Impending Storm, Grand Canyon | Mark Lindsay

Summer hikes in the great Southwest are seductive. The morning scents of sage and pine intoxicate the soul and activate something in the brain that says, "Walk!" One feels free and both big and small under the huge sky. Making us feel like a child just learning to get about, the big land beckons us to explore it. "Walk!"

In the late morning small seed clouds often form. This gives the beholder a reference point in the turquoise sky, making it seem larger still. The seed clouds grow, almost imperceptibly at first, then one notices them, ironically, on the ground. It is their shadows that give them away, they are now billowy, cotton candy monsters. Floating behemoths. The land looks bigger. The sky looks HUGE. "Walk!"

The hot sage air starts to break. A breeze says the afternoon is here. The unexpected coolness gives us new energy. It is at this point that the seasoned hiker stops and assesses the situation. Nature is crying out with warnings for those who have learned to see. Or smell. The air now smells like rain. This is not any rain. It is summer monsoon. And, while nature gives us notice, it is often short notice, indeed.

When the rain comes it hits hard. It slams into the body, drenching it within seconds. Thunder and lightning pierce the scene with operatic spectacle. Benign washes fill with water. It is no joke. People die in this weather. The hard, parched land can't absorb the water so it simply runs off into the arroyos. Sometimes a wash becomes a river of mud, trees, and rocks. Sometimes the source of the debris is many miles away and buries the unsuspected hiker who had been basking in bright sunshine. The stage is big here, with many acts playing out simultaneously. One need not only be concerned with the here and now but what might be happening or have happened fifty miles yonder and two hours ago.

Seed clouds shouldn't be taken lightly. What were wispy, little puffs a few hours ago, have become a black storm. The urge to walk becomes the necessity to run! Run to high ground! Run to shelter! If one is lucky, it's merely a big adventure. One lives to tell the tale. But those seed clouds are no joke and the hiker in the Southwest soon learns to keep an eye on the little devils. They have a way of sneaking up on you.