Bryce Canyon, known worldwide as a geological force of nature, is a completely unique western location, with spires and hoodoos tainted bronze reaching towards the sky and stars. It attracts around 1.75 million visitors a year, many of them hiking through the canyon, seeing the natural sights, and not having dangerous, near death experiences. Obviously, my family had to be as unique as the worn, red rock surrounding us and break one of those norms. During our four hour hike through the bottom of the canyon, we had a near death experience.
We began the day by getting to the park later than we should have, while dark thunderclouds adorned the far reaches of the sky. Park Rangers in the area all said that the storm would not be coming in until the next day, so we began our hike. The march down to the bottom of the canyon was spectacular, with a million sights to see. It was a bit steep, made easier by switchback trails, but we began to feel the strains of a long hike within the first hour.
Sometime within the second hour of our hike, the thunderclouds that we had noticed earlier in the morning blew over the canyon and began to release what they held inside. I don’t remember how it started, but I remember the world suddenly becoming dark, with buckets of rain falling down upon the few of us in the canyon. We were determined to carry on, but once we heard thunder and saw the great flashes of lightning, we knew that we had to take shelter.
The Park Rangers would have been proud of us. Due to the many lectures that we had heard before our hike, my whole family knew to find an overhanging rock and stay under it until the lightning had passed. There’s a saying that being hit by lightning has almost the same probability as winning the lottery, but trees and other common things found at the bottom of a canyon are often hit by the strikes. None of us wanted to be next to the tree when it became a lightning rod. Another, more prominent danger was the risk of flash floods. Common during the rainstorm season and deadly to all it crossed paths with, we were in the direct pathway where a flood could come rushing down.
After being holed up for a bit of time, the thunder and lightning seemed less common, so we decided it would be safe to venture out and finish the hike. It was still raining, and we became soaked within minutes. With every occasional crash of lightning, we would shudder. The red sand turned to mud and stuck to our boots so that every few steps we had to scrape the muck onto a log. The rainwater on the ground had taken on an opaque, orange color and ran in rivers along the sides of the trail. My family became more exhausted with every step.
Then we reached the last portion of the trail which merged with a section that we had hiked a few days before. Switchback trails ran back and forth in order to exit the canyon, and to us it looked like a mile high. The water still ran in torrents, the mud still clung to our boots and legs, and we were still soaked through our clothing. That was likely the most dangerous part, as we ascended the slippery, wet trails coming out of the drenched canyon, the prospect of falling into the canyon very real. But I’m proud to say that we did make it out of that canyon, and one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done is look backwards at Bryce Canyon once we reached the end of the hike and know that I conquered it.
Though that was certainly a terrifying experience at the time, it’s amazing to look back and remember those moments. It’s a memory full of adventure and laughs now that it’s over, as well as awe of nature and of the canyon that we had become stuck in. I tell all my friends to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, or at least to travel, because while they might not have a near death experience like my family did, they will certainly find adventure.