I had some pretty exciting times camping around in Arizona, but there was one night in particular that stands out as probably the most exciting night I’ve ever had in a tent. (Even though, when I go camping, it’s pretty much always intense*.)
Sunset in the Superstitions.
I was camping with a friend in the Superstition Mountains (northeast of Phoenix). As we were setting up camp, we both eyed a dark storm front to the east uneasily. It crackled with lightning on the horizon, rumbling in the distance and we murmured back and forth about our confidence (or lack thereof) in the rain fly of our cheap tent. But as we ate dinner by headlamp, the storm moved around the backside of the mountain and trundled off to the south and we headed to bed confident that it had passed us by.
I caught a (very bad) photo of lightning! This is the storm that went behind the mountain.
We were so confident, in fact, that we left the rain fly completely off the tent, the top half of which was nothing more than mesh (it was very, very, very hot and we desperately needed the air flow).
But alas, our confidence was misplaced. Around midnight, we both woke to howling winds. The tiny tent was shaking, tent poles bowing and snapping in the wind. My friend quickly rolled out of the tent to weigh it down with rocks, and we hastily pulled the rain fly over the mesh top.
Then we waited in awed silence, sitting in the tent and watching it dance in the roaring winds. We had prepared just in time, as the rains soon came crashing down and thunder and lightning crackled around us.
Let me tell you now, sitting in comparative safety wherever you are, you never quite feel as exposed as when you are in a tiny, 20$ tent in the middle of open desert, in the middle of a monsoon lightning storm. (This was also shortly after I had been struck by lightning and the memory was fresh.)
The storm lasted for three hours…lightning flashed so brightly, directly overhead, that even through the tent and our closed eyelids, it blinded us. The thunder rumbled so loudly that it made my ears ring. And the whole time, the tent shuddered and twisted and shook with the winds. Every time the wind blew, the rain fly flapped up and we were doused with a splash of rain, like a wave washing onto the deck of a ship on the ocean.
Finally, around 3 am, the storm began to die down. The torrential rains turned to a soft pattering, and then tapered off. I breathed a sigh of relief, and I wasn’t alone. As soon as the storm eased off, coyotes began howling, as if in celebration, all around the tent. We were completely surrounded on all sides by the howling, and it felt like I could have reached through the tent to touch one near my head. I suspected that, if the rain fly had been off, we would have been able to see them all around in the diffuse moonlight, and the flashes of lightning from the now retreating storm.
*Pun intended MUA AHAHAHAHAHA**
**Get it?!?! In … tents?! Intense!