About Not Going Out Quietly 

Highway 389/Colorado City to The Weeping Wall, Zion National Park

Hayduke Trail, Days 47-50

Total Miles: 837.8

After the travails of the previous section, Kasey and I decided we needed a little recovery time, especially as my stomach continued to toss and turn with the mere thought of certain foods. We spent day 47 in town resting, writing and, of course, going to watch Beauty and the Beast at the only theater we had been near in two months. Air conditioning . . . What a luxury!

Neither of us felt great when we woke up the next day but we needed to get back on the trail. Our hitch that morning was with Aaron, a young man who had grown up in the area and had just moved back. Our resupply location for this stretch was Colorado City, AZ, the home of the LDS Fundamentalist Church. When we had gone into the post office to pick up our boxes we found ourselves in line with women in simple, dark colored, long dresses and braided hair. The homes in town are huge compounds where polygamist families live. As we spoke with Aaron, we learned that he came from this town and such a home. He has 72 aunts and uncles! It was fascinating to hear about and, while my cultural background categorizes that life and community as “strange”, I appreciated Aaron’s view of it now that he lives on the outside. He spoke fondly of the support and sense of community built into his life because of this family, offering Kasey and I a different way of looking at things.

Our hiking for the day was on dirt roads and jeep trails as we slowly left behind these large homes perpetually under construction. I felt sluggish and slow trying to get my hiking legs back after being under the weather. We made decent miles that day and went to sleep feeling confident. This final section was less than 50 miles and I was sure it would be smooth sailing to Zion.

Day 49. The day when the Hayduke Trail said, “Oh, smooth sailing, huh? Let’s see what I can do to shake that up.” I made a list later that night of everything we experienced on day 49. It was small bits of all things Hayduke, like one last hurrah to make sure we really had learned our lessons, had soaked in everything the trail wanted to teach. The trail wasn’t going to go out quietly. From sand walking and a tricky canyon descent and ascent, to river crossings and an argument, by the end of the day we were exhausted.

The first 9 miles offered us a pretty chill morning. After our morning break we dropped into the canyon that holds the East Fork of the Virgin River. We had read there might be some tricky sections in this river, especially if the water was high. As we started walking down river I thought the water seemed faster, higher and siltier than I anticipated. Having just come off a section were creeks were running high this shouldn’t have surprised me.

An hour into this river wade we had gone maybe a mile. We ended up crossing the river over 70 times, carefully moving with three points of contact, placing trekking poles shaking with the force of the water out in front of us to ensure the river bottom didn’t drop off on any given step. While the travel was slow moving this was also an amazingly beautiful canyon, the water carving its way through narrow slots and then widening out around large bends where cottonwood trees grew on sandy benches.

River walking for a few miles through the East Fork of the Virgin River

When we were just under a mile from our climb out of the canyon, we came to the crux. Boulders had clogged a narrow section of the canyon forcing the water to funnel through a chute. Over the course of the Hayduke, Kasey and I have problem solved galore. One of the main things we learned is to make sure we aren’t moving our way into a dead end, make sure we can get back up what we go down and vice versa. We quickly went into action looking around us for options. The guide book description wasn’t super helpful as the water level was higher than normal and it didn’t quite match what we were seeing. After exhausting the options, including what could have been a more serious fall when rock gave way as I scrambled up a side wall, I turned to Kasey and said, ” That’s it. We swim.”

Kasey very kindly did a little recon mission of the water depth and current without his pack on. We then wet packed our backpacks and slid down the boulder into the water. A quick, cold swim got us to where we could touch and then out on the other side of the channel. What had seemed the dumber and potentially more dangerous option ended up being the easiest and most straightforward.

Soaked and cold, we finished our time in the East Fork and then up and out of the canyon through a crack known as “Fat Man’s Misery.” Being two hours late for our normal lunch time and frustration with the day led to some hangriness on my part as we stopped to dry out our gear. There’s no hiding anything out here. Our best and worst selves are on display constantly and we learn to both ask for forgiveness and offer grace more readily than we probably would in our normal daily lives.

We continued the day making our way up a knoll and into Zion National Park, hiking along the base of Checkerboard Mesa. We set up camp with the cliffs of the East Rim rising above us, hunkering down as one last wind storm whipped through our tents, leaving us once again coated in sand.

Waking up to Day 50…just a few more miles.

I awoke the next morning, day 50, with the realization that the previous day’s challenges had not offered me the space to process and reflect on the fact that today was the end. I looked at my last map page as I ate breakfast wondering how we were already here. Even on the most difficult days, I love this life. I feel like my most authentic self when I’m backpacking – pushing myself body, mind, and spirit, seeing what I’m made of, and soaking in the creation and glimpses of the Creator around me.

But, I couldn’t just sit there in my tent trying to make it last. This was it, the final stretch of this season for me. There are beginnings and endings, starts and finishes, and life is everything that happens in between.

Kasey and I hiked together on this last morning. As we walked we did a practice of going through each day of our journey, remembering where we were and what we had done throughout the entire trail. This was a perfect way to approach the terminus, reflecting on and bringing to mind these incredible moments.

The closer we got to the Weeping Wall, our finish line, I slowed my pace to soak t in. This is such a strange place to finish a trail. Unlike the PCT and other long trails where you come to a monument in the middle of he woods, the Hayduke Trail finishes at a tourist attraction where families hike a short distance from a parking lot to snap a couple pictures. Kasey and I were finishing this huge endeavor surrounded by people after being mostly alone for 7 weeks.

It felt strange to be so full of emotion in a sea of people who had no clue Kasey and I were finishing one of the most difficult endeavors of our lives so far. We arrived and touched the Weeping Wall. An embrace mixed with joy, pride, and sadness, some champagne, a quiet moment to sit down and just be. And, an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and gratitude.

Tagging the Weeping Wall…finished!

I’m going to give myself more space to soak in the lessons from the Hayduke Trail. It seems like too much to think and write about right now as this season comes to a close. I’ll take it in doses and, similar to the PCT, see glimpses of those lessons each day as I allow the experience to continue refining me and transforming how I view and treat myself, others, and the world around me.

For now, though, a couple of thank yous before signing off. To my parents, who recognize the beauty in how different my life is than any of us thought it would be and say, “go for it”, y’all are the best support crew. Thank you. I opened each resupply box knowing that it was sent with tons of love and prayers (and would always include a surprise treat because my mom was involved!).

And, to Kasey, your refreshing honesty, sincere compassion, sense of humor, and safe presence gave me the freedom to be myself as we traveled together. Thank you. One day on the trail we were talking about certainty and uncertainty in life and you said, “I know I want to live an extraordinary life.” I am certain that you are. Happy trails, partner, as you continue on in this year of circumnavigating the globe!

Much love, friends, from Zion and the end of the Hayduke Trail. Thanks for following along. Until next time . . .

About Thick and Thin

South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park to Highway 389/Colorado City

Hayduke Trail, Days 38-46

Total Miles: 788.1

I woke up about 2am, our second night out from the South Rim, to the sound of Kasey vomitting outside his tent. “Is that the first time?”, I asked. “Second”, he said. Oh, boy. This could get interesting.

While at the South Rim we went through the maps in our resupply boxes and realized that we had somehow gotten our mileage a little off. This was going to our longest section and, according to the guidebook and other data, one of the toughest. We set off from the rim already knowing we were about a day low on food and would need to ration.

We then made the decision to bypass one of the canyons on the official route due to high spring run off and frigid temperatures. This added even more miles to the section and took us a little off the grid on our own “Tim-Tammando” alternate. (Side note: once we got into town we heard about two missing hikers who were swept away in swift water in the area we would have been traveling through if we hadn’t taken our alternate…)

So, I lay there in my tent the night Kasey was sick thinking through options for us – both best and worst case scenario – and reminded myself to get some sleep. “You’re going to need it.”

We left the South Rim of the Grand Canyon after spending days 38 and 39 as tourist in the crowds of people snapping pictures from a comfortable distance of this wild place. We headed down the Bright Angel Trail on day 40, slowly leaving behind the tourist crowds the further we dropped into the canyon. With a late start, our goal was to push as far as possible that day. We ended up doing a Rim to Rim hike that day, arriving on the North Rim as the daylight disappeared.

The North Kaibab Trail heading up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

 

The next day was when we needed to make a final call about our alternate. After seeing the water level in Bright Angel Creek and the snow melt off happening around us back on the Kaibab Plateau, we decided heading around the canyon was the best option. Stitching together a series of snowy forest service roads we slowly made our way toward the Bill Hall Trailhead which would take us back down to the official Hayduke route.

The night and morning Kasey got sick, we were camped in a snowy meadow. We decided to keep moving forward hoping the worst was over for Kasey. That was a day of many breaks – 45 minutes on, 15 off. Kasey dug deep and incredibly pulled out some big miles that day so we could make it to the Bill Hall Trailhead.

Day 43 brought our fourth and final climb down into the Grand Canyon. Kasey woke up feeling much better so we began our descent on a lesser used trail in the GCNP trail system. The canyon hadn’t disappointed the entire time we were there and this section was no different. Steep switchbacks brought us into Surprise Valley and then over a boulder field into Deer Creek Canyon where cold spring waters gushed out of a hole in the side of a rock wall.

Heading down the Bill Hall Trail…fourth time dropping into the Grand Canyon!

Earlier in our Hayduke Trail experience we got a ride from one of the trail’s co-founder. As we chatted with him, we asked if there was any last advice he had. “Yeah, don’t do the section between Deer Creek and Kanab Creek. Hitch a ride down the river on a boat.” The section he was referring to was an almost 8 mile section of boulder hopping and bushwhacking along the Colorado River. He was not a fan. When the co-founder tells you to skip something, you feel okay about trying to skip it.

We had no clue what to expect as we got closer to the river. We didn’t even know if this was a place where boaters stopped. As we enjoyed the shade of the spring, Kasey noticed a group of people heading up the trail towards us . . . Boaters! As we chatted with them briefly, they told us to talk with Captain Jim down at the river about a ride. This might work!!

Looking down on the Colorado River and our soon to be ride.

We enjoyed the last mile down Deer Creek, hiking on a ledge above a narrow slot canyon with fast moving water that eventually cascaded down to the river in the beautiful Deer Creek waterfall. Captain Jim was standing at the base of the waterfall when we arrived and quickly made his way over to us, pretty much offering a ride and the most amazing hospitality before we barely said anything (including fresh fruit and cold beer!). We took a break, waiting for the group to return from their hike, and then loaded our bodies and backpacks onto the supply boat. Glade and Tony took us down river, including a few sets of rapids, to Kanab Creek. Wet from the rapids and excited to have just run the Colorado River (however short), we marveled at how everything had come together so perfectly.

Once in Kanab Creek, we walked up this narrow canyon, climbing over and around large boulders, each of us trying to find the path of least resistance and make our way up the 23 miles of this canyon. This was our fourth time hiking out of the Grand Canyon . . . Four different ways in and out. What an incredible opportunity and way to explore this place! Kasey still was not feeling 100% so this afternoon was an arduous one for him. We found a small patch of sand to set up camp for the night and reveled in the good fortune of our day.

At the mouth of Kanab Creek…a day of wet shoes.

Day 44 began with the reality of what hiking in Kanab Creek was like and the goal to make it through the remaining miles of this canyon. I began to feel the achiness and nausea early that morning. My turn. About noon the stomach bug hit in full force. Kasey and I reversed roles from a couple days before, as he took charge, found spots for me to lay down, and at one point carried my backpack and told me to stop being stubborn. I didn’t have the energy to argue . . . At least not as much as I normally would argue.

This was probably the most difficult hiking day I’ve ever had. That day and the next two are a bit of a blur. Neither of us had an appetite for anything and we still needed to move. The goal became get to town, drink a big glass of sprite with ice and a straw, and find a hotel. The hiking became hot and unshaded across the Arizona Strip, offering more motivation to keep moving.

When we arrived at Highway 389, we once again were gifted with an incredible hitch. Jason not only gave us a ride to the post office in Colorado City so we could pick up our resupply boxes, he waited for us and then dropped us off 25 miles down the rode in Hurricane, Utah. We found our sprite with ice, comfy beds to crash in, and Kasey has his appetite back (mine is slowly getting there).

When I’m sick I take care of myself. I figure it out by myself because I have to. This is what I would have done had I been out there, sick and by myself. It’s how my life works. And, as I told Kasey to lay down while I packed his backpack the day he was sick, I was reminded that Kasey is used to operating the same way. Kasey and I are used to doing things on our own, including thru hiking.

But . . . We weren’t alone this past week. As hiking partners, we are in, whatever “in” means at that moment. We only move as fast as the slowest person, we go as far as is possible for them, resting as much as is needed. And, even with the strong individuality Kasey and I both bring to this partnership, neither of us question that.

Perhaps the biggest testimonies of how relationship and community transform us is when we are able to let go of our own agenda, become increasingly aware of what is happening in another person, and allow someone to care for us. Trusting that person will see us on our knees vomiting in the dirt, vulnerable and weak, and will stick around. Knowing deeply that I no longer need to prove anything about my strength or ability for them to be “in”. This is when the true self shines through in all it’s messy, beautiful glory, offering us the opportunity to know others and be known.

While Kasey and I both could have figured this section out hiking on our own and being sick, I’m so grateful I didn’t have to. It was much better sharing the experience of both rafting the Colorado River with Kasey and having him there to help me take my backpack off when I was sick, both hiking Rim to Rim with him and packing his backpack for him so he could rest. Through thick and thin, strength and struggle. I don’t take for granted this partnership with Kasey or other people I am honored to share life with.

What a stretch – 7 days, 144.9 miles, a Rim to Rim hike of the Grand Canyon, rafting the Colorado River, two gracious hitches, a creative alternate, and being sick on trail. This felt like our final exam of the Hayduke Trail. As soon as my appetite is back we head out for our last stretch – less than 50 miles from Colorado City to Zion National Park. Unreal that this experience is almost complete! Onward to Zion!

Much love, friends, from the land of the most delicious sprite I have ever tasted.

Sunrise on the Arizona Strip.

About Being Cold, Hangry, Content, Tired, and Happy All At the Same Time Sometimes 

Jacob Lake, Arizona to South Rim Village, Grand Canyon National Park

Hayduke Trail, Days 31-37

Total Miles: 643.2

Just when I think I have this trail figured out . . . I remind myself not to think I have it figured out. There are moments during our days that we have started referring to as “that was totally Haydukey” or a total Hayduke moment as in . . . That was crazy. I went into this week thinking it would be one of our easier stretches. We were entering a national park . . . Complete with actual trails so I assumed but we had a few “Haydukey” moments. And, while it was one of the harder sections it was also one of the most beautiful and satisfying.

After taking a zero day, we left Jacob Lake, Arizona on day 31. The route at this point was following the Arizona Trail on the Kaibab Plateau. As we hiked further south and gained elevation we realized the snowy trail was just going to get worse and the temperature was supposed to drop. Paralleling the trail is highway 67 which is closed in winter. We took a side road out to the highway to see if the going would be easier and we found a clear road. We decided to do a little road walking toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We entered the park around noon the next day and after lunch started following the national park boundary to our drop in point of the canyon, Nankoweap Trailhead. Along the way we had a fun stop at the cabin and lookout tower where Edward Abbey worked. The Hayduke Trail is named after a character in two of Abbey’s novels, George Washington Hayduke.

Lookout tour in Grand Canyon National Park where Edward Abbey worked.

As soon as we left the lookout tower, the snow began. A few hours later after the snow/hail/thunder/lightening storm, the snow was still falling in earnest. Given our wet feet and clothes and the cold, we needed to stop early that day and try to get warm and dry. With temperatures in the teens, it was a restless, shivering nights sleep.

The next morning brought frozen solid shoes and wet gear but sunshine! We packed up and made our way through fresh powder to our drop in point on the North Rim.

My first view of the canyon from the north rim.

This was my first time seeing the Grand Canyon and I had a sense of anticipation as we hiked towards the rim that morning. Seeing the canyon from the top was incredible but dropping into it and hiking the 7000 feet down through the layers to the inner canyon reveals the immensity of the place in a whole different way. That day was a massive tangible reminder that I do not want to spend my life looking at pictures of things or places. I want to be in the thick of it, experiencing the world up close and personal.

We made it to the bottom of the canyon that afternoon, going from snow and frozen water bottles to warmth and sand bars along the Colorado River. What a difference a day makes.

Our next stretch on day 34 was spent bushwhacking and boulder hopping alongside the river for about 8 miles before we would need to hitch across the Colorado River. These were hard, ankle twisting, branches cutting your legs and arms miles. We were about a mile from our intended hitching point when we noticed a boat coming down the river. We needed to take advantage of any opportunity to cross so Kasey hailed the boat and they let us jump on! Our goal was to just get across the river but they graciously took us the extra mile to the confluence of the Little Colorado River and Colorado River . . . And gave us snacks so that was a bonus! After a somewhat eventful fording of the LCR we finally were on an official trail in the park, albeit a very backcountry trail.

My most unique hitchhiking experience yet…crossing the Colorado River on a boat!

That day brought the reality that with the poor weather and tough hiking we were low on food and wouldn’t have enough to get us to our next resupply. I was tired and dragging from the previous days and less than kind at moments (hangriness is real, friends). After throwing out options and seeing what day 35 brought (slow scrambling and tough climbs) we decided to hike out of the canyon at Grandview Trailhead, grab another days worth of food in the South Rim Village, and then drop back in for the last 30 miles. This all came together nicely with hitches, shuttles, permits, and, of course, delicious nachos for added fuel. We arrived at the South Rim on day 37 via our original route, the South Kaibab Trail, and are playing tourists for a couple days.

There’s this intrinsic push when thru hiking to get miles in. But we are ahead of schedule and the reality of the ending of our Hayduke Trail time coming soon is hitting. I’m trying to set that hiking drive aside. While I don’t know specifics of what comes next in my life, I know it involves schedules and deadlines, fast-paced city life and working, saying yes to too many things and paying bills. I’m going to soak in all the fresh air, clear brain, freedom I can, breathing deep and savoring each moment, view, challenge, snowy day, and interaction.

Much love, friends, from this mind blowing Grand Canyon that erodes the thickness of a piece of paper per year (go see it in person if you haven’t already)!

About Being Awake

Bryce Canyon National Park to Jacob Lake, Arizona

Hayduke Trail, Days 24-30

Total Miles: 518.5

We started this section of trail waiting. Waiting for weather to clear and storms to pass. Waiting at an RV campground and a little stealth camping, taking advantage to the pool, hot tub, showers, and all you can eat buffets. The hike hunger has hit so “all you can eat” is a thru hiker dream. It is not in my nature to wait or be still so I was ready to move by Tuesday morning, trail day 26.

Day 26 showed up with cold temps but a great hitch with an English couple in a camper van. They took us to the lodge in Bryce Canyon were we got back on trail. We spent the day hiking almost the entire length of Bryce Canyon on the Under the Rim Trail. We decided to take a side trail to take us back up to the main road in the afternoon so I could see Bryce at the far end of the park from Rainbow and Yovimpa Points. The side trail was our adventure for the day with snowy, slippery slopes. Finally making it to the Rim, we battled the wind and cold until getting to Rainbow Point. I was so cold by this point that I don’t remember much about the view from Rainbow Point. I was ready for my tent and sleeping bag! We found our way thru the snow to Yovimpa Pass as the daylight faded.

The next morning I woke up to frozen water bottles and procrastinated a bit before finally getting out of my sleeping bag. We hiked down Yovimpa Pass, out of Bryce Canyon and down into a hot, sandy wash. What a difference a few miles makes! From complaining about being cold to complaining about being hot . . . I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t out here for comfort and perfect conditions. Just enjoy the moment.

As we dropped from one wash into another, Kasey stopped to take some pictures. I kept going, dropping into a wash and out of site. I realized at one point that I was not in the correct wash, nor was Kasey around. Climbing out of the wash onto a plateau, I saw no sign of Kasey. I backtracked and couldn’t find his footprints. On a normal trail, I wouldn’t stress about this too much but out here, with going cross country and having three different washes to choose from, I got a little nervous. Plus, Kasey didn’t know I was now behind him. I backtracked, now further behind him, and finally found his footprints. Adrenaline kicked in and after an hour or so, with my quickened pace and Kasey realizing he needed to stop, we reconnected. Being out here together requires solid communication and looking out for each other. This was a reminder that we can’t stop being intentional about these things even when we think we have it dialed in.

Day 28 was a big day! We crossed highway 89 in Utah, passed through magnificent slot canyons in Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass, entered Arizona, and climbed up the Kaibab Plateau! We had read not to enter Buckskin Gulch or Wire Pass if the weather was looking bad and there were storms forecasted for that afternoon. I tend to be about 10 miles ahead of us in my brain all day, constantly thinking about what’s coming up next, what the weather is like, where we should camp, how’s the water report. Some of this probably comes from being a backpacking guide but most of it is my personality. As we walked through these incredible slots that afternoon I found myself thinking about the weather instead of noticing the waves of rock I was walking through, thinking about the what ifs instead of what is. Kasey has the ability to be in the moment and relish it, reminding me to slow down and enjoy where we are. This seems like a constant lesson for me in life and one that I am grateful to Kasey for helping me be aware of out here.

The rest of the day was exciting – entering Arizona, stepping onto the Arizona Trail, climbing up high out of the valley, and getting a different view of the area. The sky continued to grow darker and the wind gusts stronger as we hiked. I finally told Kasey we should stop and get set up before the clouds unleashed. Good timing! We spent the evening in our tents as the wind howled and rain and snow fell.

The next day we had very different scenery from what we have been hiking! Snowy, peaceful ponderosa forests began to form around us as we continued into the Kaibab National Forest. Ponderosas are my favorite tree from growing up in Idaho and, as I walked, I enjoyed memories of summers in the Idaho mountains. We also hit our 500 mile mark this morning!

We ended that afternoon in Jacob Lake, AZ. After a frigid night stealth camping in a nearby day use area, we took a zero on day 30 at the Jacob Lake Inn, home of world famous cookies (but disappointedly not the home of CBS so we could watch the Oregon game).

Today we head into two days of probably snowy and cold weather on the Kaibab Plateau before we drop into the Grand Canyon. I have never been to the Grand Canyon and, not only do I get to see it, I’m going to walk through a majority of it . . . Excitement level is extremely high!

My goal this week is to practice being more present each moment, to be awake to the world around me and what it has to teach me, instead of figuring out how I can control each day.

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” -Thoreau

Much love, friends, from the vanilla-scented, ponderosa pine forest of the Kaibab Plateau.