Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 31: The Thunderhail edition. (aka the "Mommy!" edition)

Gangles asked me today if Montana is called 'Big Sky' because the it just opens up. This afternoon, as we were climbing up to Rainbow Lake (~8500'), the weather went from blue skies to thunderhail in less than 10m. The skies progressively darkened, then began to drizzle. No problem, I thought, this will probably blow over quickly. But instead, the weather worsened.

The drizzle compounded into real rain, accompanied by lightning and thunder. Then the hail, the size of quarters, came pelting down, and I hid under a tree to avoid the hardest hitting parts. The trail transformed into a trough of what appeared to be my sister Gloria's favorite, Italian Wedding soup. The hail coursed downhill with the rain, racing by. Gangles caught up, and we debated pitching a tent right then and there, since there was no sign of blue skies.

We also debated the wisdom of continuing to follow the trail, which climbed steadily to a pass above treeline. We agreed to follow the trail, and reassess before we hit the open ridge. Luckily, we ran into the Swiss Fits, and somehow it was less scary with all four of us together. The skies brightened, and I was optimistic that the storm would be over soon. We kept marching along, a rain suited foursome, until the skies cleared again, as though nothing had happened. Blue skies, with the odd fluffy, happy cloud. As quickly as it had started, it was over.

Relieved, we hustled down to the lake, and found Bigfoot, Barrel Roll and Grinder already tented, which was a relief, since we had discussed going on. While the weather had cleared, and we could have hiked on, we were all a little emotionally traumatized by the brutal weather.

Despite the precipitation, this section of the trail has been wonderfully scenic, like a smaller Sierras. We've been walking pass to pass, traversing stark bowls with granite and glacial lakes. Along with all of the Glacier and the Chinese Wall, I'd describe this as a highlight to date.

The trail is well-manicured here, clear and neatly marked, with signs for every major pass and lake. Relatively easy to follow, and on nice pine duff for the most part. There are short stretches on piles of loose shale, which feels uncomfortably like walking on broken dishes. I always imagine myself in a Tom and Jerry cartoon as I'm slipping around on the rock fragments.

And, I love the animals here. We've seen plenty of deer, but I have a real soft spot for chipmunks. Maybe it was years of watching "Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers" as a kid. Or their pert little scampers. Or their great eye markings, like little glam rockers. They really liven up the area.

So glad we're all in, dry and safe. Think we have a big day tomorrow. We're looking at 28mi. It's hard to know for sure, since every source (Bear Creek, J. Ley, and Wolf) have slight differences of opinion. While a 5mi discrepancy may not seem like much, it does make a huge difference when we've got such small margins of error when trying to dodge weather, climb passes and hitch into town.

Another beautiful and brutal day on the CDT.

Mileage: 21-24mi from Flowers Lake to Johnson Lake


  1. Great Pictures. Looks like so much fun. Hope all is well.

    Patrick Cornacchiulo

    1. Patrick! Wonderful to hear from you. How's your summer going? Spending lots of time in the pool? Say 'hello' to the team for me. I can't wait to see what you're planning for the fall

  2. Ginny - The Active Nutrition team has been tracking you! We were all in a meeting on Target and Kroger on the AN stuff yesterday and looking at the photos! Hope you are having an awesome time!

    1. Katia! So many cute animals out here, you'd love it. The marmots are ridiculously fat. Glad you're enjoying the photos. I'll keep posting. I am having an awesome time, thanks. The hot new food / drink on the trail is chia. My preferred mix is Crystal Light, though most prefer Gatorade. Say 'hello' to Susan and the rest of the team for me!