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Backpacker Magazine – January 2012

True Tales: Caught in a Flash Flood

Rising water sends this reader running--and hiding--in Utah.

by: Kristy Holland

PAGE 1 2
Flash flood.     (by J Dombrowski)
Flash flood. (by J Dombrowski)

Caught in a Flash Flood | Uncontrolled Slide Down an Icy Slope
Charged by a 500-Pound Grizzly | Flipped, Soaked, and Freezing
Can't Breathe at High Altitude | Struck by Lightning

"The churning water carried full-size logs and seethed for more than an hour, cresting just a few feet below my cave. But instead of a wall of water that came and went quickly, the 30-foot-wide frothing flow took hours to recede. I knew that rain upstream in the drain- age would mean more flooding here, so when the water level subsided, I decided to retreat from the narrows, back the way I had come.

"I’d passed a high-ground campsite about 1.5 miles upstream from my cave, but as I backtracked through the canyon, I sank into quicksand. A thick slurry of water and sand clutched at my thighs, hips, and rib cage. Instead of staying calm, I flailed in the muck. When I finally realized that going forward meant thrashing through a gauntlet of suck- ing mud, I crawled out and retreated down- stream to a ledge above the soupy traps. My plan: overnight here to let the water recede.

"I slept fitfully, watching the river’s mood change throughout the night. It must have rained somewhere in the drainage because I heard the thundering approach of another surge crashing between the canyon walls.

"A few hours after daybreak, a pair of backpackers rounded my campsite. They’d camped in a different gulch downstream and were trekking toward the trailhead where I’d started. They hadn’t yet encountered the quicksand I’d seen upstream, and they were dismayed when I described the flooding and conditions I’d encountered. I joined them for my retreat out of the Paria. It was slow going, as quicksand sucked at our legs, but thank- fully, we made it back together.
PAGE 1 2

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Jerry W Doyle
Aug 25, 2012

I found this to be a most informative and educational article. As Sarah noted, when in the slot it is extremely difficult to get a panoramic sky view and such a view is needed because as she denoted, rain upstream in the mountains miles away can come raging downstream where there are clear skies. I thought she did an outstanding defensive response on such short notice.

Whenever I am hiking across arroyos in the deserts and see dark clouds or lightening miles away in the mountains I move hastily to get through to higher ground. It can be clear skies where one is, but if there is rain up in the mountains then a high possibility exists for a wall of water to come hurtling down through the gulches, creeks and river beds.

Jerry D

Jun 16, 2012

And apparently somebody has nothing better to do but read these articles and be an arm chair jockey,do us all a favor Doc and keep your stupid comments to your self and go for a walk somewhere. You might actually have something interesting to say next time.

Jun 16, 2012

Mar 04, 2012

Apparently this web site has space to fill and had absolutely nothing of value to post here. The article has no lessons learned or survival tips. This is just another prime example of someone that shouldn't be out backpacking on their own.


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