“It’s not going to quit,” I said, as we sloshed through mud up Snowbird Mountain. I kept seeing mountain laurel in bloom and beautiful sprays of pink lady’s slipper, but didn’t want to stop and get the camera out in the persistent, cold rain. We stopped for a snack and got colder, so kept moving. Beyond the bald, a fellow hiker caught up with us. Native Dancer was new to hiking, and left the farm about the same time as we did. I could hear snippets of conversation between he and John, but I was focused on not sliding down muddy slopes as we searched for shelter.
It was full, of course, but seeing us bedraggled, they made room. That’s where my good sense failed. Having come to a stop, I was shivering and soaked through. “We’ll be warmer in our tent,” I said. An hour later, with everything we owned at some gradient between moist and soaked, we were shivering together in our sleeping bag, knowing we were hypothermic. John managed to lean out and cook a hot drink under the shelter of the tent vestibule. He made potatoes, too. It kept pouring.
Native Dancer came over. “I forgot to put my pack cover on,” he said, “and all my gear is wet. I don’t know what to do.” Still chilled ourselves, we told him to go to the shelter and ask to get in. He’d be warmer with other bodies around, even in a wet sleeping bag.
We shivered and sneezed and coughed through the night as the storm persisted. I was so thankful to get a message through to a friend to please pick us up the next day at a road crossing. And worried at what we could wear to hike out, with everything wet.
As we packed up in the rain and put on our only semi-dry, non-waterproof warm jackets, we took everything to the shelter to cook breakfast and, miraculously, watched the rain turn to snow. Native Dancer was nowhere to be found, but his gear was there, which worried us.
As we hiked north, pressing hard despite the slippery mud left behind in the tracks of earlier hikers, the snow eventually covered the trail. Stinging pellets of hail began to zing through the trees, which were iced over in frozen sheets of sleet. “Just six miles,” I kept thinking, fighting the coughs catching in my chest when we hit the step uphills. “We can do it.”
When we reached Max Patch, scattered rays of sun lit the mountains we’d traversed, illuminating the ice. The rise of the bald above us was covered in white. “It’s beautiful!” Still, my pace quickened along the footpath. I felt a massive sigh of relief when Gweneeth pulled into the parking lot. Being cold and wet for two days, the thought of being warm and dry almost brought me to tears.