The Night I Thought We Might Drown in a Flash Flood
Have you ever experienced a moment when thought you might die? I know it sounds dramatic, but these are the thoughts I desperately tried to push out of my mind one night in the Grand Canyon.
I shudder as the first crack of thunder rumbles in the distance and the rain begins to pound harder and harder on the outside of my tent.
“It will pass soon,” I tell myself. “Yesterday afternoon’s storm was brief and this one will be too.”
The thunder is getting closer and it echoes throughout the canyon walls. I lay down in my tiny backpacking tent and try to relax myself.
As I look up, I suddenly realize the tent is crawling with twenty or thirty spiders, all different shapes and sizes. They look like they are crawling inside the tent, but after further investigation I come to the conclusion that they are crawling on the outside of the screen in order to stay dry under the rainfly. I guess I unknowingly invited these creatures into my temporary home to get shelter from the rain.
The image of spiders covering my tent gives me the creeps. All I can think about is the TV show Fear Factor and the scenes when the contestants get into a box with crawling insects. I wouldn’t last one second in that scenario.
I pray the spiders won’t find a way in.
A huge gust of wind begins violently shaking the tent like a sail in a wind storm to the point that it picks up the sides that are staked into the ground.
“Crap! I hope the tarp didn’t fly off our bags outside!”
I flick some spiders off the screen door, check my shoes for scorpions since I had placed them outside, under the rainfly, and quickly slip them on my feet.
I peer outside the rainfly and immediately begin getting pelted with raindrops. Sure enough, the tarp had flown off our backpacks and everything was getting soaked.
The sky had turned almost black, covered in thick storm clouds with the occasional flicker of light from lightning that keeps inching its way closer and closer to our campground.
There goes the thunder again. It feels as if it’s right on top of my head and it’s starting to make me nervous.
I grab the tarp and throw it over our packs while fighting the gusts of wind that keep lifting it back up. The big rocks that we had placed on the tarp had fallen on the ground, so I begin placing them on the edges of the tarp again.
“Shit! Where is Scott?! I need his help!”
After placing as many rocks as I can find, I tuck the rest of the tarp edges under the bags and run back to the tent.
I sit uncomfortably in the tent, wondering if Scott is ok. He left a half hour ago on a hike to Mooney Falls.
Then I remember Scott telling me he didn’t feel comfortable pitching our tent so close to the river in case there is a flash flood. We are practically sitting right next to it.
My mind wanders to thoughts of the 2008 flash flood at this campground when everyone had to be evacuated and people were stuck on the other side of the raging, muddy river.
Our tent doesn’t have any openings to view the outside except a tiny hole that thankfully faced toward the river.
I stick my eye up to the hole, making sure my face isn’t near any spiders, and try to assess if the river height had gone up at all.
I can’t tell.
I pick up my book and try to read, but I can’t relax and can’t seem to comprehend any of the words on the page.
I give up and decide to just sit there uncomfortably in our tiny tent, obsessively peeking through the hole to check the river height.
The sleeping bag I’m sitting on seems to be getting wet for some reason. I look around and realize that mud is bouncing up into our tent through the screen which sits only about an inch from the ground.
The tarp that is covering our backpacks was actually the footprint to the tent, the part that is supposed to go under it to protect the inside of the tent from getting wet in situations such as this. I guess it was either this or let all of our clothes and camping gear get soaked.
“Ok. It would be great if this storm would pass now,” I tell myself.
I hear rustling outside and hope that it is Scott returning from the falls.
“Buddy? Are you okay?” I hear Scott’s voice call to me from outside the tent.
“Thank god you are back!”
Scott joins me in our already crowded tent. He tells me that the rain started as soon as he got to Mooney Falls. Tree branches were falling above him on the hike back and the wind completely turned the umbrella inside out, breaking it instantly.
“How is the river height?” I ask.
“It looks ok right now, but we need to keep an eye on it. Hopefully this storm won’t go for too much longer.”
We sit in silence and listen to the pounding of thunder above us as it shakes the canyon walls.
I’ve never heard thunder this loud before. So much for a peaceful camping trip.
The rain eventually let up long enough for us to share some dinner with our neighbors, but as soon as we laid down in our tent that night to get some much needed sleep, the rain and thunder started again.
Needless to say it was a sleepless night and our 4 am alarm came dreadfully too soon.