Monday, August 18, 2008

July 14th

Well. It finally happened. After 1030 miles we finally had rain. We had successfully walked the first 2 and a half months on our hike without a drop of rain and we were wondering if it might just not rain the whole trip. Of course, we did walk through 700 miles of desert and it did rain once while we were zeroing in a hostel, but we still thought that it was pretty amazing that everyday we walked we had blue skies.But I suppose it was inevitable; we were really just waiting for it to happen. And happen it did! Yesterday we were eating lunch on a prominent ridge at about 8,600 feet. These days we've been up pretty high walking on ridges beween 8,000 and 9,000 feet. In that particular spot, we had just finished lunch and took off happy and full to be done with any hard climbs and able to just walk on top of the mountain saddle between these amazing rocks and some neat looking twisted, gnarled cedars (the trees almost looked like giant bonsai trees growing unexpectedly out of craggy rocks). But as soon as we took off, the winds picked up and some pretty ominous dark clouds rolled in. Before we knew it, the sunny picnic turned into a chilly rain storm. So Rose and I threw our pack cvers on and our rain jackets and walked in the down pour. We picked up the pace a lot and scooted down the saddle as fast as we could as we heard lightning booming all around us. I kept looking around d! own the ridge for groves of trees in case the storm and lightning moved right over us, knowing that travelling on top of the ridge was a dangerous place to be. But fortunately, we dropped enough elevation that I felt a little more secure and the storm passed over within an hour. Within the next hour, it was no longer so scary. The spine tingling lightining gave way to gentle, spitting rains and we were glad to be safe and that God had protected us from harm. Though we were a bit wet and cold, it was spectacular to walk through fields of sage, lupine, and indian paint brush along the lower saddles. They were so fragrant and colorful and the plants each held little droplets of fresh rain on their newly refreshed leaves. It was the kind of rain we were actually grateful for - it felt like a pretty good release from the hot, humid climbs.But the storm of that afternoon was just a taste of what we would walk in a day later on July 14. That was today. And it seems like afternoon thunderstorms may very well be a pattern in this central CA area juat before Lake Tahoe. Again, today we stopped for lunch after crossing a road and reaching a half-way point in our 20 mile day. This, time, however we were much lower and in a much less precarious place. But, just like yesterday, no sooner had we finished our latwe lunch and the clouds rolled in. This time the lightning was closer and the thunder was like the ruckus of having your head right by the end of a bowling lane after while someoneis throwing a powewrful strike. This was close. But we gelt okay being closer to a road and not so high so we carried on. First it started out as a downpour just as the previous day had, but then tiny white balls of hail the size of peas started falling. We couldn't believe it! It was hailing in the middle of the summer! So! on the little pebble sized hail got bigger and became the sixe of decently heavy marbles. It was falling fast that we could see it pinging everywhere on the ground like it was one of those crazy machines with all the bouncing lotto balls. As the hail got biger and fell with great force, it started hurting. At first it had seemed kindsa novel, but now it had almost turned outright violent! I could definiitely feel it pluck my head through my rain coat hood! Fortunately, Rose had her umbrella so she was a little more protected than me. But both of us just tried to walk fast so we could avoid the daunting frozen moth balls whacking our bodies.As soon as the small hail got bigger, it also got wetter. So now we weren't just cold, but wet too! In just a few minutes the wet hail started to come down with a chilly rain and the the whole trail had become a giant river flowing with mud and washed away hail stones. Five minutes ago the ground had been brown and dry and then with the onslaught of hail it had become covered in white dots and was a big slushfest of water and ice! Nothing had the slightest chance to stay dry - our shoes were sopping from splashing threough icy puddles, and our raincoats had been soaked throguh rather quickly, too. In particular, I can say that my hiking kilt was soaked and I could feel the freezng air even inside it on my thighs, which usually remained warm from all the muscle activity of hiking! We were soaked form head to toe from the wet hail and it didn't seem to be letting up anytime soon. So we just put our heads down and folowed the trail as best as we could. We stopped nd tal! ked to some other hikers who, unlike us, had bunkered down under a tree for protection from the hail. Us - we figured we were wet and cold so it'd be better to generate a little body heat by walking rather than sitting in one place.We finished chatting to the couple huddled under the tree and continued warring on through the freezing rain. We went over a meadow and the hail let up. soon it became a dull rain and then we turned a corner and the sun came through. Oh, it felt soooo good to have the warm sun dry our clothes. My fingers had felt damp and chilled and now they were warming nicely under the bright rays. So the sun came out and the storm blew over. But as the mist cleared and left the plants sparkling under the newly blazing blue skies, the land took on this vibrant intensity! The air was so clear with no humidity in it that the greens of the firs and cedars were brilliant as the neddles glistened under their dewdrops! The flowers were shimmering brighter than I've ever seen them! Some how this is what I imagined life was like for a blind man who had just regained his sight in an instant miracle! Suddenly the darkness and vagueness was gone and there was just pure light. Everything was just more alive and more radiant after the storm had cleared, it was like a veil had ben lifted from our glazed eyes!We walked with absolute amazement at the clarity and goodness of the world around us! We took our wet coats off and just soaked up the new warmth. It was better than a cup of hot cocoa after travelling througha winter blizzard! The rain was gone and the sun lit up the red rock chimneys and boulders all around us!

As the sun came in, it beat down on the red rock cliffs and chimneys around us and the mountians shined so bright that they may just have thought themselves stars for a few minutes!So we walked under blue skies for the last 7 miles of the day! It was truly a neat experience to see hail cover the grund as it did. But what was even cooler was the way the chilling rain turned into the clerest, most beautiful sunswept day! So fear not if you are going through a storm in your own life. Just around the corner may be a rainbow, and the sun will peak through those clouds very soon and you'll be warming yourself as if you were on a perfect sandy beach! Thanks God that you help us through all our storms and that You promise Sun (and your Son) on the other side for those who know You!

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