It started off benignly enough. I was running some errands in Portola and saw the first fluffballs over Beckworth Peak. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Best to get the swim in early today because it looks like thunderclouds are forming.
It’s what I call “Thunder Bumper” season in the Lost Sierra. After a very hot, dry summer we’re lucky to be having late afternoon thunder showers roll through, drenching the area in much needed rain. The lightening that accompanies it can be dangerous, but so far the lightning-induced fires have been minimal and have been extinguished right away.
I rallied my die-hard swimming friends and we headed to Gold Lake to sneak a swim in before the storm clouds built up too much intensity. Definitely not one of the smarter decisions… “die-hard” was close to being an apt descriptor!
We headed up to the southern shore of the lake past the campground to a little cove we like. I had seen the thunderheads building to the southeast, but prevailing winds tend to be southwesterly so I thought we’d be okay.
The water temperature is still very pleasant so we decided to swim out to one of the small islands. As we neared the island a few hundred yards from shore, I felt something cold pelting my back. I thought one of my friends must be playing a trick, but when I looked up, I saw a huge dark cloud overhead and hail pounding the water around me. We quickly swam back to shore and hunkered in the trees as we toweled off. The air temperature had dropped significantly and we heard the low rumble of thunder as we clamored through the hail storm back to our cars. The hail pelted us all the way down Gold Lake highway, and the storm ultimately produced quite a bit of lightening and rain. Looking back at it from the Mohawk Valley, I knew we were lucky to have dodged a bullet!