I am not a city girl I grew up in Adirondacks. When we moved from the mountains to another rural part of Upstate New York Dad would take us back there as often as he could. We were raised with a healthy respect for the wilderness. Up until a couple of years ago part of his Continuing Medical Education every year would be at the Wilderness Medicine Conference in Big Sky and if we didn’t go with him he would bring home the latest information and shared (whether we liked it or not).
Twice this week by two different men here in Utah I’ve been told not to go into the mountains alone. I was gobsmacked. I wanted to ask them if they would say the same thing to a man. However, I didn’t.
Anyone who has ever hiked with me knows that I do not mess around when it comes to time in the backcountry. I always carry a first aid kid that I could practically do field surgery with. I always, always, always carry an emergency blanket (there is always one in my trail running pack too, which is probably why I’m still alive). Water purifier, map, among other items. It may not be the lightest day pack in the world, but I know that if something happens I’m prepared.
Dad also raised me to provide a plan. He always gets an email before I go of what my plan is, where I’m going, how long I expect to be gone and what I’m wearing. In the past couple of years I’ve also invested in a SPOT device. Not only will this give me an emergency backup plan, but it lets him live vicariously through me as he tracks my dots.
This leads me to Saturday. After letting these two men climb into my head almost pulling the plug on my day I finally had a moment of clarity. I’ve gone hiking and camping all over some of the most remote sections of this country. I’ve been stalked by a mountain lion in Oregon. I’ve seen more moose, elk, and deer than I can express some of whom were very angry. Lucky for me I’ve never seen a bear when it wasn’t running away from me. Why in the hell was I allowing to strangers to climb into my head. Fuck. That. Shit.
I made a plan of where I was going to go and let Dad know. Charlotte and I drove out to the trailhead and headed up the trail. The plan was to do 10 miles round trip or snow which ever came first. When we got to the 2.5 mile mark we got to the creek. You could see where the bridge used to be. With the level snow that they got this year all of the water sources are raging right now. I looked to the other side of the creek and there was a deer. He looked up and down the creek for a spot to cross just like I was doing. We looked at each other and both turned around and went back the way we came. Neither one of us had a death wish. That water is running too cold and too fast to even attempt a water crossing. Well, crap. As I headed down the trail I came across a group of Boy Scouts and a couple of hikers. I told them about the bridge. I think the kids were actually relieved. When we got back to the car we saw a bunch of horsemen loading up to go check the fields for grazing. I told them about the bridge (and the water level). They said thank you and then pointed in the direction they were headed. We chatted for a couple of minutes about other snow free options and they were off. I made a sign and hung it on the gate that you were required to go through.
I pulled out my map while I munched on a snack and figured out my next move. This kids is one of the reasons why you always invest in the $10 Forest Service map. I decided to go up a nearby dirt road to see how far I could get. As we hit the 8000′ mark I got a brief moment of cell. I texted Dad and let him know of the new plan. I still had the SPOT on so he knew I was in the car anyway. As we climbed we met a ATV rider on the road. He told me the road was going to get rough, I smiled and told him that’s why I drove what I drove. He laughed. I asked him if there was a spot I could pull over a little further up and he explained where the next good spot was. When we got to the spot we were sitting at 8800′. When I opened the door the cold air cut through me. I broke out my hat, vest, and gloves and off we went following the road.
She was having a grand time rolling in the snow, like a dork. We managed to get 2.5 miles up the road (after the 5 we had already done) before we were both starting to tucker out. I knew we had to actually get back to the car so I made to decision to turn around. It was a tough one, but I knew it was for the best. We were sitting at nearly 10000′ the snow was around, but spotty. We still hadn’t hit the full snow line, yet. We completely passed the trailhead I was looking for (it was numbered not labeled), but that’s ok. We will go back. By the time we hit the car she curled up into a ball and promptly fell asleep. We stopped at the ranger station in town and told them about the bridge and all the blow downs that we came across on the road. I try to tell the rangers what I can about conditions because they can’t be everywhere. They were shocked about the bridge and said thanks.
Saturday was a good day. Yet, I almost let two strangers crawl into my head. I know my limitations. I’m not going to go up any mountains right now covered in snow. I don’t have the gear and haven’t been to a self arresting class in a couple of years. I suck at the glissade unless it’s on my tush. I have an exceptionally healthy respect for all of the possible ways that I could die in the backcountry. To be honest, though, I’m more fearful of the two legged creatures than the four legged ones. All of that being said, what gives any man the right to tell a woman that she shouldn’t go to the back country?