Last weekend, a group of us decided to check out Salome Canyon, just outside of Punkin Center, AZ (yes, it is “Punkin” and not “Puking,” as my old, tired eyes kept thinking!). Why go hours out of our way to check out an old canyon? Because “The Jug” is in it! The Jug is the lower portion of Salome Canyon and contains enough challenges to make it a ‘canyoneering adventure,’ according to summitpost.org. The bonus part of the hike/adventure is that a good portion of the day was spent in water, which was a welcome diversion, as daily temperatures in Phoenix easily and normally reach a high of 45-47C (110-115F).
The entire hike is about 5 miles, of which just over a mile is in the canyon itself. We started hiking just before 10am and this is what we saw at the start of the hike:
(Photo 1: starting the hike; Photo 2: a pretty bush…vines…whatever this is.)
After hiking down a well-maintained trail for ~2 miles, we saw the water and we all rejoiced, as we were getting pretty warm (there is no shade along the trail).
(Photo 1: so close to the water!; Photo 2: the trail after we saw our first glimpse of water.)
Finally! When we reached the water’s edge, it was obvious that there was only way to go and that was IN. From here, we waded, floated, and swam. I was the shortest person in the group and at the deepest point, the water level hit my shoulders. For those of you thinking of visiting this canyon, it is worth mentioning that 1) your backpack WILL get wet, 2) you and everything you are wearing WILL get wet, 3) if it isn’t already obvious, you need to be able to swim before attempting this hike, and 4) bring rappelling gear and someone who has rappelling experience and has already done the hike (more on that a few paragraphs down). I lined the inside of my backpack with a dry sack and encased my phone in a Lifeproof case. Nothing was damaged. Of course, plastic garbage bags will work to line backpacks and ziplock bags would be sufficient to protect keys and ID cards/money if you don’t already have dry sacks or fancy phone cases.
Back to the hike….The beginning of the water portion of the hike is in cloudy water with lots of reeds:
Then the water gets deeper pretty quickly (and slightly colder, but nothing that will chill you or kill you). One of the best parts of this hike is the cool water slide, about 3/4 of the way into the canyon:
(Photo 1: the waterslide! When you hit the point closest to the bottom of the photo, you drop into a waist-deep pool; Photo 2: goin’ sideways!)
The most technical part of this hike is near the end, when you have the choice between jumping off a ledge and into the (deep) water about 50 feet below OR rappelling down into the water. Our group was evenly divided as far as descent options went (I rappelled down, as I wasn’t keen on flinging myself off of a ledge. Apparently, I am only fine with flinging myself into space when it requires a plane. I know, weird.).
(Aerial shot of a pool after the rappelling portion. This gives a sense of how far down the pool is when jumping off the ledge.)
The water got shallower and murkier as we approached the end of the “Jug” portion of the hike, so much so that we all were a little grossed out! Nothing life-threatening was sighted and nobody has mentioned any illnesses since the hike, so I think the water was fine, but definitely undrinkable!
(End of the water portion of the hike.)
The last couple of miles were a bit of a slog, as it was pretty warm, we had no shade, and we were all tired from playing all day in the water. All in all, it was a really cool outing and another reminder that adventure is everywhere around you….if you have an open mind and a willingness to explore.
(Photo 1: looking back down into the canyon we enjoyed; Photo 2: on the trail back to the trailhead.)
What to take with you:
- lots of water to last the whole day. Perhaps also Gatorade or electrolytes to make up for lost salts.
- dry sack or garbage bag to line the inside of your backpack
- waterproof phone case (for those who want to bring their phones) or at least ziplock bags for keys/ID/phone
- rappel gear: harness, rope (at least 100 feet), extra webbing, belay device
- duct tape or moleskin for blisters (I had duct tape and a small knife, both of which came in handy for my friend’s blisters)
- towel for sitting on for the ride home (yes, I had this!). Some people may want to leave a change of clothes in their car for post-hike.
- shoes or sandals to hike in that can get wet. I wore my Teva water shoes the entire day and they worked fine. Next time, I think I will wear my regular hiking shoes then change into my water shoes. It would be nice to hike the ‘normal’ trail without being plagued by all the little rocks that got into my water shoes.
(The rocks that got into my water shoes rubbed off the polish on only ONE toe. Weird.)