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Grand Canyon National Park
October 1-3, 2010
by Debbie M.
hikers
We’re off to see the Wizard ..........

The Arizona Trailblazers 2010 Grand Canyon hike started off innocently enough. We left the Grand Canyon Village in high spirits on Saturday morning, well prepared with backpacks, water, hats, and, of course, cameras. As the hike got underway, we split up into several groups. I trekked along happily with the hikers in my group, enjoying stunning views of the canyon.

The weather was pleasant enough; however, as time wore on, the temperatures began to climb, and I remarked that we were fortunate to have occasional cloud cover.

In fact, I would even welcome a light shower to cool things off. We walked along the South Rim trail of the canyon for several hours at a leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures. It was a glorious day!

view
Wendy and Sheila enjoy a glorious view.

Around noon, several of us decided to take a shuttle back to Hermit’s Rest, the final lookout point at the west end of the trail. Near the parking lot, we found a picnic table nestled under a shady tree and settled down to eat our lunches. It wasn’t long before we noticed storm clouds off in the distance, with lightning and thunder adding special effects. The wind began to pick up and the temperature dropped.

clouds
Yes, those clouds will make it cooler.
rain
Do you think it might rain? [photo by Ted]

Someone commented that it looked like a storm was brewing and noted that we were sitting under a tree. Still, no one moved.

I began to feel uneasy. A few rain drops splattered. I put on my rain poncho. Finally, the group decided to head for the shuttle stop to get on the bus returning to the campsite. Many other tourists had the same premonition – crowds thronged the bus stop.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck nearby, accompanied by thunder, and the raincloud opened directly above us. People huddled together, but there was no shelter at the shuttle stop. Herd mentality prevailed, with everyone still wanting to get on that bus (the bus was nowhere in sight).

We stood there in the downpour, waiting for the bus. The wind was blowing the rain sideways and it was very cold.

I tried to get out of the wind by crouching behind the half wall that was next to the sidewalk. I was shivering by then, and it didn’t seem like the situation could get much worse. The shuttle bus arrived, and I had visions of the sinking Titanic: there was not enough space for the number of people needing to get on that bus, leaving the unfortunate ones behind. The bus filled to capacity and took off. I was one of the unfortunate ones who didn’t get on the bus.

Then it was as if the heavens themselves split open in a violent purging. The rain turned to hail – frozen, white pellets hitting us sideways. It was every man or woman for themselves! Some ran up the trail to the visitor’s center. Others took off for the nearby outhouses. Earlier I had noticed a big facilities truck parked near our picnic spot and turned to my fellow hiker.

“Let’s head for the truck,” I yelled and took off running across the parking lot.

She was beside me, and I could hear her reply, “We can’t get in that truck!”

“Come on! It’s the safest place to be.” I could see that the truck windows were rolled down. “It might be unlocked!” I hollered over the rain.

“No, I’m not getting in there,” she replied and continued running towards the outhouse.

I reached the truck and hoisted myself up on the running board. I was in luck! The door was unlocked. I yanked it open and got in as quickly as I could. The front seat of the truck was cluttered. I gingerly pushed some of the stuff over so I could slide into the middle of the seat. I wanted to get out of the hail which was hammering in both windows and bouncing on the seats and onto the floor of the truck. Shivering so intensely that my hands shook, I checked to see if the key was in the ignition, so I could roll up the windows. No such luck!

I sat there in a wet poncho, shaking for about two minutes, before I noticed the windows were the old fashioned crank kind. I rolled them both up, noticing as I did so, the people huddled under the awnings of the outhouses. I was glad to be in the truck and out of the hail. Once the windows were up, I was safe: albeit a bit cold and wet. I sat there, waiting out the violent thunderstorm. I had the best seat in the house!

I continued to keep an eye on the shuttle stop, but still the bus did not arrive. Later, I discovered that the roads had been closed during the storm and the shuttles stopped for safety. When the storm finally let up about 20 minutes later, the passenger door opened and a very surprised truck driver peered in.

“Hey, are you the new worker?” he asked me. I was embarrassed to be discovered sitting in his truck, uninvited, but I did not let on.

clouds
Clouds make fanciful patterns. [photo by Ted]

“No, you left your windows down and I rolled ’em up for you” I told him with as much dignity as I could muster.

He acted as if this was a daily occurrence and expressed his appreciation. I thanked him and climbed out and headed back to the shuttle stop, along with the rest of the drenched tourists. We were a sorry looking lot! The wind was still fierce and it was bitterly cold out. When the bus finally arrived, there were a lot of shivering, soaked bodies, desperate to get on board. Again, the demand was greater than the supply of seats. A group of young students graciously offered to wait for the next bus, allowing others to get on ahead of them.

Back at the campsite, we all gathered around a blazing fire to tell our stories. All hikers had been caught either out on the trail or close to it when the storm hit. Each of us had dealt with it in our own way.

I thought I was the smartest of the bunch. I had learned as a kid that a vehicle was one of the safest places to be during a lightning storm. I was quite proud of myself for taking refuge in a water works truck.

camp
Drying out at Mather Campground. [photo by Wayne]

Then someone asked, “Debbie, did you notice where the truck was parked?”

“Well, sure it was by the outhouses where everyone was huddled around getting soaked” I replied smugly.

The answer came back with a chuckle, “It wasn’t a ‘water works’ truck. You were sitting in the Pooper Scooper truck!”

Sure enough, my “best seat in the house” was the septic truck (a.k.a. the Honey Doo Dipper) which had just emptied the outhouses. Although I was safe from the storm, apparently the last laugh was on me.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated January 8, 2018