“Are you sure?” Phil asked.
“Yeah, Lake Havasu is a big outdoor recreation spot. There’ll be a campsite there. Just look for a sign.”
I think it was around five in the evening, and we were becoming increasingly desperate for a home for the night.
“Oh there!” I said, pointing.
“A camping sign! Take the next left.”
We pulled off the highway and drove down a winding road set in between banks of bare red stone. At the bottom of the slope was a booth. The ranger inside told us that there were plenty of campsites still available for tonight, and took out a map.
“I assume you want to be close to the water,” he said.
“Uh, yeah!” I said. I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure where we were, but I was delighted to hear that there was water that someone might want to be closer to. If nothing else, maybe it would make the breeze cooler.
The ranger circled five or six of what he said were the best available campsites. We drove out through the campground until we found the one closest to the water. It was hot, still in the nineties. I hopped out of the car to make sure nobody else took the site, and Phil drove back up to pay the fee for the site. It was about thirty feet from the beach, and it was an honest to god beach, with a gentle slope and sand and everything. The campsite had a water spigot and electrical, presumably for RVs, but the electrical also had plugs for our electronics. It looked as though we would have shade during sunset and shade in the early morning, and there was plenty of space for both tents. We were at Cattail Cove, on Lake Havasu in Arizona. The water was calm and beautiful, a small portion of what was a very large reservoir, a portion of the Colorado River restrained by the Parker Dam.
Upon Phil’s return, we set up the tents. The weather was beautiful and sunny, and I decided that I would leave the rain fly off the tent. The ranger drove by in his little golf cart, and I waved at him.
“Hey, do you think it’s going to rain tonight?”
“It might, but if it does it’ll blow through in twenty or thirty minutes.”
We made coffee and sat in the heat, figuring out what to do next. It was about a twenty minute drive into Lake Havasu City, and Phil said he’d like to try running into town for supplies.
The ligpht dimmed, and I looked up. Monstrous grey stormclouds had billowed up in the east. I scrambled to get the rain fly over my tent.
Within twenty minutes, the storm had gathered its breath. The sun was starting to set, and winds buffeted the palm trees between us and the shore. The first crack of thunder echoed through the valley.
By the time I got the rain fly on, the storm had spread its great hands over us and had started spitting rain. Lightning flashed to the north, south, and east, with its accompanying thunder. The wind picked up to fifty miles an hour, to the point that I was holding on to the front gable on my tent because I was worried it would escape its stakes and roll into the lake. The setting sun lit the clouds with pinks and reds and oranges; it looked hellish.
Once the wind died down, and I was sure none of my things would blow away, Phil and I decided to head north into Lake Havasu City.
Heading north, we actually caught up with the storm that had just passed us to the east. The rain poured, and though Phil said he could see, I couldn’t understand how. I certainly couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of the car. It was a harrowing twenty minute drive, and though the rain was starting to let up by the time we got into town, there was another problem.
Flooding. Even in the short time that the storm had been raging here, already small streams with new beds of rocks and earth and branches crossed the highway as it entered town. Phil had to ease the Chrysler over a series of these obstacles, but thankfully we found a grocery store right off the main road.
We would see Lake Havasu City tomorrow in all its daylight dreariness. After acquiring provisions, a pizza, some beer, and some more granola bars, we drove back to the campsite. The highway was much less hostile on the way back, the rain had all but stopped. We split a hot pizza and a six pack of beers back at the campsite, and went down to the lake.
Even after dark, the water was as warm as a bath. I waited for Phil to strip, as neither of us had brought bathing suits, and then waded in as far as my shorts would let me. Stars were peeking between the retreating clouds, and all around us, bats skimmed the surface of the lake for insects. Crickets chirped as the land started to drain dry. It was the most beautiful evening swim I had ever seen.