|Kids playing on Copa beach this morning.|
In the mid-1990s, on the July 4th weekend, my family was on its way back to St Louis, where we lived at the time, from a touring vacation in our small campervan through Utah and Colorado. During the two-week trip, I had kept up my running and I persuaded my then wife to let me run a trail from the western side of the Great Divide to the eastern side in Rocky Mountains National Park while she drove our campervan round to meet me.
|Flattop Mountain (at left) on a better day.|
After about five miles, I began to encounter some snow on the trail, although it was still quite runnable. More worrying, though, were the ominous clouds gathering on the mountain ahead, accompanied by flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. As I crossed Tonahutu Creek using a snowbridge, I saw two climbers, roped together and wearing all of the gear, descending the snowy slope ahead of me. I waited for them to reach me and discussed the route of the unseen trail (hidden beneath the snow slope). They had aborted their ascent of Flattop Mountain because of the thunderstorms forming on the upper slopes, but I felt committed to continue. The climbers were not impressed, and one said he felt compelled to tell me that he considered me ill-equipped to proceed. I thanked him for his input, put on my rain-jacket, for it was now getting quite cold, and headed off up the slope towards a gap in some trees ahead where I surmised the trail passed. Where the climbers had been slowly post-holing down the slope in the deep snow because of the weight they were carrying, I was light enough not to break through the snow crust, and quickly ascended and crossed the snow slope.
|My route across Flattop Mountain|
The three miles across the mountain top seemed to take forever, but actually took about an hour. Finally, the trail began to descend and became easier to follow. I was very cold and flew down the last four miles of steep switch-backing trail to Bear Lake in about 25 minutes, dreaming of some dry warm clothes and shelter. Sadly, my wife’s journey with our two young kids in the under-powered campervan had been similarly epic. Driving sleet and gale-force winds slowed all road traffic to a crawl and it took her five and a half hours to negotiate 45 miles of road in the appalling conditions with our young son asking whether “Daddy was going to die?”.
I ended up spending nearly two hours shivering in my shorts and rain-jacket in the car park, where there was no shelter, waiting for her arrival and wondering what had happened before she finally turned up and we were all happily reunited.