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.

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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.

About My Tired Brain and Keeping On

Escalante, Utah to Tropic, Utah

Hayduke Trail, Days 19-23

Total Miles: 411.7

We spent a restful zero day in Escalante, Utah. The Escalante Outfitters offered a lovely coffee shop (including good coffee and free refills!) to sit, plug back into social media and email, and try to avoid looking at the news. Being in town is always nice (those showers . . .) but can be a difficult balance of connecting and not connecting too much, trying not to break the spell of the trail.

We woke up on Day 19 unsure of how much hiking we would do that day. We had 30-some miles of road to get back to the trail and had no clue how the hitching would go. Our first hitch was from a local rancher who took us about a mile. Then after walking a bit we got a ride from a family with Idaho plates. As we connected about Idaho (my birth state) it came out that they used to live in Forest Grove (near my current home of Portland, Oregon) and the guy knows my supervisor at Outward Bound . . . Small world! A doctor and EMT from Colorado picked us up next, then two girls from Missoula, and finally a young couple from Colorado took us the rest of the way. Five hitch success!

Once back on trail we headed up. It seems like each time we leave town with 6 days of food we climb! Up the 50 Mile Benches we climbed using dirt road and stock trails until we were on top the Kaiparowits Plateau. Moving a few miles across the plateau, we then dropped down a drainage to Monday Canyon. 

The next day, instead of five hitches, we got five canyons – Monday, Rogers, Croton, Navajo, and Reese. We got into Reese Canyon as the weather started to shift and light rain fell as we set up camp. The next five hours we got a mixture of rain, wind, lightening, and thunder. While the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as the previous tent killing incident, we still were bracing the walls a bit hoping it died down soon. While we didn’t get much sleep, it was incredible to hear the thunder echoing off the canyon walls!

Day 21 started off dry but stormy looking. We broke camp and headed down Reese Canyon into Last Chance Creek. We had over 16 miles in Last Chance which was fairly easy walking, compared to other canyons we had walked in! At our lunch break we saw the clouds forming, growing dark and obviously full of rain. We got our gear and ourselves as protected from the water as possible and we’re on our way. The rest of the afternoon was full of intermittent showers (and some biting hail) as we moved out of Last Chance Creek and Paradise Canyon into a section of hills and road walking.

All rain and smiles!

The following day we had some decisions to make. We knew the weather was supposed to be wet and our next section included canyons that the guidebook said not to enter if storms were imminent. In fact the next week was looking cold, snowy and rainy. Part of the freedom of the Hayduke is that there are tons of alternates and nobody hikes the trail the same way. We decided to create the Tim-Tam and Commando alternate connecting part of the section, a road walk, and then head into Tropic, Utah so we could walk through Bryce Canyon National Park. The official Hayduke route just skirts into Bryce near the southern park boundary but I’ve never been to Bryce and want to see as much as possible!

Our alternate included dropping into the Round Valley Draw Narrows, the only slot canyon on the official Hayduke route. For Kasey and I both this was one of our top moments of the trail so far! Dropping into the slot involved a 10 foot chimney climb down and lowering packs. Once in the slot canyon, we meandered between towering walls on a narrow sandy canyon bottom, climbing over some boulders blocking our way. I felt small in the slot canyon but peaceful as I marveled at the years it took to form this narrow walkway. I was super surprised to see another human down there heading the opposite direction, another Arizona Trail/Hayduke Trail hiker piecing together his own version of the trail!

Kasey dropping into the slot canyon after lowering our packs.

Day 23 was a quick 12.2 miles into Tropic, Utah, where a super helpful coffee shop owner and post mistress welcomed us to town. We also hit our halfway point this day and over 400 miles (411.7)! As we went through our resupply boxes, prepped the maps for our next section and researched weather, we had decisions to make. The next week includes some cold, gnarly weather, both in Bryce and where we are heading.

There is so much unknown as we make decisions, sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the possible scenarios. Kasey and I talked through a lot of options yesterday but then at some point we just needed to be done, turn off our brains, and take one thing at a time. We are staying in Tropic for one night. Check. We will hike to Bryce today and check in with Park Rangers at the visitor center. Check. That is the known. One step at a time and then more decisions can be made. A good reminder to me that I don’t need to figure it all out right now. Tami, just rest in the known for a few hours.

This past section was a tough one for me for some reason. I’m generally a very happy and joyful person but I’m sure I wasn’t the most fun person to hike with this week! I’ve been thinking about why that is the last couple days. There are constantly moments on this trail where you have to make decisions, sometimes bigger decisions that involve teamwork and problem solving about how to get around some obstacle or sometimes just simple, split second decisions about which direction to move around a rock in your way. Sometimes the choice you make works out and sometimes it doesn’t and you have to walk back and try another way. Some days I just want to hike. I don’t want to, with every step, try and figure out the way that is best, that will hopefully take us through and not to a road block. I told Kasey at the end of one day, “I could keep hiking for a few miles but I can’t fight anything right now.” Meaning, I know I can roll on a defined trail but I don’t want another tamarisk branch to cut my legs right now or have to backtrack, make even the tiniest decision about a single step.

But reality is this trail is not as defined as I want. There are constant decisions, awareness, and challenge. There ARE times when I get to just roll on a trail or road and unleash my thru hiker legs. I’m learning to take advantage of these moments and enjoy that space. But more often then not, there is unknown, small decisions that may or may not work out, or branches grabbing at my legs when I’m annoyed. This is when the beauty of everything we are doing out here comes together. With each step, my mental fortitude is strengthened. I become more used to making those tiny decisions on the fly. I feel more confident in my abilities.

This reality of the trail is the reality of daily life whether in the backcountry or at home. Some days I can roll on a known “trail” and relax a bit but more often than not, I am unsure of what’s ahead each day. I build on what I have experienced and continue onward, becoming more self-aware and confident. Trusting that, even if one decision doesn’t quite work out, a canyon seems impassable, or I have to backtrack a bit, I will keep fighting . . . even on those days when I want to sit down in the middle of the trail and throw a tantrum.

What a journey we are all on, friends! There is learning each day that makes us kinder, more compassionate people to ourselves and others. I hope today you are able to recognize these moments in your life.

Much love from the land of the best sunrises and sunsets in the world.

About the Ups and Downs and Everything In Between

Hanksville, Utah/Higheay 95 to Escalante, Utah/Hole-in-the-Rock Road

Hayduke Trail, Days 12-18

Total Miles: 305

After a day of rest and exploration of the tiniest of tiny American west towns, which basically meant visiting the two diners and small market, picking up resupply boxes at the PO, and then introducing Kasey to The Bachelor (Rachelle, aren’t you proud?), we set off from Hanksville on another 6 day stretch into the (mostly) unknown.

We spent our day off also going through our maps and guidebook. After the first 10 days on trail, I wanted as much information possible before diving in again. As Kasey and I are figuring each other out and our hiking styles we have quickly realized my slow, methodical, gather as much information possible before I take a single step personality is different than his get the information you can and then go for it approach. The beauty of how we operate together is a fine balance between pausing and forward movement. If I didn’t have him on the trail I would probably be stuck on a cliff about 5 days in refusing to move and he might be stuck down in a canyon someplace. Both approaches are needed at different times and it is a daily practice of letting go, communicating, and offering grace to each other.

This stretch between Hanksville had some incredible highlights and challenges. The Hayduke is a finicky route. I’ve come to a realization that I should never think I have it figured out because as soon as I do the Hayduke tosses an unknown, unforeseeable surprise our way. This can be exhausting! Part of what I love about thru hiking is getting into a rhythm and rolling the entire day, giving my brain space to think, process, relax. The route does not offer that same space. My brain is constantly on alert as I looked for cairns, footpaths, check the maps, double check the gps. I’m always wondering if we are on the right route.

But . . . In the midst of this uncertainty there is the reminder to look up, be aware of what’s around me and soak in the desert sunrises and sunsets, massive rock walls uplifted from the earth, spectacular arches, and Kasey’s companionship.

The first day out of Hanksville we headed up the Henry’s Mountains, hoping to take the high route over Mt. Ellen. After doing about 4 miles in 4 hours, postholing through ice crusted snow that left ice burn and numerous cuts on our legs, we decided to head back to Wicciup Pass where we had seen a fire ring. Drying out shoes and socks and thawing our numb feet around the fire, we made the call to head back the next day and take a low route around the mountains.

Morning sunrise in the Henry’s Mountains

While disappointed to not take the summit route, we started the next day before sunrise to ensure the snow was hard on our way down. We were rewarded with a full moon and clear sunrise happening at the same time! That same day, as snow and mountains gave way to heat and sand, we ran into the friendliest group of folks enjoying the day on their ATVs. The Hayduke is so remote your rarely run into people. This extrovert was super excited to chat with everyone! The best part was that these trail angels offered water, not just water but COLD water! Who knew how much cold water and tootsie rolls could do for my spirit?

Our first trail angels! Cold water and tootsie rolls hit the spot.

The high spirits didn’t last too long as the day continued. Two dry water sources, a maddening, steep descent into a canyon, and then pushing the miles trying to make it to a water source before nightfall. We made it, found some not so pretty but drinkable water, and called it a day.

The following day, day 14 on trail, was one of my favorite days so far! Mostly straightforward, we hiked into Capitol Reef National Park and were rewarded, after hiking up the Burr Trail Switchbacks, with views, another group of people, and the opportunity to hike through the entire 10 miles of Lower Mulley Twist Canyon. If you are ever at Capitol Reef do this hike!! I spent the afternoon in awe of the walls and amphitheaters around me. That night, after a dry couple days, we got to a water source called Mulley Tanks. For a PNW backpacker who is used to a plethora of water sources, camping near water has become a gift!

Hiking in Lower Mulley Twist Canyon. None of the pictures do it justice!

We continued from here the next day through Halls Creek Canyon, deciding to take an alternate route around the Escalante river wade of 25 miles. This day had its highs and lows. We were by water most of the day but had some bush whacking and route finding that gave way to frustration. The day ended with the pleasant surprise of hiking up and over the Waterpocket Fold on the “old Baker Trail”. We spend so much of our time in canyons on this trail . . . this mountain girl enjoyed the chance to set up camp up high with a view of the Henry’s.

Day 16, we dropped from Waterpocket Fold into Steven’s Canyon. This was probably one of the most difficult days so far, mostly due to the difficulty of finding the route through the canyon. We decided to push reset at lunch and worked together the rest of the day to make sure we were making the best decisions possible about our route. Steven’s Canyon dropped us into the Escalante River where we waded though silty water, quicksand river bottom, and tamarisk branches to Coyote Gulch. A sandy shelf in an amphitheater above this creek provided respite that night.

Hiking through Coyote Gulch on our day into Escalante was quite different from what we have done so far! Flowing water, trees, other backpackers, natural bridges . . . It’s a popular place! We were trying to make it to Hole-in-the-Rock road early enough to get a hatch into Escalante. This is a 33 mile hitch on a dirt road. We had heard stories of people waiting 24 hours for a ride (we saved to instant oatmeal and pop tarts just in case we were there for awhile!). About a mile out from the road, I saw a group of backpackers in front of me. Some of you know I’m a competitive person . . . When I see other hikers in front of me it’s like this instant motivation to pick up the pace just to see if I can pass them within a certain distance or time. It gives me something to work towards and takes my mind off tired legs and feet. I also thought, “that’s a potential ride.” And, so it was! We got a ride with the nicest group of BYU students who very willingly crammed us and our gear into their cars, dropping us in Escalante. What was supposed to be the most difficult hitch was the best!

Jacob Hamblin Natural Bridge in Coyote Gulch

Today is Day 18 on this surprising, unknown, crazy, delightful, difficult journey. We rest today. Our bodies and minds are tired. This rhythm of rest on the Hayduke seems essential. Essential to our well-being, decision making ability, interaction with each other and the world around us. For me today is a “tending to my vital heart” day as Rumi says, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. Tend to your vital and all that you worry about will be solved.” Today I’m trying to not worry about what the Hayduke has in store for us tomorrow. I’ll do what I can to prepare today, gather the information needed, and then try to take on some of Kasey’s “just go for it” approach.

Thanks for all the support and well wishes! Much love, friends, from the land of Everett Ruess, slot canyons, arches, lizards, Navajo sandstone, and kind people! Happy Trails!