Grand Slam West Review – GSW 2015 Part 3
Road to Nowhere
Once the frantic radio checks were done, and everyone knew that everyone else was safe and accounted for, people started to calm down a bit and take a look around them. Despite the fact that it was raining heavily, several of us started to slowly emerge from our Jeeps and scout the area to take stock of the situation; at least I didn’t have to worry about my pants getting wet. As stated in the previous post, the initial report on this wall of water put it at about 3 feet high. By the time it had worked its way through the “S”, and all the boulders and debris already present, making its way past us, it was about 1 and a half feet high, but still packing a wallop. We stood there somewhat dumbfounded as we watched this unfold in front of us. The only flash floods Kevin or I had ever witnessed, were on TV or Youtube; neither of us had seen one forming in real life, it was rather amazing. We watched trees and debris rush past as the rain continued to pour down on us and the thunder was so heavy that it literally shook the ground beneath our feet. Then, slowly, one by one, we came to the realization that the rumbling and shaking we were experiencing was not thunder; under the water, the river was moving boulders!
Well, we were pretty much stuck right where we were; the lead group could continue onwards, and the tail group could turn around and head back, but our fellow “islanders” weren’t going anywhere, and we were not about to abandon them. About our only choice at this point was to wait it out, and as the water level continued to rise, several of us were scanning the hillsides wondering if our rigs could make that climb. The wait ended up being about 3 hrs long, and eventually the water level started to drop, thankfully having never reached the Jeeps. I’d say up to this point we had gotten pretty lucky; the trees and rocks that lined our lower section of road were tangled with fairly recent debris at a level that would have put our Jeeps about 2/3’s underwater. With the rain temporarily stopped, and water levels receding, the CB’s came alive with the discussion of whether to proceed to higher ground, or turn around and go back. I had been completely surrounded by falling and flowing water in some form or another, as well as in some state of very wet for several hours now; I desperately needed to pee. I took a little walk down the road behind the last Jeep to get out of view, coming around a bend to a rather unexpected sight. Where there had once been a road, and I know for a fact there had been a road because we drove in on it, there was now only a fast moving river. The water had undercut the bank and taken the road with it. Unbeknownst to those of us in the tail group, we were also “islanders”. Well, this pretty much ended any discussion of which way we were going as far as I was concerned. There was a brief, very brief, discussion of driving back down the river bed, but it was still flowing pretty heavily, so that idea was thrown out pretty quickly. In the end, most of us decided that even though continuing forward was a much longer route, it was best to keep moving towards higher ground rather than go back downhill where gravity and its liquid ally had probably wreaked far more havoc; not to mention that there were far fewer water crossings ahead of us than behind. The river had done quite a bit of under cutting and excavation of all of it’s surrounding banks, and once the water was low and slow enough to cross, we had to dig out a ramp in the bank to move from one island to the next. Thankfully someone had a shovel. Thankfully 5 people had shovels, because throughout the day, they were all going to be needed. Even though the water was now low and no longer traveling at the speed of light, we took extra precaution in getting through it. Several of us engaged in the highly scientific survey method known as “The stick poke water depth and surface consistency test”, and tow straps were deployed as a safety measure to move our now amphibious vehicles through the mire.
Once we had all of the rigs past the “S”, forward progress was at a fairly slow pace. We came across several places where there had been a road at one point, but now there was only a gutted river bed, what looked like a war zone of scattered debris, and not much indication of where the road was supposed to have been. Scouts were commissioned and sent forth on foot, returning triumphantly to report that they had located where the road started again. The river had mostly drained by this point and we pressed on, having fun plowing through the puddles. Well, I was having fun at least; I was already wet and muddy anyway. After several hours, we finally started to climb out of the canyon to higher ground. We powered up a long, steep, winding road, sometimes at a fairly high rate of speed, and came upon a most amazing scene. Below us was a vast valley, walled on all sides by mountains; the lush green grassy carpet glistened in the direct sunlight that had forced its way through the clouds, as dark sky behind the peaks flashed with lightening from yet another encroaching storm. I don’t think pictures would have done this any justice, it’s one of life’s magic moments you just had to be there to experience yourself. The juxtaposition of this beautiful glowing peace, standing defiantly amidst raging violence (all natural of course) was just amazing. I love that kind of stuff. We headed downhill into the valley along a long straight stretch of road, laughing as we watched every Jeep in front of us hit the same patch of mud and skid sideways. I’m pretty sure most of it was intentional; we did it as well. Ye Ha! and umm, stuff. The line off Jeeps in front us slowed and came to a stop as the road dipped down off the plateau we were on, and just as we pulled up behind the last Jeep, a call came over the CB, “This road is unpassable! It’s 10 times worse than what’s behind us, we have to turn around and go back”.