It’s just a box of rain
I don’t know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
Down here in southwest Colorado we have been suffering through a severe drought. In the arid west, this presents a seemingly endless cycle of cause and effect. Ski seasons start late and end early, the low snowpack results in an early and short runoff, farmers that depend on run off and rain water cannot grow as many crops, rivers run or are drained near dry in an early and hot summer, fires rage across once fertile mountainsides burning hundreds of thousands of acres. Then fall settles in and the snow comes late and short — and it starts all over again.
Beyond the ever-mounting and distressing environmental consequences, this cycle has a profound human and economic effect. Shortened ski seasons hurt our ski resorts and towns, contribute to poor backcountry conditions, and threaten our drinking water. Brief and low river runoffs kill the river recreation economy depended on by raft guides, outfitters and by communities through which recreational boaters provide a spark to local business. Farmers plant one less crop, hire one less hand, produce even less food for us all. And firefighters risk their lives trying to save towns who see no tourism dollars after tourists see the news of smoke, blackened hillsides and toothpick trees.
But for the past few weeks all of that has changed. It has been raining and it continues to rain. Not just an afternoon monsoon, but full days and early mornings of rain. Yesterday morning as I drove to work in a downpour, the DJ played “Box of Rain” by the Dead – no coincidence. That set me to thinking about my relationship with rain. I grew up in Colorado where even under the best of seasons it does not rain near as much as compared to other parts of the world. 300 days of sunshine? I’ll take it!
I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a decade where there are 20 or more terms for the different types of the stuff. I never got used to the incessant rain or its sudden and total absence in the summer months when you actually want it. I’ve spent summer months in deluge downpours in the brutal humidity of the Mid-Atlantic States. And I’ve traveled through the elderly mountains of the northeast where the rain fed forest grows so thick sunglasses are moot, even on the sunniest of days.
So as I drove through the Colorado rain I thought, it is here where I cherish the rain the most. It is a blessed event. The rain is the intermission in the three non-snow seasons (in truth, all seasons see snow here) that makes the unique attributes of spring, summer and fall so special. Finally, a monsoon season like we are supposed to have. A rain season where the San Juan Mountains vibrate when you look at them because they are so green, where the columbines look like they are on steroids, where mountain streams rage and where valley rivers turn brown with sediment from landslides. Even the high desert mesas retain their life – mesa verde, literally.
Every drop is valued. I did not feel this way in the Pacific Northwest where a week without rain produces comments bordering on panic. Or in the cold mists of Northern California. Or in the damp humid deluges of the mid Atlantic. Or within the thick Northeast forests where my eyes strain to see the sky.
Here, our normal non-drought, monsoon rainfall cycle is the bridge between the end and beginning of winter when the snow piles up and supplies the majority of our water. It is perfect. This is the place where rain and I exist together in true synchronicity.
Written by Gareth Martins, Director of Marketing, Osprey Packs
John Muir: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”
Muir and many others share so many remarkable footnotes about the experiences we all share in the mountains. They all have the same underlying message, “mountains are here to make us humble, to help us understand our place.”
Mt. Rainier was my big Pacific Northwest goal for this year. Residing in the Midwest it took planning and an organized logistical approach to make this adventure possible. The Big “R” has always been one of those mountains on my list, but it always seems to get put on the back burner for closer peaks in the west; Garnett, Granite, Wilson and Maroon Bell. Now with several buddies living in Portland and Seattle, a team could easily be put together and the logistics come down to only my worries of getting out to the mountain. This was the time to put the boots into Pacific Northwest mountain snow.
We decided on an early May ascent. A late winter ascent were the weather was a little more unpredictable but an attempt to miss the big summer crowds. Going into the adventure we all knew the level of risk and factors with a winter ascent.
I had talked to my buddy Jason Tanguay who has guided the Big “R” more then a 100 times, who said: “Those Rainier dates ARE really early, essentially a winter ascent. Won’t be crowded! It could be amazing, but you may get schooled by mountain’s weather.“