Posted by Jess & Drew, from events beginning 20 July 09:
It started as any other night in Rio Mesquites, the air was warm, but the setting sun and the persistent wind would soon mean cooler conditions. Around 17:00, I noticed lightning strikes in the horizon, beyond Sierra Madre. Fortunately, the strikes were behind the mountains… so far away we couldn’t even hear the thunder. Drew and I stayed up and watched for awhile; around us, the winds steadily started to pick up strength. We decided to pack our equipment into the Renault, lest something should decide to blow away in the middle of the night.
Then, the sand began to blow. Marcia’s and John’s warnings about monsoon storms were beginning to ring louder in my ears. As our faces were pelted with tiny specs, we decided that maybe we’d throw our backpacks of clothes in the car, too. And, before Marcellus, the night guard of Rio Mesquites locked us in, we’d move the car to the other side of the fence. Those tasks complete, we were left with only one choice: use our body weight to make sure the tents didn’t blow away. Lying inside, we quickly became cocooned in a sea of canvas. Shouting between the tents, we decided it might not be the best idea to stick around. When one of the tent poles snapped, we booked. Grabbing our sleeping bags, pads, and pillows, we raced for the car and hoped the tent stakes and knots were strong enough to keep the tents grounded (even if they were no longer in one piece).
By the time we reached the car, we were both covered with the sands of Cuatro Cienegas. But at least the wind wasn’t blowing inside. Despite several complete white out incidences, the Renault safely navigated the dirt tracks to the highway (an elevated track that runs East-West through the valley). Throwing away all Arizona-commonsense, we drove through the sandstorm and heavy crosswinds to arrive to the town of Cuatro Cienegas – where dogs were laying in the sidewalk and kids were playing in the street, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. We spent the night in the cabins, and waited until the morning to return to the campsite.
The next morning, the sky was clear and the roads were once again black with bright white and yellow lane markings. When we arrived at back at Rio Mesquites, we found our tents tethered to the ground, albeit filled with enough sand to build a sand castle or two. Like candles in the dark, they beckoned us to stay and continue camping for the rest of our visit. And, with a splint, rope, and duct tape, the broken pole was repaired.
(Note – safely incubated in the river, the stromatolites faired the storm without incident. But, if another occurs, it will likely be the doom of Jess’s tent).