Not all winter hikes are cold. I was fooled by my two hikes in December, on the 25th and 28th. I wore a big puffy down coat and sweated as I climbed steep hills and the temperature crept up to the low 40s. Enough of this, I thought. The puffy coat is simply too much insulation.
I decided to take the puffy coat in my backpack as a back-up, and wear my heavy raincoat instead.
Which would have been a great idea if the outside temperature had been at all similar to the previous 2 hikes.
Instead, on Saturday morning I started out early enough that the temperature was in the teens and the sun had only begun to brighten the sky without yet making an appearance. And I had to make a beeline for the primitive toilet at the Foothills Learning Center.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that toilet. I’m grateful that it’s open even though it’s winter. But that seat is so cold! After using it, my upper thighs and butt felt numb. I thought that I would get some life into them by hiking, but it was so cold outside that I couldn’t build up enough heat to counteract how cold my legs were.
And the worst part was I didn’t realize just how cold it was outside. I thought that the air temperature would quickly approach freezing or above, just like it had before. By the time I turned on my altimeter/barometer, which has a temperature gauge, I saw that it was 16 degrees. I had already hiked over 2 miles, and it was only then that I realized I needed to get more layers on.
I added my husband’s fleece balaclava that he was nice enough to let me use. My balaclava is designed to go under my bike helmet. It just isn’t as warm as his. Getting that on my sweaty head immediately made me feel warmer, even if only a little bit.
The first few miles passed quickly. I saw a few runners, and a couple of walkers. Even a biker or two braving the snow, which bemuses me. I like riding, but I don’t do it in the snow. I had a nice figure 8 loop planned out for this hike, but then I decided to go looking for the yak-trax that I had lost on the 28th. To do that, I would have to head up to my nemesis, Femrite’s Patrol trail.
When I lost the yak-trax (which is a rubber and metal contraption that fastens onto a shoe or boot and helps give traction on ice and snow), I was breaking trail, somewhere between Fat Tire Traverse and Watchman. I suspect Femrite’s Patrol, because it was a slog. I was breaking through fresh snow and tired. I couldn’t believe how steep the trail was and I hated how it went down and up and down and up. I noticed it was gone after I got off of Femrite’s but I couldn’t say exactly when I noticed it was gone.
So that’s the way I went, even though it wasn’t likely that I would find it. I wanted to do a shorter hike this week, and getting to the end of Femrite’s would be a long hike. I guess I hoped that I would find it before I got to the end.
I kept that hope up until I got to Freestone Ridge. What had been pristine snow less than a week ago now showed signs of both fresh snow and recent tracks. Either the thrown yak-trax were buried or someone had walked by and picked them up.
I did one of Femrite’s up and downs before stopping for a break. I need to learn how to handle my breaks in the cold a little bit better. After staying still for a time, my fingers felt frozen and I felt like I was too cold. I ate some food and tried to walk extra fast back up the hill to Freestone Ridge to heat myself up. It worked eventually, but it was uncomfortable.
The rest of the hike was hard. It hadn’t warmed up all that much, and my right leg was complaining with every step. I had to remind myself over and over that this physical game was mostly mental. My body was doing the work, but my mind was the part of me that needed to stay strong. Pushing through the pain of my body while focusing on the next step, the terrain, what I was going to eat when I got home and the hope that my body would get used to this exercise sooner rather than later.