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View from our last 12,000 foot climb on the CT
The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
It was a long afternoon in the tent as waves of storms, all preceded by thunder, swept past us all afternoon and into the evening. In between there was tree rain, which at least we were able to brave to brush our teeth and stretch one last time before we got in bed for the final time.
We are very careful to keep our sleeping bags dry, even on the third straight night of heavy rain, but somehow the very upper edge of my mummy bag was quite wet, the part that wrapped around my neck as I slept, and I was out-of-sorts as we lay reading and waiting for the sunset so we could go to sleep. The clouds had been getting steadily lower and finally began to waft across the hill on which we camped. A heavier wind arose blowing in from my side of the tent, and suddenly I noticed the entire side of my sleeping bag was covered in dew. I quickly closed the tent flap and asked Two Step for some paper towels, which soaked up most of the moisture on the water repellent exterior of my bag. Ugh! What a night. We cheered ourselves with the now day-old weather forecast for tomorrow which had predicted only a small chance of afternoon rain. Yes, the sun will come out tomorrow...
When we turned the lights out I went right to sleep, wet bag and all.
I woke at 1:00am to hear tree rain and perhaps a light drizzle. By 4:30am, there was a welcome silence.
The 5:30am alarm woke us 45 minutes prior to sunrise, and it was quite dark in the tent. The waning moon would have provided some light, but it was apparently behind a cloud. It was too dark to tell if there was any blue sky, but the 46F temperature did not feel too cold as we ate our ProBar in bed.
As we departed camp at 6:47am, there was some sun peaking through a partially cloudy sky, and no clouds that looked threatening in terms of rain, and we started uphill with a light step. We reached the overlook where we had planned to camp last night about a half hour and 500 vertical feet later, and walked past three very nice camping sites to reach the overlook that jutted out onto the hillside. The sun shining in the clouds and the rising morning mist played against the backdrop of distant mountains and nearby hills. We raptly watched the changing cloud patterns for about 15 minutes before finally returning to the trail and continuing our upward climb. Within five minutes we reached a stream flowing across the trail in this supposedly dry 22 mile stretch, just where the hiker Old School had told us it was. We could have saved a couple of pounds of weight on our backs yesterday had we known how close this was to the scenic overlook, but we then would have also had to go further and climbed into the cloud last night. We were content with our conservative approach.
We had about 1000 feet to climb to reach the high point of the day and the last peak on the CT over 12,000 feet in elevation. Today would be our last chance to be above tree line on the trail. The last chance to see the profuse alpine flowers. The last clear views of majestic mountains. We were in no hurry to leave these sights behind, and we paused often to take in the mountain views and look at the flowers, including the sky pilot that only grows near and above 12,000 feet. We had seven miles to traverse and five hills to climb and descend to reach our last foray above 12,000 feet, and even when we walked in the sun the increasing elevation seemed to cool the air. We eventually put on jackets to keep us warm in the ever cooler air. As we walked we met three northbound CT hikers just starting their journey. We asked one, named Dean, to take a picture of us together with the mountain scenery as a backdrop, and in return provided him our trail names to help him with his project to record all the hikers he meets on his journey.
Each hill provided new scenery, and a different view of the increasingly dense cloud cover. We sat at the top of the last peak and had a snack after more than four hours of backpacking, and just enjoyed the 360 degree view one last time before plunging downhill. We heard one last "squeak" from a marmot sunning himself on a rock as we left the pica and marmot zone.
We saw Taylor Lake below us as we headed downhill, and within an hour had passed it and reached the trailhead that ended Segment 27 and started the last portion of the CT, the 22-mile Segment 28. We celebrated by eating lunch on a bench.
After lunch we had one last look at the alpine/sub-alpine wildflowers, then started a steep descent that would take us down to our campsite goal at an elevation of 8500 feet. As we crossed one tricky area, the Sliderock talus zone, that, as the name suggested, required careful foot placement, we could see dark clouds boiling up behind us. Within minutes it began to rain and then hail, but just as we got our rain gear on and were lifting our packs, the precipitation stopped. We laughed as we headed down trail.
We passed about ten people coming up the steep slope as we walked briskly downhill; all northbound CT hikers. A few gave us premature congratulations as we passed. The cold wind we had experienced at 12,000+ feet gave way to warm humid air as we descended into mixed pine and aspen forest. We walked along Junction Creek for the last mile before seeing an open area next to the bridge across the creek. We were home for the night.
In the warmth of the sun we dried out our tent, ground cloth, sleeping bags, and sleep clothing. A welcome opportunity after all the rain. Just as we were cooking dinner, a (hopefully) final rainstorm of the day rolled through and banished us to our tent for twenty minutes. As we prepare for bed, the skies are blue. I expect the sun will come out tomorrow!
From the CT,
Split and Two Step