Flushed Out

Senior escapes flash flood during trip to Philmont Scout Ranch


Jacob Deighton

Senior Zach Yahl reflects on his experience at Philmont.

Mario Ghazal, Staff Writer

Senior Zach Yahl wakes up in the middle of the night to water pooling on the ground with the sound of rain pounding his tent and lightning flashing around him. He hears the shout, “Flash flood! Flash flood!”

“It was one of the scariest moments in my entire life,” Yahl said.

Philmont Scout Ranch, located in New Mexico, only has a flood of this intensity every 100 years. Yahl and his crew were nearly swept away by a sudden torrent of water in the normally arid prairie.

“We had no idea what was going on,” Yahl said, “We were just shocked and surprised.”

Without any time to think, Yahl’s crew had to make sure none of their unit could be washed away. He turned back to find two of his friends stumbling out of their tent being washed away by the rushing water.

“A lot of it was just action,” Yahl said. “I was wondering whether we would be able to find safety.””

Their next step was to get out of the canyon and reach higher ground. They climbed a hill so steep, Yahl could reach out in front of him and touch the muddy ground rising up to his height.

“We’re climbing up this hill, half of us barefoot without any traction to get up the hill.” Yahl said, “We don’t want to climb up this hill, but we have to, for our own safety.”

Zach’s crew eventually managed to find some higher ground, and after throwing a rain tarp above their heads, the group assessed the damage that they accumulated.

“Half of us had no shoes or socks on or jackets,” Yahl said. “None of us had our rain gear on. A friend of mine had so much adrenaline that he didn’t notice he was cold and ended up getting hypothermia.”

Despite the damage, Zach’s crew was still in high spirits in the morning after the flood, until some bad news arrived.

“We were joking about how we survived the flood,” Yahl said, “that is until we heard that one kid died.”

13-year-old Alden Brock of Sacramento, California was swept away and killed by the flood elsewhere on the ranch.

“Realizing that someone died in the flood helps me to recognize how important life is,” Yahl said, “and how important our relationships with other people are because we might not have them tomorrow.”

Yahl expects to receive the Eagle Scout rank before the end of the year. He considers his experience at the ranch as a stepping stone that has led up to this award.

“I’ll be proud of myself,” Yahl said, “as it was a lot of work and effort to get the award.”