Did a mellow climb up via the Marion Mountain Trail after learning that access via Devil’s Slide Trail was impossible still due to wildfire closures. Started off around 8:30 with a herd of 20-something Christian hikers in tow. They kept an impressive pace directly on our heals for several minutes before someone called out, “Hey, my heart’s going to explode!” and then “Maybe those guys want to be left alone.” Which we did. So sweet of them.
Initial (revised) plan for the day was SJ, Cornell (which I’ve never been up), SJ again, then back to the car. Things were auspicious for the first part; we made good time, passing several groups of hikers headed toward Marrion itself to have a “Mount St. Ellen’s” birthday celebration for a local woman (60+) who regularly hiked Skyline and was known to Huy. One man was carrying his young daughter up in a pack, which seemed like a good bit of work. “What’s 50lbs more or less?”
It started sprinkling very lightly just past the junction with Fuller Mountain Trail, about the same time when Huy’s AMS started to kick in. Can’t say how much I admire him for doing these peaks when there’s a 90% chance of headaches, disorientation and nausea. I was just thinking how awesome this was when I slipped on rock and gashed my left palm. Note to self; avoid positive thoughts while hiking. Dangerous.
Rain picked up a bit at Little Round Valley, and our pace slowed. Heavy gray clouds loomed in a loomy sort of way over Newton Drury. Loomers. We knew soon thereafter that we were just going to do SJ and call it a day. The rain picked up a bit. And then we were on top of SJ.
While at the peak, I became convinced I knew a woman there and, after a series of awkward interrogatory questions, she ran away (who can blame her, really); a man summited with his son and told everyone they had just done Cactus to Clouds. “It’s over 10,000 feet, you know.” We know. I enjoyed a sleeve of Ritz (I loves me some Ritz) and Huy enjoyed a borrowed Advil. We took a few pics of rain clouds to the south, and then a whole bunch of thunder cracked and rumbled across the sky.
Time to leave.
We left. On the way down we passed the ragtag remnant of our Christian friends from that morning. Young men in T-shirts were first, then a bit later a co-ed group in rain slicks, then in LRV a threesome hugging trees in the shorts and Ts and waiting for the rain to pass.
Wait, I forgot to mention the rain. It was raining. A lot. Then it was hailing. Then it was thundering and hailing and raining. And that’s when we saw the tree-hugging threesome.
“Have you got any rain gear?” I asked, thinking maybe they just really liked trees. The smiled gamely and said no, no gear. I said they might think about heading down, at which point they asked if it was raining higher up. Never sure how to answer questions like that. You mean, up there, in the big gray cloud full of thundery noises? Anyone’s guess really.
Then we were running again. I may have forgotten to mention that we were running in the first place, but it seemed like the thing to do. We ran in the rain. We ran in the hail. We ran past Christians and Asians and Germans (nice rain slicks!) and a couple that had taken shelter under a tree by a trail-turned-creek as if waiting for salvation. Then we ran some more.
An hour later we were drinking large coffees from a Starbucks in Temecula where it was 95 degrees and sunny. An hour after that I was having a Tequila drink in a plastic flamingo cup with a friend in Oceanside and giving her daughter airplane rides. An hour after that I was eating BBQ chicken and writing about a hike I’d done that morning that already seemed like a long time ago.
Note to self; run more in the hail. It makes you giggle like a little kid.