Tag Archives: running water



The campground where the Mercantile was located didn’t have running water. It didn’t have running water during the three previous seasons I worked on the mountain. At the beginning of last season The Big Boss man was confident the campground would have running water before Memorial Day. As of late July, the campground was still bone dry. As far as I knew no one was working on the water system. After Independence Day, The Big Boss Man had stopped talking about getting the water to run in the campground.

Almost every day, people came into the Mercantile looking for a faucet or a water fountain. I’m sure the camp hosts saw as many (probably more) people looking for water than I did. Visitors wanted to fill a water bottle or wash their hands. Every time someone asked for water in the campground, I had to explain there was none.

We sold cold water in the Mercantile, and a significant portion of people did buy it to drink. However, fewer people (significantly fewer people) spent $2.50 for 16.9 ounces or $3.95 for a gallon of water to use to wash their hands.

One Wednesday afternoon, I was working alone in the Mercantile. Two older men came through the door and ignored my greeting. Both men were probably in their early 60s, and each was wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt despite the heat. Their clothes were not trendy, and while not shabby, didn’t look new. These men had not dressed up to come up the mountain. They looked like hunters or fishermen (or maybe both), working class outdoorsmen. The skin on the second man’s face was a strange mottled red, as if his sunburn had been sunburned, and he wore an expression of anger or maybe just impatience.

I could tell they were looking for something, but before I could offer to help, their eyes lit up. They’d seen what they were seeking.

They made a beeline to the beverage cooler and considered their options. I heard some mumble grumbles about the cost of the water. I understood their consternation, but there was nothing I could do to change the price.

The first man who’d come through the door carried the gallon of water up to the register where I scanned the barcode and asked for $3.95.

Clear Plastic Cup on Gray SurfaceDo you have cups? The fellow making the purchase said.

We have coffee mugs right over there, I said while pointing helpfully,

No, said the red-faced man. Paper cups. To drink this, he said gesturing to the gallon of water.

Oh no, I said. We don’t have anything like that.

I guess they figured if they paid more for water than they paid for gasoline, cups to drink it should come with the purchase.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sunset-cup-water-drink-87383/.



There’s no running water in my campground. There’s no water at the trail head parking lot. There’s no running water at the campground next to the parking lot or at the campground twenty miles up the road. There’s not water on this mountain.

I buy my own drinking water when I go to civilization; I pay thirty cents a gallon from a dispenser in front of a grocery store. There’s a big tank of water on my campsite. The company I work for trucks in that water from campgrounds along the river. It’s safe to drink and I am allowed to drink it, but I don’t like the taste, so I only use it for cleaning and putting out campfires.

Tourists are often shocked when I say there’s no water on the mountain.

Many campers aren’t too surprised that there is no water at the campground. It’s not so uncommon for a remote campground to have no potable water. However, almost everyone who visits or stays at my campground wants to know about the tank.What’s in it? I tell them it’s water for cleaning toilets and putting out fires. Then they want to know if they can use some, even just to wash their hands. I have to tell them no. It’s a complicated legal situation when water is provided to the general public, so I’m not allowed to share. Besides, if I let one group have a little to wash their hands, another group will want some to wash their dishes, and pretty soon I’d have none for cleaning toilets and putting out fires.

People at the trail head often seem flabbergasted when we can’t provide them with water.

One day in the parking lot, a woman and her adult daughter were standing a few feet from me. I overheard part of their conversation.

The mother said to the daughter, something something restroom?

The daughter said, not unless something something.

The mother said, well, I’m sure something something.

The mother looked over at me and asked if we had a water faucet. I said, no ma’am.

She said they just needed to wash their hands.

I said, No ma’am. There’s no water here. There’s no water at the campgrounds in the area.

She looked at me with a confused, pained expression on her face. She clearly did not understand how we could not provide for her liquid needs. She looked at me as if I were speaking in a foreign language. Or lying. Or lying in a foreign language.

One day as I was coming out of the parking lot restroom, a man asked me where the water fountain was. I said we didn’t have one, that there was no water. He asked if there was a faucet where he could fill his water bottle. I told him no, repeated that we had no water in the parking lot. He asked if he could get water at the campground next door. I told him the campground had no water. I told him there was no water on the mountain. He said, interesting, but he didn’t seem to believe me. I think he thought I was lying just to be rude.

My co-worker told me on a recent weekend morning a woman rode up to the parking lot on a bicycle. He said she looked tired, hot, and thirsty. She asked him for water. He told her there was not water available in the area. She went from car to car asking people for water. Someone finally gave her two bottles.

Sometimes when people ask me where they can get water, I tell them they can drive fifteen miles to the nearest general store and buy drinking water there. The way folks look at me, I know they’re thinking, you’ve got to be kidding.

I get it. Until I started living in the rural Southwest, it never occurred to me that Americans in the 21st century lived without running water. I thought everyone got their water right from the tap. Turns out it doesn’t always work that way. Lots of people have to haul water for drinking and bathing and washing dishes.

Sometimes when tourists ask about water here, I tell them how once there was water on the mountain, but now there’s not. Weird, isn’t it, I ask them, that one day there could be water and the next day nothing?

It’s a concept city people really should think on.