A thunder storm at 10,500 feet

Day 4, 7/11
Miles: 12.1
Mileage: 45.0 – 57.1

Another late start happens, finally stirring at about 7 even though the first alarm went off at 5:15. We very slowly come out of a sleep coma and by the time we get out of the tent it’s 7:30, and 8:30 by the time we start walking. We need to get better at this.

We immediately start climbing up the same old logging road we were on yesterday evening, and shortly it turns into an even steeper single track trail. Up, up, up we climb. Up and over rocks and tree roots, around fallen trees and larger boulders. Rather than slowing down on the steep accent, I accelerate, allowing my lungs to suck in huge gulps of air, and using the momentum from one step to power the next leg over the rocks and up the hill. I feel GREAT. My heart beats a little faster and a smile comes over my face, inside I feel an excitement I haven’t felt in a while. I can feel that my hiker legs are coming back- legs that don’t tire and don’t slow down, no matter the terrain. I must be going around 3 mph up a 45 degree angle, I think to myself. I reminisce back to day 4 of last years trip on the JMT… It was also the first day I started to feel invincible. Day 4 is my magical day, I’ve decided. I also remind myself of how strong I was hiking over Pinchot, Glenn, and Forrester pass last year, several weeks in, once my legs were well conditioned. I can’t wait for those days on this trip. I’m well on my way already, and it’s only day 4!

After 4 miles we reach a meadow, called 6-mile meadow. It’s beautiful. By far the biggest meadow I have ever seen. We celebrate, take off our packs, wash a few clothes, and filter water. Our water filter is the slowest thing on the planet, and it takes around an hour to filter 4 liters. An hour! What a waste of time! I definitely will be getting a new filter.

The meadow seems to be never ending. Each time we turn a corner there is another long stretch of meadow in the distance. 6 miles of meadow, to be exact. Dark clouds start to gather in the distance. Then there is deep rumbling. Within minutes, more clouds form directly above us, and they turn a dark grey color almost as fast as they formed. Deep, loud rumbling is now right above us. We try to remember what we read about what to do when caught in a thunder storm, so we decide to leave our packs there, and we head down lower, towards the center of the meadow. It pours on us, and our rain gear is in our packs. We wait, hoping the clouds will pass, but they only continue to build. Finally, we decide we need to get out from right underneath the darkest clouds, and we see a patch of sunlight off in the distance. We head that way. Once again we sit, waiting, terrified. Our packs are behind us, probably a half mile back. Shit. What do we do? How long will we have to sit here? Hours? The rumbling continues, and occasionally we see a flash of lightening not too far away.

After 30 minutes or so, we decide we can’t sit here all day, as we still have about 6 miles to walk, so we make a break for our packs. Back into the darkest of dark clouds. We are walking right back into the worst of the storm. This is so stupid, I keep thinking. Help us God, help us God, I keep praying. Retrieving our packs, we put on rain gear and head as quick as our legs will take us back away from the storm. We continue walking, and we don’t stop…. Until we get directly underneath yet another dark cloud, and once again we decide it’s not safe to be walking out in the open with metal on our backs and in our hands. 30 minutes later, after sitting as low as we can get once more (this time with rain gear on), the rumbles occur less often and we haven’t seen lightening in a while. Finally, we can walk on. We walk fast.

A nice man passes by us heading the other direction. He gives us some good tips on what to do in a lightening storm, and I lodge those words in the back of my memory for another time, hopefully not anytime soon. 2 miles later we reach the end of the meadow, and start a 2 mile decent down to our camp spot. It rains on us. We get wet, we get cold, we get miserable.

As we quickly set up camp and change into our warm clothes, I turn to Simone and say “this was probably the craziest day I’ve ever had… Ever…” She agrees. We are thankful that we are safe and the day is over. We can rest now.

Tomorrow: 14.6 miles and a hitch to Fairplay, our first town stop! Yay!

Also, no more sleeping in for us.

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