Grand Mesa with Dave and Phyli

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While the gathering clouds heralded precipation we had no idea what was in store.

August 2-4, 2013

Over the weekend I took a drive out to Grand Mesa, a large plateau around 10,000′ to visit Dave and Phyli.  They drove out from Denver and we all headed up to the mesa to get out of the heat.  We certainly did that.

On my way out through the Utah desert, I saw far in the distance a storm moving through.  Unlike the East Coast the wide open landscape allows you to see storms from miles and miles away.  This storm looked to be traveling right over the highway I would be traveling.  As I got closer it was clear I’d be driving through it.  The sun set prematurely as I drove under the ominous black clouds.  When the rain started coming I had to slow from 70mph to 40mph to be safe.  As I pulled through the other side the storm was backlit by the setting sun and clouds.  Lighting shot across the sky and into the ground.  Perhaps the most amazing storm I’ve ever seen.  When I got what I thought was far enough away from the lighting I took some pictures.  I haven’t shot lightning before so I put a polarizing filter on the lens and used the lowest ISO to get a long exposure.  The long exposure gave me the best chance of catching a bolt in action.  I was able to catch a few and this one turned out pretty good.  I found it really difficult to capture how beautiful the scene was.

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One the way out to Grand Mesa I had the good fortune to drive through the most amazing thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. I could see the rain and lightning for miles before I actually hit it. The rain was brutally intense when I did..

The wild weather continued Saturday when we headed out for a hike.  There was a chance of thunderstorms and it was mostly cloudy.  Dave’s knee was acting up so we took the mostly flat and short portion of a nice hike in the area.  About halfway into the hike we hear thunder and it started to drizzle.  Then it started to hail.  This was fairly novel at first, hiking in the hail.  It grew more steady as we walked.  Eventually it was coming down furiously and the size of a blueberry.  This kind of hurts by the way.  We ducked into some not exactly sheltering trees until there was a lull.  We continued on again ducking under trees from time to time.  Hail storms usually only last a few minutes but this didn’t quit.  We finished our hike in a melee and with an inch on the ground.  After jumping in the car we headed back to the campsite and the sound of the hail hitting the car was deafening.  It eventually accumulated 1-2″ making driving quite slick.  We headed to the 1 bar in the town and waited out the storm.

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Dave trying to get the fire started again while another round of hail started.

Once back at camp we started the fire and not long after it started to hail again!  Luckily this time it didn’t last more than 10 minutes or so.  Ultimately the hail stuck around well into the next day and we left with it still on the ground.  A very strange experience indeed to have winter conditions in August.