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Posts Tagged ‘thunderstorms’

**From October 2015**

We walked to the edge of Grants and tried to hitch back to the trail on the other side of the lava, thereby significantly decreasing our chances of getting struck by lightening. We waited. Saw a bunch of cops. Waited some more. Saw more cops. Still waited. We started doing magic tricks that ended with us smiling with our thumbs out. This elicited lots of smiles and waves, an offer of burritos, and an offer of the greener variety, but no rides.  Starting to become frustrated, we tried smiling with a $20 held up.  Nothing.

Crosby decided it was time to call the Mumms and ask if they had any time to drive us down. Luckily, they did and could meet us somewhere in an hour. We decided that we would rather eat for an hour than sit on the side of the road, so we inhabited a subway in the meantime.

Carol Mumm thought we were being very smart and told even more lightening lava stories. The extra time with her allowed us to hear more of her stories, and man, she is a good storyteller. We passed her some gas money and she went over where water was all the way to Pie Town to make sure we didn’t miss a key source.

As we walked, we saw an Arch, received a really delicious type of orange and cookies from a passing car, and a few high fives. It sporadically thunder stormed the rest of the afternoon. We knew we had to stealth camp that night and needed to get toward some trees. A split in the route came up with a water source on one and nothing on the other. The route with a windmill included an extra four miles or so.

The Darkness needed water, so she and Crosby went that way and neither E.D. nor I did, so we went the shorter way and agreed to see each other in Pie Town or before. E.D. and I walked until a little after sunset, found a fence lacking “no trespassing” signs, waited for no cars to pass, then hopped the fence to find a stealth site.

The mud.

Up at dawn, we jumped back over the fence quickly and resumed walking toward Pie Town. We had a few thunderstorms that day as we trudged through some of the thickest mud I’ve ever attempted to walk through. Each step would add a small new layer until each foot would have several pounds of mud attached. It felt like wearing platform shoes with lead weights. Whenever I’d start to feel frustrated, I’d pause and use my hiking pole or a nearby rock to scrape the rest of the mud off. This happened almost the entire day. Instead of getting frustrated, I decided that I would laugh each time I had to scrape a new platform shoe off. Eventually, it just became funny in it’s own right. Each passing shower or thunderstorm seemed to make the mud deeper and stickier.

Water source.

With no sign of The Darkness or Crosby, we decided to just bust some miles and make it to the Toaster House in Pie Town late that night. However, about four miles away and well after dark, we saw a mysterious light off in a field near a mysterious built contraption of unknown origins. I thought Inspector Gadget might be onto something with his alien theories. E.D. thought the light was watching us. We kept walking. The light moved. A mile later a large truck passed us, turned around and rolled down it’s windows.

Truck Dude: Are you…guys…ummm…ladies ok? It’s awful late to be out walking.

E.D.: We’re fine, thanks.

Truck Dude: [Looks at our packs] Oh no shit, more hikers! I thought you guys came through earlier in the year.

Me: That’s the northbounders. We started in Canada and are going to Mexico.

Truck Dude: Awesome, so you know where the Toaster House is, right?

E.D.: Yup. We’ll manage, thanks!

We booked it. The mysterious light in the field returned. We walked faster. The mud got thicker. Finally, we reached the edge of town, found Nita’s amazing oasis of the Toaster House, found somewhere to sleep and passed out.

In the morning, we fiddled with the wood stove and looked through the trail register commenting on all the people we knew. Some of Nita’s friends came by with boxes of food. We helped them unload the boxes and chatted with them for awhile.

When the post office opened, we took care of chores and went to eat lunch at a small place down the road that had a one room museum, a tiny little store, and one table for people to all sit at together. It was a nifty concept having only one table. We talked with the other folks eating there and struck up conversations that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity for if we had sat at different tables.

Thanks Nita!!!

Crosby showed up while The Darkness hit up the post office and ate with us too. Later in the afternoon, the four of us had the opportunity to meet Nita and she gave us an awesome tour of Pie Town. It was wonderful to hear her tell stories as well about her life, the Toaster House, the town, and stories of other hikers. Wonderer managed to make it in and catch up with us toward the end of the day, too.

We took our time leaving the next day, examining the weather reports closely from the wifi at the RV park next door. We seemed to be narrowly beating the snow down the state and needed to keep moving. Daylight still waned and the evening did not get any warmer.

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Leaving Darby with five days of food, we headed back up to Chief Joesph Pass in the back of a pickup truck. The trail followed a dirt four wheel drive track for about five miles of pleasant grades before turning into a trail which The Darkness and I swore was designed by an east coaster. It picked the highest point around, went straight up it, then shot us back down and repeated the process. However, unlike the east coast, most of it was burned and the sun shone bright and hot that day.

On one of those bumps, I met a character named Swanson. He said that he had run into eight or nine other thru hikers that day and regaled me with information on each. I asked him to let Scallywag and E.D know that we were going to try and camp at Big Hole Pass. Scallywag and E.D had to pick up boxes quickly in Sula, so they were a bit behind and we didn’t see them until camp. Swanson mentioned a that there was a guy parked there camping who would talk my ear off.  However, when I got there, it was just after nine and it appeared he was already in bed so my ear did not get talked off.

The Darkness: “Did you talk to that weird dude?”

Me: “Yeah, he told me about the location of the spring and who’s ahead of us, did you?”

The Darkness: “No. I knew you would, so I didn’t bother.”

The spring was beautiful, piped, and not far. The beginning of the side trail to it though was hidden.

In the morning, I left first and headed up the dirt road looking for a tricky trail turn to the left where the side was supposedly hidden. I found it very quickly and began down the trail only to immediately be impaled in the face with a massive cob web. I took a step back and peeled it off, checking to make sure I didn’t have the spider on me. There were about two miles of woods trail before popping out on a closed (and therefore badly maintained) four wheel track. The entire time I pulled an old AT trick of waving one hiking pole up and down in front of me to knock down the cob webs. That only works so well though and I continually found myself peeling them off of my arms and face.

Later on, E.D came trotting down the trail.

E.D.: “Are The Darkness and Scallywag ahead?”

Me: “No…you’re the first person I’ve seen since leaving this morning and I’ve been on trail the whole time.”

 

The cabin and the wheel

We looked at each other and knew that something was wrong. E.D. had left with them, but paused for a morning bathroom break and hadn’t seen them since. We found a dilapidated old cabin, sat in front of it, and threw serotinous cones through the spikes of a rusty old wheel which reminded us of the old computer game about the Oregon Trail. We looked at the maps to see if they took a short cut and somehow got ahead of us. Nothing.

I placed my bet that they continued up the dirt road and missed the left turn.

We kept going, knowing that we had to make miles or face running low on food. A 3,000 ft climb came next which we broke up with lunch in the middle by a messy stream. We didn’t feel like having wet feet, so we found a log that was both several feet higher than the stream and barely the width of our feet. This was advanced stream crossing. E.D went first, stopped in the middle, chucked her poles across and straddled it across using one or two wiggly rocks underneath. As I watched, I extended my hiking poles and managed to walk across. The climb went steeply up for a long time, then finally began to have a better grade toward the top.

E.D. and I continued along the bumpy divide for quite some time until we stopped for dinner in hopes that the other two would catch up. In fact, they did roll up.

The Darkness: “We took the teal route…” (The maps show the actual CDT in red and the alternates in purple)

Me: “So, where did you get off trail?”

Scallywag: “We kept going all the way up Eagle Mountain instead of taking that hidden left turn…and then instead of going back down like smart people, we decided to bushwhack down and scramble down a talus field instead. It took awhile.”

We ended up going another few miles and camping at a lake with the Swiss Couple, Jeanine and Patrick who we hadn’t seen since the day before Lincoln, or about 200 miles. They had a small fire and were roasting marshmallows.

 

The lake campsite

The next morning, we all plodded down the trail and tried to work around the thunderstorms which kept trying to repeatedly explode above our heads right as we were going above treeline.

I kept noticing the thunder when it would appear as a wrong bass line in whatever music that I was trying to jam out to. The thunderstorm that day hit right before noon and was over quickly, but it was enough to push us into some trees to eat lunch.

We had as long decent down to a “parking lot” of a trail-head, which was really just a dirt road that you could move a car to the side of, out of the way. On the way down, we passed two beautifully blue lakes and it was hot out, so I took the opportunity to skinny dip for a moment to cool off.

From the “parking lot,” we had to climb. But this particular climb had recently been redone with wonderful switchbacks making the climb pleasant and not really a kick in the ass.

We kept going and found the last campsite close to Berry Creek. This campsite was not really a campsite, but it was mostly flat and was just wide enough for our tents. We had somehow gotten on a late schedule of leaving camp between 8-9am and camping at dusk, eating dinner at about 10pm. Oops.

From Berry Creek, we had a long climb upward again with something marked as “overlook” on Guthook, which was really just a pass, but it did have a good view. We roller-coastered around high up before dropping lower.

The next day, we had some high and exposed sections to go through as well. And there were…you guessed it, thunderstorms!

 

Right before one storm hit.

From Gibbon’s pass, which had a “spring” a bit off a side road (which was a puddle in the road itself) we went up a very exposed, but awesome peak. When I got to the top and thunder crashed across the sky, I looked at the dark mass of clouds coming my way and made it down as fast as my knees would let me on the loose rocks. I made it down to some trees, put my rain gear on and watched the storm pass. Scallywag and E.D waited with me in the trees, The Darkness had made it over the next exposed bump on the ridge.

That evening, we found a campsite that definitely only thru hikers would call a campsite and threw up our tents in a gap in the rain.

The next morning, we waited until another gap in the rain to pack up quickly and head toward Lemhi Pass. This part was surprisingly easy and we cruised through it to find the Swiss Couple and Crosby sitting there eating lunch.

Crosby had called Sam at Leadore Inn to pick him up there instead of the next, normal pass to get to town on, Bannock Pass. We all chatted and ate while Crosby waited for Sam.

When Sam came, we conveniently asked him if we could reserve two rooms for the next night and get a ride down from Bannock Pass the next day at 4pm. He said that sounded great and would see us then.

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The trail snaked along the divide which in general means an extremely bumpy experience. When it couldn’t follow the divide directly, the trail sling shot us over a pass, deep into the valley, then rocketed us back up and over another pass on the other side.

Now, normally, this would be fantastic. High passes offered spectacular views and going into the valleys provided a wide array of water sources. However, when you’re gambling with thunderstorms, it gets interesting to say the least.

The same day that we got over Storm Lake Pass, we thought we’d have enough time to get over it and Rainbow Mountain before we dealt with typical afternoon mountain thunderstorms. Nope. One began to crash through around 11:30am when I found myself above treeline on Rainbow Mountain and noticed that the song I was listening to seemed to have extra bass in it…oh shit…thunder. Damn. I pulled the headphones out and shoved them unceremoniously in a Ziploc bag in my convenient, hand crafted, custom fanny pack (thanks Mom!) and examined the situation briefly.

I’m above treeline. The map showed trees higher on the other side than on this side. The trees directly below me are not uniform in the slightest and they are spread out. It would probably take me just as long to hike back down to uniform trees as it would to hike up and over. Great. I move upwards as fast as I could muster. The sky is turning a darker shade of gray. Boom boom boom. Fuck. That was loud and very close. I have two switchbacks to go. I began to run. Now, running with a full pack is awkward, so don’t imagine this is done gracefully. I crest the top and continue running toward the significantly more uniform trees on the other side. More thunder. Once I get to the white bark pines, I began walking swiftly again trying to get down.

About a mile down, I found Scallywag and E.D. chilling under some trees attempting to be dry and eat lunch. I joined them and we wondered if The Darkness had stopped in the trees on the other side.

The storm passed fairly quickly and blue sky began to emerge. Not long after, The Darkness appeared and we all basked in the warmth of the sun for a few moments before realizing we should be walking in the good weather. It gets tough when the weather dictates breaks and rest times instead of the body.

We got up and over another pass getting wet from rain on and off. We wanted to do more miles in this section but the weather and the constant ups and downs tired us out. We decided we needed to get to somewhere between Warren Lake and Rainbow Lake. I began to wonder about how many storms this area got because it had a lot of things named after storms and rainbows.

The stretch up to Warren Lake had switchbacks but some were hardly switchbacks. The trail went up steeply and was covered in rocks that my shoes didn’t want to grip well. By the lake, we were greeted by a large quantity of mosquitoes and Maverick going nobo!

We swapped beta on the next few sections and towns as well as what hikers were ahead and behind. All the while we swatted and murdered as many mosquitoes as possible.

Then having only a few miles left of energy, The Darkness, E.D., Scallywag, and I found a campsite that only thru-hikers would think of as a campsite. It was bumpy, weedy, rooty, and only flatish…but we were tired.

Lupines and Elephant Heads

The next morning, we walked up past Rainbow Lake, covered in lupines and elephant heads, and up toward Rainbow Pass. I stopped on top to dry out my tent and eat. The steep ups and downs had turned my appetite up dramatically. I felt like the Chester Cheetah in the Cheetos commercials where he turns the lever from “cheesy” to “dangerously cheesy” except it was “hungry” to “holy shit I’m starving and can’t eat enough.”

We only managed to get a few miles down to Johnson Lake before we decided lunch was in order. Partly because the lake was pretty and there was a great sitting log. E.D. and I stayed and began lunch while Scallywag went off to dig a cat hole. The Darkness decided she wanted to get up Pintler Pass before lunch, so she headed upward.

Then E.D. and I heard hilarity ensue. The trail made a sharp ninety degree turn away from the lake not far ahead and they had both gone to dig cat holes in similar areas. What we heard was them managing to have a conversation while pooping. That’s when you know you’ve been hiking with people a long time.

The best part about this particular lake was that there, the “North Montana” section ended on Guthook and we had to switch to “South Montana/Idaho.” We’re getting somewhere!

E.D., Scallywag, and I plugged upward and found The Darkness with a pack explosion on top of Pintler Pass complete with her tent tied down to dry out. We took a break there too.

Then Scallywag offered to share some of his jelly beans. He passed the bag to The Darkness and a sly smile grew across her face as she picked out one of each color. Scallywag didn’t notice at first, but when he did notice he gave her a menacing look which suggested that he would get her back for the atrocity of taking too many jelly beans.

After Pintler Pass, we went down into a valley then up and over another nameless but beautiful ridge that reminded me of Alaska Basin in the Tetons. We noticed that the elevation profile shifted after that from masochism to something “easier,” so we managed to push another ten miles to a spring.

However, rolling into the spring, we noticed that it was actually a mud puddle. The spring was also in a saddle which we thought would give some flat camping, but the entire area had burned leaving a mass of dead standing trees. The wind howled through them and we watched them sway dangerously. On Ley’s map, it shows that water can be found on either side of the saddle further down. Having no energy to climb another 1000 feet, we bushwhacked down about a quarter mile on the not as windy side of the saddle, found a stream, and cleared a bit of area to camp. A few of the dead logs took more than one of us to move. This area at least had less snags and less wind. We collapsed into our tents and passed out quickly.

Looking around in the morning made us laugh. Once again, no one but a thru hiker would call this home for the night.

The climb out of our less windy area was entertaining as our still tired bodies did not feel like climbing over extra blowdowns. A few miles up the trail, we took a break at Surprise Lake and wondered about whoever found the lake and was surprised by it.

As we exited the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, the terrain became a little more forgiving in terms of steepness. We would have a waterless gap toward the end of the section, however.

We came upon a nobo named Wall who told us some interesting things. One of which was how he had gotten rid of his sleeping bag for awhile, then realized that was a bad idea and had just gotten it back in Darby.

We got to Schultz creek and filled up with enough water to drink for the rest of the evening, dry camp with, and get us to Chief Joesph Pass.

Still having miles to do, we kept on walking. The miles didn’t look hard until we got to some blowdowns. Then more blowdowns. Then, the blowdowns got so thick that I couldn’t see the trail, even after climbing six vertical feet to stand on the highest one. A dirt road somewhat paralleled the trail for a few miles and the two crisscrossed. I had just crossed it about a tenth of a mile back. The blowdowns were so thick, I actually turned around and went back to follow the dirt road for a mile around the massive pile of blowdowns. Right before the road, I forced Scallywag to turn around and take the dirt road.

We intersected back with the trail a mile later and jumped back on. We saw we could jump on a mile and a half later too, but this section of trail didn’t look as bad…and it wasn’t. There were minor blowdowns, but ones easy to step over and not enough to be annoying.

Then we heard voices later and saw that the next road crossing didn’t actually cross… It just came close. E.D. and The Darkness were looking at the map and GPS.  The four of us continued onward.

Blowdowns… the trail’s there somewhere…

We came to another section rife with blowdowns. Most of these, we could just throw one leg over at a time and it wasn’t super taxing. A few, we had to go under which is definitely easier as a short person. I was grateful for my flexibility in this area.

Camping about ten miles from the pass, we stopped because we found live trees and dirt to camp on. Amazing…a campsite that non thru hikers might even deem a campsite!

The next day, we had an easy ten miles to Chief Joesph Pass where we could hitch to Darby on Loggers Day.

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“…just to watch him die…” – Johnny Cash

Hop-a-long and I finally left the shelter of the bathroom at 1:30 in a break between thunderstorms realizing we had only managed 6.5 miles that morning.  We climbed up and over a small ridge and down to a creek and campsite where some section hikers were posting up at 3pm for the night.

We got water and watched the sky, debating our options.  Seven miles of exposed ridge walking would come in about 3 miles and there was no more water until we descended the ridge.  After we sat through a couple small storms and watched other systems collide and make dark swirls in the sky, we decided to load up on water and go until treeline and see from there.  The map showed possible flat spots right around where the trees would disappear on the ridge if the storms persisted.

On the way up the climb, it hailed on us and we stood under a tree for it to finish.  It got up to about pea sized but stopped after about 10 minutes and we continued climbing.

At the top of the ridge, we ran into three day walkers who told us the other side looked clearer than the east side facing Lake Tahoe.  There, we got to leave the 40 mile section that the PCT and the TRT (Tahoe Rim Trail) shared.  Watching the sky, we saw they were right and also another patch of trees a mile or so down.  w2e scampered over to them and reassessed.  Still ok.  Well, the clouds were a little dark but we hadn’t seen lightning in several hours that was close enough to be threatening.  We hurried along the ridge from semi-safe spot to semi-safe spot.  This particular ridge did not really leave too many bail out points that did not include 500 feet or more of scrambling down.

When we finally descended, we breathed a sigh of relief, sat down, and swatted mosquitos.  Then we hiked a bit more to a small campsite just a bit up the next climb.

That night was a bit strange without Dead Animal or Inspector Gadget, but Hop and I had fun anyway.  I also swore I heard voices, but Hop heard nothing.  Great.

“Hahahahaha, did you hear that?” Hop-a-long asked in the morning.

“No,” I said looking up from the 3G I discovered on my phone.

“Someone just yelled like Tarzan…you’re not crazy!” Hop laughed.

We had two climbs that morning before a very long descent to town road.  We ran into the first day walkers about half way up the second climb and they scared the shit out of me since I was rocking out with my iPod and in the zone climbing up.

When we reached the top of the ridge that we would follow down, we ran into a large man named Daniel who was doing a section from Truckee to Mt. Whitney, which he’d done several times to get back in shape.  He said it would take him 4 months for the 400 miles.

“So what are those loud booming sounds we’ve been hearing?” Hop-a-long asked when he said he was a local.

“Ohh, yeah, there’s a bomb range right over there,” he said nonchalantly, “and over there is some other military base that flies fighters all over, and over there is where they hit targets over in…what’s that country?? Oh, Afghanistan, with remote controls.”

“Huh.” Was our reply.

He sat and told us various other entertaining comments until we got up and hiked to town.  We began running into a million day walkers the closer we got to a road.  I kept my headphones in to avoid having to repeat the usual conversation over and over.

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At the road, Hop hitched right to Truckee and I hitched left to Soda Springs.  My wonderful mother sent my resupply box to the hostel, but the Post Office kept it, so I had to run across the street to grab it before they closed, then I was at the hostel bar having a beer when Dead Animal called and said he had gotten to Truckee and rented a car and was coming to pick me up.

When he did, we picked Hop-a-long up from the busiest Safeway ever and drove around listening to loud car music in the extra awesome rental that had gotten upgraded because the rental car guy didn’t feel like cleaning the economy car.

While driving and blasting music, we decided to opt for AYCE Sushi instead of splitting a motel room.  We ate a massive amount and I almost had to pull a Swanson move of throwing up in the bathroom and then finish eating.  Afterward, we found the trailhead and slept in the woods by the rental car.

In the morning, after caffeine we bought a map and figured out how to get to a forest service road at mile 1174.2 and slackpack sobo back to Truckee.  We got there late and started around 10am.  We ran into one of the Japanese guys and Camillion who we hadn’t seen since the Anderson’s.

The trail cruised up and down, up and down.  At the first water, we ran into G and Swanson and I offered some of the vegan brownies my awesome resupply mom sent.  Hop-a-long and I chilled and cruised listening to music the whole time since we could charge it that evening again.

We soon ran into a number of other hikers, a lot of whom we hadn’t met yet.  Dancing Feet, Not-so-bad, Funk, and Trooper.  After the big “climb” which was so switchbacked that it didn’t seem like much, we ran into Snow Turtle and Aggassi on their way up.  It was actually really cool going the “wrong way” because we got to run into everybody.

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Dead Animal picked us up and we went to Reno since we had talked about it for about 500 miles or so.  We went to REI first where Hop-a-long checked out packs, but didn’t find anything since it was pretty picked over.  I got a Sawyer Squeeze filter to try out.

After that we found a cheap room in a casino, got pizza, and hung out.  We managed to get back to the trail around 3:30 and hike by 4pm after hanging out with Hollywood, Drop Zone, Lorax, Chow Down and I’m Fine.

Hop-a-long, Drop Zone and I made it about 10 miles that evening but couldn’t find any flat spots, so we camped right smack in the middle of a side trail figuring it wouldn’t get any traffic.

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