Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Raging Thunderstorm on the Colorado River

Staccato. At the start. A low rumble, a suggestion. We pay attention. We set up a shelter and start a camp fire. The rumble gets closer. Louder. We pay attention.

The fire is raging, and the corn is ready to roast. A crack rings out with a flash of light- the thunder is no longer distant. The rain comes in torrents. Wind is howling, whipping through camp... Whipping our shelter like an old, frayed flag that has become ragged from years of flying high. The wind came out of nowhere!

 There is a river through our shelter. The fire is out, and mud has covered everything, including the corn we were just about to roast. We hold the shelter down- we are human stakes. Lightning blinds us and the crackle and roar of thunder hits at the same moment. I scream. Then I laugh.

Something unexpected always happens on river trips. Always. I've been around storms. I've canoed through crazy wind. But this storm, swirling all around is and soaking us even through a tarp and our rain coats, is more intense than any I've experienced in my life. Another crack, and again I'm blinded at the same moment of the roar of thunder.

We've found another tarp and I stand with my back to the storm, tarp stuck to my back from the howling wind... This is the only way to keep the driving rain from soaking us.

I laugh. The absurdity of watching all 4 of us stand as human stakes, the only thing that has ensured that our shelter doesn't fly away.

More than 2 inches of rain have fallen in 45 minutes. It seems like longer. Finally, we have a moment between the flash of lightning and the still deafening roar of thunder. Only a moment. And then the rumble moves on into the distance. I no longer feel the tingle of electricity in the air. Finally, my heart stops pounding and I can breathe again. The sky still spits out sprinkles and the distant thunder breaks the silence, but it has passed, and we are safe.