Ever been in the middle of a thunderstorm? I don’t mean on the ground with it in the sky. I mean literally in the clouds that ARE the storm! Let me tell you from recent experience- it is very frightening!
While at the Lindgren’s home, we had several days in a row with afternoon thunderstorms. We were glad for our good fortune that we were resting during those days. We headed for the mountains towards Boulder- riding trails the whole way- on a beautiful morning. Ole escorted us on his horse for the first few tricky miles to get us pointed in the right direction. His parting advice was “If you get confused, just keep heading southeast!” We parted sadly, wishing we could take him with us for campfire story entertainment, but knowing we will go back to visit. Besides, he offered us a special gift to breed Tiska to his Icelandic stallion who is the son of the most prized Icelandic stallion in Iceland. What a gift! (Not sure Tiska will think that- but we have a year or so to think it through!)
After parting ways with Ole, we climbed up, up, up the mountain. Then clouds started rolling in. And they started getting darker….. and darker. Uh oh…… We rode as fast as we could (at a walk!) trying to get past the crest of the mountain before the thunderstorm hit. Our timing was a bit off and we managed to get to the very top exactly at the same time as the storm! The clouds were swirling around us, distorting our view of the trail ahead, dumping bucket loads of cold water on us. Lightning was all around; thunder was deafening- we didn’t know whether to stay in the open, are go near the trees. It was the kind of thunder that zips and cracks through the air before it booms- the kind that is too close for comfort. I struggle with thunderstorms anyhow- and I was literally shaking and trying not to panic. The horses stayed calm, but Apache was antsy only because he hates rain blowing in his face. Then the hail came- it piled up on the ground. The trail turned into a stream and the clay-like dirt turned into a slippery slimy slide. We had to walk the horses with extreme care and even still they nearly fell several times. With our nerves wound tight and our map turning to mush as we tried to look at it in the rain- we couldn’t figure out which was the right trail. We remembered Ole’s advice and resorted to it- not thinking we would have to so soon! We went southeast.
The thunder finally passed, but the rain continued in a drizzle througout the afternoon. ‘Welcome back to the trail’, I thought. We rode and rode and rode- really having no idea where we were on the map. But we were heading southeast-ish- so we kept going. With all the water- we weren’t worried about having to camp if we were lost. We eventually somehow stumbled across a trailhead with a map that showed “you are here.” It took us a while- with our mushy map- to figure out where “here” was. We hadn’t gotten very far. So much for our original campsite plan for tonight!
We managed to find our way to “The Gap”- an infamous section of trail known for it’s only route through a long cliff area, as well as being a boulder strewn tough section. The trails weren’t marked well- in fact we found a hand written scratch mark on a piece of plastic that said “to the gap” and it was the only thing we found to guide us. Thankfully, it was correct. The Gap section of trail was indeed treacherous for horses- especially when wet. But our guys took their time and did a stellar job navigating the boulders, large step downs, narrow areas, and slippery sections. Once again, Tiska’s shortness proved to be a challenge in a section of wedge shaped rocks where she barely got through with the width of her pack! We never did see the cliff through all the rain and clouds. We finally found our way to the Great Western Trail- which actually runs North/South- but served us well for the short distance in Utah that it ran directly East. We took advantage of a short window where the rain stopped and set up a very soggy camp- just in time to get poured on all night too.