Thursday, February 7, 2008

Colorado Hut Adventure

During our vacation in Colorado, we did a 3-day hut trip at Ken's Cabin, which is part of the 10th Division Mountain Hut System. The system is a network of 29 alpine huts in the backcountry of the Colorado Rocky Mountains that were developed in honor of the troops that trained in the area prior to deployment in the mountainous combat zones of World War II. It is said that hut visitors share the special spirit of these soliders, especially their "pursuit of excellence, self reliance, and love of the outdoors." I took my first hut trip near Aspen when I lived there in 2003, and was excited for a new hut experience.

Ken's cabin, located about 10-miles southeast of Breckenridge, is decribed as an "intimate hut experience for two or three people." It's definitly one of the smallest and most rustic cabins in the system. It was originally built in the 1860's when Boreas Pass Road was a wagon trail over the Continental Divide. A bigger house next door, known as the Section House, was built in 1882 to house the railroad men and their families who took care of a section of the Denver South Park & Pacific narrow gauge railway that ran from Denver to Leadville over Boreas Pass. These historic houses are listed with the National Register of Historic Places and were restored in the mid-1990's. Ken's was named in memory of Ken Graff, who died tragically in an avalacnche near Breckenride in 1995 at age 34.

We packed up our gear and started the 6.2-mile trek to the hut last Tuesday. Kate and I were on x-country skies, and Karen snowshoed. Despite white-out conditions in Breckenridge the night before, and more blizzard conditions forcasted for the coming days, we caught a lull in the storm with sunny skies and picturesque, snowcapped trees for our hike up. The first half of the hike was wonderful, even with my ill-fitting pack sharply cutting into my shoulders. By the second half, however, the wind and fatigue really set in. With two miles yet to go, we totally bonked (a condition in which an athlete suddently loses energy and fagigue sets in, usually caused when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are depleted, resulting in a major performance drop.) We quickly broke open a pack of trail mix and replaced fuel, which made the rest of the journey a little more bearable. About a mile-and-a-half from the cabin, we ran into the two men who were on their hike down from Ken's Cabin. It was definitely fun to trade quick stories with them.

Finally, after starting to worry that maybe Ken's didn't actually exist, and completely exhausted, we came upon our tiny cabin. Oh, it was so small. But we had made it. Kate pulled out the combination number from her pack and quickly dialed the numbers. We opened the door and peered into the small room that would serve as home for the next three days...

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