We wake up feeling great. Following Mission Creek gives our hike a sense of ease. Water is not a problem. We stop for lunch in an opening in the pines. Carmelita, Shuffle, Sideshow, Kodiac and some others are there. It’s a comfortable and lovely spot, but clouds form and it quickly gets very cold. I look at my arm, snowflakes are melting. We all laugh at first. Then we study the sky. This is real. Janel, Optimist and I start filtering water for the upcoming climb and waterless stretch. We put on all of our clothes, pulling out rain gear, sleeping clothes, and socks for mittens. We look at our maps which show Coon Creek Cabin in 10 miles. It’s a hefty elevation gain to 9,000 feet – but it’s a cabin! We decide to go for it.
We’re hiking in high gear. The snow is already drowning out the trail in some places. How it can be 102 degrees 2 days ago and only 25 degrees now? After a couple hours of hiking we run into Camelita, Sideshow, and Shuffle hiking towards us. They’re concerned about getting to a lower elevation, but the camp site behind us is now farther than the campsite in front of us. They follow us in the darkening early evening light.
As the last bits of light touch us, we near the cabin and Sideshow says he can smell a wood fire. We imagine sitting toasty in front of a fireplace. This hopeful scent, however, is an olfactory hallucination.
The “cabin” we find would more aptly be called a shelter. We are greeted by signs warning us that fires are not permitted. The doors and windows are all open holes. We notice the snow drifts inside and 10 or so other hikers huddled for warmth on the bare floor. I look around and see piles of mouse droppings. Graffiti says “Dead” and “Anne Frank was here.” Welcome to the Hotel Hantavirus.
I drag some rocks from outside and set up my non-freestanding tent. I dump in the contents of my nap sack, trying to create a warmish nest. I cook up some food, put on every inch of clothing I have with me, and burrow into my bag.