Wilderness Journey – Day Three – Afternoon

As I continued my journey around Mummy Mountain I remained well above timberline.  I could see far down the West Creek basin, even spotting the place on a distant ridge where I had lunched two days before.

Gathering Storm Clouds

I also spotted a gathering thunderstorm to the west and I hurried my pace.

About 1:00 pm I ran into my first real challenge. The slope transitioned from a meadow to gigantic boulder field. I scrambled between boulders, always seeking a safe, secure route. This took time and energy. I slipped a few times. I also heard cracks of thunder in the distant and  felt a few  raindrops. I dropped lower on the slope, hoping to find fewer boulders. Dark clouds moved closer.  I started looking for a place to wait out the approaching storm.

Krummholz in West Creek Basin

I finally reached the open valley below the final ridge. It was free of boulder fields and had several small krummholz of alpine trees. These small dense stands of trees could give me some protection. As I looked over this isolated valley, I reveled at how beautiful it was, especially in the storm’s twilight.

My revelry was broken by the first splattering of large rain drops. I had to find shelter fast.

The thunder was louder and closer now. I headed toward a large boulder in the valley, close to a krummholz. Even though the boulder offered some protection, I realize the storm may last awhile and I needed better shelter. My problem was that I had not packed my backpack with such a need in mine. My trusty rain-tarp was at the bottom of my bag. I had to pull everything out into the rain to reach it. However, my experience of pitching a rain-tarp in wet Washington state proved helpful. In less than five minutes the rain tarp was set and my gear and I safely under it.

Shelter from the Storm

For the next two hours it rained, hailed, thundered and boomed. Counting the seconds between flash and thunder, the closest strike was less than a mile away. Fortunately, I was off the exposed ridge line, and away from the largest trees and boulders. I changed out of my wet clothes, fixed a cup of hot chocolate and waited. As the storm continued I wondered if I might have to spend the night here.

Just as suddenly as it started, the storm ended. The sun broke through the clouds and I again marveled at the beauty of this rain-splashed alpine meadow. I repacked my gear, this time keeping my wet rain-tarp tied to the outside of my pack for quick access.

Looking south from the last Mummy Mountain ridgeI reached the final ridge shortly after 4:00 pm and crossed from the West Creek Basin into the Black Canyon. I quickly worked my way off the ridge and towards the forest below.

As I climbed down the ridge, I kept thinking about the thunder-storm and how it had humbled me.   I was not the master of this domain, but a simple wilderness wanderer.  The Israelites at Mount Sinai encountered God in a thunderstorm.

    On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God. They stood at attention at the base of the mountain. Exodus 19:16-17

I reflected, “God is reminding me once again who is LORD!”

About halfway down, I spotted two rock cairns (small piles of stones) used to mark a way trail. Finally I had reached the improvised trail that leads directly from Black Canyon trail to Mummy Mountain. I followed it down, losing it a couple of times due to poor markings and tired legs and mind. Eventually I connected to the main Black Canyon trail and reached my campsite at Tileston Meadows about 5:15 pm, tired, but safe.

Lord Jesus, Let me never forget that you are LORD.

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