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Friday, 17 June 2011

Everyone knows that the essence of good comedy is timing. And we got it dead right. To the second.
We’d had a leisurely morning, scouting around the grounds and down by the river armed with our snake-proof gear, hiking sticks and a framed photograph of this little settlement taken before the red house was built.

The wind-pump is clearly shown in the picture, and its remnant foundations are right there behind the barn, so A. – who is a much more thorough person than I am – has decided to try and figure out, once and for all, where the dug-out and the post-and-wire footbridge used to be.

Just as we were coming to the conclusion that the dug-out might have been in a hillside opposite the house we had a visit from Don, the guy whose trailer I slept in when we had all the hunters, and Kitty’s mother. They had some sort of business down in the cellar. Having known us all of ten minutes she invited us to pop over to her place south of Cody and use an empty house she has down by the river. As a friend of mine in New Mexico used to say, ‘Cowboys… I tell ya…’

By the time they’d left and we’d had lunch it was time to get our camping gear together for the hiking trip. Matt, when I mentioned our plan, had frowned and said, ‘They’re talking about rain later on.’ I was tempted to tell him that the online forecast spoke of a 10% chance of a shower, but I kept my mouth shut. You don’t go around  telling your host that he’s talking out of his rear end. By the time we were ready there was a bit of a grey cloud to the northwest, but otherwise mostly blue and white skies.

Did I mention timing?  As we stepped out of the door, packs on our backs, boots tied around our necks in preparation for the river crossing, there was a clear, sustained rumble of thunder. We looked at each other and laughed.

Across the river, we put on our boots and started walking. As we hit the rising ground it was clear that there was indeed a patch of dark, purplish cloud to the east; but as far as we could tell the weather was coming from the south. There was a smudge of greyness to the west too, but overhead it was still fairly clear. We were following a two-track, on a line that would take us between the two showers. Perfect.

Were we stupid? Well, take a look at the skies we saw behind us twenty minutes later and judge for yourself. Okay, there was rain falling and it could have come our way. But it was a shower. We’re from England, for goodness’ sake; we invented wet weather.

Half a mile later, I have to admit it, the view ahead was a little more ominous.

But even so, there was this long swathe of blue sky to the south that looked as though it ought to be heading our way. We’d be fine. Even when a few fat drops of rain started to fall, that brightness was still there.

The only thing was, it seemed to keep shrinking.

‘Tell you what,’ I said, let’s sit by this nice big cedar tree and wait for it to pass.

Half an hour later we were watching puddles form in the wheel-tracks, and starting to re-think. The brightness had vanished, and the only variegation in the sky was between the purple-grey clouds to the east, shot through with occasional lightning bolts, and the milky grey stuff to the west, which seemed to be the source of the large odd-shaped hailstones, which were whacking against our hunched shoulders, pinging about our ears and bouncing across the grass like so many golf-balls. On the basis that this was, for A. at least, a vacation, we decided to retreat. You win some, you lose some…. We trudged back the way we’d come, peppered with hailstones of increasingly weird shapes, and comparing notes on the penetrative power of the rain. 

We were both getting wet in places that our waterproof clothes should have protected a little longer. Worse, my feet were squelching inside the snake-proof boots, which Cabelas claim to be 100% waterproof. I dare say I shall have to email them later. But, as I remarked, in between taking photos of oblong lumps of ice, at least it was warm.

By the time we got to the river we were so thoroughly soaked that it didn’t seem worth the effort of taking off our boots. Once you’re wet, you can’t get any wetter. We splashed our way across, slopped our way up to the house, and emptied them outside the front door.

The rain got a lot heavier before it finally eased, some time after dark – although having said that, night did seem to fall about two hours earlier than usual.

This morning it’s been bright and breezy. We're planning another adventure that requires half-way decent weather. We hope to re-tread the Old Jules Trail, take photographs and notes, and submit all to Chainsaw Phil, who is threatening to build a website around it. The plan is to camp – either at Walgren Lake or Smith Lake – and spread the trip over part of two days. So tomorrow’s posting really could be quite late going up. Depends on the weather.

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