PCT Training: Snowshoeing to the Tennessee Mountain Cabin

The morning view from the cabin in the Roosevelt National Forest. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.

The fierce wind blows down the mountain at Eldora, Colorado, across the frozen water of Peterson Lake and makes the Forester sway in its parking spot. Logic tells me that once we cross the road and enter the tree cover, the wind’s power will lessen, as will our risk of hypothermia.

Logic also suggests that in less than an hour’s effort — just two miles — we will be at the cabin where split wood need only be lit to make heat and drive away the cold Colorado night.

But sitting in the car, watching the world disappear and reappear as the wind pushes clouds of snow down the valley and we are swallowed in a whiteout, then released, swallowed, then released; two miles has never seemed so far.

The wood stove that was big enough to heat a cabin three times the size of the Tennessee Mountain Cabin. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.

Eventually, after much groaning and debate, pride wins. “We should at least try,” Richard says. “Ughhhh,” I say. “Fine.” We agree to hike for 20 minutes. If by that time one of us is miserable or we haven’t found the trail in the woods, we’ll come back to the car and drive to the electrically-heated bed that I can’t stop thinking about.

Of course, we find the trail within minutes; the wind is barely noticeable within the protection of the trees. We even stop to remove layers — rather than retreat with frozen toes, as I imagined only moments before while still in the car.

Richard in his new sleeping bag bought especially for the Pacific Crest Trail. The warmth of the fire was enough to keep us from sleeping in the loft. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.

Once at the cabin, Richard starts a fire in the proportionally huge wood stove and we explore a little. The cabin is about 100 square feet with a 40-square-foot sleeping loft. The construction is drafty, but solid enough. Once we shut the vents under the eaves, the place warms up considerably.

The near-full moon shines through the few windows and I read aloud from “Deadliest Sea: The Untold Story Behind the Greatest Rescue in Coast Guard History” by Kalee Thompson.

We fall asleep almost too warm and I am grateful for my pride that pushed me out of the car and into the cold woods.

Colorado sun. Photo by Stephanie Reighart.


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