Hayduke trail day 35: there’s never really not water

April 21
Mileage: 30
514 miles hiked

Sandy wash, jeep road, sandy wash. All of it in the warm still sun amongst the sagebrush, no shade. Smooth slickrock cliffs won’t tell their secrets. Two metal cattle tanks within a mile of each other- at least one is supposed to have water. Instead, they are both dry. What do we do? It’s lunchtime, we’ve hiked twelve miles, carried two liters out of camp. We each have a liter left. I feel roasted from the sun so I sit in the shade of the decrepit cowboy shack at the second tank and watch the ants move around in the sand. It’s 10 miles to our next water source, 10 miles in the heat. After lunch I’ll have half a liter left.

Inside the cowboy shack there’s an ornate wood cookstove and cabinets hang open, spilling out cobwebs and mouseturds. Two mattresses in the other room have been plundered for their filling. A drawer of cutlery, a seventy year old jar of jam. I remember the time I found Track Meat an old silver spoon in an abandoned shack on the CDT, after he lost his. There’s a barrel of trash, more modern pepsi cans and powerade bottles. I pick cobwebs off of a small bottle of water that’s still full and sealed. The label has fallen off. Why do I keep finding these. I guess it’s the desert.

I don’t want to drink this bottle of water that’s been sitting in mouse shit in this shack for eight years, but I pour it into one of my gatorade bottles. Now I have nearly a liter. Onward.

The sand in the wash is deep and bright white. I feel like I’m in the Sahara. But after four miles of slogging we join a good dirt road that we’ll follow all the way to the highway. An hour later Dan calls out to me from the sagebrush at the edge of the road.

“There’s water here!”

Six blue plastic four-gallon water containers have been tucked back into the sagebrush. Five of them are full. Who? Why? How is this magic water here. Dan fills up his bottle and takes a swig.

“How does it taste?” I say.

“It tastes damn good.”

For the rest of the day we follow our dirt road to the highway as the sun does its thing, water happily stashed in our packs. We camp just after dark on a hill above the highway, the cars going by below us. Tomorrow we’ll hitch into Kanab, and attempt to in and out!

Photos on instagram