Day 383 – Caught in a storm

Having missed the hike down to the cave painting yesterday I was hoping to catch the 10am tour this morning, but high winds and a threat of rain cancelled it. Instead, I took in the fabulous museum they have in the park headquarters and got a lot of pictures. Things that stood out to me – camels originated here and made use of the land bridge to get to Asia and the Middle East; the facsimile of the cave paintings are amazing and supposedly rival those in France and Spain; the locals were able to turn a lot of scrubby looking plants into food; and I want to learn more about the Black Seminoles.

I had to get on the road sooner than I wanted because I had to get at least 50 miles closer to Sanderson to pick-up a mail drop by 3 PM tomorrow or I would have to wait until Monday. My plan was to free camp on the side of the road since Dryden didn’t have any lodging. That way it would only be an additional 30 miles tomorrow.


5o miles put me at a roadside picnic shelter. They are every 30 miles or so and mostly used by long haul truckers to take a nap. There was a semi idling there with a load of electrical transformers and he wind blowing through the tie down straps made for interesting harmonics. As I was relaxing I noticed the amazing sunset – a ball of fire suspended below a heavy gray band of clouds. I was so blown away by the spectacle that it didn’t occur to me for a while that it was a massive storm stretching most of the horizon from north to south. I didn’t have cell coverage so I couldn’t find out where the storm was going, but thought it was heading north.

About an hour later I realized that it was gaining strength and coming closer to me.

The shelter was made entirely of metal sunk into concrete with a metal table and benches also firmly anchored into the ground. Would it protect me from the approaching lightening? I know electricity likes metal so it made sense to me that being surrounded by it would be a good thing. Later research proved this to be a flawed assumption. The metal structure needs to be both fully enclosed and fully grounded to offer protection. Open shelters like the one I was under are specifically pointed out to be a big no no.

The reason is – lightening can go through an open space and if it does hit the structure and it’s not properly grounded it can jump out laterally from the structure and into the person or persons within it. Also a ground strike within a 150 feet or so will delivery enough charge to also cause bodily harm. I had on inch thick solid rubber sandals, but those are supposedly not enough to overcome the high power of a lightening strike either.

Check out the video for what I experienced and think twice before being outside during a lightening storm.