It takes at least two days for me to detach my brain and soul from our wired world. The first night in the canyon is often one of withdrawal. There are no distractions, no phones, no Internet, no books, no television, no nothing. There's only everything that the heavens have to offer—that is if the night is clear. On this first canyon night it wasn't. But the full moon was glowing and trying to assert itself behind an eerie and stubborn mist.
The air was unusually heavy and wet as the moisture from the monsoons tried to evaporate and rise. The three of us were packed inside our small tent that was sealed against further downpours that the night might bring. I struggled to find comfort, only able to sleep on my one side, facing the wall of the tent. I dozed off but awoke an hour later, barely able to breathe. Claustrophobia hit me hard! I felt that if I remained in the tent that I'd surely die. I started to panic and then threw myself, my sleeping bag, and air mattress onto the sand. I bounced as the mattress hit the beach but the relief was immediate.
Now it was just the sky, the moon, and me…and maybe about a million nighttime critters. But, I'd rather have just about anything crawl on me or bite me or eat me than remain in that tent. And the roar of the rapids kept me from hearing anything that might go bump in the night. So, I drifted off, dreaming of scorpions, red ants, and tarantulas. Every so often the dreams became too vivid and I awoke to brush myself off of the imaginary creatures. I looked up to notice how far the moon had glided across the sky, realized that all my extremities were intact, and then I slept again for another hour or so.
Morning rain awoke me. It was time for breakfast anyway. I scurried back into the tent and waited for the shower to end. The sun emerged and rose and dried out the land once again. Then the long day grew hot as we watched the shadows shrink to nothing and then grow again in the opposite direction. More rafters came and went as the day drifted by. It got hotter and hotter and then a cloud came along to give us some relief. Then came another cloud which merged into the first one. And then there was a third. That's when it all began.
A flash of lightning! A rumble in the distance turned into an enormous and sustained crash of thunder that went from one end of the canyon to the other. Day turned immediately to night until more bolts of lightning were thrown across the sky. The whole, damned thing culminated with a downpour so furious that we scurried to the tent like little rodents being chased by a fox. The tent swayed and bent and bowed as the rain pounded the little refuge. It glowed from the illumination of yet more lightning. Breathing hard, we made several videos so that we might remember our terror. The wind lifted the tent and strained its moorings but the tent was brave and the tent held. And then the rain ended as quickly as it had started. One last grumble from the heavens was given and then it was all over.
We poked our heads out of our rabbit hole and slowly emerged. The rapids were roaring even louder but were now accompanied by a secondary roar coming from our right side as we looked at the river. This ancillary roar grew in amplitude until it could not be ignored. Looking out towards the river in that direction we saw new rapids being formed. It was the creek gone wild!
We ran to the creek and when we got there our jaws dropped in amazement. Only an hour before we'd collected water at this spot as the creek lazily provided us with clear drinking and cooking water. That would no longer be possible. The trickling creek was now a raging, muddy river, rivaling the Colorado itself in fury and power. However, its color was now much darker in color, carrying all the mud that the canyon could offer. I gulped, realizing that less than 24 hours before I'd hiked this very creek in similar weather. The flash flood made me feel insignificant to the powers that were before me. I was, at that moment, as powerless as a bug on the windshield of a car. And I would have looked just as bad that squashed bug had the creek flashed out just one day before.
I shook my head as we returned to our little tent. I sat on a rock and looked out at the river. I'd known about Arizona's monsoon season since I was a kid. I'd seen all that…or so I'd thought. No, this was different. We'd just dodged a bullet. Our date with the ultimate destiny had been awfully close. And I was now thinking that maybe I'd stay away from this blasted place during monsoon season—at least for awhile.
To be continued…