We navigated a confusing maze of use trails near Little Molas Lake, then began to climb the grassy hillside. Reaching the ridge, we enjoyed incredible views back to the forested valley below. Although we hiked under a patchy blue sky, dark clouds shrouded the mountains and threatened to close in. We resolved to enjoy the blue sky while it lasted, knowing the rains would come later in the afternoon.
We are beginning to understand Colorado's weather forecasts. Back home, when the forecast calls for a 30% chance of rain we know this means there is a 70% chance we won't feel a drop. But when a 30% chance of rain is predicted in Colorado, we are beginning to realize that this means there is a 100% certainty that it will rain for some part of the day, and that it is more likely than not that it will rain at least 30% of the time.
We hiked through countless fields of wildflowers, passed through beautiful grassy meadows, and traversed below rugged red sandstone mountains. A rich variety of wildflowers, including tall cornlily stalks, white cow's parsnip, bright red lupine, goldeneye, sunflowers, daisies, monkshood, and vetch, lined the trail. Small seasonal streams carved deeply sculpted gullies in the soft, red rock. Above, towering red rock cliffs and spires capped the mountains. A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but even as I snapped my photos I knew that neither words nor pictures could adequately describe the beauty of the mountains here.
Right on cue, the rains began in early afternoon. The thunder reached its peak just as we were approaching the ridge of Rolling Mountain. We took time to explore a small cave, likely carved out by a nearby underground spring, before scurrying over the pass and down the other side.
Reaching treeline, we breathed a sigh of relief at having successfully dodged the lightning once again. We stopped to enjoy the White Creek Cascades and the Cascade Creek Waterfall before continuing down the trail to a smaller creek to camp.
We cooked dinner during a brief respite from the rain. Just as we crawled into the tent, we began to hear the slow, rhythmic tapping of raindrops. More rain. Then the rumbling of thunder over the ridge, accompanied by several bright flashes of light. I closed my eyes, shut out the thunder, focused on gentle staccato sound of the rain against the tent.