Mt. Evans is the only mountain, other than Pikes Peak, in Colorado that has a paved road up to the top of it. Because of its easy accessibility I am always taking out-of-town guests up to the top.
This Fourth of July started out innocently enough -- two friends from the East Coast, and I (the native guide) decided to visit Mt. Evans. It was well over 90 degrees in Denver and we were ready to head for higher ground, and cooler temps. Dressed innocently enough in shorts, t-shirts and with a couple sweatshirts tucked in the back of the car, we started out.
As we got off the interstate at Idaho Springs we first took note of the storm clouds coming in from the west. It started to get sprinkly, but we were so busy checking out the fantastic scenery that what was happening really didn''''t register. Besides, the rain felt good to us three sun-baked city dwellers. Passing Echo Lake, halfway up, cars were pouring down the mountain and picnikers were making a hasty retreat.
"Oh well" my reasoning went, "we haven''''t reached the forest service station and surely they will tell us if there is any danger". So onward and upward we progressed to the station to pay our $10 toll.
To my surprise, we got to the station, and after taking our money, they told us not to worry, "It''''s only lightening at the top, as long as you stay in the car, you''''ll be fine." Growing up in this state, I''''d always heard stories of hikers that got caught on top of Mt. Evans in storms and were hit by lightening as a result. My heart started to beat faster, but as long as we stayed in the car, I thought we''''d be okay. Besides, there was no talking my friend down now on her quest for great scenery and adventure.
My heart started to really skip beats when cars passing us on their way down were covered in a half an inch of hail (snow?!). The road to the top is not only very steep, but doesn''''t have guardrails. There''''s a good reason why it''''s shut during winter, and now I''''m envisioning us driving/sliding off the side of the mountain!
We made it to the top, amoungst a hailstorm, without incident. We were rewarded with an incredible view. Not only was it no longer raining, or hailing but the lightening had moved on as well. We sat and watched the storm move away from us an onto the next mountain. It was breathtaking.
On the way down I was looking for mountain goats, or other wildlife, when we stopped next to a few other cars parked and the occupants peering up the side of the mountain. Great, they must see some goats. Right? Nooo, once again the day was getting out of hand. It turned out that two hikers from Texas had gotten caught in the storm and called for help from a cell phone. They were dressed in t-shirts and shorts, and it was cold and would be getting dark in a few short hours. We stayed and watched as the emergency vehicles started to arrive.
No one seemed to know exactly where the hikers were. We, and a few other spectators, spent over an hour searching the mountainside with loaned binoculars. Meanwhile, a major rescue operation was being mounted, with multiple teams hiking up to different areas to search. It was amazing how quickly and efficiently they worked. They practically ran up the mountain! From where we were sitting we could hear all the up-to-date information over the CB radio.
Now, maybe we should have stayed to the bitter end, but after about two hours we got bored and left. We did hear that they knew where the hikers were -- and seeing that there were about 10 emergency vehicles with dozens of rescuers about -- we were hardly needed. (We were told, rather rudely, to move...but, saving lives does take precident over our parking space.)
All in all, it was the most exciting drive/tour of Mt. Evans I''''ve ever casually/innocently suggested!