Road Kill & First Tracks

The trip came together quite spontaneously. Jamie had contacted me letting me know he was taking a break from his apprenticeship as an airplane mechanic to come home and spend some time in the mountains at his family’s cabin. The prior year Jamie and I had spent a couple of days up at his cabin skiing pow unplugged from everything. Easily one of my favorite places in the U.S we both had an incredible time and vowed to return with a group of friends. Staying true to our word we opted to spend new years in the mountains and didn’t waste any time rounding up the usual suspects.

 We assembled the news team and quickly had an all-star crew of friends committed to ring in the new year at the cabin.  Haydn, Kit, and Everett all had been friends of mine in college where we all developed a friendship on a foundation of adventure and exploration. Having spent countless days on skin tracks and at climbing crags with them, they were going to be awesome additions to the crew. Nate was the greenhorn on the trip and was one of my coworkers at ZEAL Optics. He had never been on a hut trip, or in the backcountry for that matter.  Planning to meet at 11 pm we all converged from different corners of Colorado with Carbondale in our sights.

unloading gear from 1990 Toyota pickup

In my classic 1990 Toyota truck Nate and I averaged 35mph uphill and cruised at a steady pace on the flats passing the time with good music and conversation in “Tootie’s” intimate little cab. As we neared our destination I was informed that Kit and Haydn had gotten caught up when they came across a freshly hit elk on the side of the road. 

Now most people would have sighed as they drove by the carcass of the animal but Kit and Haydn are cut out of a different cloth. Starring opportunity in the face they had apparently pulled over and promptly shot the elk, pulled out knives and skinned and butchered the elk on the side of the road into the wee hours of the morning.  The scene turned into the highlight of the week for some local kids who hung around and offered sharp knives and jumper cables when Haydn’s car battery ultimately died. 

Resembling a scene out of the Beverly hillbillies the boys strapped the freshly skinned elk quarters to the roof of Haydn’s Subaru Crosstrek and forged onward towards Carbondale.  

Kit pulling an elk quarter out a bag

The following morning the four of us couldn’t help but laugh out loud as kit produced the elk quarters from a trash bag. They were massive! Not only did we have more food than we knew what to do with but we had scored it for free on the side of the road. You honestly can’t make this shit up. 

We amended our plan to stop by Jamies grandmother’s house to hang the meat in her garage for the duration of our trip but not before we butchered a healthy portion for us to cook up while at the cabin.

With two sleds in tow and a third expected when Everett arrived we began to rig our chariots of pow in the parking lot of the pass. With a 6 mile ride into the cabin that sat on an isolated chunk of private land surrounded by national forest we didn’t expect much company. 

With enough beer, elk, and fireworks to last a couple of days we fired up the sleds and launched into the woods without a second glance.

 Passing a gate we entered private property instantly eliminating all competition for the fresh tracks that waited to greet us. We had our very own backcountry skiing terrain all to ourselves. 

Not long after we arrived at the cabin, constructed by Jamie’s grandfather and father in the early 70’s we all began to unload and prep our home as fast as possible. Daylight was burning and we were not about to miss out on an opportunity to score a couple of turns before the dwindling light forced us to stop. With it being new years eve we had a long night ahead of us and some turns would be the perfect start to what all of us already considered the best hut trip we had ever been on. 

snowmobiling into the cabin

We all geared up and set off from the front porch of the cabin starting up an aggressive skin track that took the most direct line to the transition zone. These high-angle skin tracks would come to define our approaches in the coming days having developed a nickname “Boone track” affectionately named after Jamie’s dad who set the track initially. In his 50’s with pepped grey hairs, Boone was a mans-man with a soft-spoken and competent nature. Although at least 30 years our senior he clearly had no issues showing us boys how it was done and we all took that lesion in stride as we gained elevation rapidly.

IMG 2595

Blanked by an entire sky of stars we approached our summit. With stillness in the air that was magnified by our surroundings. We made our way through aspen groves to a ridge line that provided an unobstructed view of Marble and our playground for the next two days. As we gained the ridge and began our transition to descend the sky lit up. Framed in a backdrop of snowcapped peaks fireworks burst in the air to celebrate the passing of another year.  As we removed our skins from the bases of our skis and boards we couldn’t help but fixate on the Colorado Cold Smoke that lay below us.  2016 had been a mixed bag but it was a new year and we were determined to start it off right. The clock struck midnight and we dropped……

Columbine flowers in the meadows

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