Posts Tagged ‘hail’

As we piled into the Travel Lodge, we dropped our packs, had a beer and went to stuff ourselves full of AYCE Asian medley food. We topped it off with a continuation of a TLC binge.

We hid from the rain in the motel room which was conveniently next to a Wal-Mart. At one point, we gave up on relying on our shells and bought $5 umbrellas. Life instantly became better.

While we looked at the bleak forecast of rain and thunderstorms on and off for days, we browsed the CDT facebook page for information . Patch had just posted very snowy pictures of Cumbres Pass. The rain suddenly looked better and better.

The Mumms came to the motel with our packages and wonderfully gave us a full water report for the upcoming windmills.

Easily Distracted picking up a tarantula.

In the morning, after breakfast and lunch and a slow meander, we left Grants headed toward the Bonita-Zuni Canyon to cross El Maipais. We found some more tarantulas, used the umbrellas on and off, and we had some entertaining conversations relating to absolutely nothing.

One conversation had gotten pretty in depth between The Darkness, E.D., and Crosby. So in depth, in fact, that they missed the left turn into the next canyon and kept walking.

Wonderer and I were about 200 feet behind them. We yelled. They kept walking. We “cooed.” They kept walking. Wonderer made high pitched noises. They kept walking. I pulled out my phone and called The Darkness.

The Darkness: Are you kidding me? You’re calling me?

Me: You’re going the wrong way.

They all stop.

The Darkness: Really?

Me: Turn around. Wonderer and I are at the turn.

The Darkness: Oh shit. Ok.

They walked toward us. When they got to us, we took the turn and found a good stealth spot for the evening.

The privy. Photo credit: Crosby

In the morning, we wandered toward El Maipais watching the increasing threats of thunderstorms from multiple directions. We got to the edge of the park at lunch, so we began eating lunch at the picnic table while we assessed the possibility of crossing the 7.5 miles of lava in increasingly inevitable thunderstorms. It began to rain. We moved into the privy. All five of us fit in the well-maintained privy. As the storm lightened, two park rangers opened the door and looked extremely confused.

E.D.: Oh sorry, we can hop out. We were hiding from the thunderstorm.

Ranger #1: We just need to clean it quickly.

We all bunched into the overhang outside of the privy and talked to the rangers about how to cross.

Ranger #2: Well that storm will hit you, probably half way across. That storm over the ridge may hit you, it may not. That storm way over there probably won’t hit you. But that main one there looks the biggest, will definitely hit you, and there could be another wave right behind it.

Ranger #1: Six park employees have been struck by lightening here. Two of which were in this parking lot actually.

Ranger #2: There is iron in the lava that attracts the lightening.

Great. Thunder cracked. The rangers left. We moved back into the privy. The rain got heavier than the first storm. Then the hail started. Marble sized hail pelted the ground and filled the increasingly large puddles everywhere. As Wonderer sat on the closed toilet seat eating a jar of jiffy spreadable cheesecake, we watched large lightening bolts hit the lava on the trail.

Wonderer: Why do Americans eat this?

Crosby: No one I know does…

Me: I’ve never seen it before…

The Darkness: Have you seen fluff yet?

E.D.: That looks interesting…

After multiple hours with all five of us in the privy and the weather not improving, we decided to hitch back to Grants. At a break in the storms with more pending, we managed to snag two rides into town and we all piled back into the Travel Lodge.

The Darkness turned on TLC to continue our marathon abilities. Being Sunday, the TLC marathon was sister wives, a worse show than normal. After five hours of sister wives, Wonderer finally spoke up.

Wonderer: What is the plot to this show?

The Darkness: There is no plot…it’s just their lives.

Wonderer: Hmmmm.

E.D.: Yeah…

In the morning, we plotted to wander out again to the other side of the lava to avoid the still present thunderstorms.

Between storms.

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Once we got off of the paved roads and the dirt roads, the CDT became its usual self of being a trail then disappearing, then reappearing, then disappearing. It liked to disappear right around dark and Guthook would just have a note that said, “follow cairns.” Easy enough, usually, in daylight. Tougher with headlamps, but do-able for a bit.



The CDT hit some amazing ridgelines that offered stunning views and even more stunning sunsets and sunrises. The ridges all soared above treeline, except when we needed to get over to another ridge.

On one such ridgeline, we lost the trail in the dark. After having already lost it and found it several times, we decided to just camp and find it in the morning. According to Guthook and Gaia, we were on trail, but there was no tread. Classic. We were supposed to contour down to a saddle, which would be easier if we could see some tread in the daylight.

Conveniently, the top of that ridge had just enough internet to check the weather. Of course, the prediction: severe thunderstorms starting around noon the next day throughout the afternoon.

I checked the elevation profile on Guthook to see how exposed we’d be. Guthook showed a startlingly steep climb up and over Parkview mountain with about five miles totally exposed. Thrilling.

I switched to Ley’s maps to see the bigger area. He noted a forest service road as a “thunderstorm avoidance route” which was nine miles compared to five, but the dirt road would keep us between 10,000 and 10,600 and still below treeline. If the storm became bad, at least we would have somewhere to hunker down.

We had a solid eight miles or so to the junction which would place us there right before the thunderstorms would probably hit.

Ducking down for the road, we stopped and ate an early lunch while it wasn’t raining. Eating lunch in the rain is the worst. While we sat there and moved multiple bars into easy access places for the storm, an ATV roared up. Atop it sat a hunter completely in camo with a gun on his hip belt and a very large bow strapped to the back. He stopped to chat. The same general hunter/hiker conversation began.

Hunter: “See any elk recently?”

Me: “Not since Wyoming.”

Hunter: “You all have hiked here from Wyoming?!”

Me: “We started in Canada, actually.”

E.D.: “We’re thru-hiking the continental divide.”

Hunter: “So…where’d ya’ll park?”

Memphis: “We don’t have a car…we walked.”

Hunter: “From Canada…”

Memphis: “Yeah…”

Hunter: “So you parked in Canada?”

Memphis: “No…”

Hunter: “hmmph. Where ya going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Hunter: Blank stare. “Huh.”

After lunch, we walked up the rough dirt road and within fifteen minutes, we had to scramble to throw on rain gear. The rain, which came quick and fast, shifted into hail almost as quickly. Thinking it would only last a few minutes then return to rain, we ducked under a conifer tree. A few minutes went by. The hail continued with equal voracity. Damn. We gave up cover and just walked in it, leaning forward and guarding our hands. The hail stings when it hits exposed skin.


Some of the hail.

The hail continued for upwards of half an hour while thunder boomed nearby and we caught occasional flashes of lightening when we weren’t staring at our feet to avoid hail to the face. The storm did let up on the hail, but the rain kept up for about five more hours. We had to keep moving to keep warm; if we stopped, we would become too cold. I kept reminding myself that it could be worse…we could be higher and more exposed through the lightening.

We got back to the trail and crossed a road. Memphis decided that we were camping early because it was his birthday. I came to the conclusion that trail birthdays on the CDT were cursed because of the storm that day and the thundersnow on Scallywag’s birthday.


The fog after the rain.

I didn’t particularly want to stop early because I wanted to get over Bowen Pass the next day before any more storms invariably came in to drench us, but it’s hard to argue with the birthday line and it did feel good to lay down.

The next morning, we did have to haul ass to get over to and up the pass with storms forming in the distance. It was a long climb, but not horrendously steep, so with some loud electronic music, it went quickly.

E.D. surged ahead and Memphis took awhile on the downhill. I accidentally scared the shit out of some day hikers who didn’t hear me approach until I said, “Hi” behind them in an attempt to pass.

I found E.D. chilling under a privy porch cooking ramen while it misted. The main storm had passed, but a bit continued now and then. After we called the hostel in Grand Lake, to let them know we’d be coming in a bit late, we trudged through the last few miles where we saw about 25 elk in two groups.

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We took the Anaconda cutoff to save time later; saving about 80 miles meant that we will have four days of extra wiggle room later on for weather. The first fifteen miles or so of the road walk went along nice dirt forest service roads. We entertained ourselves with some 90s music and whatever we could find on the side of the road. Easily Distracted lived up to her trail name and found all sorts of things including a large antennae.

When we hit the paved road and crossed under interstate 90, we found Uncle Buck’s. As a bar on the road walk, seemed like an excellent place to stop and rest, but unfortunately it was out of business. Hearing that an outdoor faucet still worked, we walked around and found it with a bit if shade. As true hiker trash, that was good enough and we plopped down in the shade, stretched, got water, and laughed at our situation.

Heading down the paved road, we had about ten miles to go into Anaconda and the motel we wanted to stay at was, for once, at the close end of town. Right beforehand, there was a gas station. 

The Darkness: “How good do you think those are?” Pointing at the wrinkled hot dogs in the gas station.

Scallywag: “Between 3 and 9 days old.”

The Darkness: “3 days old isn’t that bad…” Buys.

We headed into Anaconda, got a room and found Tortoise trying to quit because of a blister. A bad blister, but a blister. We tried to convince him out of it or to rest and skip a section and meet up with us later.

The next day, we stalled on hiking out, not looking forward to more paved road walking. Instead, we managed to get lunch, then hang out in Tails and Chaps’ room for awhile. At the grocery store resupplying, we ran into S.O.L., Andrew, and Wagon Wheel.

When we finally did leave town, we had to continue walking through another mile of houses and other establishments like Dairy Queen. Naturally, that stopped us a bit. Weather was beginning to move in and we were looking for excuses not to be in the rain.

After we used up all our excuses to stay in town, we walked past the last buildings and down the road. The Darkness and Scallywag got a little ahead of E.D. and I.

We looked up later to see them standing without their packs looking curiously back at us. Confused, we looked at them, then over their shoulders to a sign that said, “Ranch Bar.”

The big distraction.

Wanting to get out of the weather, we all ducked into the bar and immediately ordered a shot and a beer. The bar had only a handful of local old men, but included some slot machines, a jukebox, and a pool table. Convenient.

What was supposed to be just having a beer out of the rain turned into pool and jukebox playing and at 11pm, we stumbled out planning on finding a stealth ish spot on the side of the highway. Luckily, we had a designated hiker, Scallywag.

Scallywag herded us along as we encountered a cat and then a skunk.

E.D.: “A meow again?”

Scallywag: “No…no no no…skunk…back away slowly. Its tail is pointing at us!”

Thanks to Scallywag, we all still smell normal…or at least only like dirty hikers.

Around midnight, we gave up on stealth camping and camped in a ditch on the side of the road. It seemed like it had more tree protection than it actually did the next morning.

Scallywag made sure we were all up the next morning cheerfully and he was met with some stares and glares.

Headphones in, we stumbled down the road toward a campsite we knew had water and took a break there to dry out our tents. Soon after, we turned off the paved road and onto a pleasant dirt road that snaked upward toward Twin Lakes.

There were several splits and turns in the road to which we tried to pay attention. When this sort of thing occurs, it almost always unfailingly goes up. So, at one junction, we go up. Not long after, we see a sign that directs us up to Twin Lakes, where we needed to go. About a mile up that trail, we stopped for lunch. We checked Guthook. We are “off trail.” We check Gaia, we are “off trail.” We check Ley’s map, we are “off trail.” Shit. But we were very clearly on trail. All three sources said we should still be on a dirt road, not a trail. The maps showed a pack trail near where we were which did not go to Twin Lakes, but to the other side of the ridge, not in the direction we needed to head.

In this confusion, as we debated about bushwhacking about a quarter mile down to the dirty road which we seemed to be paralleling, a young bro walked by with a half liter water bottle, cotton T shirt and a flat brim hat. We asked him the stupid question if the trail went to Twin Lakes. He gave us the best answer…”yeah, it splits up ahead…I don’t think you need GPS for this…”

Great. Thanks…bro.

We continued up toward the lakes as storm clouds began to form. Right as the the cold wind began, I ducked off trail to dig a cat hole quickly before the storm.

Jumping back onto the trail, I threw my rain gear on fast and was greeted with hail. I trudged upward and found the other three snuggled together under some trees wrapped in Tyvek. I joined in wrapped in my trash bag rain skirt. We waited out the rest of the storm huddled together. I dozed off a bit, still tired.

When it stopped, we reluctantly got up and hiked up five more miles toward Storm Lake. On the way up, we encountered Hawkeye heading north. I told him about Hot Lips.

Sock drying

There was quite a steep little section on the way up there, but the lake was beautiful. We found a good campsite, made a small fire, and used it to dry out our wet socks. It strongly reminded me of the AT.

The morning was cold and we slowly got our stuff together and headed up Storm Lake Pass to Goat Flats where the Anaconda route met back up with the Butte route. The pass was nicely switchbacked. Beautiful views spilled from all sides.

And thus began the era of large PUDs; however, they could almost not be called PUDs because all had glorious views.


From Goat Flats


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