He said Buckskin Gulch is typically dry, but hikers come across a patch of water or a knee-deep pool occasionally. The days before the three hikers set off had been rainy, adding to a season of wet winter weather that had already spewed runoff into the canyon.
“It was slow going for them,” he said.
The hikers did not get very far that first night, and set up camp, he said. On Saturday morning, he said, they could hear the quickening sound of water.
“Then they got hit with the flash flood,” he said, describing such floods as “horrible, violent events,” with water pushing forward between towering canyon walls.
“You got a five-foot coming at you, and the walls are three feet wide,” he said. “Then you got a wall of water. There is nowhere to go. You go where the water takes you.”
The rushing water had carried the hikers miles downstream, until at some point two of them clambered onto a bank, the official said. The men regrouped before pressing on to search for the missing hiker. One of the men had hurt his leg and said he could not go on, Lieutenant Alldredge said.
“The other one got him situated and left him there to see if he could get help,” the lieutenant said, recounting what the man who had been rescued told the authorities. They were about ten miles into the canyon, he said, and “conditions were so bad. They were cold and beat up.”
On Monday, when the search and rescue helicopter was launched, the rescuers started to spot signs that they were zeroing in on the hikers. Camping debris and a backpack were spotted. Using infrared equipment, rescuers detected a “glimpse of a body” a few miles from where the two had split up, the officer said.