Blustery gusts laced with pelting rain chased me from my basketball-court bedroom in the middle of the night; early morning light confirmed that the day’s weather would be different from “normal.” The La Sal Mountains were covered with a new layer of snow, forty miles away. Up here on the mesa, threatening weather brings lots of things:
- visual entertainment, as the visitor center picture windows look out over a huge canyon panorama
- an ear to the park service radio, as lightning strikes cause fires regularly
- extra warnings for visitors unaccustomed to violent weather
- fabulous smells when rain falls on dry land, sagebrush, etc
- a rare chance to wear one’s ranger jacket
- the beauty of lightning and thunder visible and audible from great distances
- unparalleled lighting for photographs
- freedom from the gnats, at least for one day
- more wildflowers blooming afterward
Everyone looks forward to storms. My sister who lives in the United Arab Emirates once told me that in that country, they get very excited to see even a few clouds in the always-clear sky; it’s not so different up here. The best part was that my shift required me to stand outside the Visitor Center and distribute fifty surveys as folks left the park. While doing so, I witnessed wild and woolly meteorological displays that are a rare treat. Lightning bolts penetrated the blackness to the north and crookedly struck whatever was in their reach. Thunder rumbled and tumbled across the mesas and canyons, rattling my hat and heart. Light and shadows chased each other across the vast expanses open before me, and winds whipped the flag riding the top of the pole. With a drenching sheet of hail that became rain, our temperatures dropped in twenty minutes’ time from 65 to 45 degrees. I stood under the porch canopy and commanded my heart to slow its pace; all the stimulation was almost too much for me.
Too bad my camera was at home!