It may come as a surprise to many of you, but I’m not usually the biggest fan of backpacking. It frustrates me to move slowly thanks to all the extra weight required for backpacking. I also end up freezing most of the night because my sleeping bag doesn’t keep me warm. I’ve finally found a backpacking food that I enjoy (thanks Good to Go Foods), but for a long time backpacking food just made me feel gross and never tasted very appetizing. Needless to say, I’m usually not the first person to recommend going on a backpacking trip.
Despite this, I have wanted to go on a hut trip forever. Hut trips involve going even slower than backpacking trips, thanks to more gear needed for winter “camping”, the feeling like you can bring real food instead of dehydrated food since there is a fully stocked kitchen, and the genius idea to lug up 3 liters of wine for two nights, but they also involve untracked powder runs, games around the wood stove, and the joys of sharing a bunk room with 16 other people! When Jason said that a couple of his coworkers booked Jackal Hut outside Camp Hale for the first Monday – Wednesday in April, I immediately reserved myself a bed too.
Jackal Hut is considered one of the “easier” huts because the route follows a jeep road, it’s between 3.5 and 5 miles from the trailhead depending on snow levels in Camp Hale, and the slopes around the hut are all low angle and unlikely to have an avalanche. Like most of the 10th Mountain Division Huts, it also sits right above treeline with expansive views in all directions.
I had a physical therapy appointment on Monday morning (which is a story for another blog post) so we got a later start than everyone else and didn’t make it to Camp Hale until almost noon. We quickly packed up our homemade sled with everything from sleeping bags to our 3 liters of wine and headed out of the parking area.
The hike up to Jackal Hut starts with a 1.5 mile trek along Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division was stationed from 1943 to 1948. The hike was flat and, thanks to the warm spring temperatures, very slushy. Although once we started the climb up to the hut we missed the slushy snow. The snow along the trail was almost completely melted and we had to resort to hiking uphill instead of skinning. Luckily the muddy sections were short, but they were long enough to be annoying. The remainder of the climb steadily climbed up a jeep road until we reached the hut at treeline.
We made it into the hut with a winter storm right on our heels. As we ate dinner and played some games we kept glancing outside, hoping the snow would blanket the hut in fluffy goodness.
The experience of actually skiing at the hut is hard to describe. Because of my knee I stuck close to the hut, which meant a lot of mini-laps of the little bowl that was close to the hut. While I wish my knee wasn’t injured, I wasn’t that heartbroken since the snow in the trees wasn’t very good. After a day full of skiing, we were treated to an amazing sunset and a night filled with pass the pigs and a wide variety of Jason’s music. We were sad to leave, but can’t wait for our next hut trip in winter 2018 – 2019!