regular adventure for my friend Boris and I is to ride our motorcycles
from the Phoenix area up into the Bradshaw Mountains. There are
many trails, jumps, and historic ruins along the way and we like
to explore as much as possible. During the summer months the temperatures
can easily reach 115 degrees in Phoenix and still only be about
80 in Crown King. Although our rides start out being very hot, by
the time we reach the Bradshaw's, the weather is usually very pleasant.
expecting this day to be the same as any other, we left around 2
P.M. and explored along the way. There were a few wispy clouds and
some small cumulus here and there as is common in the summer months
in Arizona so we didn't think anything about the weather. We had
an ulterior motive on this day as we were not only riding to Crown
King for fun but we were also investigating some property just above
the town. After a fun and uneventful ride, we made it to the Crown
King General Store by about 4 P.M.
for a short break before heading to the property, we noticed the
clouds were moving quite rapidly in the sky. There was even the
hint of a rain drop although we quickly brushed off the idea. After
all, it was a hot summer day in Arizona. It took about 30 minutes
to reach the property which was at an elevation of about 6250 feet.
The owners were there when we arrived and were helpful in filling
us in on the information we needed. This particular cabin had 3
large decks, one of which was directly in front of the structure.
Although we were close to the peak of one of the mountains immediately
west of Crown King, we were not quite at the top. Easily visible
just to the north of us was a long ridge just a few hundred feet
higher in elevation then we were.
trees were slowly dancing in the wind as we stood on the deck and
talked with the owners. It was still a balmy 80 degrees out and
the weather couldn't have been any nicer. Then, it happened. All
of the pine trees ahead of us in the small valley all stopped at
once and there was an eerie dead silence. This immediate caught
our attention and we all turned to look toward the tree tops and
the aforementioned ridge. It sure seemed odd that everything became
so still so suddenly. Then we heard a noise similar to an approaching
train, slowly getting louder and louder. We all were looking intently
to try and find the source of the noise. Just then we saw the pine
trees at the edge of the ridge start to bend over. Slowly but surely
the bending pine trees moved our way like an army of advancing soldiers.
There was a definitive moving line in the trees as the "front"
made its way across the small valley. The sound was still getting
louder and by now we realized it was the wind that was causing both
the noise and the pine trees to move. Uncannily, we were still in
complete calm, but not for long.
a minute after this whole fiasco started, the wind hit us nearly
knocking us off the deck. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement
on the ridge. We all turned to look and saw clouds pouring over
the tree tops like water flowing over a waterfall. Instantly it
started to sprinkle and we could hear thunder rolling and getting
louder as this unexpected storm was moving toward us. Boris and
I, only having our motorcycles and no jackets or water protection,
bid our hosts goodbye and made a beeline for the bikes. We thought
we would get off the mountain before the storm really hit. Only
30 seconds or so had passed in getting to the bikes, but by now
it had started to pour. We started down the trail but realized there
was no way in the terrible wind and rain we were going to get off
the mountain ahead of the storm.
friends of ours had a cabin about a mile up the road and we decided
it was our only option to try and make it there. The wind was blowing
us from one side of the dirt road to the other. The rain felt like
we were being shot repeatedly with a BB gun. Then the lightning
started to become visible over the ridge. At this elevation, we
were not thousands of feet underneath the storm as was the case
back home in Phoenix. In the mountains, we were high enough in elevation
that we were actually inside the thunderstorm!
now about 8 P.M. and completely dark out. After a grueling ride
that seemed like hours but was in reality only a few minutes, we
made it our friends place and headed for the door. To our advantage,
they were there and were kind enough to let our muddy rain soaked
bodies inside. It was a good thing because as soon as we entered
the door, lightning started hitting all around the area.
back of the house was a large arcadia door that looked out onto
a deck overlooking the town of Crown King. We all huddled around
this door watching the amazing lightning display. Being inside the
storm, the lightning and thunder were almost simultaneous. Thunder
rocked the cabin and shook the ground. We watched as lightning hit
trees and other things in the area. Then we saw the most spectacular
bolt of lightning we had ever seen. A large bolt flashed across
the sky horizontally right in front of our eyes. It flickered about
5 times and then, rather than disappearing like most lightning bolts,
it broke apart into a dozen small balls and dripped toward the ground
like white hot rain. What we wouldn't give to have taken a picture
of that. The thunder from this bolt almost broke the window.
the power was still on up to this point. Unfortunately, someone
had to remark about it still being on. Murphy's law is in charge
of these kinds of things so you can guess what happened. As soon
as they finished their sentence about the power still being on,
everything went dead. For the next two hours we watched the lightning
display and marveled at the amount of rain that was falling. The
temperature had dropped into the 50's and it seemed there was no
way Boris and I were going to get back to Phoenix on the motorcycles
that night. Finally, about 10:30 P.M. the rain had slowed to a minimum
amount and the lightning had for the most part moved on.
were kind enough to loan us jackets and we started back on the wet
muddy trail home. We had 31 miles on a dirt road to go and nearly
4000 feet in elevation to drop just to get to the freeway that would
take us back to Phoenix. What had been an intensely hot summer afternoon
in Phoenix was now a chilly winteresque night in the mountains.
We rode down slowly in the rain and mud with lightning still occasionally
flashing around us. Upon reaching the bottom of the mountain we
came across numerous stuck vehicles. One suburban had been apparently
trying to cross a wash during the worst part of the storm and a
flash flood came down off the mountain sweeping it away. When we
found it, the entire rear end was buried in mud. Only the nose was
sticking out pointing up into the sky. We searched for survivors
but found none. We could only assume they made it out and walked
to safety. All throughout the lower desert region were washes that
had cut our road to pieces making the going slow and difficult.
midnight we finally reached Phoenix and were happy to have made
it through another adventure. Seeing that crazy bolt of lighting
drip away almost made it all worth it. Now, when other riders tell
us we are crazy for carrying jackets around in our trail pouces
in the middle of the summer in Arizona, we just laugh. If they rode
as much as we do, they would carry them too!