We get our water from Fern Springs, a short five minute walk from the campsite. Since we are here at season’s end, the public campground we walk through to get there is deserted. The quiet of the landscape combined with the knowledge that I am about to get my sustenance from water that springs naturally from the canyon wall feels transcendent. At least once in a lifetime, everyone should have the experience of drinking water that springs from rock naturally; water that has likely been there for thousands of years before seeping out.
Like almost everything in Havasu Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon, this getting of the water feels sacred. The water is high in mineral content and warm as it enters my water bottle, and it is the best water I have ever tasted. I down at least four bottles a day in the dry environment, and the saying ‘manna from heaven’ is an ongoing mantra in my head. Something elemental is changing inside of me and I imagine the water is playing a part.
Fern Springs is no more than a place, a place where the water not captured for drinking falls to a tiny pool below where tadpoles swim happily. The rock is framed with lush green ferns; hence the name. I have been told that the water is as pure as it gets because its source is unreachable by animal or man and is deep in the rock.
When we first arrived at our campsite and were told to hold on to our bottles so we could fill them up at the spring, the source of our hydration was met with great skepticism. “You mean we will be drinking unfiltered water?” “I was always taught to treat any water in the wild.” “Are you sure I won’t get sick?” There is a pipe that extrudes from the wall that provides filtered water for those that insist the pure water cannot be okay. I decide to take my chances and am convinced the water is not only rehydrating my body, but my mind and soul, replacing the parts of me that have shrunk and almost disappeared with lush new life, like the very ferns at the water spring.
None of us have ever been in a place where we felt we could trust untreated water. The water in our homes is even treated. I buy bottled water, and when I hike in the White Mountains, I fill my hydration pack with a mixture of filtered water and Gatorade to mask the plastic taste.
Who can say why this water feels magical? Is it the rarity of the experience or is it the fact that we must walk to get our water and can’t just roll out of bed, wipe the sleep from our eyes and turn on a faucet? Is it the feeling that we are ‘living on the edge’ drinking untreated water? Or is it, as I suspect, truly sacred?
One or two days into my time at Havasu, I realized that every time I walked to Fern Springs, a smile rose to my lips, elation poured into my hiking boots and my step changed. The short daily journey gave expression to the metamorphosis that was happening underneath my skin. I suddenly realized I was happy; really, truly, fully happy, and content and peaceful. These emotions have been a long time coming, and while they were certainly about the place I was in and the journey I was on, they also reflected a much deeper level of change inside me. Almost without knowing it, I was casting off, letting go, and moving on. The release of my burdens was startling; unfamiliar and weightless.
I was a 47 year old woman deep in a canyon far from telephones, no cell phone reception, no laptop, no mail, sleeping on a mat in a tent and instead of feeling my age, I felt like the clock had been turned back and the weariness of life that is at the route of making us feel old was gone. If you had asked me how old I was while I bent over the spring filling my bottle listening to the music of water in the background and surrounded by the musty smell of rock, I would have responded ‘ageless.’ And if you were there with me, you would not have been surprised, but merely nodded your head.