Perhaps we should have reconsidered when the road we were planning to drive to camp, South Willow Canyon, was partially blocked by a mudslide. But no. Nothing if not intrepid, we headed up a side road and proceeded to camp at a spot higher on the ridge (at about 7000 feet) rather than in the valley. It was a nice little spot with views and flat ground, not to mention ready access to pit toilets (wahoo!). And it was even dry until the sun went down, giving us time to set up the tent, cook dinner, take a walk up the road past the mudslide, and roast marshmellows for smores over a warm campfire. Usually, as long as you can do that last one, camping works for kids no matter what else happens.
But then it came.
First was the pitch darkness, followed by wind gusting hard enough to toy with any tent not guyed by a true boy scout (I, a mere tenderfoot, do not qualify). Soon thereafter came raindrops the size of small tangerines. Seriously. I have never been tent-camping in a rain this hard. It was like one of those storms in the south or east, pounding like a Japanese drum troop, where it feels like heaven has turned on the big fire hose in the sky (say, the one that keeps the very fires of hell at bay) and pointed it straight down at you. Have you ever been inside a tent in a storm like that? Loud. Really loud. Loud enough to send a two year old and four year old scrambling into mom and dad's sleeping bag in a blur.
But that was only the beginning, because in the dark of night, the thunder and lightning started, in earnest, and CLOSE. You know how they tell you to count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three . . ." etc. between the flash of flight and the thunder to see how far away it is? Well, at least a dozen times I got to "w" before the thunder drowned me out.
And then, our tent blew in.
Lucky for us Uncle Salty Pants, Eagle Scout extraordinaire and former scoutmaster, flew into action before I could even get both feet down one pant-leg. There he was, abandoning the cozy comfort of his own pop-up trailer, goretexed head to foot, tying knots and pounding stakes like a fury unleashed. After mere minutes, hurricane Rita couldn't have touched us.
While that kept us safe from wind and tangerines.H2O, there was nothing even Uncle Salty Pants could do about the lightning and thunder. With only thin nylon walls to block things out, we went from pitch black to blinding light and back to black in a split second, over and over again. Disorienting at best; disconcerting every time. Thunder always followed, usually before the counting could begin, as nearby oxygen and nitrogen atoms repeatedly exploded outward, singed and screaming for their lives.
All this did not make for happy boys. Keegan crawled to the very bottom of his mom's sleeping bag, and there, just before midnight, finally fell asleep. Alden, who really wanted to sleep, continued to toss and turn at my side. Finally, in the way only a little boy could, he turned to me and asked, "Dad, can we sleep in thunder?" As in, 'is it even possible?' 'Is there some trick to this I don't know yet?' He just melts me at times.
Innocence has its benefits. A simple "yes we can, son," and he was asleep five minutes later. (The same cannot be said for his father.) Nerves notwithstanding, we managed to weather the night, and morning presented only intermittent light drizzles. We even got in a very short hike after breakfast, and I took a few pictures. The first is Uncle Salty Pants himself, surrounded by the kids, on top of a rock with Deseret Peak in the background.
This was basically the view from our campsite, looking east to the Oquirrh Mountains. And below is Kate, scrambling up another nearby rock, with the rest of the muddy-footed troop in tow.