Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Which I Finally Get a Solid Meal and Escape the Snow

February 3

This morning I woke up rather sore but well-rested. I boiled some water and headed up to the heated restroom to drink my tea and try to restore feeling to my toes, which were completely numb. Realizing that I hadn’t had a solid meal since Monday evening, I then headed up to the lodge restaurant and ordered their “Emory Peak” omelet. Ironic... :) Never has a hot meal and coffee tasted so good! Now I just need to pack everything up and figure out how to get out of here. The roads are pretty treacherous and it’s not getting any warmer out there. The rangers are periodically taking people down in caravans, so I may be able to join one of those in the next few hours.


I was one of the last people they let out of the park today due to the weather conditions. Once I reached lower elevations, snow was no longer a concern. I took Hwy 385 N to US-90, where I then headed west toward Alpine, TX. It’s incredible how long it takes to get out of Texas!

In Alpine I encountered more snow and some ice on the sides of the road. I talked with Christopher and he said that Alpine was likely to be snowed in, but if I made to Van Horn I would probably be fine. I was originally going to camp in Van Horn and then make the trek up to Phoenix from there the next day, but decided to press on to El Paso where I could find a hotel. I pulled in around 7:00, found a place to stay, took a hot shower and am ready to crash for the night. I’m not feeling too well, so I hope that a good night’s rest will provide the remedy.

Dad's little MSR Whisperlite stove (International) - brilliant little piece of equipment!

I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner, but that morning I was desperate to get warm so I headed up to the Chisos Basin lodge. At this point a hot meal was not only a luxury, it was a necessity! My feet were grateful for the opportunity to warm up as well.

While I was at the lodge I heard one guy loudly explaining his exit strategy to the rest of his group. It was clear that road conditions were getting worse by the minute, and that the only options available to visitors were to either pack up and leave soon or stay put and risk getting snowed in. I was driving a '99 Honda Accord, had two sets of tire chains, and have had more experience driving in the snow than most Texans, so I wasn't too concerned. I realized, however, that I would need to make my escape soon while they were still letting people on the roads; I went back to camp, packed everything up, and waited at a gate for about 15 minutes while a ranger checked for other vehicles that needed to be escorted out of the basin.

The descent wasn't too bad. I stayed in 1st and 2nd gear the whole way down and there was only one time when I completely lost traction and began sliding happily down the mountain... (it wasn't that bad ;)

I emerged from the park around 1:30pm and began the 350 mile drive to El Paso. Apart from the occasional tumbleweed crossing the freeway and a bit of snow, it was an uneventful drive. By the time I arrived in El Paso I was completely whooped so I found a hotel as soon as I could. (I had been wearing a beanie almost constantly for the past 2 days so my hair was an absolute mess. I pictured myself as the daring adventurer just emerging from the wild, but the folks at the front desk seemed to think I was some guy off the street, judging by the looks they gave me.)

I settled for some snacks instead of dinner and, after journaling for a few minutes, went straight to bed.

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