Massey Gap field trip, Saturday the 12th of June.
Without much fanfare, Carol Broderson, Anne Maio and I saddled up with water and snacks at 10AM to hike to the ridge. As we were closing the car doors, I mentioned that the sky looked a bit ominous, but Carol was not as impressed. It is true that the weather at this altitude changes quickly, and with only a 50% chance of rain, we headed up the trail, chatting and moving at a good pace. After 40 minutes or so, the sky began to darken considerably, with accompanying thunder growing closer and the wind howling. It would be slack of me to not document the fact that there were many hikers all over the mountain, kids, parents, sturdy ones and not so sturdy, but dedicated. So, we were hardly alone. I found two moments to express my growing concern that the storm was about to be a part of our day, when just as we were nearing the ridge, and our appointment with the rhodos and flame azaleas within smelling distance, the storm made good on my fear.
I recall that the stinging rain began horizontally, and was graced by the rolling tough woody growth taking it sideways, bending down and holding on as only those red spruces know so well. I, frankly, turned and started down the mountain as quickly as I could through rain washed glasses. I was inspired to because lightning had begun its parade across the landscape, and I am not fond of lightning. Carol was behind me, and Anne was behind her, and I didn't care. Meanwhile, I was passing hikers still moving up the mountain, as well as many small groups of people taking shelter under the spruce groves, intent on waiting it out I guess.
So, I am hoofing it down to the parking lot, which is still a long ways off, thinking about mortality, all the many ways a person can expire, trudging now through what has become a stream where the path used to be, and thought of John Muir, who under similar circumstances would climb the tallest tree he could find and ride out the storm in ecstasy. He lived a long life.
I led the rush down the hill, but somehow Carol and Anne were ahead of me on the home stretch by virtue of a shortcut. Even though we did not manage to fill out the day as planned, I am grateful to Carol and Anne for pushing me to better know these moments. Many times I have exposed myself to the elements in ways I can only best describe as scary. I am still here, and have those memories that rise closer to the surface than most.