Fr. Dale Matson
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14, KJV)
If you are traveling in the wilderness, perhaps the most important commodity is water. Without water you will only last about 3 days. Of course there are negatives to water. Water is relatively heavy. One liter of water is 2.2 pounds. That is more weight than my sleeping bag, more than my sleeping pad and nearly as much as my tent or pack. Sometimes water is too abundant and presents an obstacle, in the case of a swollen creek or river. In that case you will have to find a means to cross such as a log.
You may have to ford the creek risking being swept downstream in the current.
Sometimes God intervenes and miraculously provides a path through the water as a temporary avenue for His people. For the enemy who pursues, there is certain death when the water returns. Crossing the Red Sea and the River Jordan was both a milestone and a type of baptism for God’s people.
Fortunately most established and maintained trails in the wilderness follow a stream and/or cross streams and creeks along the way. This is a blessing for the wilderness pilgrim who only has to carry enough water until the next source, be it a stream or a lake. There is a caveat in this since many streams are seasonal. Just ask those who visit Yosemite in the Fall only to discover that Yosemite Creek and Bridalveil Creek no longer provide waterfalls and we must wait until the winter snows again replenish the source lakes in the high Sierras.
As a wilderness pilgrim, I am careful to note on the topographical map where the creeks cross the trail. I refill my containers at each opportunity. Being thirsty means that one cannot take in nutrition either since water is needed for digestion. The mountain air is dry and dehydration is an ever present possibility.
Water is an amazing substance. In the form of ice, it carved deep canyons. The Kings Canyon is over 8,000’ deep. Creeks continue to erode mountains today. Water seeps into cracks and the expansion as ice further fractures mighty boulders. As I hike, I can hear the sound of creeks and waterfalls as I approach. The sounds are telltale and welcome signs that my parched throat will again be refreshed. Yes, there are flies and mosquitoes that share the water but soon I have climbed away from the dip in the trail created by the stream, being careful to hop carefully from rock to rock.
Water is the lifeblood of the wilderness. The fauna and flora could not exist without it. Sometimes you can see the evidence of water before you can hear or smell it. There is vegetation on either side of a creek as it flows through granite, slag, scree and boulders. How important is water? When water leaves the wilderness, it flows down toward towns and cities. There would be no life on earth without water. God created water before He created light.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily; I say unto thee, except a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5, KJV)