Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mountain Biking in the White Light!

After meeting my neighbor Dave, we opted to do our first mountain bike ride together at nearby White Ranch. Having only ridden there once, I thought it would be great to go with someone that knew the place well, as he does. Despite the brutal, relentless climb to the top known as Belcher Hill, White Ranch has some fantastic trails and single track. Add to this the peak of wildflower season and having a buddy to ride with, made it an awesome day. And then, about 3/4 of the way through our ride, the skies started turning a sinister color of black. Earlier in the day the storms seemed to be staying south, but within minutes, we were getting blanketed by waves of intense rain. At this point we were still pretty high up, and quite exposed. We turned up the speed and worry a few notches and bombed off the top as quickly as possible. Then, within two or three minutes of the waves of rain, came the giant bolts of wicked lightning. When the time between the flash and the thunder is a second or less, you know you're in the middle of something. We immediately threw down our bikes, took off our Camelbaks and scrambled off trail to ponder our situation. I had noticed a small cliff of rocks a couple hundred feet back or so, so we bushwacked up and across to the spot I saw, and managed to perch ourselves under some rocks that not only seemed to protect us from the bolts falling from the sky, but soon it was as though we were standing behind a waterfall given the amount of rain that was falling. Having only been in the middle of a lightning storm once before, I had forgotten how scary, exciting and amazing it is all at the same time. Seeing bolts come down that close to your location, and feeling the concussion of thunder that rattles your teeth is a sensation like none other and truly a powerful earthly experience. We waited out the storm and within a half hour or so were back on the trail and safely on our way home.

The next day, my wife picked up a copy of the Mountain Gazette and I happened to read this very timely story on lightning. Something to think about next time I get stuck in honest-to-goodness Rocky Mountain Lightning Storm.