Lightning, Flash Floods, and Quicksand

I'm going to start this little bit of jibber-jabber off by saying that we have just hit a milestone. We had an anniversary. Not like a wedding anniversary or the day that we first became a couple or something ridiculous like that. No, we have just hit our 4 month travel anniversary. We left Seattle and the comfort of our jobs and took off 4 big months ago. It's kind of a big deal. It's not as big of a deal that our one year anniversary will be, but still, it's a big deal. It's such a big deal that I would be ok if you sent us gifts. Nothing big...don't go our of your way or anything like that...but gifts seem appropriate. Since we are homeless, I'm not sure where you should send these gifts but just remember that I am no cheap date...I have expensive tastes.

These past 4 months have gone incredibly quick in a way, and at the same time, it seems like we left Seattle ages ago. It's hard for me to believe that we are actually doing this and that this adventure has really just begun...4 months down and an endless supply of months to go. I can remember the days when I would dream of having a week long vacation and I can remember all of the things we would cram into that week. It's nothing like the amount of stuff that we have crammed into 4 months. We have just scratched the surface on what's available to us. It's a big world out there and we are doing our best to see and experience it. We are incredibly lucky.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand...lightning, flash floods, and quicksand. Being a Seattle boy, I have grown up with some pretty benign weather. Sure, we get our fair share of rain, some wind, an occasional snow storm, possibly even a thunder storm with some hail thrown in the mix, but it is really pretty mild when you compare it to other parts of the world. We are in Moab, Utah right now which you may not think of as being a place with any kind of major weather. It's generally hot sun and clear blue skies but I am here to tell you otherwise. My observations of what I consider major weather may be because of where I am from and I may be a bit of a sissy because of that.

In Seattle, we will get rain for days on end. Most of the time it's just gray and drizzly and it seems to go on and on and on. Here we have had 85 degree, clear blue sky, calm as can be days, when you think nothing can go wrong...and then it hits. You can see a lone mass of black clouds that looks out of place against the backdrop of blue sky. You can see that these black clouds seems to stretch from the sky to the ground. You can see flashes of light emanating from that group of clouds. As this group of clouds gets closer you get hit with a wall of cold wind that drops the temperature by about 20 degrees...then rain...then lightening...then even more rain and hail...then it ends and it's back to pure blue skies and a warm 85 degrees. Crazy.

The thing that is the most strange is the amount of rain that unloads at once and the ferocity of which it unleashes. Moab generally gets 9 inches of rain in a year. In the last 3 days we have gotten almost 4 inches of rain in the area. In those 3 days, it rained for a total of about 1 ½ hours. The rest of the time it was pure warm sun. That's almost 50% of the yearly rainfall total in about 1 ½ hours.

In those 1 ½ hours, we have gotten the most intense lightening storms that I have ever seen. We have gotten so much wind that if we would have been in the boat, I would have curled up into a ball and cried in the bottom of the boat. It was so much wind that I wasn't sure our camper was going to stay upright. I have seen enough movies and watched enough news programs to know that the worst place to be in a storm is in a trailer park...that's who always gets hit the worst. While we weren't exactly in a trailer park, we were in our home on wheels which is just about as close to a trailer park as you can get. We don't have 3 non-working refrigerators in our yard, we don't have 8 cars that don't run parked on the lawn, and my motorcycle isn't parked in the living room...but we are still pretty close to living like we are in a trailer park. So when a storm is coming...we don't feel safe. We've seen how that ends...with us on the evening news in a bathrobe, curlers in our hair, our home in 12 million pieces, and us looking like the trailer trash that we are...not pretty.

In the 3 days of storms, we have been hit once while on a hike, once we've been on our bikes, and once we've been in our home on wheels when the unleashing happened. All three times were incredible to watch. The times when we were hiking and on our bikes were pretty scary because of the lightning. If you are from the midwest you probably will think we are wimps because we ran for cover (or pedaled insanely fast for cover) as soon as the sparks sparks started to fly. And these weren't little sparks. These were massive bolts that lit up the sky like a fireworks show over Lake Union on the 4th of July...only it went on for longer than the show over Lake Union, it was louder, and we didn't have to deal with the traffic afterward. Lightning bolt after bolt after bolt from the sky to the ground and earth shaking thunder (or camper shaking thunder)...C-R-A-Z-Y!!!

The desert is amazingly dry. It's so dry that you would think that when it rains the ground would want to absorb some of that rain and save it for later. Not the case. It seems to want to get rid of that rain as fast as it came. This is where the flash floods come into play and this is what is really amazing to see. Raging rivers come from out of nowhere. Massive waterfalls form and drop off of all the incredible rock formations. A torrent of water tears the landscape apart. The amount of erosion that happens in the short amount of time that these weather events are happening is astounding. Hiking paths that just 30 minutes ago seemed like solid ground become jagged canyons that are 5 feet deep. Roads that were dry and safe now have a 4-5 foot thick layer of sand blocking the road. We are currently camped out on the Colorado River and after each storm the river becomes a bright orange river of mud. Yesterday we went on a hike in a tight canyon that went back about 5 miles. You could see the waterline from the flash floods the day before that were between 6 to 8 feet up the canyon walls. You could see the trees, boulders, and mountains of sand that were ripped from their homes and moved down the canyon to where they wait for the next storm. The craziest part of all is that 15 minutes after the rain stops, these raging rivers are dry as a bone. Incredible.

When I was a little kid, I had a fear of quicksand. I was sure it was a real and credible threat to my well being. I had seen enough cartoons, movies, and Gilligan's Island re-runs to know that it was lurking around every corner. I would practice my ninja moves to help me survive my encounter with the dreaded quicksand. I would tell myself “move slowly and spread yourself out so you don't sink as fast!” I even thought that I should carry enough rope with me to get myself out of a jam when my encounter surely happened. By the time I was in my early 20's, my fear started to wain and I stopped carrying around my 200 foot spool of rope everywhere I went. Quicksand appeared to be just in the movies and I should stop practicing my escape tactics. Well here I am in the desert and apparently quicksand is's so real that I even read about it at the Arches National Park visitor's center. After these big rain events, some of these massive sand deposit's are just what I had feared as a kid...the dreaded quicksand. Luckily for me, I have practiced my moves enough times that I should be able to survive an encounter. Brenda on the other hand, is surely doomed. Never once has she considered how to escape the wrath of what is now truly a real and credible threat. I will miss her when she is taken by quicksand.


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