The Legend That Is Cistern Steve

The desert section is known for its long water carries. On this particular day, we had to ration enough water for roughly 16 miles including one night of dry camping. A normally reliable spigot was not running at mile 59, so our next best option was the cistern at mile 68.

The day itself would start off with a nice ridge walk before descending into a canyon. Around the time of the descent, the sun would begin to heat things up pretty rapidly. The trail itself was very exposed and it took every ounce of water that I had in order to reach the cistern. The miles didn’t come easy on this stretch and I was gunning it for mile 68.

Thirst Quencher?

Upon my arrival, I would continue towards the infamous black valve that is off to the left of the trail. Upon opening said valve, only air would drain from the spigot and my heart instantly sank. From there, I ran up to the top of the cistern to lift its lid and assess the damage. There was a little water left, but it had fallen well below the spigot pipeline. All that was left were puddles between rocks.

With a twelve-foot plummet to the base of the cistern, it appeared to be a lost cause. A spring was located a mile off the trail, but I had just hiked fourteen extremely exposed miles and didn’t want to add another two for the spring. The sun beat me down all day long and I was spent. Rather than immediately hiking down to the spring, I sat in the shade eating snacks and putting off the inevitable.

As each person would arrive, I would be the bearer of bad news. Each head would drop and either hike down to the spring or take a seat in the shade. As I was preparing to get myself up for the plunge down to the spring, commotion occurs. A fellow hiker runs down from the cistern and claims that someone jumped in and is bucketing water.

The legend himself in transit towards the cistern

The Dawn of Steve

That person would end up being a guy in his 60’s named Steve. I immediately get up and cruise over to the cistern to see this event. Buckets of water are being hoisted out of this cistern and each one looks progressively more like expired chocolate milk. It was the worst-looking water I’d ever seen. Deep brown with chunks floating around.

At this point, I had a decision to make. Take a chance and trust my filter to do a massive job, or go fetch water from the spring. I was so tired and hot, I decided to give the cistern water a run. The filter surprisingly made it look crystal clear and the taste was pretty good. My filter was completely backed up after two liters, but the water seemed okay.

After everyone got water, Steve got assistance with getting out of the cistern. After a loud cheer and many thanks from exhausted and overheated hikers, Steve was no longer Steve. He will forever be known as Cistern Steve and is a legend by the books of every human that was a part of this event.

This experience can drive people to do some crazy things. I’m grateful that Cistern Steve was crazy enough to jump in there and get some water. He didn’t want to go down the spring, but he also just went for it while the rest of us contemplated. The best part is that nobody got sick and all stayed hydrated.

The following day, healthy and in good spirits after the cistern…

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?