24 Jun Wicked Weather and Carson Pass
We got word a storm was brewing a few days back. Today it hit.
I woke today happy to not hear raindrops on my tent. Thank goodness. I hustled to pack up my dry gear in anticipation of rain – knowing at the end of the day I’d be dreadful if I was climbing into a wet tent and wet sleeping bag. All my gear packed, Birdman and I were hustling down the trail by 6am. If it was gonna storm, we’d get as much done as we could first.
It was sprinkling at 6 and grew to a steady downpour by 7. Mists all around us, we couldn’t see far enough ahead to tell where the trail would lead us. It went up. Out of the shelter of trees and to the top of ridge after ridge. The wind grew as we climbed. I couldn’t feel my hands by 8am and kept dropping my trekking poles.
Each time the trail dropped down a bit, I was certain it would take us back to cover. Each time, it would curve back to the top of a ridge where the wind would push me off balance and slap my face with rain. I’d watch the rain falling in front of me, only to have the wind pick up the droplet and carry it back up the mountain. A gravity defying vision. Heads down and rain jackets on, we knew the best way to carry on was to keep moving and keep our core temperature up. Nearly running up at times, drenched, squinting one eye as the wind assaulted my face with raindrops that snuck up from below somehow, it all seemed never ending with the mist obscuring our vision.
We pushed on. Only stopping once at a confusing intersection to check out maps. There, I struggled with my numb fingers to remove my pack cover, fumbled for what seemed forever to unzip an outer pocket, reached into the pocket only to be unable to get enough of a grip on the map bag to pull it out. Finally, I got my maps out only to find the junction we were at wasn’t marked on my maps. So I watched as Birdman went through the same process with equally numb hands, all the while growing colder by the second as wind howled and rain fell. Birdman’s maps told the story and we were back, stumbling and running and pushing against an unforgiving wind. My hat blew off requiring catlike reflexes to catch it. As I crossed a snow chute, my American flag blew out of my bag. I watched it land 15 feet below me down the steep slushy snow. I eyed the rocks below and considered leaving it. Only as a passing thought though. Of course I needed it. The wind continued still as, in my trail runners, I carved steps carefully kicking into the soft and steep snow down the 15 feet to retrieve the ol’ stars and stripes.
And we carried on, wondering when the wind would tear apart our rain gear and leave us to soak and freeze. After sixteen miles of storm, a good deal of it assaulted by wind on exposed ridges, we finally, oh sweet baby Jesus, finally we descended to Carson Pass.
Here we knew there was a visitor’s center at the road crossing and all we hoped for was some brief shelter from the rain and wind. Perhaps enough to change or regain feeling in our hands. What we got was much more.
The center was open and inside were 30 road bikers taking turns warming themselves in front of a wood fire stove. They were soon picked up by their support vans (that sounds nice) and taken to their official rest point. This left the stove to us and we huddled around it for at least an hour drying our clothes and warning our hands. The folks working there were so generous.
With the wind still howling and rain falling we holed up at a local lodge and ate at the historic Kirkwood Inn. We’ll face what remains of the storm again tomorrow with another 16mi between us and Echo Lake.
Today we felt alive that’s for sure.