Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THANKSGIVING IN THE ROCKIES

At Thanksgiving time we think of family and friends. We think about all the food that will be served. You have your turkey and dressing, mashed 'taters with gravy, cranberries, green beans, and rolls, and all kinds of other fixins. It is great to see family and friends that maybe you do not get to see on a regular basis. We set, give thanks, and then we eat.

We all set around, talk, laugh, maybe show a few photos. Watch the game on TV. Then as the day gets to be just about over maybe we pack up a few containers of leftovers, say our goodbyes, and head for home.

One year, I got to have my Thanksgiving in the Colorado rockies. I had packed my camping gear and my fishing pole. It was deer and elk season and I thought that since my family was not going to have Thanksgiving together that I would just hit the high country for a few days. I wasn't worried, as I had done this lots of times by myself. So I hit the road.

The trip up was very nice, snow covered everything, and the roads had been plowed. I had left word with family about where I was going to be so that if I did not make it back by Sunday they would know where to look. So I made my way up to the top of Gore pass. It was breathtaking. The snow hung on the pine trees and the snow on either side of the road showed no footprints of man or animal. The sun was catching the snow and gave it a glitter of rainbow colors. Just like you would see in a Christmas card.

I made it to my turn off, and managed to go about 40 feet or so before I had to stop. The gate was closed on the county road I was to take. No problem. I parked and unloaded my gear, put on my snow shoes and away I went. Walking down the road was really easy in the snow shoes. No downed trees to step over. And the way was clear as far as I could see. As I walked, all I could hear was the crunching of the snow shoes in the snow and my own breathing. It was so quiet and just a bit of a breeze. I thought that I caught a wiff of a camp fire, but it was gone on the breeze so quickly, that I wasn't sure if I had smelled it at all. I could smell the pines.

As I walked, I planned out what all I needed to do. Set up my tent, collect firewood, get my camp all in order, and make it as snug as I could. I would also check the beaver ponds and the stream that feeds them, 'cause I had a hankering for some fresh brook trout for lunch.

I hiked in about 3 miles from the main road and I was only about 25 or 30 feet off of the county road. It seemed that I had the whole place to myself.

I got camp set up and every thing had it's place. I had a huge supply of fire wood and had a real good fire going. The tent was up, my sleeping bag all was stretched out inside the tent. My extra gear was stored out of the way. I had my old coffee pot near the fire, melting the snow that I had put in it for some hot water for a cup of tea later on.

I took a little strowl behind my camp and could hear the water running in the stream. It had not iced over yet, so I could at least try to get a fish or two for my lunch. As I turned to head back to camp, I spooked up two elk -- a cow and her calf. I never heard them. They were about 60 feet or so from me. They must have known that I was not hunting them. We looked at each other for almost a full minute, when the Mama gave a little snort and they both moved off through the trees at an easy pace.

I headed back to camp, had a cup of tea, put more snow in the old pot, threw some more wood on the fire and grabbed my fishing pole. I followed my tracks back to the stream and started to fish. The fish were eager to get out of the cold water, as I caught five nice brookies.

As I made my way back to camp, I grabbed a few chunks of wood along the way. You can never have too much fire wood when camping in the winter time. When I got back to camp, I dragged out my skillet and the fixings for fried trout. I had pre-cut biscuit dough in a Pringles chip can. There was enough to last me for at least three days, as long as I rationed them and didn't decide to pig out on the food I had brought along.

Course, that's one nice thing about backpacking: your stuff weighs a ton when you hike in, but it is so much lighter when you pack back out.

So I had three of the fish, did up two biscuits and a can of pork and beans. Man, was I stuffed. I cleaned up everything, and put things away. Added some wood to the fire and just kicked back, leaned up against a log, and had another cup of tea. I would save my coffee for mornings.

I must have dozed off, and I woke with a start. What was it that had made me wake up? I strained to hear. I heard horses, then people talking.

(Part II tomorrow)

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