Backpacking is the perfect recipe for misery: the majority of the trip you’re tired, sore, hungry and thirsty. Not only are you hiking long distances, day after day, over varying terrain, you’re doing it all with a 20 to 30 pound monkey on your back. Why would anybody put their bodies through such a wringer, on vacation, no less? Because despite all the aches, pains and annoyances, backpacking can take you some totally awesome places, places that aren’t reachable by any other means except your own two feet. Like Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness!
A few weeks ago my trusty adventure pal Drew and I spent 4 days hiking a 42 mile loop down Woodenshoe Canyon to Dark Canyon and out Peavine Canyon. We saw two people the first day and none the rest. The only signs of humanity were three Anasazi ruins, some pottery and a set of barefoot human footprints that we followed for more than 20 miles.
For the first 12 miles in Woodenshoe, we were flush with water, the deep canyon fed by the fast-melting snow drifts we has driven past up on the canyon rim. As we hiked down canyon, springs appeared in rocky basins and disappeared under gravel. We drank our fill of water and pumped more with my mechanical filter; further treating the clear, cold water with Aqua Mira chlorine drops. Better safe than sorry! But as the canyon opened up, nearing the confluence with Dark Canyon, we didn’t top off our reservoirs, and when we hit the main canyon, we were two liters shy of our full capacity of 8.5 liters. Oops.
Day three was thirsty; Dark Canyon was bone dry. By the time we found water – a night and 12 miles after our last Woodenshoe source – we were down to a swig. The little creek was Salvation Water. Hallelujah! I nearly dropped to my knees and guzzled it raw. It was sparkling, clean enough to host several huge toads. We sat by that water for several hours, splashing our dusty faces and guzzling liters of lemonade-flavored toad water as fast as we could pump it and treat it. There’s no thirst like desert thirst; no water like Salvation Water!