It was only my left leg that got wet. These things happen when you miss a cairn.
Like all necessary road signs in life, cairns are beneficial for keeping you from losing your way.
Two miles in the trail led up a wash. I hadn’t seen a cairn for several feet, maybe 50 yards, when I came to the pothole. I looked back, retraced my steps a bit. Nothing. Turning back around I assessed the options. The backside of the pothole ended in a 3 foot rise. The type of rolled-edge ledge that would make a pretty little waterfall when it rains in the desert. It hasn’t rained for a while. Yet here was a 5ft by 7ft puddle about 18inches deep. Some 20 feet beyond, I could clearly see the trail continue. To the left of the pothole rose a crumbling dirt wall and then a narrow half-tunnel ledge you could crouch and then belly-crawl. To the right the gray slick rock side of the pothole continued to rise steeply.
It looked like there were narrow toe-holds just above the water level. Finger holds were also available above my shoulders. Obviously, someone with longer legs than I charted this trail. This might be a good time to change to my sandals and just wade on through, I thought to myself. I reached to the side of my backpack. My hand touched YakTrax on the right. On the left, my compressed down jacket hung from a carabiner. I had prepared well for this hike, expecting all kinds of weather and packing accordingly. It is November. Ice, I had anticipated; a swimming hole, I had not. My Teva sandals were in the car, where I left them when I changed to my closed-in trail shoes at the trailhead. I chose the path to the right and commenced toe-holds and fingernails. Two steps. Three steps. And then. My toe slipped and my left leg plunged to the knee in water and sand. No way out but to wade. Leaning against the wall, I rolled up my right pant leg and undid the lace of my right shoe. Removing my right shoe and sock and holding them at arms length, I took two strides through the pool and climbed out on the dry waterfall. There I removed the sodden shoe and sock from my left foot and rung them out. Thank heavens for wool socks and shoes that already had holes in them. Also, turns out my hiking pants shed water. What doesn’t roll off quickly evaporates. You might be amazed to learn that I had an extra pair of socks in my pack and chose not to change to them. They were cotton. Carried in preparation for sand, but not water. I pressed on. I lunched in the shadow of Druid Arch.
Yes. Cairns are like the road signs of life. Take time to read them. If you miss several, you will be entirely lost. If you miss one or two, you merely have more of an uphill battle, a few more challenges. You might even get wet. If you fall in a pothole, get out as quickly as you can. Keep moving. Carry an extra pair of wool socks. May all your adventures have great outcomes!