“Now comes the rain, with corresponding extravagant grandeur, covering the ground with a sheet of flowing water, a transparent film fitted like a skin upon the rugged anatomy of the landscape, making the rocks glitter and glow, gathering in the ravines, flooding the streams, and making them shout and boom in reply to the thunder.
How interesting to trace the history of a single raindrop! It is not long, geologically speaking… since the first raindrops fell on the newborn leafless Sierra landscapes. How different the lot of these falling now! Happy the showers that fall on so fair a wilderness -- scarce a single drop can fail to find a beautiful spot -- on the tops of the peaks, on the shining glacier pavements, on the great smooth domes, on forests and gardens and brushy moraines, plashing, glinting, pattering, laving. Some go to the high snowy fountains to swell their well-saved stores; some into the lakes, washing the mountain windows, patting their smooth glassy levels, making dimples and bubbles and spray; some into the waterfalls and cascades, as if eager to join in their dance and song and beat their foam yet finer…
Some, falling on meadows and bogs, creep silently out of sight to the grass roots, hiding softly as a nest, slipping, oozing hither, thither, seeking and finding their appointed work. Some, descending through the spires of the woods, sift spray through the shining needles, whispering peace and good cheer to each one of them…
Now the storm is over, the sky is clear, the last rolling thunder-wave is spent on the peaks, and where are the raindrops now -- what has become of all the shining throng? In winged vapor rising some are already hastening back to the sky, some have gone into the plants, creeping through invisible doors into the round rooms of cells, some are locked in crystals of ice, some in rock crystals, some in porous moraines to keep their small springs flowing, some have gone journeying on in the rivers to join the larger raindrop of the ocean. From form to form, beauty to beauty…”
-- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, Mariner Books, 1998 (first published in 1911)
* * * * *
Showers are usually common in the spring, and since some of you -- especially less experienced hikers -- periodically express concern about getting caught in the rain while hiking, I usually write about this subject each spring.
Many of you who have been on our e-mail list or hiked with us have heard my critiques of the media and some weather forecasters, who have a tendency to badmouth rain as if it was a curse -- forgetting or ignoring the fact that virtually all forms of life (including us) depend on rain for their water needs.
Among other things, so much of the beauty of nature, including the lovely wildflowers that are now springing up alongside the trails we hike on -- and the beautiful bright green leaves and other myriad forms of vegetation, which exhale the oxygen that we need to breathe -- couldn’t possibly exist without rain.
And… many of our spring hikes include visits to scenic and often spectacular waterfalls, as discussed in last week’s entry. Remove the rain and… not only wouldn’t we have beautiful streams, rivers, and waterfalls to enjoy, but our region would eventually become a parched desert that couldn’t support life.
Spring showers tend to be unpredictable, and some years it’s common to hear forecasters announcing “showers on the way” or “a chance of showers” almost every weekend. Such forecasts are often wrong, of course, especially for the mountain areas. Sometimes there’s only a brief shower, or any rain comes early or late in the day, before or after our hike. Or it comes at night. Or not at all.
In any case, many of us learn to enjoy nature in all weather, which is an attitude well worth cultivating. Being negative about weather isn’t unlike being negative about life – it’s a good way to set ourselves up to have lots of “bad days.” We can’t influence the weather, but we can control and change our attitudes about it.
We actually get caught in the rain pretty rarely on hikes (twice this year so far, and usually no more than a few times each year). But when it does come, whether expected or not, try to welcome the rain’s arrival -- and even enjoy it!
To address this topic more thoroughly, next week I'll feature 17 “Rain & Weather Forecast Basics” (or “Charlie’s Rain Rules”) that I first wrote about several years ago and have been reprinting every spring since.
-- Charlie Cook