Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wildest descent of my life

You know that crazy thunderstorm that hit the valley this evening? The one that completely obscured the mountains to the east? Well, Kris and I were lucky enough to have the privilege of descending Big Cottonwood Canyon in that monster. It certainly provided an epic finish to Kris' first ride up Big C!

We met at the parking lot at the mouth of the canyon at 5 pm and headed up. The climb was good, extremely hot and humid in the beginning but after the switchbacks it cooled down. The sky was overcast and dark, but since I'd checked doppler radar before leaving work and seen zero activity on the east side I figured we'd be ok. And we were for 13.8 miles until it started raining as we approached Brighton. Luckily the store was open so we parked our bikes under the front entry and went inside to wait out the storm. A Pepsi and cookie later the rain was tapering off and we were feeling good about our chances. We put on our jackets (man were we glad we'd brought them with us!) and headed down. I had assumed, based on past experiences with high mountain storms, that after a mile or so we'd encounter dry roads and warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, in our case the rain only intensified as we descended lower until we found ourselves in the middle of an epic downpour accentuated by some of the loudest thunder I have ever heard. It was so loud that I got to the point where I'd brace myself after each burst of lightening for the bone shaking thunder that would immediately follow. It was seriously crazy but the thought that kept going through my head was that it couldn't be too dangerous since the Tour of Georgia had encountered similar weather in 2005 and the officials allowed the race to continue. What was hard to manage was the rain. It was pounding so hard that at times it was difficult to see. Plus, the road was completely covered with water. In some spots mini rivers full of debris were flowing across the road. I just let the bike keep rolling, braking well in advance of the corners since my stopping power was somewhat limited. I kept thinking that at some point I'd leave the storm behind but it stayed with me right up until I turned into the parking lot. I'm glad Kris was a ways behind me so as not to hear me whooping like a crazy man. Looking back I probably should have been more concerned but for some reason I was grinning like a madman and thoroughly enjoying the ride.

When I returned home my kids told me about the crazy storm with thunder and lightening they had experienced. According to the news, South Jordan received .70 inches of rainfall! My wife told me that the kids were scared and prayed that they would be ok and that I would be safe riding my bike. Never underestimate the power of a child's simple prayer. Maybe that's why I wasn't worried...

It was definitely a descent for the personal record books.

Kris drove a few miles up the canyon afterwards and snapped a few pictures as the weather cleared. Pretty cool shots.



1 comment:

Kris said...

Overall I enjoyed the ride, and that huge thunderstorm made it unforgettable. Usually I love crazy weather, but there was something about this one that spooked me. I felt very exposed as the low clouds launched lightning bolts that kept striking the canyon walls. I tried to tell myself I wouldn't worry if I were driving, but you don't drive on top of your car! I think it was the close call my wife and I had in Brian Head riding the Bunker Creek mountain bike trail along a ridge during a nasty electrical storm that did it. At one point a bolt that hit so close that it was a flash, boom. I nearly fell off my bike and when I finally stopped in a more sheltered area I learned that during that bolt my wife got a shock on her fingertips from the bike's brake levers! That incident scared me a bit and I think it resurfaced today. It's really rare to be hit by lightning, but they pack so much energy they can easily kill and should be respected. So when I got a second offer for a ride after the rain started coming down even harder, I took it and missed the last 4 miles. It was still a good ride and I enjoyed the climb even though I wasn't in the best form today.