Thursday, January 20, 2011

And then the lightening tried to kill me. (Day 25)


13 September.

3,000+ feet of elevation gain in less than 5 miles...good stuff there! That was a pretty intense little jaunt with a big pack, but well worth it. Uphill is much more fun than downhill anyway, in my opinion. Also, I was in a crazy rush to get to the backcountry site because of some gnarly clouds hovering around. Really didn't have the desire to be stuck on the side of a mountain, all exposed and stuff, ya know?
Saw a peregrine falcon on the way up, lots of little cacti and flowers too. Gorgeous trail. We set up the tents when we got to the top, it rained for a couple hours but when it stopped there was still enough daylight for a good hike.
Then it was time to make dinner. While this was happening, it started sprinkling. Some lightening. A little thunder. Still far away, no fretting. Yet.
Around 8 30 pm is when my freak out started to unleash itself. It lasted for just under 5 hours, until around 1 am. I'm not totally sure how to convey just how horrified I was. There was a pretty serious meltdown. (it was a good thing Melissa's tent was 100 feet away or so, because it would have been awfully embarrassing if anyone had witnessed the crazy was happening in my tent)
I've seen some kickass storms. I've had wind and rain tear down tents and break two different sets of tent poles. I've spent plenty of time in crappy weather, had to shove myself into two different overhangs while hiking because of lightening storms. I've had all the hair stand up on my body because of extremely close lightening strikes, been knocked over by wind, mild hypothermia, the list goes on.
That stuff was nothing compared to this. Almost 5 hours of continuous lightening. Not the pretty stuff that just goes across the sky, the kind that was hitting the ground all around you, taunting and laughing at you. The furthest away it ever got was 4 miles. The closest it got was RIGHT THERE. It just hung around that entire time. 5 hours. There was some seriously unhealthy things happening in my tent during this time. (Like rocking and shaking, lots of hyperventilating, crying of course, singing the same 3 Peter, Paul, and Mary songs over and over and over again all while lying as flat and spread out as I could, barely moving - minus the uncontrollable shaking).
I started to write in my journal but then came to the conclusion that was pointless, since I was apparently about to die. So I actually considered writing letters to my family. Yeah, really, it was that bad. The thunder was painfully loud and the lightening was brutally bright.
I should mention that the highest point in Texas was just a stone's throw away, more or less, at 8751 feet. We were at about 8400. I debated at one point, when the storm was 4 miles off, to just leave the tent and run down the trail 5-6 miles in the middle of the night and rain. (Unwise, I know). Then thought about just going down in elevation to the more forested area but that would for sure have resulted in some serious navigation issues (and probably being impaled by agave).
Around 1 am (actually, it was 12 53) is when the lightening finally started to die off. Then the downpour started. It had been raining the whole time but not like this. My 6 year old tent started to leak like crazy and it felt like I was on a waterbed because there was ~2 inches of water underneath the tent. I got pretty soaked inside, along with my bag and pad, but I really didn't care at that point. I was just glad to be freaking breathing normally.

I've had some sketchy experiences but they were all generally short lived. Up to this point, there were two (one in particular) mountain lion encounters that were at the top of that list. There was also an issue on the Mexico border in West Texas that was rather disturbing. Nope. The 5 hour lightening storm that wanted me dead has been moved to the top. (The next day I actually saw a mountain lion hiking down the canyon, about 60 feet from me. I didn't even flinch. I'll take the big cats over the bolts, please). Scenic Sunday SOOC My World

29 comments:

ChrisJ said...

That must have been really scary!! I know my son has been up on the mountains when the hair stood up on his head. He has also been stalked by a mountain lion -- hiking alone, (speaking of nutcases!)
Have fun, but stay safe!

Out on the prairie said...

It makes you more happy when in a home after a big storm. I went through 3 tents one sunmmer, including having a waterspout a quarter mile away.Some lovely photos however.Wish you would have caught one of the cat.

Woody said...

Incredible shots, the grasshopper is awesome. I can't imagine 5 hours of relentless lightning.

Gaelyn said...

What an incredibly scary place to be!!! I'd be rocking and crying. Typically I like thunder and lightning energy, but not that close. Nice to have a get away. I'm sure you learned a lot by this experience. And all your images are awesome.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Okay, you truly made that horrifying. I enjoy lightening storms...from a distance of course. Many years ago we were privileged to a spectacular display over Half Dome in Yosemite. The enjoyable memories of that rapidly vanished the next day when we learned why the helicopter was landing in the meadow near camp. Two had been struck and killed by lightening, others injured. One young boy who had went to the top with his father was now being brought back down alone. Okay, enough of that. Really like those photos. What is with the snail. I've not seen anything like that before.

Arija said...

Crumbs, what an experience ! ! !
I do know how scary lightning can be, I had lightning strike the house and run down the wet walls with me stuck in the faraday cage. I knew nothing could happen to me as the water on the walls was carrying the electricity down to the ground but I could feel the immense force field I was locked in. Another time it burned out the phone by the bed . . not much fun either.

I am so glad you made it through. It is so much worse when you are alone too.

. . and no putting out saucers of milk for stray mountain lions, I want to see lots more of your adventures. See, totally selfish motive for giving good advice.

John S. Mead said...

Totally amazing story there! As someone who leads groups of high school students in the backcountry every summer I understand these kinds of storms. I remember the one that hit in the middle of the night @ 10,000' when I had a group of 13 9th graders. It was so bad I was planning how were were going to preserve the dead bodies the next day as we left to get help.... Thankfully there was no loss of life, just a little lost sanity on my part! Thanks for sharing! Great photos to accompany the story!

Al said...

Lightning is definitely scary, and we get some great storms here in the summer. But I'm dumb enough to try to get photos when I'm in a thunderstorm!

Steve Borichevsky said...

Holy crap!

Inger-M said...

Wow, what an experience, it must really have been so scary! And your tell the story so well, great reading!
Take care, and happy weekend .-)

Rosadimaggio63 said...

Hi,
queste montagne sembrano quelle dove vivo io.
Grazie della visita :)
Buona serata.
Myriam

Janie said...

Pretty photos, but this sounds like a hair-raising experience, literally.
Anything that makes being 60 feet from a mountain lion seem tame must be pretty scary, indeed.

Lynn said...

I didn't even look at the photos I was so engrossed in reading about your terrifying adventure. Then I went back look at them. You got some wonderful shots.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

OK, now I don't envy you your job anymore! Scared me just to read it. And jarred me to see the beautiful pictures in beween the scary story. Yipes!

Even reading it after the fact -- well, duh, I guess you made it through! But so scary.

Gengen said...

They are all awesome shots. thanks for sharing. Happy SOOC Sunday.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

ICK. Sounds horrid. Glad you survived to tell the tale and show your photos. They are all beautiful, but the one with the shell is trying to tell a story. Found you on Scenic Sunday. I'll be back.

Jan n Jer said...

How terrifying that was. Just reading it made me scared. Glad all survived,,,it could have been a tragic end. Bet your counting your blessings right about now! Great shots...love the grasshopper

Jan said...

What a harrowing experience!

elvira pajarola said...

Oh ....! You are supercouragous, cara Jill!!!!
I don't know many girls which would have had the blood running soo cool..!!! You are an incredibly strong girl!!
(Next time call me before you hike alone, ok!?)

a very incredible adventure; you framed it with magnificient pictures!!!!!!!

take care!!!!!
ciao ciao elvira

Sylvia K said...

OH WOW! Jill! Does sound terrifying! You are indeed a brave one! I'm just glad you weren't injured! Fantastic captures though! Hope you have a safe week ahead!

Sylvia

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful photos, Jill!

Brit Gal Sarah said...

The lightening here is much more ferocious than anything I have ever seen in Europe, si I understand!

And some great pics.

Photo Cache said...

enjoyed this post immensely, both text and photos.

Marja said...

wow what a scary experience. Here in NZ I never experienced lightning but in Holland I did and even from the safety of home it was a bit frightening

ρομπερτ said...

What an adventure ! On the other side, these impressions seem to be from Paradise. Please have a good Tuesday.

daily athens

Martha Z said...

I've heard some pretty scary stories from hiking friends but non to match this. Even Hubby’s story of being chased off Mt. Whitney by lightening doesn’t compare. I'm glad you’re still around and able to share it with us.

Wren said...

I'm scared just reading about this - I can't imagine living through it.

Merri said...

just found your lovely blog.
don't talk to ME about lightning storms! I am terrified of lightning. Of course, I have not been in a 5-hour lightning storm! and I don't want to, thankyouverymuch. (I'll take the cougar any day too.)
- The Equestrian Vagabond

KaHolly said...

Thunder and lightening storms in TX are the scariest for me! And that's in a house, not a tent!! You are a very brave young lady. I am certainly enjoying your posts. I just ret'd from a camping adventure in the hill country and heard mountain lions screaming at night, but didn't see one. ~karen