Trail testing was provided by the energetic and youthful Lucy, a beautiful yellow lab I was taking care of over the long holiday weekend. She contains much of the beauty and spirit of my Lily (see first post) and it was a joy to have her leading this trek. We were joined by another human, and glad to have the company and the supplies he provided, which would prove later to save the day.
We parked at the larger parking lot at the north end of the park and headed in on the Coyote Song Trail.
About a half mile along the trail, I led us up a little connector trail called Lyons Back, which includes some nice natural rock steps to help one traverse the steep bits. This little stretch leads to the Pass Trail, which descends to the Columbine Trail, which in turn connects to the Cathy Johnson Trail. We decided that we had left the more beautiful valley behind and retraced our steps to rejoin the Coyote Song Trail. Although it provided a nice view back out of the valley, we would pay later for that detour!
Continuing on for another .8 miles, we ended up at the south parking lot. Not desiring to return by exactly the same route, we tried half-heartedly to find the advertised creek bottom trail, but didn't linger longer, deciding to start back where we were more confident about the route, as a dark storm was a-brewing.
.4 miles back up the trail, we took the left fork .2 miles to the Swallow Trail. Sho 'nuff - less than a mile from the car, we were caught in the downpour. If we were a little closer to one of the spectacular rock formations, we might have holed up in a cave. Instead we took cover under some dense brush, and as the lightning got closer I was sure we were going to be tomorrow's crispy headline.
The next thing we knew, it started to hail, beating my friend on the head even through his hat! After we were pretty much soaked to the skin, he remembered the solar blanket his father insists he carry in his pack. It was sufficient to keep the chill to a tolerable level and to shield the camera bags from further soaking. Thanks, Josh's Dad!
After 30 minutes, the worst of the lightning had moved past, the hail had stopped and the rain was letting up enough to high-tail it back to the car. Still wrapped in the tin foil blanket, I made a heck of a racket trying to hustle along the trail. I didn't even realize it had stopped raining with all that noise in my ears. Back at the now empty parking lot, we had mixed feelings about being the only fools caught out in the storm.