The next morning, clouds kept company thin as I packed up and set off on Wheeler Trail, following 10 Mile Range southwards, over Wheeler Pass (12,408 ft) which drops to the east of Peaks 9 & 10.
Emerging over a final alpine buttress, Francie’s Cabin glinted at treeline in the valley below. Crystal Lakes lay calm above and to the west, nestled in the rocky bowl of the mountains, where old mine ruins make a fun day hike from Spruce Creek Trail Head.
Arrived at the cabin just before the rest of the crew rolled up.
As I changed into clean(er) clothes in the porch room of the hut, Trip and Jigsaw torpedoed in with hugs; spirits robust. Their cheeks already flushed by the healthy glow of being outdoors. Mike gave the sizable volunteer crew a rundown of duties and we scattered.
As always, firewood comprised a significant portion of the work. One crew ran the log splitter and loaded the truck about a mile down, at the gate. When those of us working on cleaning the hut would hear the telling thunder of logs being tossed in the wood-room window, we began to wrap up whatever project we were on, donned work gloves and descended to order and stack.
Being the bulk of the work, I loved the community down in the wood-room. Chaining logs back into stacking compartments, where a Disaster Preparedness Coordinator stacked logs with just the right tilt, aided by her teenage daughter.
The Summit Huts folk give a great Photo Documentary of the day.
The day passed in a busy blur of cleaning chemicals, work gloves, and elbow grease.
The Summit Huts Association plays caretaker to a system of the most incredible back-country huts I have yet encountered. This may have something to do with their being amoung the most visited huts in the US.
Particularly impressive that they are largely volunteer supported. From those who left the legacy, to hut masters, to crews such as ours, these are Coloradans’ love of the outdoors, manifest in hewed log.
The sauna house certainly didn’t hurt my impression of the set up; particularly on the tail of a harrowing hike, a day of work, and a delicious dinner of fresh veggies over couscous (or was it quinoa?).
It was a treat to celebrate and pay homage to the bounty which surrounds, with quality friends.
I have learned an easy way to identify folk who are worth spending time with: they show up.
Take a shot. Step outside of comfort boundaries. Chin up when it gets rough. Keep going.
I was thrilled be out there with Jigsaw, Trip, and Carl. Every time I saw one or all of them, my heart Hopscotched.
On Sunday we wrapped up the last of the projects, swept the wood room, now stocked for winter, and lounged over lunch; hesitation to leave supported by an afternoon drizzle.
As we sallied forth to hike the couple of miles back down to Spruce Creek trail head, Carl grinned, “I could hike in this all day.”
I am amoung my own.