A night at Copper Lake
Some sort of ennui had taken hold of me the week prior. I felt the need to shake up my routine. If the isolation was getting to me, better to embrace it and feel its keen serrated edge rather than listlessly accept a permanent state of melancholia. Or something. At any rate, the idea of a night out — of embracing the legendary discomfort of winter backpacking — seemed appealing, or at least a noble-minded fix to my funk.
So I skiied the fiveish miles and 1600′ to Copper Lake, a high basin abutting east Maroon Pass and the most direct line to Aspen. In fall, it had been an enjoyable run, made less so once autumnal snows had rendered the trip an ordeal of post-holing and frigid stream fords. Skiing was easier, if the fords were still dicey and fishscales on my skis not quite sufficient for the steep pitches at the start and end of the route (bring skins). I arrived around 2:15 PM. On the back side of a knoll that broke the prevailing winds (if not entirely eliminating them) I dug a trench, perhaps four foot by ten foot, in which to place and insulate my slight tent.
I cracked a beer, and read in the last of the day’s sunlight. Grits, cheese, and tomatoes for dinner. An early retreat to the comforts of a down bag and the entertainment by the beam of a headlamp.
Later, lying awake under the probing light of a full moon I would listen to the wind rise and fall periodically, a low hum turning into a shriek and the flap of nylon before fading away again. Whence these gusts? I wondered. Was hot air rising from some distant sheltered basin, stirring a small maelstrom among the icy eyries of the Elks? Why at such defined intervals? I slept warmly with a hot water bottle until midnight, then woke frequently, not quite cold enough to do anything about it but not quite comfortable, either.
In the morning I found the idea of bacon in my cabin more appealing than a single bag of artificially flavored instant oatmeal and frozen fingers. I broke camp immediately. Coffee and waffles at G+K’s made it all worth while.