Mountain Musings


Cannons In The Rain


That was quite a series of thunderstorms we had here in the San Bernardino Mountains a few weeks ago, accompanied by a downpour of wetness in Running Springs and dry lightning that sparked a small blaze near Green Valley Lake.


I hadn’t experienced anything of that magnitude since August of 1977, only a year after the Missus and I landed here, refugees from Orange County, in the summer of ’76.


We happened to be hosting a barbecue get-together with some of our OC friends at our VOE cabin, when the mother of all thunderstorms hit the area with unrelenting thunder, lightning and rain all afternoon and evening. The constant roar of thunder reminded me of cannons in the rain.


“…Your Don Quixote’s windmills were giants in his eyes. To see things as they really are, it can only make you wise, and all his holy roads were sidetracks just the same. Still you believe the thunder are cannons in the rain.” (“Cannons In The Rain” – John Stewart – From the album “Cannons In The Rain” – 1973)


Ever since growing up in the OC, I have been fascinated by the thunderstorms that occurred during the August monsoon season, as tropical storms inched their way northward out of Mexico or Hawaii. I would sit out on our patio for hours to take in the electrical extravaganza. That all ended when I witnessed a bolt of lightning zap a nearby eucalyptus tree, splitting it nearly in half.


In the summer of ’59, mom and pop sent me off to summer camp, high in the hills east of Big Bear, for four weeks. Again, there were frequent thunderstorms. One such event occurred during an overnight hike to the top of Mt. San Gorgonio. We never made it to the top, however, as the trek was called off during a pop-up thunderstorm accompanied by drenching rain.


In the summer of ‘71, me and a couple of my college buddies decided to ascend the heights of Mt. Whitney on another overnighter. As we approached the top of the 14,502-foot peak – the highest in the contiguous 48 states – it began hailing, followed by lightning strikes. We hurriedly advanced to the top as the storm grew more intense.


Completely winded and finally at the top, we discovered a stone hut with a corrugated metal roof and nary a soul in sight. Staggering into the hut – which, according to a plaque, had been placed there by the Smithsonian Institute in 1909 – we discovered a circle formation of hippies passing around a lit pipe. Being rather hippyish ourselves, we joined the circle and waited out the storm. Needless to say, following our relaxing respite, we all sort of staggered out the door and back down the trail toward our base camp.


“It’s been a good life all in all. It’s really fine to have a chance to lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire, while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass the pipe around.” (“Poems, Prayers and Promises – John Denver – 1971)


Keep it flyin’ Uncle Mott