August 18, 2008

Hiking In A Lightning Storm

Why It’s Not A Good idea

This weekend was another adventure out in the wilderness. I did some hiking in Sedona, Arizona and almost got struck by a massive bolt of lightning. It was pretty intense, but luckily I got some pretty cool pictures of the whole thing.

I’d like to start this story from the end with this picture I snapped of a lightning bolt at the bottom of the hike:

Bolt of Lightning Near Sedona

That’s Not Good

I am no expert on weather, but I am smart enough to know that lightning and thunder at relatively the exact same time means get out of dodge. Especially when you are standing on a rock in the middle of the desert. I found this paragraph explaining the risks over at InteliHealth:

“For example, if you are caught in a lightning storm while outside in an open space, especially at an elevation (for instance, while hiking on a mountain trail), your risk is considerably higher than the estimated overall risk of one in 600,000. (That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; other estimates vary from one in 10,000 to one in 5,000,000.)”

So apparently hiking on a mountain trail can significantly raise your chances of getting struck by lightning. The crazy thing was the fact that after we made it safely to the car, we noticed another group of people still near the top of Bear Mountain. Right after we saw them, we saw a lightning bolt actually strike the mountain between the people and our car. It was literally less than a thousand feet away.

We figured it would be a good idea to call the ranger station and let them know that there were still people at the top of Bear Mountain when the storm hit. Unfortunately the ranger station was closed and had a message machine with another number to call. So we called the other number and informed them that the lightning struck right next to the people and we could no longer see them. Our guess was they ran for cover somewhere after seeing the burst of lightning.

The Bear Mountain Trail

Anyways, the hike I did (attempted) was the Bear Mountain Trail, which is 2.8 miles one way with an increase in elevation around 1,800 feet. The hike was very steep, but provided some awesome views from start to finish. Along the trail, I managed to see a Jackrabbit, 1,300 June bugs, and some pretty cool caves. Here are some more pictures I got along the way:

View from Bear Mountain

View From Cave On Bear Mountain

If you would like to see the rest of my pictures from the trip, check them out over at my Flickr page.


As you can see, it is pretty amazing to see the surrounding areas from up top of Bear Mountain. It reminds you how beautiful Arizona can be, in good weather and bad. The hike is well woth the work, as long as it isn’t in a lightning storm. Luckily, I am still alive and sitting in my cubicle recapping the whole experience.

11 thoughts on “Hiking In A Lightning Storm

  1. Marc

    hey Justin:

    You’re right, hiking in a storm is a bad idea… coool, but bad 🙂 When I was a kid I used to stick my head out of my bedroom window everytime there was a storm, just to watch the lightning. If I recall this correctly, the rough math is for every second between the strike and the sound, there is about one mile. So if you see a strike, and count 5 seconds, it was 5 miles away. to see and hear the lightning at the same time means that it was within a half mile of your location. Too close for comfort.

    Glad nobody got hit…

    Cheers, Marc

    Marcs latest blog post..Chess Lessons For Business

  2. sugitha

    yesterday I had the same experience, myself and my friend went to railway station that time the whether was so cool, we enjoyed that with in five minutes rain was started drop by drop then it becomes high level, daily we went to railway station by walk or bus, yesterday there was no buses, no autos also, then we planned to walk, but we had only one umbrella , finally we went by walk with the help of one umbrella there was full of lightning, we enjoyed that. Travel Guide

    sugithas latest blog post..Travel With Kids Hawaii The Island Of Oahu

  3. Julie in Tenerife

    Ha. Reminds me of the time I forgot to check weather before I went camping on a deserted beach in Hong Kong and ended up soaked in a torrential deluge. The guy I was with and I had a fight because he wouldn’t let me bring my dog (GSD) in out of the wet to mess up his swanky tent. I had to tell him to get stuffed and walk through the dark in the pouring rain with my dog to find shelter. Finally a group of boy scouts took pity on us and gave me a campbed. They let the dog sleep underneath. 😉

    Thanks for the memories and keep up the good work on your blog. It’s great reading.

    Julie in Tenerifes latest blog post..Bye Bye Boring Beigeness

  4. Tuscon AZ

    Great shot of that lighting bolt. I love getting those shots although normally from a safer area. Bear Mountain trail is pretty solid, I try to might it out there once a year.

    I got caught in a similar strom the last time out in Wilson Canyon. I was glad to be in the canyon and not on the peak trail, but we had to keep an eye out for any flash flooding as well. I guess it’s best to just not hike if weather is possible.

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  6. Cole of Arizona Insurance

    That lightning can be pretty crazy. I remember coming very close to being struck one time playing basketball. I dont remember any close calls as of yet from hiking. By the way, that bear canyon cave picture is pretty cool. It’s neat how caves can kind of take the shape of a human with this one appearing like a person with their mouth open. (right side of cave)

  7. Steve Evans

    That is one cool shot of the lightning. did you just shoot when you saw the lightning start? I reckon 9 times out of 10 you’d take the shot and not catch the lightning at all.

    This place looks like classic Arizona. I’m not sure why, but now where on earth looks quite like it for me. Really nice post. Thanks.

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