Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 14: Hope Pass to Mount Massive Trail

Atlas waited in camp and the three of us headed down toward Twin Lakes together. We stopped briefly by the river, marveling at how the swirling white water carved its way through the rocks. 

We met Jeff and stopped in at the store, buying just enough food to make it to Leadville, then sitting at the picnic table outside and enjoying some snacks. Then we headed in separate directions: Atlas, Sierra and I hiked back to the trail while Jeff drove to the Hope Pass trailhead to begin searching for Maple, a task not unlike searching for a needle in an exceptionally large haystack. Definitely a devoted father!

We began to see groups of day hikers as we approached the Mount Elbert trailhead. As the tallest 14er in Colorado, Mount Elbert attracts a large number of hikers and backpackers. Sierra and I already climbed Mount Elbert when we hiked the Colorado Trail last summer.  With no need to repeat it again so soon, we continued down the combined CDT and Colorado Trail. 

My theory of Colorado weather is that a 20% chance of rain really means there is a 100% chance that you will have rain 20% of the time.  Unfortunately, my theory certainly predicted today's weather. We hiked through several short bursts of rain, repeatedly putting on our raingear only to take it off again twenty minutes later. 

As we approached the Mount Massive trail, a bright flash of lightning lit the sky, quickly followed by an ear-splitting BOOM and a loud rumble like the roll of a timpani.  Hail pelted down from the sky, covering the trail in white. We hiked through seemingly endless cycles of thunder and lightning, as hail continued to fall. After a mile or so of intense storm, the hail slowed to a gentle rain, then stopped altogether. 

We found a damp but comfortable camp shortly after the junction with the Mount Massive Trail. A large grouse welcomed us to the camp, then waddled away in search of food. The forecast calls for a slight chance of more thunderstorms through the night and into tomorrow so we could be in for an interesting night!

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