Thursday, March 30, 2023
Elevation gain/loss: 3029′ gain, 5447′ loss (corrected)
I was up at 5am and out by 5:30am. I really wanted to get moving before the rain storm arrived. I traveled by headlamp for maybe half an hour before there was enough ambient light to see the trail. Around 6:15am and then again around 7am, I saw a brilliant rainbow bursting through the dark, menacing clouds. It really was magical. I was nearing the high point of my day’s hiking, and I coud finally see across the ridge to see Lake Roosevelt in the distance. And then the weather turned, as I could clearly see it was going to. I dropped my pack, put on my pack cover, threw on my rain shell, and tucked my hands into mitten shells. In retrospect, I really wish I’d pulled out my wool liner gloves, because my hands were not happy with the mitten shells alone.
As I was hiking along the ridgeline, a few rain drops quickly became a torrential downpour. The wind was whipping by at 40 MPH almost constantly, driving the rain sideways at a 90 degree angle. The freezing rain stung horribly, and the entire left side of my body was blasted by the wind; my left hand and the left side of my face quickly went numb. I’d guess the windchill was in the low 20s. I made the peak of the climb but was ardently disappointed to find that the trail paralleled the ridge for quite a while before dropping in elevation. I dashed along as quickly as I could in the ever-colder conditions. The freezing rain shifted to sleet and then quickly shifted to full-on wet snow. I was so happy to begin losing elevation; I went as fast as my legs could safely carry me and I was beyond grateful to break through the thick cloud cover and down onto a dirt road. The rain slowly lagged and then stopped, but my hands were so cold and wet, they were nonfunctional. I did my best to hike faster and heat up my core body temperature to increase my circulation and start drying out my clothes.
Thankfully, as I dropped in elevation towards Lake Roosevelt, the temperatures warmed up and the cloud cover became ligher, letting in more warmth from the sun. I made it to the trail intersection for the marina at 11:45am; by that point, my hands were useable if very cold. And just like that, my long ass section hike was done. I went to the marina cafe and got a table. They quickly brought me a cup of endless coffee, and I ordered a big meal. I enjoyed defrosting and relaxing with warm food and drink. There were 8 other hikers there hiding out from the storm.
After my wonderful lunch (and a to-go coffee cup), I sat outside at the restaurant’s picnic tables for a while and organized my pack. Then I went over to the hiker shack and chatted with other hikers while I waited for Toby to arrive. His flight had required an emergency medical landing in Kansas City so his arrival was 3+ hours delayed. Four other hikers arrived while I waited that had all stayed at the same place I did last night, and three out of the four had cut off the ridge and left the official trail just to get lower faster.
As I waited, MJ showed up to drop off more hikers and pick up a few others, including Punisher (who I follow on IG); it was nice to see MJ again after having such a nice stay with her! Just before Toby arrived, I struck up a conversation with Huck, SoGood, and their dog Tiny Drama. Toby and I gave them a ride back towards Phoenix and dropped them off where their van was parked. And then it was into Phoenix for a fun weekend get-away together before flying back home to Massachusetts!