Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mother Nature is beautiful, unless she..

kills you. 

Ever since I've seen the lyrically named Music Pass on my Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Wilderness map, I've wanted to backpack there. According to Google info: beyond  the pass, there's alpine lakes teeming with chubby trout. Rimming the Valley and basins are numerous 13,000 foot-plus mountains beckoning the peak-bagging crowd. The terrain is steep and Ireland-green with vegetation. The landscape sums up the notion of the 1964 Wilderness Act, "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” 

I like that. So...I went.

I left my non-4x4 Barley Van at the lower parking area. After sauntering uphill for a few road miles, my hike  began to Music Pass. Of all the Welcome to "such and such" Wilderness notices, the placement of the Sangre de Christo sign was the most dramatic I've seen. (See photo). Now, we're talking sublimely luscious. 

I descended down the valley only to eventually go back up to 11,460' Lower Sand Creek Lake. This would be home for two nights. I found a nice piece of Federal Real Estate where I set up my tent to mark my turf. After hastily stuffing a day pack, I took off to see Upper Sand Creek Lake. Mind you, at this point dreary gray clouds were beginning to evict the summery blue skies. I heard gurgling thunder, but it was a distant rumor. Two-and-a-half miles later, I was at the Upper Lake. I shot a few photos. 

Shortly after, I heard a whisper in the wind. "Gotcha!" Then all hail broke out. Ice pellets ranging from pea to grape-sized slammed into me. I quickly donned a few layers of fleece and a "My Trails" ultralight poncho over my sweaty cotton tank top. The temperature plummeted as I was getting pummeled. I began to trail run down  through polar puddles of crystalline solids. My feet were numb. I splashed through fast flowing creeks. The water felt like a tepid shower. The storm wouldn't let up. First a flash, followed all too quickly by a belch of thunder. I was running in the epicenter. As I closed the gap between me and my shelter, I began to worry, will I find nothing but ripstop nylon confetti where my Big Agnes tent was once standing? 

Nope! Good tent! I crawled inside and into my snuggly warm down sleeping bag. It took over a hour for me to defrost. The hail continued in total for three hours, followed by light showers. Mind you, the forecast was merely a one in five chance of any precipitation occurring.

Moral of this post? Be prepared. Mother Nature is beautiful, but she can kill too. 

For a great read check out "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. 

Hey "My Trails" and "Big Agnes" I just gave you a plug! 

Cheers! And be safe out there,


  1. Hail ya!!! What a story STAN. Your my hero!!!!

    1. I was being humble. I made 16 rescues on my way down too. S--T that ain't nothing.