Zima in the Jug

The Jug is a short section of Salome Creek, an amazing oasis in the desert northeast of Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when it was extremely rare to see anyone else in the Jug. There was no parking lot and no signs at the trail head. We had it all to ourselves.

Descending the canyon in the spring of 1994 with a writer and photographer from Outside Magazine, we were puzzled by the cheap black and orange hardware store rope we encountered dangling from the rim half-way through the canyon. There were no other vehicles parked along the road. Why would someone leave it hanging here?

Another hundred yards down the canyon I climbed up on a shelf on canyon left. In the side drainage below I saw a rather large man in his 20s sitting in front of a tent, drinking a bottle of Zima. There were several empty bottles laying beside him. I asked him about the rope and he confirmed it was his. He and two friends rappelled into the canyon on that rope the day before. He assured me that he had no concerns about the quality or strength of the rope. It said right on the label that it would hold 300 lbs. He was the heaviest in his group and only weighed 260.

I asked if he had any concerns about camping in the canyon with rain in the forecast. He had none. The stream would have to come up at least three feet before it poured over the shelf on which I was standing. I pointed out that it wouldn’t take much rain draining off Dutchwoman Butte behind him to start a pour-over directly into the drainage where he was camped. He shrugged his shoulders and took another swig of Zima.

While I was chatting with this fellow, my companions got my attention and pointed to two other guys climbing up the rock another hundred yards in front of us. We learned from the first guy that his friends were looking for another way out of the canyon. They had no ascending gear and had no way to keep their gear dry. The long pools past the waterfall down canyon are unavoidable.

As we continued our descent the conversation turned to the many different ways people could get themselves into trouble canyoneering. I already knew of several ways. On that day I learned a few more that had never occurred to me.

Attached is the article that appeared in Outside Magazine in June 1994. Some of the wording in the article were inspired by the guy we encountered drinking Zima in the Jug.


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