Brainard Lake Colorado……sunset expedition.
Campsite view……10,000' above sea level, May 2010.
Note to self, take along rain gear……
Arriving late morning at our campsite we set up for a quick six to eight mile hike to Lake Isabelle, no real significant challenges the trail is twenty feet wide and has high traffic impact as it is reasonably close to a major metropolitan area. Since this trip was for an ascent through Pawnee Pass and one night in the Indian Peaks Wilderness crossing the Continental Divide, my thought upon reaching Lake Isabelle so easily is that I would just hike up to the pass from the lake, take a quick three hour round trip thirty-five hundred foot ascent for a evening divide photo, no problem. It is a nice hike, there are several nice meadows to visit and some small lakes to boot. At the point of discharge out of the tree line the clouds rolled over the rim of the divide and the sky darkened closed right in. Having been a pilot earlier in life I enjoyed the closeness of the clouds, being in them was like flying in them.
Midway through the upper switchbacks the storm funneled down through the pass like cake batter out of a bowl. I knew I was in trouble, but I wasn't alone. Two others were descending also at a rapid pace, the air filled with ionization from the cloud to ground lightning lancing the hillside. Upon reaching the tree line we found a small overhang adjacent to the trail with a group of trees barricading us from the torrential rain that follows the lightning. Instantaneous thunder claps shake my internal organs, the rain now cascading off the overhang turns pink from the lightning flashes. I can hear the prayers being offered up if we could just get out alive. Our bodies now shivering, the temperature is dropping and sleet fills the air. I know now I'm just not prepared. As quickly as it hits us, the storm loosens it's grip, we descend to the lake, our party is now six. Miles to warmth, people shed their clothing to slow heat loss out of their bodies. Our group has now doubled in size. Twelve, shivering to the point of exhaustion almost naked, irritable and combative, we reach the parking lot, it's a quarter full with forty or fifty people just like us, some shaking so bad they can't open their car doors, they can't align the key in the key hole they shiver so bad. As I walked passed Brainard Lake to our campsite the sky turns this erie red as if to somehow display it had lost the battle…..this was that moment .