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.
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.
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.
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)!