Trekking Through the Aravaipa Canyon

Hiking through the Aravaipa Canyon to reconnect with the forces of nature in a new, advanced epoch: the Age of Man.


| January 2016



Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa Canyon is extremely narrow—at many points, probably no more than a quarter of a mile from rim to rim—which means that to explore the canyon you often hike right through the streambed.

Photo by Flickr/Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management

Wildness is wily as a coyote: you have to be willing to track it to understand the least thing about it. In Satellites in the High Country (Island Press, 2015), journalist and adventurer Jason Mark travels beyond the bright lights and certainties of our cities to seek wildness wherever it survives. This excerpt, which details an adventure through the Aravaipa Canyon that left Mark slighty, yet significantly, wounded, is from the Prologue, “Into the Wild.”

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My foot was killing me. As long as I was able to step flat and keep my heel and toes level, the pain wasn’t too bad. But walking evenly was impossible in that mostly trackless wilderness. I kept losing the trail, picking it up again, blazing my own. I stumbled over river rocks, mud patches, deadfalls, thickets of branches—the natural mess made by the flash floods that sometimes tear through Aravaipa Canyon, Arizona.

Whenever my toes bent, the inch-long piece of wood lodged deep between the skin and bone of my left foot stabbed into me. That really hurt. The swelling was much worse. Overnight my foot had bloated into something resembling an overstuffed sausage, and as I tried to make my way out of the canyon it throbbed incessantly.

I don’t want sound melodramatic about the whole thing. Yes, I was in a rough spot—miles away from assistance, and hurt. But it wasn’t like that guy who got his arm trapped under a boulder and had to cut off his hand. I had told several people where I was going, the exact trailhead, and my expected departure from the backcountry. It wasn’t as if I were going to die.

Still, I was nervous. I had been in the canyon a few days and had seen only one pair of hikers, who had been headed back out. There was no one around to assist me, no one to hear a cry for help even if I made one. I looked up at the salmon-pink cliffs towering hundreds of feet above and knew, with a twist of fear, that my rescue would have to be my own. Suddenly I felt very vulnerable. What was supposed to have been a fun adventure had turned dangerous. All of my energies had been distilled to a single, primal motive: getting out of there in one piece.