“Dad, there’s a patrol boat in back of us,” Bob shouted over the noise of their inboard-outboard. “The ranger is signaling.”
Mr. Richards, intent on steering the boat through the choppy waters of Lake Powell, sighted the patrol boat through the thick plastic window. It pulled alongside.
“There’s a storm expected soon,” the ranger announced through the sound system on his boat. “Strong fifty-mile-an-hour winds and rain. No boats will be allowed on the lake. You’d better pull into Bullfrog Marina just ahead and wait it out.”
“Our food and gear are at our camp in Lost Eden Canyon. Can we make it there before the storm hits?”
“If you hurry. Then hole up until it’s over.”
Mr. Richards waved his thanks, turned the boat around, and headed in a northeasterly direction toward Lost Eden.
Bob’s face looked like a crumpled paper bag. “No water skiing today.”
Mrs. Richards looked at the heavy clouds, which had suddenly turned the day into evening. “I hope the storm doesn’t last all weekend. We’ve planned so long for this vacation.”
Just then the boat slapped down on a swell.
Mr. Richards frowned. “Check your life jackets, everyone. Be sure they’re securely fastened.”
Five-year-old Christian began to cry. “I’m scared!”
Merilee pulled him against her on the seat. “Don’t cry, Chris. It’s really exciting. We’ll be all right.”
Bob peered out the front window at the huge red rocks that lined the lake. Some were smooth and rounded; others towered into the sky as if a giant knife had chopped off a chunk. Some of the pinnacles had fantastic shapes and patterns carved by the wind and sand and water.
“I’m glad we have a top on our boat,” Christian said nervously, as the boat hammered down on a swell and sent a spray of water against the windshield.
“I am too,” Bob answered.
Mr. Richards glanced at the threatening sky. “We may not be able to have a fire when we get to our camp, but we do have warm clothing and sleeping bags and plenty of food. We’ll manage.”
Before long Mr. Richards turned the boat between two steep red rock cliffs into a small side canyon where the water was less choppy. Slowing the motor, he steered carefully around the dead branches of some partially submerged trees.
“I see our camp,” Christian shouted, as he untied his life jacket. “We made it!”
Bob unzipped the canvas top. Clutching the mooring rope in one hand, he crawled out on the bow of the boat. When it gently kissed the bank, he jumped out and tied the rope securely to a tree stump. Bob wished he felt as relieved as Christian seemed to feel. The wind was rising. It moaned down the canyon and flattened the sagebrush against the red sand. He squinted to keep the gritty particles out of his eyes.
A clap of thunder cut through the canyon as the family climbed out of the boat. The sound of thunder echoed against the cliffs until it was swallowed by the wind.
“Bob, see that driftwood stump?” Father pointed ahead. “Tie our boat to it, fore and aft.”
Bob pulled the mooring rope taut around the smooth wood, which was bleached white from the sun and water. Everything else around him seemed to be red. He squinted as the wind whipped the cinnamon sand into swirls that powdered their sleeping bags and dusted the boxes of food that were piled together on the shore. Then a few raindrops freckled the sand.
“At least we were able to get off the lake before the storm hit!” Merilee exclaimed.
“Yes,” Bob nodded, “but what happens now?”
He finished tying the rope and fastened the cover on the boat.
“We could build a shelter of some sort, but there are no trees,” Bob said as he looked around. “Wait a minute! What about climbing up under that huge overhang of rock there on the cliff?”
Merilee glanced up quickly. “It looks like a big open cave. We wouldn’t get wet under there.”
Bob called to his father. “Dad, how about taking our gear up under the overhang?”
“I was wondering about that too, but it must be seventy-five or a hundred feet up.”
“We can do it,” Bob urged.
“Let’s!” Christian shouted, as he grabbed his sleeping bag and ran over the sand toward the towering cliff.
The cave had been formed by rocks, large and small, breaking away from the underside of the cliff. The opening was strewn with rocks like a huge lumpy waterfall.
“I can’t tell whether there is a flat place at the top or not,” called Mr. Richards. “And we may have to spend the night. Let’s go. Each one take all he can carry. Hurry, it’s beginning to rain.”
Christian was already on the rocks, pulling himself up with one hand while he dragged his sleeping bag with the other.
Mrs. Richards took a box of food. “Bob, bring some driftwood for a fire. There’s a chill in the air.”
Packing their gear up over the rocks was no easy task. Some rocks were anchored, but others gave way when a hand reached for support.
By now the rain was falling steadily. “It’s a real cloudburst,” Mrs. Richards observed. “I do hope there is enough space at the top for our sleeping bags.”
When they were almost to the top, Bob shouted, “Look in back of you!”
Turning, they saw a cascade of water falling from the edge of the overhanging rock above them to the sandy beach, one hundred feet below.
“It’s like being behind a waterfall,” Merilee laughed.
“Or a silvery curtain of water,” her mother added. “When it rains down here, most of the water can’t seep into the rocks, so it just runs off.”
“It’s a good thing we decided to come up here,” Mr. Richards said. “Now if there is just enough room for sleeping and perhaps a fire …”
“There is enough room for sleeping, if we clear a few rocks,” Bob called to them. “It’s flat and sandy. We could live up here for a week.”
The last few feet of the climb seemed easy after that. Mr. Richards built a fire, and Mrs. Richards put on a kettle of chili. Bob built a low wall of stacked rocks around his sleeping bag. “Just like the Indians used to do,” he chuckled.
As the family sat around the fire, watching the rain and waiting for the chili to heat, they felt a sense of relief. The cave was warm and secure. The danger was over.
Bob grinned. “This has been some storm. We could write a book!”