Photo by Eric Holder.
Happy Halloween 2019! When it comes to gross water, no one really wins, but hopefully we can all laugh/cry together and soften the sorrow with some prizes. We asked readers to send in their most terrifying tales of water woe. Here are the best stories of the worst hydration situations.
Drought and Purple Drank
October 2016 I was hiking with my family at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee. It was nearly the worst drought year in Tennessee’s history. The main falls, the highest drop east of the Mississippi River, was barely a trickle. Caney Falls, which has been the scene in many adventure movies, was completely dry. We had hiked a large portion of the Upper Loop trail and had emptied the big bottles we all carried. We crossed the creek upstream from the falls and had to refill from there. The water was covered in a purple sheen from the bacteria growing on it and the water was red from the tannins dissolved from the duff layers. My family decided not to drink it, even after I filtered through a Sawyer Squeeze. The water was clear and normal after filtering and I did not get sick. We didn’t know the park had installed a filtered bottle filling station at the new restrooms just up the trail. Just my luck. (I now carry a 3L Vecto to filter from.)
[Editor's note: The bacteria was likely purple sulfur bacteria.]
A Little Shaky
There is a small spring just to the right of the above photo taken in May last year on the Pacific Crest Trail just north of Tehachapi, CA. I'm focused on filtering water into my water bottle and totally space the rattling sound going on in the brush an arm's length away. I must have been within easy striking distance for at least a couple minutes. After completing my hydration task and returning my attention to my surroundings I damn near had a heart attack. Horror doesn't begin to describe my reaction when I realized how long that rattling had been going on only a couple feet away.
Photo and story by Mark Rowe. He wins a collapsible cup.
I was hiking a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail between Tahoe City and Mt. Rose. I'd been on the trail all day, and the sun was getting pretty low. I hadn't seen any other hikers in hours. The only near by water source was Gray Lake, which was a bit off trail, but I figured I'd take the extra mile, camp there and re-up on water. I made camp a little after dusk, and set to work doing camp chores. I was filtering water near the shore and noticed mountain lion paw prints in the soft sand. Seconds later heard footsteps behind me. In a panic, I spun around to see two large deer cautiously creeping through my camp towards the lake. My heart was beating a mile a minute. I was sure it was a lion behind me. I thought I was dinner. I finished filtering and started back toward my camp site, and then I saw her. A massive mountain lion stalking the two deer. She was just inside the tree line, almost invisible. I did not sleep well that night.
Jim Williams wins a cold soak bag.
Once, with a friend we were hiking in Vercors. It was late summer and the temperatures were still high in the middle of the afternoon. We were hot because we had brought too much useless stuff in our bags. We arrived in a small valley and saw the place where we would sleep for the night. It was a small cabane near a sheep pen. The cabane was empty, simple but clean. We decided to put our stuff in it before visiting the surroundings.
Before we go further, Vercors is a very dry area. There are not too many places with water sources. Of course we did not know that and at this moment we were worried about it because we only had 2L of clean water left that we would need for the day after.
So while we were changing our shoes for slippers my friend saw smoke coming out the sheep pen. We decided to go to say hello and get information for the next day. The sheep pen was cosy but it smelled like a mix of stinky feet and vinegar. A shepherd, barefoot, rapidly described us the area and told us we could use some of his water, indicating us the kitchen and quickly left us saying he had to go fetch a towel.
Few moments later, as I was seated at the table in the middle of the room, my friend brought us a big bowl of water. He put it on a table and with his flask we drunk around three glasses of water each. It was a bit hot, but who cares?
Later we happened to be informed that this water had been used to calm down the shepherd's foot fungus.
Wow, Gaillard. You win a Vecto so you can collect your own water. Shepherd's fungal foot soup is a new one for us. Glad you didn't die of dehydration so you could live to tell us this story.