Got To See It
These August rains come mostly at night, North Rim, some down here. We got a big rain up at Nankoweap. Big fat drops coming down in sheets, in camp, making hiking lunches for the morning and gettin’ wet.
Next morning. We start our hike. Our group is at the top of Nanko Berm to cross into and up the creek, heading for Kwagunt the right way. As we are standing there checkin’ out the view this huge rock monolith, several boat sizes large, cracks free from the Supai and rains down an avalanche of hard stone ripping more of the sandstone as it falls. Then it all suspends itself on the Supai talus. Quieter now. But after a few heartbeats a curtain of rock and dust, 300 feet wide, rains from the Redwall. It hits next talus after 900 feet of freefall. Primal thunder! And terrifying to the woman standing in front of me on the trail, hands over her mouth, the expression on her face like that of one seeing death for the first time. “WOW!” is all I can muster. Some of the fall makes it to the river below, to the first section of the rapid. Awesome!
Then the dust, my God, billowing out a cloud that begins to cover the river. That’s when I drop my pack and start running toward it. The cloud grows to cover the entire rapid, top to very bottom. And it grows tall, as tall as the Redwall 1000 feet above me. It lives—the thing is alive!
My heart is pounding. Tom Wise and I are running full tilt down the berm through the Indian ruins to the river bend and an overlook. The cloud is growing bigger the entire time, sucking us in the nearer we get. We’re howling like idiots. Can’t help but howl, howl wild and loud.
And the cloud…starts to move down the river like a bunch of 747s stacked on top of each other. Eighty of them. Taxiing downstream but alive, rolling ever and anon downstream, filling the big eddy below, and covering AzRAs, ours and Western’s camp at the same time. Yes! It’s headin’ downstream, looks like for miles. We’re headin’ up Nankoweap for Kwagunt, looks like for miles.