Day 12: Storm

West Carry Pond Lean To to Bigelow Col Campsite – 15 miles

Navigating weather out here can be tricky. I want to gain forward progress but I need to make smart decisions in the backcountry, especially since I am traveling alone.

A refreshing lunchtime swim in Flagstaff Lake had me feeling energized and ready to traverse the Bigelow Range in the afternoon, with its two prominent peaks. Two small but inconveniently timed thunderstorms complicated my otherwise pleasant day.

I powered up Little Bigelow Mountain with my music on, smiling and happy to be hiking. Just as I topped out onto the exposed granite summit, dark clouds started grumbling directly above my head. Even without rain or lightning bolts, this was enough to make me uneasy. I was alone, exposed, and on the highest point. Weighing my options, I decided it was better to keep moving than backtrack to wait out the storm. I raced across the ridge, hoping the tree cover was thick enough to protect me from the electrical activity overhead. The sky cleared and the sun came out as I dropped off the ridge. I thought the storm was over.

The second storm came right before I started up Avery Peak – the higher, steeper, and more exposed of the two. This time, pouring rain and loud thunder held me back from ascending. Disappointed that the storm would set me behind schedule, I hunkered down to cook dinner.

I was about to set up my tent and stay the night when the sun came out and warmed the wet forest. Through the steaming trees, an older woman with long gray braids arrived and told me about the beautiful subalpine campsite up top, surrounded by tundra. I knew I could make it there by dark. She gave me a cinnamon candy and wished me on my way.

At the top of Avery Peak I stood tall on the highest point, squinting into the setting sun. The same circumstances that made me feel behind schedule from my original itinerary also allowed me to be on top of that peak at sunset, watching those storm clouds blow past in all shades of purple. It was worth the wait.

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