Canyoneering for Treasure in the Salome Jug

In the book Eiger Dreams one of my most favorite authors Jon Krakauer had this to say about the Salome Jug:

 

Salome Jug ran for just a half mile from end to end, but what it lacked in scope was more than made up for by the intimacy and intensity of it’s wildness.  The canyon was an utterly spellbinding slice of earth, like no place I’d ever seen: The creek burbled by in a chain of long, skinny pools-tinted in an astonishing shade of emerald by dissolved minerals-linked by a series of cascades ranging in height from mere inches to more than seventy feet; above this tableau shot walls of rose colored granite sculpted into striking curves and sensuous angles, and polished smooth as a bowling ball.

 

I have read every word that man has written.  When I came across the section of this book where he visited my beloved home state I felt an intimate connection, I was delighted to read the beautiful words he used to describe the desert I call home.  I needed to add this canyon to my list immediately.

This canyon is one that you must have technical canyoneering skills to attempt.  Once you enter the slot canyon you are committed.  There is no going back.  When a very worthy outdoorsman with equipment and rope skills approached me to join in with a group those words I memorized began to swirl through my mind as I pictured myself swirling in the pools of this magical canyon.

We planned to camp the night prior at a campsite a couple miles down from the trailhead.  In true form I was going alone on this adventure anticipating meeting a new crew of outdoor loving souls.

 

 

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I drove in from Phoenix departing just in time to catch the gentile days light set over the rugged Sierra Ancha Wilderness.  I stopped multiple times along the 12 mile dirt road that carves through the shoulders of these pristine mountains.  I have been to many corners of this state as a native but this was so remarkable.

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake was the consistent view from the narrow switchback dirt covered roads to the north.  I had to stop often in fear of driving off the road while I feasted on the views.

 

 

 

 

campsite

Photo: David Khoo

We settled into this untouched campsite as I began to meet who I would be experiencing the canyon with the following day.  We sat around our lantern campfire sans real flames due to the fire restrictions and conversed staring at the rock circled lantern intently like it was a real fire.  This was one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever visited.

 

 

 

 

salomestars

Photo: Quan Nguyen

The soul of the outdoor lover isn’t whole without using their best gifts to share the majesty that is mother nature.  There are few things more inspiring than the ability to use your talents to try and replicate the experience.  We had several of these very talented souls behind some impressive lenses.  We also had the fortuity of a meteor shower the night we camped.  As far away as we felt from a city full of 5 million the light from downtown Scottsdale a mere 50 miles beeline from our campsite made for some effervescent colored skies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo: Quan Nguyen

We leisurely made our way to the trail in the morning under cerulean skies.  A little part of me was peeking at my internal time clock.  Those skies had an expiration date sometime that afternoon, we needed to be out of that canyon before they spoiled.

 

 

 

 

The Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

The Salome Jug is a slot canyon with pools mimicking the sky as it suddenly opens like the ground beneath you experienced an earthquake with the granite slicing open revealing another world beneath your feet.

 

 

 

 

 

isthisthingon?

Photo: Accidentally taken by Dave Khoo and Go Pro

We dropped down the pink granite narrows testing our equipment from head to toe.  Some worked better than others.

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

Our land loving legs began to adjust to the polished moss covered wet granite.  The water level was slightly low for perfect conditions.  Our agility was immediately put to the test.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo: Quan Nguyen

The nostalgia from one of my favorite activities as a child brought me back to the jovial days of rock hopping down creeks.  We were in the midst of one of nature’s most visually captivating and equally challenging water parks.  I thought… this is how you keep that kid in your heart alive and delighted.

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

Once you surrender to the chilly water that kid at heart feels the relief of rebellion as you wade along getting everything you are wearing soaking wet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

The granite makes you feel as if you are wearing rose colored glasses, I suppose when you get to experience a water slide down the rose colored canyon floor some may accuse you of adopting a rose colored perspective on life.  They would be correct in their accusations.

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

We had the fortune of having the canyon mostly to ourselves.  The requirement of rope work and the challenge of the moss covered steep canyon makes this a relatively unvisited gem.  I do feel many places would be better off if you were only allowed in based on your ability.  I have seen many beautiful places polluted by man making it easier by building roads to summits or allowing tourist filled helicopters into canyons.  The desolation and slow moving pace allowed for many moments to warm your soggy chilled bones on a granite slab while being hypnotized by the birds soaring high above.

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

If I am not being accused of wearing rose colored glasses I am being told I swim through fictional pools of liquid emerald.  The life of a dreamer…

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

Life becomes crystalline and clear the further you drop down into the intricately placed granite walls.  I looked at them and thought they are telling a story that very few can read with clues and hints like a treasure map.  The only thing I understood was the complexity that allowed for this beauty to be revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

Every narrow twist divulged more treasure.  I thought this is what it must feel like when a treasure hunter discovers a load of booty.  This was my jackpot and my crew captured it’s bounty of art from behind their lenses.

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

We reached the rappel point that lead down the middle of a waterfall.  One by one we dropped down along with the gem colored water into the belly of the canyon, the jug.

 

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

Once we all experienced the thrill of rappelling and the chill of swimming through the deep pool that is the jug nothing sounded better than a nap in the sun.  Then the reality of the tall canyon walls chimed in with a clue as the walls broke open and the end of our treasure hunt neared.  The humidity beckoned me to glance to the north sky.  We had a dark gray sky closing in on our slotted view.  It was time to go before we overstayed our welcome and became cursed for being greedy and taking too much treasure.

 

 

 

 

Jug

Photo: Quan Nguyen

We said our goodbyes and left no clues that we had been there.  There was a humidity stricken few mile climb out of the canyon that allowed for just enough discomfort to remember when I caught myself for complaining about the frigid waters below.

We each exchanged goodbye’s at the trailhead before going our separate ways.  I came in knowing one person and left with a new group of friends along with discovering the newest treasure I had the fortune of adding to my life, canyoneering.  I also have a great crew for the next treasure hunt.

 

My favorite pastime is letting time pass, having the time, taking my time, wasting my time, living out of time- against the current.  -Francoise Sagan

 

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