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True Tales: Caught in a Flash Flood

Rising water sends this reader running--and hiding--in Utah.
Flash flood. (by J Dombrowski)

"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.

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