm the day the temperature would pass 40. We were not in a great hurry to leave. I decided to forego the fight with my Coleman Xtreme (though I will clearly engage it again before I give up for good on the stive) and just had 3 Alpsnack bars for breakfast. Carol had left her stove connected and so had no trouble firing it up and she treated herself and me to a couple steam baked chocolate chip muffins. Delicious. Once we packed up and set out we learned we were actally a lot closer to the road than we had thought, oh well. It was a good morning and a fine way to end this nice snowshoe outing that mixed some limited backcountry with some wonderful frontcountry time.