On the Trail: Let it rain
August 22, 2005
Our plans for an out-and-back hike from Maroon Lake to West Maroon Pass didn’t come to fruition last Sunday, but no matter.The scenery was grand, of course. And the wildlife-watching was good. We saw marmots, pikas, ptarmigan, sparrows, finches, jays and even a deer – all right on the trail, almost close enough to touch. The wildflowers, especially in the meadows above timberline, were sublime. You can’t spend a day in the Maroon Valley without your senses being dazzled.What was different about this day was the fact that we chucked our destination; we ran out of time and had to turn around before reaching the pass. What we’ll remember most about the day was the rain – and in a good way.My wife and I were somewhere between Crater Lake and the pass, somewhere after the last crossing of West Maroon Creek, when the first drops began to fall. It was a drizzle and not a downpour, so we just kept walking, but when a couple of hailstones slipped down my back, we took shelter in a grove of trees.Some of the finest moments in the backcountry occur when you’re not going, or climbing, or doing. We sat down in the dry needles and duff and just passed the time, talking. There was no wind, no thunder, and it wasn’t cold. Just a summer shower. The leaves on the willows quavered every time a drop struck, and we sat warm and dry in a woody enclosure. Peering through the branches and across the valley, we could see thousands upon thousands of descending drops, but it was still clear and mild enough that all the details across the canyon – the rock striations, the stunted trees, the ridge line – were still perfectly visible.When the skies cleared for a spell, we continued upward in the newly fragrant air, stopping occasionally to check out a flower or a mossy little grotto. The higher we went, the more colorful the flower displays became.Somewhere beyond the timber, my conscientious wife realized that, if we continued to the pass, we’d get back late and ruin our baby-sitter’s entire afternoon. So, reluctantly, we turned around and relived the morning’s hike in reverse. It rained off and on but never got cold or exceedingly wet. Surprisingly, for a weekend up Maroon Creek, it wasn’t even all that crowded. Only peaceful and cool, all the way back to the car.