A stormy view on Crane Mountain
Gathering Storm, Crane Mountain

Gino and I and our friends, Marsena and Bill, had a great late summer and fall in 2005. We hiked most Mondays, my day off from the gallery. Every week was someplace different, mostly of my choosing. Gino always liked me to plan the hikes, in case they didn’t turn out right. Then it would be my fault. We took our friends to many of our favorite mountains. It was great to repeat them and to show the views to new eyes. We also visited a couple places we had never gone before. The weather was very cooperative and we enjoyed leisurely days. We were rewarded with wonderful views.
Then I decided to hike Crane Mountain.
When we arose that morning the air was heavy under cloudy skies, but it wasn’t raining. The weatherman on the television said there was a chance of thunderstorms. Did that mean Crane might be spared? My fellow hikers all left the decision up to me, and I was having trouble calling off a day outside when it wasn’t actively raining. One hiking day allowed to pass is one we could never get back. I still was uneasy and ran into our friend Mike, the UPS man. I asked him what he thought and he cheerfully said, “Go! It’s a great day for hiking.” Why I took the word of the UPS man, I’m not sure, but he said what I wanted to hear. It was a go.
We were a long way up the trail that passes the pond when we were met by a group of people fleeing the mountain at high speed. They had seen storms on the horizon. That should have been our cue to turn around and join in the descent but letting a summit go when we had hiked so far was too difficult. We continued and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful walk around the shoreline of the pond, taking the irresistible quantity of photos. On previous hikes at this point we had always picked up the short trail to go to the top, but our friend Linda told us that we had been missing her favorite spot in the world, the ledge overlooking Crane Mountain Pond. I couldn’t believe we’d never seen it and decided to remedy the situation. On the way up the trail the ominous sound of thunder started getting closer, but we were so near our goal, we didn’t want to retreat.  This painting is the scene that greeted us at the overlook. It was an exciting and wonderful view. We continued to the summit and arrived at the same time as the clouds. We were completely deprived of the view. I had chosen poorly. Even though we were ready to eat the lunches we had packed and carried, we knew the mountaintop was not the place to ride out the storm. I thought maybe we could find an overhanging rock to give us shelter for the short time that should be needed for the bad weather to pass. We donned the garbage bags we had thrown in the packs “just in case” and about two steps from the summit the downpour started. We immediately were walking in about three inches of water. There was no way to go around the growing puddles so we just walked through them. During it all, Marsena and Bill just kept plodding along, and never uttered a single word of complaint to add to my ever-increasing feelings of guilt.
I started thinking about the added electricity conduction of the water covering our feet. How I was going to explain this to Marsena and Bill’s family after their mom and dad were struck by lightning? Why were we even out on such a day? But then I found comfort realizing we’d be gone too.
Eveb though the garbage bags held some warmth, they were not efficient rain gear. The torrential downpour also didn’t help us in descending the ladders but we slowly managed to inch our way down the steep “short trail”. I noticed Gino had stopped ahead and was just standing there peering downward with a puzzled look on his face. When we were closer, he shouted over the din of the storm, “Is this the trail?”
Suddenly we saw the source of his puzzlement. We were standing at the top of a cascading waterfall with no bottom in sight. The cloudburst had transformed our path. The descent appeared hopelessly impossible. I spotted a marker below us so we knew we were on the trail. Luckily it actually was passable, but we had to inch our way along, boulder to boulder. Everything was slippery and each step had to be studied with care. The rain, thunder and lightning were unrelenting for the entire time we hiked down the mountain, so there was no relief from our misery. I don’t know if it was one storm followed by another or a monster storm just for Crane Mountain, but we persevered and finally made it to our extremely welcomed vehicle. We all voraciously gobbled up our lunches and reveled in the fact that we had survived without falling or getting fried by lightning.
It’s funny, when we talk with Marsena and Bill or other friends about that fun summer and fall, it’s not the hike on Black with visible rays of the sun reaching from the clouds to the surface of the lake, the vibrant fall colors from Potash, or the days spent climbing the other beautiful mountains that first comes to mind. It’s always the day spent on Crane that floods our memories and brings a smile to our lips. But we won’t be asking Mike, the UPS man, about the weather again.