The last few days I’ve been pondering an odd question: “What’s the best water you’ve ever tasted?”
Funny, isn’t it, where the mind goes sometimes? I was remembering a hike in Southern Arizona, one I repeated several times with various people (the Harlan’s, my neighbors; my cousin, John; my friend, Larry Stark; and others). We called it “Mount Baldy,” but it’s given name is Mount Wrightson in the Santa Rita Mountains of the Coronado National Forest just south of Tucson, Arizona.
Currently I read on the internet that the climb is supposed to be about 11.5 miles roundtrip, a challenging hike where you rise about 4,000 feet in elevation, and take approximately 6 and 1/2 hours to complete. Larry and I got to the peak in about an hour and a half as I recall (we were young, crazy teens, and motivated to set a record if we could). The best water I’ve ever tasted was at “Bellows Spring” which is part way up the mountain.
For many years now I’ve mistakenly remembered it as “Belle” Spring, and the mountain as Mount “Wrightston” (with the added T). I guess nobody’s perfect, right? But it’s odd how sometimes things are larger when you’re young than when you visit them as an adult. Or how the names of things are either learned incorrectly from the outset and never corrected, or they just morph over time into something different.
The water at Bellows Spring comes out of a metal pipe, nothing fancy, or picturesque . . . . But by the time you reach that point in the long trail the cool water from the spring takes on a beauty of its own. As I said, my memory is that it’s the best water I’ve ever tasted. I wonder why.
If you ask me about the best steak I’ve ever had I’d say without hesitation: “Charlie’s Steak House in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.” If you ask me about my favorite scenery in this country, I’d have to say: “The West” (both northwest, and southwest). If you ask me about my favorite car I’d say: “Corvette.” My favorite meal? “The One I’m Having right NOW!” Ha! Actually, I’m partial to “hamburgers,” but find I can enjoy lots of other things with more prestige, too.
The best breakfast I ever had was on an overnight camping trip; the “bacon and eggs” the next morning were exquisite. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have been true if the setting and the hunger level had been different. The coldest I’ve ever been was on an overnight camping trip in Montana, at the foot of Mt. Haggin, wet from a fitful overnight in a soaked cloth sleeping bag (and a second to that would be after sinking hip deep in a snow drift near the foot of Mt. Baboquivari on New Year’s Day, 1968).
But the best water? Without a doubt. Bellows Spring. But why?
Sometimes . . . to get at the truth about something . . . you have to go back and recreate the events that surrounded the point in question. And when I do that in this instance I get the following:
1. I was always with people I loved when I drank from this spring.
2. I was always very thirsty and tired when I drank from this spring.
3. I was always accomplishing an arduous task (hiking) when I drank from this spring.
4. I was nearing the last segment of the hike when I drank from this spring; victory was close.
As I recall, the final portion of the trail to “the peak” (the place where you get to sign your name in a notebook, date the event, and place the notebook back into the metal ammo box in which it resides) was covered with large rocks, and cumbersome. But the view from the peak (9,456 feet) was awesome, allowing you to see into Mexico as well as much of Southern Arizona.
And all of that, including (no doubt) many things of which I’m unaware, contribute to my evaluation of the water. The who, the where, the why, etc. of something you do . . . these things can color the scenery, enhance the taste, and produce the quality you remember for a lifetime. Your hunger and thirst, i.e. your need can contribute to the quality imbued in a memory as much as anything.
So, try playing “favorites” today. What’s the best water you’ve tasted? Your favorite meal? Try naming your … ests and ask yourself, “Why?”