With only a thin towel to cushion the blow of the quarter-sized balls of hail pelting my head, face and shoulders, I continued to run up the hill as fast as my body would allow me to. My legs and lungs were begging me to stop, but the thought of a flash flood kept me going. My towel and every inch of my clothes were soaked with water — as if I had been dunked in the river.
I knew we had to catch up with our group ahead. Scott and I didn’t know our way around these cactus-coated mountains. The quasi-trails we followed on the way to the river were now being washed away by fast-flowing water, mud, and rocks falling from the top of the mountain. I knew one wrong step from my tired legs could mean serious injury.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I looked left as a large boulder came barreling down the mountain towards us. Keeping my attention at my feet in order to keep from tripping and tumbling down the mountain was no longer my only worry.
“Where are you guys?!” I heard myself yelling frantically. “Wait for us!”
Our friends couldn’t hear a word between the all-too-often rumbles of boisterous thunder and relentless rain and hail. Oh yeah, and there was lightning too! The storm was right above us, lashing out its fury of bright electric light and smashing against the ground only feet from where we continued to sprint up the hill — away from the water filling quickly up the canyon.
I felt like I was running from the bolts of lightning. Is that even possible??
Scott pushed me on, urging me to hurry – as if I was taking my sweet time, picking flowers along the way. I was going as fast as I felt was humanly possible, but clearly not fast enough!
As we approached the curve in the mountain where I knew we would have to start descending, I saw our group. One of our friends — who knew his way around — was waiting while the others kept running. I felt a sigh of relief which was quickly replaced with further anxiety as I sensed the urgency of the group. We weren’t out of the woods yet.
This hail and rain wasn’t letting up! My drenched shoes squished with each step and, even though I was running at full capacity, I was shivering from the cold air and hail. Just thirty minutes before, I was sunbathing by the river, sticky with sweat from the heat. Oh how quickly the weather can change in the desert.
The run for our lives lasted nearly twenty minutes, but it felt like an eternity. The rain and hail subsided once we reached the top of the canyon, but we could still hear the thunder off in the distance. I looked around at Scott and our friends as they began wringing the water out of their clothes. The tension had lifted as we laughed and recounted how scared we all had felt and everyone’s close call with boulders flying down the mountain.
I’ve never felt that close to danger. When I got back to San Diego a few days later, I made a decision to start jogging regularly because I realized if I was ever chased by something for a long distance, I would most likely die.