When I was a kid it was considered common knowledge to “get off the mountain” before the afternoon thundershowers. Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the afternoon or evening storm is a mainstay of summer. A quick occasionally terrifying show of nature in all her glory.
One minute the sky is clear and the summer heat is bearing down on you, and the next torrential rains with lightning and thunder cracking one after the other explode. Temperatures can drop 20 degrees in as many minutes. The wind is the first sign a storm is bearing down on you. A reminder why it’s wise to pack layers and be prepared with rain gear even on the sunniest day.
I personally love the storms. The relief from the heat is welcome. But it’s more than comfort. It’s the emotions that come with something so powerful bearing down on you. The smell of ozone permeates the air. The excitement and fear from needing to get to safety when the first signs of a storm moving in snow themselves.
Most Coloradan that hike have high country lightning safety training to rely on, but it doesn’t make those bursts of light any less terrifying. The hairs standing on end a visceral reminder why the god of thunder featured so heavily in mythology. The power on display is clear. Thunder clapping as lightning strikes a reminder that you are in the middle of a power that has no interest in you. It just exists.
But like a god, natural phenomena is capricious. As quickly as a mountain storm blows in it blows out. The clouds part. Sun shines through. The occasional rainbow will cross a valley. I just watched a downpour from the safety of my house in the foothills. I guess I still know to be off the mountain before the storm comes. It was a beautiful mesmerizing twenty minutes of rain, lightning, hail and thunder. And then it was gone