Existential Angst in the Indian Peaks

Since our last blog post, Porter has had three camping expeditions in the Indian Peaks and James Peak wilderness areas, first over Pawnee and Buchanan Passes, second up the Middle St. Vrain to Gibraltar Lake, and third up South Boulder Creek towards Rollins Pass, with Gail and Amber as support.

Porter had forgotten his trekking poles, essential for getting over 12,500-foot Pawnee Pass, so he borrowed Gail’s. Gail did fine hiking solo around Long Lake sans poles.

Fall in the Indian Peaks Wilderness:

Porter continues to develop his ultralight winter camping skills, snowshoeing solo into the James Peak Wilderness at 10,000 feet. Here he is with his winter tarp, which we named “Snow Mahal” for its whopping size and weight of 1.25 lbs. 

He cooked just under Snow Mahal’s edge on his alcohol stove.

Collecting water for cooking and drinking was a challenge, lest he slip down the snowbank into the icy creek. He devised a water collecting bottle on a string, but his water filter froze. Oh well. 

Meanwhile, Amber worked through her existential angst by discussing the absurdity of ultralight winter camping with her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Moose, who stay warm by hugging when its cold. 

Stay warm, everybody!

37 comments on “Existential Angst in the Indian Peaks

  1. Good luck to all of you! It takes a special resilience to challenge winter hiking. Like Porter, granddaughter Isabelle got the gene for living outdoors in the cold and lived in ice-a-loos she and her companions built on the trail when on expedition during her time at HMI two years ago. Porter takes it to a new level. I was happy getting reports about the adventures while staying warm. In my mind Amber has it right!

    • Thank you, Ellen! That’s fascinating about your granddaughter Isabelle! We’re looking forward to your book when it’s ready! Love to you and David from Porter and me.

  2. Delightful blog – especially when enjoyed from the warmth of home on a cozy couch! Love you two and all you offer.

  3. Dear Gail,

    The scenery looks gorgeous, but all that snow looks COLD!! Take care of yourself and stay warm, Amber included!


  4. Gail – I always look forward to your next journal entry with photos of the 3 of you. ?‍?‍? It’s terrific how you all work together with your unique talents to make things happen – including Amber ? Alan’s next walk will be in March – the 800 mile Arizona Trail.?????⛺️?

    • Wow, that’s exciting about Frost’s upcoming hke of the Arizona Trail! We’ll look forward to hearing more about how it goes!

    • Sheila, Tom is the only person who would be jealous–everyone else thinks Porter is absolutely crazee for winter camping, and me for supporting him! Amber sends kisses to Nathan! Tonight we went to hear Barney Scout Mann speak at REI in Boulder to promote his new book THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL. He was great, and it was wonderful to meet him and his wife Frodo. I have a piece, “The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route,” about Porter mountain-biking that route, in Barney’s new book. Hope all is fabulous with you guys!

  5. When I started to read this blog about the winter camping, I was 5’4″. After seeing how cold it is up there and the elements Porter is dealing with, I shrank to 4’5″. I enjoy your adventures a lot. However if my shrinkage continues, I will not be able to reach my keyboard.

  6. Winter camping in snow sounded fun and exotic when I was young and living in California. Now that I live in Colorado and have experienced snow and cold, no way!

    • Donna, I know, winter camping is sooooo cold, and wet! Hope all is great with you and that you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. A haiku for Porter
    Snow Man within the forest
    a Cheshire cat grin
    as warm as cinnamon toast

    A haiku for Gail and Amber
    Dreaming of sand in our toes
    stretching in the sun
    as warm as cinnamon toast

    • Jean, your haikus are fabulous, and go right to the heart of the experience for us! Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Gail, I cheer Porter on with his solo ultra light camping and snowshoeing adventures. and you with your hiking adventures. After spending time in the Medicine Bow and Snowy Mountain ranges in Wyoming, I can see your love of the area. I applaud you both. Stay warm, Stay healthy. and enjoy your lives together!

    • Thank you, Bryan, and we’re so glad you had a chance to experience the Medicine Bow and Snowy Mountain ranges in Wyoming! Much love to you and Cheryl from Porter and me.

    • David, that’s a really good question, and Porter debated it at length. It takes a lot longer to melt snow with a stove, especially an alcohol stove, but he’ll probably do that next time, in light of the difficulty collecting water from a creek without slipping down the bank.

    • Deb, we can just imagine! Winter seems to have started earlier here this year. Much love to you and Clif, stay warm!

  9. Sooo good to see your glowing faces again — I’ve been a bit out of the loop.
    Why is it that wee Amber never looks the worse for wear . . . steam-cleaned and beauty-parlored, with a perfectly fresh frock? And always having the best adventures! I think I’ve gotten too ancient for winter camping, but we do sleep outdoors all year (without a roof), just picking up and scurrying in when it rains. And my poor frost-bitten nose now balks at temps below 20. Huzzah, Porter! Keep putting us all to shame!

    Gail, love your snazzy new site!


    • Kathleen, so wonderful to hear from you! And thank you for your compliment about my new website! We continue to admire you and Patrick. Much love from Porter, me, and Amber, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Good morning, Gail. I just finished your very good book, I Promise Not To Suffer, last night. I haven’t cried so hard for a very long time. Your mother’s passing brought me so much pain. I was flooded with memories of my mother, who died in the hospital at 54 years of age from complications after gall bladder surgery. I wish I could have been with her. You were such a good daughter. Of course, this morning, I had to look up info regarding Porter, and I’m sad to learn that such a remarkable doctor is no longer in practice. You are both so caring and compassionate, true mentors and role models. Thank you for writing a beautiful book. See you on the trail!
    Anne-Marie Wirth

    • Anne-Marie, I’m deeply touched by your heartfelt response to I Promise Not to Suffer. Thank you so much! A response such as yours helps me understand the universality of experiences such as those in my book, and makes both the lived experiences and work of writing the book even more meaningful to me. And although Porter isn’t still in practice as a hospice and palliative medicine physician, he’s Co-chair of the Ethics Committee of our local hospice and still contributing to his field in many ways. No doubt you too are a caring and compassionate person, and we hope to cross paths with you someday, either on the trail or elsewhere. With love and light, Gail

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