First light is the best time to take pictures, and on our road trip stop off at Zion National Park, a chilly dawn found us at Overlook Point, my husband Rob and his tripod hovering on the edge of a 1,000 foot drop.
The landscape stirs echoes of cowboy B movies, Star Trek scenes and prehistoric epics. You could almost believe the rocks were polystyrene and peering down into the deep valley, I half-expected to hear a dinosaur roar. This area has been the backdrop for many movies, the most famous being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Though arid, it's not a complete desert. The sides of the canyon are dotted with shrubs and the Virgin River winds through the rocky basin, ending in narrow channels prone to dangerous flash flooding. Early people, then Paiute Indians and later Mormon pioneers scraped a living here.
Photos: Rob Bruce
After a breakfast of coffee and bacon in a salty roll they call a biscuit, we wandered up to a point called Weeping Rock. Here, in a cave under an overhang of rock with water from some hidden source dripping down the front of it, I imagined Paiute women weaving stories and rugs, earthenware pots out to catch the water, with a good view of anyone coming to visit.
We set off on a path marked "Observation Point"; I left Rob taking photos and plodded on up the path, emerging from the morning shadows into full sunshine. There was no sign of Rob but I just kept going. Months of Bikram Yoga were obviously paying off and it was about 90 minutes later that he caught up with me. Far from being impressed, he was annoyed as he had not planned to go to the top. "We don't have enough water," he argued. All we had each was a warm dribble in the foot of a small plastic bottle.
"Oh well, we're nearly there," I said. "Dare greatly," I added, quoting the book I had picked up at the airport "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown. "The West would never have been won if the cowboys had to carry a gallon of water every time they went for a walk."
That was the clincher. Rob gave in and we set off again. Of course we weren't nearly at the top. We were about half way. It was an amazing hike though, at the top the path flattening out onto a beachlike terrain with sandy paths, trees and even flowers. No water though.
I took a quick look around and started downwards leaving Rob setting up his tripod. An hour later, I started to get worried. I had a little water left but Rob had none. Even with the occasional sip, my mouth was as dry as a camel's toe fluff and I was starting to feel dizzy. I remembered that in "Rising Strong". Brene has some sharp words for women who demand men should be tough. That cowboy remark had clearly prevented Rob from showing his vulnerability. After all, this was a desert. I was starting to picture Rob collapsed with dehydration at the top, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of water splashing.
Delighted, I climbed down the side of the rocks to a gorge in deep shade, expecting a babbling Highland burn and a pool of ice-cold, clear water. Instead, I found a middle-aged couple in full scuba-diving gear splashing about in a disgusting muddy puddle about three feet deep, carrolling to each other about all the dead things they were finding; "Gee, I found a dead frog!"; "I've got a dead lizard over here, honey!"
Head down, I stomped back to the path and began the trudge down, planning to bring water back up to moisten the lips of a presumably comatose Rob. Shortly afterwards, much to my relief, Rob caught up with me. We shared the last inch of my warm, plastic-flavoured water.
The ground shimmered. It was mid-afternoon, the hottest time of day. All I could think about was water. I think I may even have been mouthing the word by then.
Some time later, as we rounded a bend on that long descent, next to a bench, we spotted a two litre plastic bottle, full of liquid. "It could be anything..." I said hesitantly. Rob took off the lid and took a sip. "It's fine," he said. "It's water."
Warm and flat though it was it was the finest drink I have ever had. We pictured fit hikers who had carried up more water than they required leaving it for the needy traveller. Whoever left it, that bottle of water really was the answer to a prayer.