Magazine article Newsweek

Drowning in the Desert: In the Navajo Country of Northern Arizona, 11 Vacationing Hikers Perish in a Horrifying and Bizarre Moment

Magazine article Newsweek

Drowning in the Desert: In the Navajo Country of Northern Arizona, 11 Vacationing Hikers Perish in a Horrifying and Bizarre Moment

Article excerpt

In the Navajo country of northern Arizona, 11 vacationing hikers perish in a horrifying and bizarre moment

IT IS A STORY OF PARADOX. IN THE northern reaches of Arizona, the endless vistas draw a procession of adventurers. But on this day, a dozen hikers headed to a place where they were cut off from the wide expanse of desert sky above them. Their destination: the lower Antelope Canyon, a bizarre and beautiful maze of sandstone walls that, at points, is some 100 feet deep and so narrow that hikers can touch both of its walls. It is a slit through time and nature, a crack in the earth. And for 11 adventurers, it was also a crypt. In the ultimate contradiction, these desert hikers, with their sunscreen and water bottles, drowned- swamped by a t sunami that moved through the bone-dry canyon.

Here is what happened: 11 hikers entered the canyon; six of them were part of a guided tour led by an outfit called TrekAmerica. Unbeknown to the hikers, a thunderstorm 15 miles away was filling the canyon with hail and rain. In the late afternoon last Tuesday, the floodwaters swelled. The canyon became a gully. When the deluge came within sight, the TrekAmerica guide, Poncho Quintana, told his entourage to huddle together. But before they knew it, the hikers were faced with a torrent of mud, rocks and water. Quintana knew what to do: cover your head, flow with the rapids feet first. What happened next is unclear, but the results are certain. At the weekend, 11 hikers were gone. Eight bodies had been found along with clothing and gear. …

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