VetEx Veterans Day 2012 meet-up was held in Salida Colorado, Veterans Expeditions new home. Our crew met at Benson’s Tavern in Salida Saturday evening to talk gear, frigid weather conditions, and enjoy some food together. We got caught up on each others lives, and were introduced to those veterans and non-veterans we had not met. We enjoyed our evening and then met at the gear room to make sure everyone had what they needed given the frigid forecast for Sundays hike. Thank you Benson’s for treating this group of Veterans so well at our pre-Veterans Day dinner and social.
The next morning was Veterans Day. We met at Cafe Dawn in Salida for coffee and baked goods. Veterans received a free cup of coffee on Cafe Dawn. Thank you to the Cafe Dawn staff for being so good to us. After Coffee it was time to pass out the gear
sponsored by Keen, Nalgene, FITS Socks, and Kahtoola. All the veterans received new Keen boots, Keen Duffel Bags and t-shirts, FITS Socks, and a Nalgene Water Bottle. Kahtoola provided us with Microspikes for the traction needed on this snowy Veterans Day. Thank you sponsors for making this Veterans Day more like Christmas!
Geared up and caffeinated, we set out for the Mt. Shavano trailhead We assembled, talked hazards for the day, and headed out for the high country. It was cold. Around zero degree Fahrenheit at the trailhead and well below zero above trealine. Great conversation was had by the group as we walked. Tales of service continued from the evenings social as well as new stories of what Veterans Day means to this group of vets.
Conversations on the VA, G.I. Bill, school, work, and opportunities for veterans were heard as we hiked higher and the weather got worse. The group was settling in nicely as we put on more clothes, ate some snacks, and prepared for the deteriorating weather above treeline.
As we left the safety and security of the trees, the conditions got even worse. We were now hiking into the teeth of a very consistent and angry wind. We put our heads down and took the abuse like veterans know how to. When we reached the saddle below the summit, we pulled out the colors of this great Nation and we held on to it with all we had. The winds were 90 mph and gusting higher. We took photos and a short video of our moment and then we retreated to fight another day. Mt. Shavano won the day, but something tells me this group of veterans will be back for more.
We got back into the safety of the trees where folks picked up their conversations as we walked happily back down the mountain. We were a little battered, and everyone survived in good spirits. As we reached the trailhead, there was talk of the next VetEx trip. Talk of snowshoe jouneys, vets trying ice-climbing for the first time, and the desire to spend more time outside with other veterans, friends, and family.