14 June 2008

A Thunderstorm at Dolly Sods

My Mom was an active hiker, backpacker, and trail maintenance volunteer for many years and if it weren't for the MS, she'd still be on the trail as often as possible. She had dearly hoped to turn Sara and me into hikers as well, but our interests lay elsewhere*, espcially as I am happiest when near a good book and a hot cup of tea. (Or, well, in a theater.)

One of Mom's favorite places to hike was the Dolly Sods Wilderness. For several years running, Mom; her boyfriend, Paul, her sister, Dotty, and another friend would hike Dolly Sods every New Years Day. I described it as "jumping from ice-covered rock to ice-covered rock" but as usual, I didn't actually know what I was talking about and, as I always refused to go, I still don't.

As we get Mom ready for the move from Independent to Very Assisted Living, we have found and saved / found and discarded so many pieces of paper from Mom's life. Mom wrote this short essay in 1991 and I found it yesterday as we were going through some stuff. She agreed to let me post it, so today Mom is my "guest blogger."

* What fun it must have been to take two uninterested, complainers on her favorite activity! I'm sorry, Mom.

A Thunderstorm at Dolly Sods

by Ann Hall (1991)

It was hot and sticky in Washington and Cleveland the week before Labor Day. Four of us packed appropriately -- mostly light cotton clothing. Saturday afternoon at Dolly Sods, as we headed across the open spaces around Blackbird Knob a thunderstorm hit fast. Twenty minutes later it was gone, the air was cool and fresh, Dolly Sods was beautiful. The days were cool and bright, the nights were chilly and the the stars were incredible, and we were a little cool in our "light cotton clothing."

Back in Washington, I looked at my new Backpacker magazine where there is an article with suggestions for backpacers. On that page was "my" picture -- a girl sitting on a mountain in a open space in a thunderstorm. The paragraph about thunderstorms described us well. I think we did it right in this storm. Here's what we did being caught in an open field.

First we stopped at a spot that was near some small trees, not under them, and not the higest spot. We took off our packs, put on ponchos and rain suits and settled down (crouched, kneeled, sat on our foam sleeping pads). In a place like that make yourself as small as possible -- don't stand, don't lie down, don't wear a pack. Load your pack with sleeping pads, rain suits and a few large plastic bags near the top. You'll be able to cover up quickly.

The chances for being caught in a thunderstorm at Dolly Sods are good. Avoid these storms if possible. If, however, you are caught in one of these storms make yourself as unattractive to lightening as possible, stay as dry as possible, then enjoy what you see and hear (since you're already there). The lightening strikes in different directions as you watch the storm move fast across the sky. The thunder bounces off the mountains, echoes across Red Creek, echoes from Blackbird Knob and rolls across the flat places. If you're there, take care of yourself first, then don't miss the big event.

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