In between the lightning

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been lying low.  Being the monsoon season, I did not want to drive about 3 hours to face torrential storms in the San Juans. Driving an hour or less to play in the rain our local mountains doesn’t bother me, but I have a healthy respect for flood warnings!

But two weekends in a row of not being out under the stars proved too much. The third weekend at home would not work.

I looked at the weather forecast and saw no forecast for flood warnings, no t-storms until late afternoon in our nearby mountains, and overall pleasant weather.

On Saturday morning, I drove up to the northern part of the La Sals and saw many rocks and minor mudslides, even on the paved road. My decision to heed the flood warning the past two weeks proved wise.

I then parked at a pullout that allows access to the public land. Though the initial area looks gated, a well-worn social path nearby legally skirts the private land and connects to USFS land and an established trail.

The trail contained the usual array of wildflowers.

The Manti-La Sal Forest social media pages aptly called August the “Sunday of the summer.”   And I think that’s an accurate comparison.   You still have long days, but the days are noticeably getting shorter. The windflower display still makes a colorful showcase but is a tad muted.  And the ground cover is starting to show fall colors up high.  Fall is on the way.

From the summit of the 12k+ ft peak, I could very much still see the presence of summer in the red rock place I call home.

I contemplated tackling another peak at the summit, but gathering clouds dissuaded me—time to head down.

As I reached the treeline, the thunder crashed above, and graupel came down.

I spotted the infamous mountain goat from the edge of the trees that cause so much turmoil in these mountains within political and ecological circles. 

At the edge of my zoom and I cropped it. Apologize for the blurry photo.

On the way back to the pullout, I spotted the other colorful part of summer – butterflies.

Rather than backpack, and make a circuitous route below treeline, I decided to camp out at a free but maintained USFS site. The approach is on a short but rough road with one steep climb. I almost needed 4WD for this approach as the recent rains washed out this road quite a bit. As always, thankful for the Tacoma and where it lets us access.

I had a quiet night sacked out in the back of the truck and had the spot to myself.

The following morning I made my way back home but did another hike along the way with more views to the red rock below.

On the way back, I saw more butterflies and wildflowers.

And with all the rains, I saw many varieties of mushrooms, too. Unusual for the arid mountains in our backyard.

An uneventful drive home followed. And I am counting down the days until Joan arrives home, and we can again hike, camp, and backpack together.

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David Menges
David Menges
2 years ago

I like these articles. I’m old enough that getting outdoors is less challenge and more enjoying. Thought the transition would be disappointing, but it is welcome.