The Fateful Hoodoo Hike - My Family Travels

The sky was blue and the air fresh and warm with no humidity.   What a glorious afternoon to hike with my family at Bryce Canyon National Park, along the Navajo trail, which reopened after a rock cave-in only a year before.  The steep path snaked into the canyon.  As we trekked down my hiking boots prevented me from falling.  Hoodoos, up to 100 foot high rock formations that look like spires but aren’t as sturdy, dominated the landscape.  Numerous trees looked like they were standing on their roots because of erosion caused by floods, and several trunks were twisted, possibly because half the tree grew faster than the other half.  Red sand and rock stretched as far as the eye could see.  Once we reached the bottom of the canyon, we had to decide whether to take a long, easy, and beautiful or a short, steep, and nice path.  My younger brother pointed to the sky mentioning that the newly formed cumulonimbus clouds in the distance were dark and probably headed our way.

We chose the short, steep path.  During a thunderstorm there really isn’t a safe place within the canyon.  As we climbed, not noticing the scenery but rather the clouds, the storm approached swiftly.  Suddenly it arrived with a flash of lightening and a crash of thunder.  We were only about halfway up the trail.  The day before, a ranger told us to find shelter if trapped inside the canyon during a thunderstorm; we followed her advice and sat beneath a hoodoo which jutted out a bit.  Soon in addition to the terrifying thunder and lightening, it began to pour.  I slipped and slid choosing to stand against the hoodoo.  Red grainy pieces of mud about the size of couscous fell on me. 

As the peaceful sound of rain combined with the jarring sound of thunder, the lightening got closer until it was a mere mile away, if that.  With each flash and rumble my heart filled with dread.  Before long, rain crashed down even harder.  The pebbles falling on us steadily grew until they were the size of my fist; I put a sweatshirt on my head and stuck my hand under my hat to protect my head.  Suddenly a stream almost a meter wide rushed down the zigzagged path engulfing everything in its way.  I inched back against the hoodoo so I wouldn’t get washed away, while praying that we’d survive.  So close to potential death, I began appreciate life even more.  Unfortunately the storm remained overhead for nearly eternity.  The rocks falling on our heads looked like those catapulted by ancient civilizations at their enemies, and we began to wonder when the overhang would collapse.  It was time to make a difficult decision.

We agreed to head up the flooded trail to flee the collapsing rock, and hold hands as not to slip or sink in the six inch deep mud that coated the ground and our clothing.  The lightening was advancing slowly, from about 9 miles away.  Hope shined upon us as we dragged each other up the path with brown water swirling around our boots.  The steep hike up would have been immensely difficult in fair weather, but with fear pounding in my ears, it was a walk in the park.  I was relieved to be safe and out of the canyon. At 8,000 feet above sea level, very little separates man and sky.  We went inside a shelter to clean off, but our hiking boots, clothes, and rental car will never look quite the same.

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