I co-organized a big trail workday with IMBA, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Gunnison Trails, and the US Forest Service. It went off Saturday, with over 80 volunteers working to show the local favorite trail some love.
The weather shortened the day a bit, but it was definitely a great success.
Passing storm dropping graupel which is accumulating quickly on the ground
I hauled a BOB trailer with a couple tools out to a work site just north of the Greens Creek Trail intersection, leaving the pass a little before 8 AM and arriving around 9. I worked with three other volunteers for about an hour before the other folks who had been assigned to this area showed up. Quite a bit of good work happened, but then weather moved in quickly.
I finished up one water diversion, after having had a conversation with another crew leader about how we had better get the flock out of there. I was gathering tools that needed to be replaced in the tools cache that the Gunnison Forest Service people had brought in on Thursday. I had just put down an iron rock bar as I organized a small group of tools to carry downhill. Just then, there was a blue-white flash and an almost immediate crack of thunder.
Volunteers started to scatter, looking for cover. We were working right near the 12,000 foot Continental Divide ridge. I dropped my tools and ran down off the trail to a small grove of fir trees. As soon as I got there another close lightening strike flashed and boomed, the noise echoing around the little basin below us. Three women who were riding the trail appeared shortly, disoriented with semi-panic. Those of us who were huddled in the trees for safety 50 feet below the trail called out to them to drop their bikes and come down to the relative shelter of tree cover.
As we sat there, graupel began to fall heavily and the air become much colder and moist.
After the lightening diminished, some still being heard over a mile to the east, we decided it was time to bug out. I grabbed as many tools as I could carry and trotted them down the trail to return them to Gunnison's tool cache. A group of volunteers down there felt that they absolutely had to finish up an open diversion and trail armoring project, but promised to head back to Monarch Pass as soon as possible.
I scrambled back to the top, watching for more Gunnison tools, and blue-painted tools that belong to my group, Salida Mountain Trails. I found the four McClouds that I had trailered in. Back on top of the ridge, I set about re-loading my trailer as other volunteers gathered around their bikes to get ready to roll out of there. The next wave of storm moved toward the ridge from the west.
During the next hour and a half, myself and all the other volunteers headed back to command central to finish up the work day, and get on to the more important business of executing a barbecue.
Barbecue for volunteers after the work was done
The fact that weather shut us down much earlier than we wanted was unfortunate. But the Colorado high country rarely allows for much dallying about during the afternoon. It was far better to get all the volunteers out before things got worse.
And then we got to have a barbecue at Monarch Ski Area.
What's more important, really?