Benchmark Ranch

Benchmark  Ranch (23_586)
Day 155 – 9/23/27
Miles – 21.2
Total miles – 2408.4

Cold night. A very cold night. It was well below freezing.  Before setting up the tent last night, we scrapped several inches of snow away to expose the wet ground underneath. Despite our snow removal, all night, we could feel the cold coming through our insolite pads. The sleeping bag kept us as warm as possible, nonetheless, it was not the best night of sleep. It was in the low 20’s when we got up. Wet socks, and shoes, including the laces, froze solid. We did not want to go out and face the harsh weather. Nagging at us, the mother trail kept summoning us to get moving. After eating breakfast, we turned on the stove to thaw out our socks and shoes. By doing that, the tent warmed up, which made us take even more time to get going. Needless to say, it was a slow morning. Finally, at 8:30 we hiked out. With 24.5 miles to the turn off to Benchmark Ranch and another 3.5 miles to the Ranch itself, we had very little hope of making it to a warm and dry cabin, yet we still pushed on through the snow. The clouds were broken with blue showing through here and there. This encouraged us that it would not snow today. We started the morning off walking through. 6-7″ of snow. All the trees were covered with it. It was a beautiful winter wonderland!  Slowly, as we gained altitude, the sun crept out and the day warmed. Although, the ball of warmth did not stay out for very long.  Too many clouds were in its way. We took our first break at a cabin wrapped in tin foil. This year was the first time we have seen or heard of this fire protection method. The cabin was wrapped entirely in a heavy aluminum foil material. We sat on this shiny, silver porch and ate just as the clouds parted enough to let the sun warm us. A short time later, we went over our first pass of the day. The hiking got much easier on the other side and best of all, there was much less snow. In fact an hour or so, there was no snow on the trail and very little in the mountains around as. Our speed picked up. However, drudging slowly through the snow the first half of the day, our chances of reaching Benchmark Ranch was only a pipe dream. It looked like it was going to be another cold night with only wet sleeping bags to comfort us. Hours later, we reached the turn to the next pass and we stopped for a break. Papa Raven and Bling were looking at the map, we had over 12 miles to the Benchmark turn off then 3.5 miles more and it was nearly 5:00. Reading the app, Papa Raven read a comment that caught his eye. At this junction, if we headed down the valley instead of up to the pass, we could get to Benchmark Ranch in about 8 miles. Let’s see, 8 miles one way and 15 miles another. Quickly, we got up from our break and headed down the valley. We hiked fast. We had a lot of trail to cover still, but now we had a chance to a dry place to sleep tonight. With head lamps on, we made it to the Ranch at about 8:30. To our surprise, no one was there, but the main building was unlocked and warm. Within 5 minutes of us getting there, a truck drove up with the owners son. In a very short time, we were in a two room cabin with a wood burning stove. We are dry and warm and will sleep well tonight.

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