The Rain Gauge

I’m a weather watcher, and have been for a long long time. Once I became a pilot watching the weather became had life and death implications especially in Michigan where I did most of my flying.  One wrong move and you could find yourself socked in with no visibility and ice accumulating on your wings.  Minutes later you could be dead.

Just the other day I was reading about the desert and learned that we are defined that way because evaporation exceeds precipitation.  Well, most days that is, and definitely over the entire season.  Since we are in a drought again, people have been waiting for the summer Monsoon season to begin, and sure enough, on July 3, we were blessed with a line of thunderstorms that gave a significant bath to most of the mountain and some of the foothills

The 4th of July found me up at 5:30 and on the trail by 6:40am.  That’s a big improvement for me, especially since I often would not get on the trail in the summer weekends till about nine am or so.  But lately it’s been so hot that even though there has been no threat of rain, the early  morning hours have been the only time it has been reasonable enough to hike.  I started this really early morning stuff after last Saturday’s hike that I didn’t start till about eight am.

Not too long after I started I came across one of two different rocks that collect what little rain we have.  As you can see, this time we got a significant amount.  It will probably be gone in a day or two, but the evidence is all there.  Unfortunately for the wildflowers at the lower elevations, it’s too little, too late.   It is possible that if we get significant rainfall over several days then another cycle of blossoms will start, but the higher elevations are the best bet for flowers at this time of the year.

Larger image here

The trail at the lower elevations is mostly granite chips that are ground into a dusty sandy soil.  Since there are few trees here there is little organic matter that can decompose into regular soil which would be typical of hiking in places in the east say along the Appalachian trail.

But when you get high enough here, you enter a different climate zone, one which finds plenty of organic material and you can wallow in some good old fashioned mud.  Speaking of organic material, I stopped for a second to see if I could get a decent shot of a Skyrocket, a biennial, bright red trumpet shaped flower.  It’s range is between 5,000 – 9,000 feet, and I found this one closer to 9,000, primarily because that’s the only place where there was still traces of water on the mountain.

Larger image over at the photo blog.

In fact, once I got just past 9,000 feet the trail showed signs that the day before it was basically a small river of water, pushing aside all kinds of debris, like those I hope for when hiking on winter ice.

Larger image

Unfortunately I can personally attest to the fact that sometimes the trail you are walking on will fill completely full of water and become a rushing stream.  I’ve been there, hiked in it and came back with soaking wet feet, even though the boots I was wearing were supposed to be waterproof.  Walking through 8 to 10 inches of running water can do a special number on your feet.

Which brings us to another issue, that being that the rain that falls here is often quite COLD.   That’s right, those drops fall from super cold altitudes and if you are unprepared, you can become chilled to the bone or worse, in just a matter of minutes.

As I approached the end of the climb, I came across a pile of hailstones left over, I presume, from the day before.  That tells you that the ambient temperature on the mountain plunged, and then stayed cold all night long.

Bottom line: Be prepared, especially at high altitude.

I finished today in 3 hours and 30 minutes, a slight improvement over Sunday, but still 30 minutes away from my goal.

This entry was posted in Hiking in New Mexico, LaLuz Trail, The Sandia Mountains, Wildflowers, Wildflowers of New Mexico. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Rain Gauge

  1. Pingback: Skyrocket – Photo of the day July 4, 2012 » Wanderings

  2. redsky2010 says:

    hmm, you make me curious. are you racing with yourself? why? i barely can breath on hiking, timing is the last thing to think about , usually im trying harder not to be the last one :))
    anyway, good luck with your 30min!

    • David Alan says:

      Race of sorts, yes. I am trying to equal or beat my best time from last year, which was my best time ever.

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