Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 14: Columbia Gulch to Eastern Ridge of Mt. Yale

Creeeeeeak! Thunk! Creeeeeeeak! Thunk! Creeeeeeak! Thunk! A cheeky little squirrel wrenched pinecones from the tree above our tent, pelting the ground with them once removed. Just as I drifted back to sleep, the squirrel began chattering angrily. My morning wake up call.

A gentle rain fell during the night, and the sky remained cloudy and gray when we woke, usually a sign of impending weather.

We reached Pine Creek in mid morning. The creek slowly meandered through a brushy meadow, with Waverly Mountain in the background. Upstream, a lone fly fisherman wearing rubber boots and hip waders cast flies on the surface of the water.

Later in the day we passed through an avalanche zone of uprooted and broken trees, with young new pines and a bright array of wildflowers competing to take the place of the trees lost in the last, rocky slide. Purple and white columbines waved proudly in he breeze. White tufts of bear grass stood at attention. Purple penstemon, yellow and lavender daisies, violet blue bell-shaped flowers, and a host of others in a variety of colors all brightened the landscape.

Rain threatened all day. Dark clouds gathered overhead and spit on us for a time only to move on and be replaced by more dark clouds in a seemingly endless string. Loathe to put on rain gear on such a warm, muggy day, we hiked through the sprinkles.

Loud thunder cracked overhead as we reached Silver Creek. But the clouds seemed to dissipate quickly, and we pressed on to the eastern ridge of Mount Yale. As a precaution, I set up our tent nestled in a grove of trees. I was soon glad I did.

Tiny ice pellets began falling from the sky just as we were finishing dinner. We huddled in the trees to clean up, then scurried into the tent. For the next several hours lightning illuminated the inside of our tent, while thunder rumbled in the distance. Perched high in a ridge, I felt vulnerable and exposed, even tucked away in a small grove of trees.

It was after 1:00 in the morning when the storm finally subsided, and even later when I finally relaxed into sleep.

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