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Finding water in the desert

In the canyon, life is abundant. Juniper, sagebrush, crows, pinyon and lizards thrive. The rock walls are covered in green, and the sun shines more than 12 hours a day. But what is not present is a river, or streams, or any reliable year-round water source.

There has been no rain for 3 weeks. On the day we set out, the sky is cloudless and blue. Descending into Bullet Canyon, we scramble down rocks carved by the flow of water over thousands of years. But we see no pools that first day.

We get a water report from the rangers about the springs which are often present. We pass other hikers, trading tales of our finds. Cottonwoods tell us that their life source is nearby; green reeds are a hint to what may lie ahead. Mineral deposits on the rocks clue us in to a possible pool. We are constantly reminded that we are just like everyone else here: arriving at Coyote Canyon, we see the deer have been here too. Their little footprints dot the sand at the water’s edge.

We are yet another species in this ecosystem, and all of us need water to survive. Water is precious, and it is life.

We left on our trek carrying 50 extra liters of water – enough for two days. As we walked, water was always on our minds: how much we had, how long it would last, how much we drank and needed to drink. In the desert water is everything, and it is scarce. It forces us to observe and learn from the earth and the life around us. It connects us to the land, and shows us that its gifts are not to be taken for granted.