Hut This way: a weekend adventure at Francie's CAbin
Sue Poisson, our Billing Manager, managed to escape from the office recently and took a sojourn into the back country, spending a few days at Francie’s Cabin, delightfully off the beaten path. Sometimes getting away from it all allows for adventure and new friendships. Read on to be part of her wilderness experience.
This was my second visit to Francie’s. I try not to repeat hut trips, but since I have done 16 of them, I have decided it is acceptable to repeat a hut if I do not visit it during the same month as the previous trip. My first time to Francie’s was September 2009 with my son. This trip would prove to be just as enjoyable, while meeting five hut guests.
I was familiar with the hut’s location, so I worked until 1 p.m. I still arrived at the hut at 4:30 p.m., even with carrying a 35-pound pack for the short 1.1-mile hike. It sure makes the hike much easier when you know exactly where the hut is located and have done the hike previously.
Since it had already rained, I had the benefit of hiking in almost ideal weather conditions – temps in the 60s, the trail was damp but not muddy and unceasing smells of the pine trees. Ahhhhh, how therapeutic! Even with three short breaks to take pictures, I arrived at the hut a half hour after parking the car. It’s always a pleasure to enter a hut and see that the guests were already indulging in Hut Happy Hour! I knew we would get along just fine….
This hut sleeps 20! I found the last bedroom, and, in my opinion, had the BEST view of all of them. Yes, a bedroom with 4 twin beds ought to do it… I could spread out to my heart’s content.
I proceeded to unpack my food and place it in a mice-proof plastic container downstairs. The existing hut guests, who had been there since Monday, had not seen any mice: only a moose and rabbits thus far. I wasn’t going to take any chances… especially since I was about to embark into “Hut Happy Hours”!
I learned that this group of five is a portion of a larger group that comes out annually for hut trips always the Monday after the Tour de France has concluded. The group’s common interest is running… Running marathons, running up Pikes Peak, and, yes, a couple of them have even completed the Leadville 100. WOW! Oh, and their other common bond – they love great food and plenty of alcohol.
When they started preparing dinner at 5:30, I thought, ‘wow that’s early’. I then learned their plan was to summit Quandary, which is a 14er. They’d be up about 5 a.m., breakfast at 6 and out the door at 7. Yikes! My pace is much different…. I sleep in and hike much later in the day.
They prepared 15 tamales for five people. Guess what? There’s plenty for me! Woo Hoo! Benefit #1 – I don’t have to cook my own dinner.
They were so welcoming. Our hut dinner conversation focused on how many hut trips everyone has done, to which huts, in which seasons, and I’m proud to say…. I won the award for doing the most , and with at least one in EVERY season.
The weather was perfect for deck time and picture taking. On one of my adventures outside for pictures, I looked around for a campfire ring, and didn’t find one. On my last trip, I was with 3 teenage boys, we carefully created a safe campfire area. I didn’t see that as an option on this trip, so, I decided to continue making frequent trips outside to take pictures of the same mountain range – with different lighting conditions created by the setting sun, clouds and moon shine. The night ended with story-telling, joke-telling, and puzzle making.
Gotta love hut talk and activities!
Sure enough, I heard my newly formed friends or hutsters rousing at O-Dark Hour. I snuggled deeper in my sleeping bag. Finally, I unloaded everything, then loaded it up with only the supplies I would need for a 4-hour day hike to Lower Crystal Lake. The wild flowers abounded EVERYWHERE! Since I was hiking solo and in no real hurry, I took the time to take pictures of the thousands of wild flowers flourishing in every direction – columbines, morning glories, clovers, fireweeds, penstemons, lupines, golden rods, field daisies, Indian paintbrushes, and so many more!
On my hike, I ran into a mom with her high school daughter and daughter’s friend. Colorado natives, they had returned for the summer to house sit in East Vail. As it turns out, the mom was puppy sitting for the same puppy I have pup-sat for previously. What a small world! They were not familiar with the 10th Mountain Division and its hut system. I proceed to fill them in and pointed out the hidden location for Francie’s. They don’t put up any signs that say “Hut this way”. If you don’t know the hut is there, you may never know to explore. This family planned to check on reservations for Francie’s. Another hutster was born!
When I eventually arrived at the hut, about 3.5 hours later, my hut mates had already returned from their run. Several bottles of red wine were opened – they had 12 for this trip and this was the first attempt at drinking a single glass. I served up a couple of glasses of my white wine sangria and received high praise. I’m sure that’s due to the brandy I always include: It’s a secret ingredient! Next, I learned that the menu would consist of “homemade” alfredo sauce! Pasta was cooked, bread was warmed, pre-cooked chicken was heated and broccoli steamed. Phew! Glad these runners had something healthy to eat. Another successful dinner. Repeatedly, this group of five mentioned that they “drove” to the hut, so didn’t have to hike in. Aahhhhh – another special bonus for me! They brought WAY TOO much!
Dinner was a huge success. I didn’t have to cook a thing, so in return, I did all the dishes so they could sit back, relax and work on finishing that red wine. One of the gentlemen helped me with the dishes. I learned that he was the son of an authentic 10th Mountain Division Soldier. I’ll never forget that special moment of getting the dishes done and listening to stories of his dad, his dad’s love for skiing and doing almost anything, including going to war, to have the chance to ski. I always find such passion with those that participate on hut trips! Our pleasures are simple but intense. The night ended with even more story telling, laughing and outside picture taking.
The group vacated the hut by 8:30 a.m. while I sun bathed and took some final pictures of the incredible display of wild flowers. Since I had gathered a few rocks from the day before, was given the fettuccini alfredo leftovers and had not eaten a thing from my food supplies, I estimated my pack now weighed 40 pounds for the enjoyable hike back to my vehicle.
Going on a solo hut trip where others are already booked, is NOT a bad experience. I would highly recommend it. Francie’s – you outdid yourself once again! Francie’s cabin did not let me down.
Till the next hut trip – Hah-zahrrr!