If the sky could have opened up and dumped as much rain as possible on the Gila last night, it did. The torrential downpour and high winds had us all in our tents checking for leaks and worrying that we didn’t pull the boats up high enough on the beach. Flooding! Would we wash away? Would our boats be gone in the morning? If you had looked carefully at the bench where we set up camp, you could see that sometimes the water gets high enough to flood the whole flat we were on. Would that be tonight?
Kirks’ story of getting caught in a historical flood was seared into our brains as we listened to the rain dump and dump and dump.
Then, it stopped.
Suddenly there was no more rain, no more wind…just an erie silence in the middle of the night. Ok sleep, now I guess is the time.
The night was quiet, the early morning was quiet, and just about the time I thought about getting up it started to rain again. Really?!?!
I got out of the tent to have a look around, someone had gotten up in the night and pulled the boats up higher. I checked the stick, and to my surprise saw the water had only risen about an inch. Note: a great way to gauge water levels is to push a stick into the ground at the point where the water meets the shore. Later you can use the stick as a reference point to see if the water has gone up or down in level since your arrival.
No way all that rain fell and the water only rose an inch! One possibility was snow…we had heard that this weather in the higher elevations might be falling as snow. Regardless of the reason, we hadn’t floated away, we hadn’t lost the boats. We were still here, and it was still raining.
In fact, it was raining hard again.
I returned to the tent and made coffee from inside, trying not to burn the vestibule of the tent as I fired up the stove just outside the door. I got a new weather report from the InReach to find out what I could already see: rain. BUT the chances dropped by about 10am, lower by noon, and by 2pm there was a sun icon. YES!
But now it was pouring.
Kirk and I started to pack up what we could inside the tent, and then we put on all of our boating gear: dry pants and top, and started putzing around outside the tent. I sat under a tree in full gear, watching and waiting. No one else had emerged.
Finally about 10am I could see some blue sucker holes opening up in the clouds above. Blue sky never looked so good! Slowly some folks started to leave their shelters, and more and more blue appeared overhead. WOOOhooo!
We all shared stories of our panic at floating away during the night.
When enough of the sky had cleared, folks started packing up.
We launch for the final day of paddling just shy of noon; we had definitely made the right call to wait out the rain, for the sun came back, and with it warmth and spring.
The trees were practically blossoming before our eyes, the fragrance hung in the air.
We had a fun little rapid that some folks decided to run, others portaged.
By day 5 we were all paddling much more in sync. In fact, we looked like a line of ducklings following Kirk down the river.
The nine miles passed fairly quickly, and we enjoyed the freshly washed canyon walls.
By mid afternoon the river corridor had flattened out, and we could see that we were leaving the mountains behind.
A river gauge marked our progress, two more miles to where our cars should have been parked at the take out.
Then, the cars.
By this point it was warm and sunny, it was a beautiful day.
We opened beers, toasted to a fabulous river trip, packed up the cars, and went to find out what had happened to the world.