High Desert Hoofbeats
When nature says no...
by Sena Taylor Hauer
Aug 28, 2014 | 444 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The three French kids from London piled out of their mom’s rental SUV a few afternoons ago and eagerly stepped across the barnyard to get ready for a trail ride. “Let’s just put these slickers on case it rains,” I told them, gazing at the sky downriver. Their parents had assured me that the teens wouldn’t mind getting a little wet when we were out on the desert. “And why don’t you put on these helmets?” I added, knowing that the gear would keep them dry in case of a sprinkle.

Their mother gave the trio pecks on the cheeks and got in her vehicle, agreeing to retrieve the youths in a couple of hours after their ride. “Merci!” the kids replied, thankful that their parents had agreed to one last Moab outing before their departure from a local resort the next morning.

No sooner had she left the ranch than the sky darkened in all directions, blocking views of the cliffs across the river, Castle Valley to the southeast, and Fisher Towers to the east. And it started to pour.

The saddled horses turned their tails to the storm and the rain poured off of their backs. Guides and guests huddled under awnings and inside the tack shed, and I wondered about the boatload of rafters I had just seen floating by the upper daily section. All of us wanted to be out in nature, but this was something else.

“There’s a good chance it will rain really hard for just a little while and blow over,” I told three sets of eager but saddening eyes. Then we can hit the trail and there won’t be any dust. We can make new tracks!” But I was doubting even my own encouragement; the weather forecast had said there was a 40 percent chance of precipitation. Forecasters all summer had been dead on about the weather when they predicted rain amounts greater than 30 percent. As a bit of a weather and news junkie, I am one to check the forecast and doppler radar a couple of times a day. I remembered a week or so ago when the Internet web page had flash flood warnings though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. But by nightfall, those warnings had come to fruition.

As we waited and the rivulets turned into rivers through the corrals and down the roadways, I knew our ride was doomed. My second thought was getting the kids back to their parents and the resort down the road.

“Better grab the suburban and see if we can get out the front gate,” I suggested to my husband. I called the resort and assured the concierge that the children were fine, but that there might be a little problem getting them back if one of the major drainages from Fisher Towers, which passes in front of our ranch, was running. So we piled into the white four-wheel-drive which had already turned red from the inside out what with our muddy feet on the interior and giant puddles outside. The quarter-mile drive to the gate confirmed what we had feared: the usually dry wash was a torrent, foaming and fomenting with an energy that barred vehicular access.

Upon seeing the entrance they had just driven through with their mother 20 minutes prior, the kids exclaimed, “This looks like the raft trip we were on earlier today!” “Yep,” I agreed, “but it wouldn’t be safe for us to cross this, even with a boat.” As we watched the rushing red water, which boiled over the banks of the wash and knocked large boulders around, I told them that while I was disappointed that we had to cancel our ride, I was glad they could experience something that they might never forget: a powerful flash flood in the desert West.

Seeing that the waters weren’t going to subside for perhaps hours, and not knowing the road conditions under the flow, we decided to hike the young visitors a mile to state Route 128 where I could see UDOT and Grand County road crews driving up and down checking for damage. A call to the resort brought a van to pick up the guests and deliver them back to their parents.

“We can’t help it when nature says no,” I told the kids.

But sometimes nature’s plans are a whole lot more exciting than those we make ourselves.

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