Friday, April 27, 2012

April 26, 2012

Woke up feeling a little better. Hiked up Tanner, d=rt did as well. He is feeling stomach problems as well. From the top We hitched to Mather campground where we plan to camp for 2 nights and hopefully recover from these bugs! Drinking a ton of fluids and ate a regular human sized dinner. Hope to be back to shaggy sized meals soon. I am beat, or I would write more. Hopefully more tomorrow. This place is a zoo.

April 24&25, 2012

The sickness really beat me down. I mean really beat me down. I slept for 16 hours Monday afternoon/night. When I woke up, I felt a bit better. I had drank 2 liters of water throughout the night, and even woke up Tuesday morning and ate some granola bars. But the stomach issues were far from gone. I still had diarrhea that seemed to be constant. However the liquid intake was better than the outtake. I felt weak, but stronger than Monday.
    Me and d=rt spoke of the options, me going back to Jacob Lake, meeting him on the North Rim in a few days, or trying to take it easy the next couple days down the trail. My stubborn self was easily convinced to try to hike on.
   So we did. The first 8 miles were beautiful. We walked a road that went through aspen and ponderosa forests. We saw wild turkeys, blue grouse, and a lot of deer. We were at 9000 feet and drinking snowmelt! Perfect, I even felt pretty good after 8 miles.
   Then we began our descent down to the Grand Canyon on the Nincoweap trail. It was about 6000 feet down. We quickly left our ponderosas and snow, and became completely exposed on a ridge headed steeply for the Colorado River. It was a neat trail, really pretty, but I was running out of water fast, and even drank a lot of what d=rt had left. I could see the lush green bottom for a long time, but it seemed to take forever to get there. When I did make it, I found a cottonwood, grabbed  water, and began to drink. It was then that I made another mistake. I drank 3 liters of water in 20 minutes. Then threw it all back up. I was now weaker than before, not only regretting coming down to the canyon, but slightly fearing what would happen next. Diarrhea was still happening, and I was feeling weak.
   We decided to hike 3 more miles down to the confluence of Nincoweap creek and the Colorado, hoping we could meet some rafters who could give me a ride or other suggestions.
    d=rt scoped out 3 parties at the junction, and we decided to go to all of them, explaining the situation, and seeing if they had ideas. The first group was a private party, very interested in our trip, and they treated me like royalty. They had me sit down, gave me Gatorade, gave me anti-diarrheal, gave me pro-biotics, vitamin C, and even rubbed some oregano oil on my palm, saying it would help as well. It truly almost made me tear up. Once again, a group of strangers, giving so much to help others. Though they were not headed downriver the next day, it gave me some relief. They also said they would help anyway possible. We left them though, after many thanks as it was getting late and we wanted to see if anyone was headed downriver the next day.
    The second group was already drunk, and said they weren’t headed downriver the next day either.
   The third party was super helpful. We camped near them as I was exhausted. d=rt went down and spoke with them while I tried to eat some mashed potato flakes.
    He came back after 30 minutes with 2 plates of food and good news. The leader would float us down part of our route the next day. d=rt ate steak, potatoes, salad, and chicken, which smelt so good, but I knew my stomach could not handle.
    I slept on and off through the night, bad gas still, no diarrhea. The party crowd was hootin throughout the night, though  it really wasn’t too loud. The bats were so neat to watch throughout the night, and I woke to cloudy skies, a real blessing.
  I met the trip leader this morning, a super nice guy who offered anything he could to help. Gave me a ginger root and another roll of toilet paper. He said we should start hiking, and that he would pick us up a bit further down.
   So we did. The route was rough, a few game trails on sand and stone. I was still weak and tired from the episodes the days before. But we made it 3 miles before we saw them coming. They picked us up and took us past the confluence of the Little Colorado River, (don’t tell anyone, it is against the rules)! But we got to float through some rapids, and made good time.
   At the Little Colorado, we got on the beamer trail, which took us 10 miles to the Tanner Trail. I feel exhausted by the heat still, and plan to hike up the Tanner trail to the South Rim tomorrow. d=rt will push on, but I think I need a day off to recover. Time for sleep.

April 23, 2012

Last night was one of the worst of my life. I ate an Indonesian pasta dish for dinner. My belly felt full and happy. As soon as I lay down in my tent, I began farting, a lot! It was about an hour before that turned into diarrhea, and another hour before I started vomiting as well. It was nearly every hour, and I felt weaker after every episode.
    This morning me and d=rt talked about our options. The permit in the Grand Canyon would not let us stay idle, since we had to camp in the park tomorrow. So we decided to change our route and hitchhike to the North Rim, where we would take a road to Nankoweap Creek trailhead.
   I could not walk more than a half mile without needing a break. So we hitched. Eventually got a ride from an accountant for the park. He drove us to the road where we met a girl who is hiking the Arizona Trail. We took a break there and chatted with her. Eventually we hiked to a firetower. Camping below it. I think we hiked 3 miles today, it wore me out. I have spent the afternoon napping and trying to drink water. Hoping that I feel strong enough for a 18 mile day tomorrow. Wow I hate being sick.

April 22, 2012

Had a very relaxing day. We started late, didn’t leave Jacob Lake until 11 AM. It felt really good to relax and try to organize the 6 days of food to get us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, 110 miles away. I sent a ton of food to myself here, and Gu sent me 60 packets of Gu, 8 pounds just of Gu! That’s a lot, but will all go to good use.
   We decided to walk the closed road out of Jacob Lake, it was the easiest route back to the trail.  But when it came time to get on the trail, we decided again to walk the road. Its a really pretty road, right  now has very limited traffic. Its also a bit easier than the trail, and parts of the trail were badly burned in 2006. We have the option to get back on it at any point,  but its so relaxing! We made 16 miles today without much effort.
   These Gu packets are loaded with caffeine. Makes both me and d=rt bounce off the walls! We were more chatty than ever. A lot of fun though. I am looking forward to more of it the next several days!
  We found a great spot to camp tonight. Its in a forest of aspens and ponderosas. Amazing sunset too. I also had a Lewis and Clark IPA, sent it to Jacob Lake. It was a great way to finish a great day. Time to rest.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 21, 2012

Last night was incredible. The stars were amazing, and right before falling asleep I saw the most incredible shooting star fill the night sky. The temperature was amazing too, 50s, perfect for sleeping.
   Left the trailhead early. It was 7 am when we started hiking. Felt good to beat the heat! Up we went to the Kaibob Platue. It was a neat transition from sage brush to juniper to ponderosa pines. It cooled off as we went up too, though the sun was intense all day.
   Not a lot to look at through here, but we made great time on the trail all day. Made it to the highway to Jacob Lake before 5 PM. We tried to hitch the last 2 miles to the store with no luck. So we walked. It was actually a nice last 2 miles, this ponderosa forest is beautiful.
    We made it to the store and d=rt needed lodging. He had some serious chaffing. He agreed to pay for the room, so he could shower. So I didn’t hesitate, makes it easy to take care of resupply. The inn had 2 packages and a letter for me. Gu sent me 60 packages of Gu! That’s a lot of Gu! Thanks Gu! Lauren sent my resupply package with some cheese and tortillas, thanks Lauren! Lauren’s parents also sent a birthday card with some beer/chocolate money! Thanks Balckens!
    Its been a good day today. We made 26 miles, the hiking was nice, and we had a good dinner. Also talked briefly with Lauren. Feels good to be out here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 20, 2012

Last night was really the last time we would spend in a hotel on this trip. No more lodging! Time to get serious about hiking. We left the hotel with bellies feeling full and eager to get back to the trail.
   Hitch hiking went really well. We stood on the side of town for about 15 minutes before Cory Johnson of Ogden picked us up. He is an ultra runner, and loved hearing about our trip, and we enjoyed hearing about his 100 mile races. We finally got out of him that he finishes often times in 8th-10th place, which he humbly says is not that good. I beg to differ. Anyone who can finish a 100 mile race has my respect, let alone finish 10 of them a year.
   He let us off at Buckskin Wash, he was headed to the grand canyon for a 50 mile training run. The wash started out really sandy. It was pretty though. We passed the scrawniest cow I have ever seen. It didn’t surprise me, as there was no water and very little food in this canyon. Again, cows don’t belong here.
   Once we passed the trailhead, we began seeing hordes of people. This is an extremely popular hike, so much it requires a fee and permit. Its no wonder though. Its a beautiful canyon with walls that rise several hundred feet on both side. It was beautiful. Wire Pass was even tighter, some areas were 2 feet across.
    Then we were on to the wave. The wave is another legendary place. Its a sandstone rock area with wavy colors of red, white, and brown. Really cool. They only give 20 permits a day to see the wave. We decided to Hayduke it, and go permit-less. This could mean a large fine, but we were so close and it was after 5 pm, thought we would be ok. Even had a person scold us, telling us we needed a permit and that rangers were around. We never admitted to not having a permit, but not sure why this individual cared so much. We saw it though, took pictures, and hiked on through.
    The Notch was a fun scramble too. The view from the top was beautiful.
   We were a bit concerned about water all day. This is a 45 mile waterless stretch for us. We were even considering night hiking on the trail section tomorrow. But when we arrived at the trailhead for the Arizona Trail we were greeted by a couple from Tucson who offered beer, water, and snacks. We gladly took them up on it and filled our bottles, ate carrots, cookies, and I drank a Moose Drool beer. So very nice. It was a great surprise, and the kindness of strangers never does cease to amaze me.
   Instead of night hiking, we are camping at the trailhead. It feels great to have some water and no worries. The sky is so clear and beautiful tonight.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 19, 2012

We made it into town yesterday morning after a short 3 mile hike and a pretty quick hitch, 29 miles to Kanab, which is called Utah's little Hollywood. It is a great town to spend a couple days off the trail. We are still pretty far ahead on our Grand Canyon permit. So a zero mileage day in town for my birthday seemed okay.
  I woke up this morning at about 5 am. I decided that I should go for a run up the nearest trail, so I did. First run in about a month. It felt great too! I have decided not to run the Zion 50 mile race, instead I would like to get right on back to Montana and run the Prickly Pear 30k in Helena. Its a lot shorter than 50 miles, and less likely to result in an injury before the PCT in June!
  The run up the mountain felt great. The birds around here are amazing, full of color and they sing long before the sun comes up. The sunrise was great, and after a 6 mile run I was hungry. D=rt finally woke up and we got breakfast here at the Parry Hotel. The all you can eat buffet was amazing, and even now at 3 PM I am not really hungry yet.
  Considering another run. D=rt thinks I am crazy for working out on a town day, but it does feel good to me.
  Not a bad place to spend my birthday, I have received so many great birthday wishes too. It’s been a great day. Can’t wait to get back on the trail tomorrow.

April 17, 2012

Woke up to thick frost on my tent. It made it very difficult to start hiking. When it’s that cold, the feeling of sun is amazing, when it finally hits.
  The route lead us through Bullrush Wash. It was surprisingly a very cool canyon. The walls rose up high on both sides of us and the sun hit patches of the red sandstone. Adams spring was flowing greatly, and for the first time in awhile, the water had a great taste to it.
  Once in Park Wash we were in deep sand. It is d=rt's least favorite kind of hiking. The sand slows us down easily to 2/3 of our normal pace. The wash took us to a good road though, and we made good time once again.
  We decided to camp about 3 miles from the road to Kanab. Thought about going in tonight, but we have already spent way too much time in town. The weather is nice and it feels great to be camping. We will make it to town tomorrow for all 3 meals, and be back on the trail Thursday. These miles were easy, with a late start and a siesta, we still made 23 miles. Good day.

April 16, 2012

What a cold night! Woke up to frost on my tarp and frozen water. When the sun finally hit me it felt amazing. D=rt prides himself in finding spots to camp that have the sun hit earliest. I am less picky and generally just find a spot that is somewhat level!
  Started hiking by 8. This trail is amazing. We saw pretty much all of Bryce Canyon National Park's backcountry the last 2 days. Funny, we did not see a single person further than a quarter mile from a road. It was solitude in a place that it would not be expected. I would guess that less than .005% see the backcountry of Bryce. Granted we did see pretty much all that the backcountry has to offer.
  We got to Rainbow point in time for lunch. It was beautiful. The sun was shining and it felt so good! We spread our gear out and let things dry up from last night. I will never get sick of seeing peoples reactions to thru-hikers. So many will walk the long way around. Some ask questions, not many fully understand what we are doing. Which is completely okay. This is America, and it can be seen many different ways, on foot or by car, the important thing is to see it!
  We left the point and headed down towards Riggs Spring. The water there was terrible. There is a very strong iron taste. So strong that when I first smelled it, I almost tasted lunch the second time.
  We talked a lot more than usual today. Talked about hunting season and where we want to hunt this Fall. Talked about politics a bit. Also talked about going into Kanab, Utah on Wednesday. We have some very easy miles to the Grand Canyon, and can’t enter it until April 24th, as the permit requires. So we could take it really easy at 10 miles a day, or keep going our speed and then take a day off. It’s so hard to decide what to do, and being on a permit makes it very hard for us. So we have decided to go into Kanab on Wednesday. It will allow me to buy some new boxers, possibly a new GPS, and get a good meal. It will also allow us to enter Buckskin Gulch on my birthday, which offers world class hiking, and I could not imagine a better way to spend a birthday, if only all my friends and family were there as well!
  We are camped in Bullrush Gulch, and completed a 24 mile day!

April 15, 2012

Finally, a sunny morning. Woke up and looked outside at blue skies and the sun shining on the town of Tropic, as well as the surrounding mountains. It was finally the conditions we were waiting for.
  After a quick breakfast, we packed and were on our way to Bryce. Our route took us right from the center of town, out to Bryce on a dirt road. It was beautiful, and felt amazing to be moving once again. The rocks of Bryce were red, with a dusting of snow that made for a great contrast.
  It took us about 2 hours to make it up to the rim, where we saw the most people we have seen so far on this trip. Bus loads of them. I am not even sure where they all came from, did not see this much traffic in Tropic the last couple days. Perhaps they were also waiting out the storm.
  We walked to the visitor center and got our permit. The ranger was hesitant to give us a permit for the campsite we requested, as it was noon and 14 miles away, but we convinced him that we could handle it. We were then on our way towards the Right Fork of Swamp Creek.
  It was a great 14 mile hike. We walked the rim trail for about 3 miles and passed hundreds of folks out for the day. Many from other countries. As soon as we got off the rim trail though, there was not a single other person, just me and d=rt.
  Following trail feels amazing. I can let my mind wander off, and think about whatever comes to mind. It is very relaxing, and the views from this trail were spectacular. Trail also allows us to walk faster, not constantly trying to find a route.
  We made it to our campsite with no problems. Its going to be a cold night, and a cold morning tomorrow. We hung our food in trees tonight, first time on this trip, as Bryce requires it in the backcountry.
  All in all, a great day. Looking forward to more trail tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 14, 2012

Woke up and looked out the window, snow was coming down sideways. Felt good to not be out in the weather. It came down most of the day, on and off. My dreams of going for a run never came true, I wimped out. Plus, I will be hiking the next 3.5 weeks!
   I spent a lot of time today just relaxing. I watched a lot of TV and played some games. The highlight of the day was checking out an art show which featured the work of Jodie Lee, who volunteers in Zion and paints scenes from all over Utah. Very cool to see some work of places we have been and places we will go.
   I am so very excited to start hiking again tomorrow. I have done enough sitting to get me to the end of this trail. We are planning on taking no more days off in towns, hopefully just do quick re-supplies from here on out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 13, 2012

Snow has been falling nearly all day here in Tropic. It has not stuck to the ground though, and the ground doesn’t even appear damp after the snow showers. Its frustrating to sit in a hotel all day, but what can a person do?
  Everyone is extremely friendly in this town. The postmaster in particular. She talked with me a bunch about the trail and flagged me down when she found a letter for me from Lauren. The guys at the hardware store were friendly as well. We asked them what to do in this town and they replied "drink beer". I asked if you can buy anything but %3.2 beer, and they said "not in this town, just gotta drink a lot". I have occupied my time with cleaning my gear and catching up on email and television.
   With another 80% chance of snow tomorrow, we are going to stay another night. I have new shoes now though, as well as treats from my family and Lauren. Tomorrow may be a good day to run in the snow. If I am going to run the Zion 50 miler May 12th, it may be time to see if I can still run.

April 12, 2012

Woke up at 3 am and looked outside at a very overcast sky. Could not even see a star. Then, I started hearing snow fall on my tent. It’s April, we are in Utah, it’s snowing, are you kidding?
  Woke up to more of the same, off and on snow showers, and a stiff cold wind. We began talking about what we will do today. We had to walk, no doubt about that. But would we drop into the slot canyons, or hike 25 miles to Tropic? We didn’t have to decide right away either. We had 10 miles to go to the point where the route dropped into some narrow slots. So we hiked. It was smooth easy hiking on a dirt road. Easy 3.5 miles an hour.
  We hiked through dense snow coming down on a ridge, then it cleared up. We got to Grosvenor Arch, which was really neat. It was right along the road, and really beautiful with snow coming down. There was an outhouse with a covered porch. We sat under there and observed our options.
  I didn’t want to miss this next section, but didn’t have enough food to wait the storm out. So we left, headed for Tropic. We got a ride after about 15 miles, which was much appreciated, as our feet were beat. This is a section we will come back to. But for now, we will wait the weather out. Looks like storms the next two days. We will wait it out, as there are slot canyons out of Tropic that can not be missed.
  Not much happening in this small town, but we will enjoy it for all its worth, and support the local economy.

April 11, 2012

Slept so well last night. The toads were singing, no wind was blowing, and I was completely exhausted. Woke up feeling great, and we started hiking before 8 am.
  The hiking was super easy, all day. We followed Last Chance Creek up to Paradise Canyon. I must say I pictured paradise to be more paradise-like. It wasn’t bad though, just simple gradual uphill hiking, along a creek with some cottonwoods nearby. At the top of Paradise Canyon, we hit a jeep road, started following it, and made it 10 miles before we decided to camp.
  Then it began to rain. Not much, just a bit. Glad to be in my tent, though it seems to have passed.
  We made it about 23 miles today, but still have 70 to go to town. Also have not seen a single other human since our ride dropped us off at the trailhead, Sunday afternoon. This is some seriously desolate country. That will probably end tomorrow, as we will be entering some popular slot canyons, if the weather cooperates. We crossed a ridge called Death Ridge today. Didn’t see anything dead, but the water out here does taste like death...

April 10, 2012

This section has not been the most scenic. Kinda drab in a lot of places. The views have not been of the world class scenery we have gotten used to. It still has its beauty though. The nearly brainless act of walking up Last Chance Creek has given me the chance to think a lot. Thinking about life, what I want to do when I grow up, and why do I love hiking so much? I really have no answers to these questions, other than the fact that I love hiking and that I want to do something that I love or at the least, enjoy for work.
  We made it to water at about one. The creek is very alkaline, but full of life, so it cant be too bad. We are both treating it though, as there is a strong presence of cows. This evening we both started feeling a little ill. We both think its the amount of chlorine we have drank lately, in particularly today. We use chlorine tablets to treat our water. Hope we are back to 100% tomorrow. For now, we both have grumbly stomachs.
  The sun took its toll on me today as well. Every single day it seems to get super intense in the afternoon. Most days we hike through it. Other days we take a siesta in the shade somewhere. It is exhausting just to be in the sun all day, but I am thankful its not hotter. I will take the 80s over the 90s any day. That goes for music as well!
  I am exhausted now. Hope to feel better tomorrow. We pumped out 24 miles today. Still have 80 to go to Tropic. There is a picnic shelter and outhouse coming up. We are both very excited for it. Funny how excited we get about those 2 little things!

April 9, 2012

I am exhausted. We worked really hard today. Only made it 16 miles too. Not that 16 miles is nothing, but we worked really hard for those 16 today. I woke up to the squawk of a raptor, 2 falcons. They had a nest about 15 feet up in a tree above my tent. It was neat to see them so close, but they did not seem happy that I was there. Also spotted another downy woodpecker.
  We left our aspen grove and beautiful flowing spring, and headed out into some desolate country. The guidebook states that this is one of the last large roadless areas in the lower 48. I believe it. We dropped off the plateau at an elevation of 7300 feet and headed down Monday Canyon. It was a slog down the canyon, it was often times choked with boulders and thick with tamarisk. Many times we just had to weave in and out, on top, or around boulders. Wasn’t bad early on, but as the day progressed, it got much tougher. I left camp this morning with ten liters of water, which equals 20 pounds! The day also got hot. Probably just the 80s, but we are not used to those temps yet!
  I can complain all I want, but it still wasn’t bad. This evening we camped a few miles up Navajo Canyon. The sunset was beautiful. There are at least 5 bats flying around the area, watching them is mesmerizing. We spotted some old adobe shelters in the cliffs, very cool. Also spotted a few game birds. Not sure if they were grouse, but they would have been a good addition to my dinner.
  We have another 12 miles to water. Planning on starting early as we both only have 2 liters left. A cool breeze is blowing through the canyon. The sky is clear. I once again can not wait to see the stars tonight.

April 8, 2012

It feels really good to be out of town. After eating most of our excess food, packing, and me talking to Lauren, we got on our way out of town. A 40 mile hitch is no easy task for two full grown scruffy men, especially when most of that 40 miles is on a lightly traveled dirt road. So we went to the bakery one more time, a huge cupcake makes everything easier. This was my 3rd carrot cake cupcake from this place, amazing.
  We got to the edge of town with thumbs out. It was about 30 minutes before we got our first ride, a guide heading out to lead a group. He said that not too many folks in Utah are going to pick up 2 hippies! He took us about 15 miles down the Hole in the Rock Road, where he was turning off. Good. We found some shade and began hitching again. 30 minutes went by. Then a truck with a family pulled over. Only going another 10 miles. They were super friendly and let us ride in the back with their dog! The next ride took the longest. Still 10 miles from where the route crosses the road, we couldn’t see walking that much further. We waited for about an hour and a half before a couple from Switzerland picked us up. When we got in, we were surprised to see a small child in a child seat next to us. Glad some folks are ok with picking up backpackers, it would be a lot more difficult to do this trail, and most others, without rides from complete strangers. The family drove us the last ten miles to Hurricane Wash, where we started hiking again.
  It felt great to be hiking again. We were on an old jeep track for awhile, which then turned to a steep pack trail. It was warm, but got cooler the further up we went. And up we went, nearly 2500 feet from the valley bottom up to a ridge. Even passed a few chunks of snow.
  On top we began following cow paths to a spring. Its a beautiful spring too. Its fenced off from cattle and has aspens all around. I am happy to be out again, and though we only made 8 miles, I am very glad that hard hitch is over. As I was digging a cat hole this evening, I spotted a scorpion. Didn’t think they would move around so much in the cold.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 7, 2012

Escalante has been a great place to spend a day off the trail. The sleepy town has a population of 700. The wind calmed down today, and as we walked around town, everyone seemed to know who we were. We were kind of celebrities of the little town. There are 2 great outfitters in this town, both very friendly and helpful for us hiker types.
   I resupplied at the grocery store, a bit pricey, but they had everything to make any thru-hiker happy. Even have some produce.
   I mailed off 20 coyote scat samples to Stony Brook University, carried some of them for over two weeks. Also bought more bags for collecting samples.
   I was able to spend some quality time talking to my family and wonderful girlfriend. She has been posting these journal entries, and supporting me on this trip, kinda my basecamp.
   Forecast looks great, 70s and sunny, not much wind for the next few days. We are going into some sweet canyons, very excited to get out there again tomorrow.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 6, 2012

Blue skies filled the sky this morning. The view from my tent was amazing, I had a clear view down Coyote Gulch to Stevens Natural Bridge, a brilliant large arch, red sandstone surrounding me. It was  beautiful. The morning was cold, a stiff breeze blowing. Hard to get moving.
  I did get going soon though, through Coyote Gulch. It is a beautiful place, though far too many people feel the same way. There were at least 10 more camps that I passed on the way up the canyon. Some groups had 4 tents or more. I was honestly overwhelmed by the number of people I encountered.
  I got to the road at noon. Really good timing. I then began waiting for a ride. No cars seemed to travel the road. I waited 15 minutes before the first car came. It was an old suburban. It stopped! It was a man named Mark who runs an outfitter in Escalante. He gave me a ride the 40 miles to town. He is a packrafter and we talked a lot about cattle. The suburban rattled along and we made it to town pretty quickly, 40 miles of dirt road.
   In town I began looking for d=rt. I found him at a hotel and his foot is getting better. We plan on taking a day off tomorrow. So far I ate a 16 inch pizza, a large cupcake, and a couple beers. First shower in 2 weeks. Life is good. I am tired.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 5, 2012

Well I kicked my own butt again today. I woke up to overcast skies. All I could see was grey. It kind of scared me. The Escalante River carries a huge amount of water and the watershed is huge. The ground out here cant hold much water. It doesn’t take much rain to cause a flashflood in this beast of a canyon. Though in most places I could get to higher ground, I could be stranded for days if  the storm was large enough.
   I started hiking around 7 am, with the goal of making it to Coyote Gulch, some 25 + miles downriver. It was tough starting. There is no trail and the brush is super thick on both sides of the canyon. It was fun though. Reminded me of creek walking as a kid. I must have crossed the thigh deep river 50 times. It was deeper the further downriver I went. I stepped into some holes that were well over my waist.
   I ended up drinking the river water, never found any of the springs the guidebook speaks of.
  The Escalante River has some amazing beauty to it. I felt completely alone, like no one had ever been there, no footprints or garbage, just real wilderness. The cliffs on both sides of me were up to 2000 feet tall. I spotted a great blue heron, 3 beavers, a small snake, a frog, hundreds of lizards, and a rather large catfish that swam into my leg when I was crossing the river at one point. Beautiful, ruggedness. I was along the river up to about 5 miles before it pours into Lake Powell, which has covered many more miles of pristine canyons which were seen by few.
   I made it to Coyote Gulch around 6 pm. It is amazing. The water is crystal clear, and only a foot deep or less. There are huge green cottonwoods and many other green things growing. The sun started shining when I got in the gulch, it basically has everything, including people. I passed at least 5 groups camping along the first mile of the gulch. Most number of groups I have seen in one day so far. Its a good thing, as I need to find a ride to Escalante tomorrow.
   The river cleaned me up good. The slime on my feet is gone, now they are white and pale as ever. The grit in my fingernails is gone. All of my clothes are clean too. I look like a normal person, almost. The grease is still in my hair. But not bad for nearly 2 weeks without a shower. Town tomorrow.

April 4, 2012

Solitude. To many folks the word solitude brings some feelings of discomfort. Solitude is hard to find in most peoples lives, many don’t want it. I myself enjoy solitude, and in fact need it in my life. Today I found some serious solitude.
   d=rt came to his senses this morning and told me that he was going to bail out today. His foot was still severely swollen and he knew he needed to give his foot some time off to let it heal. He told me he would try to meet up with me in Escalante in a few days. We said goodbyes, and I was off.
  Being alone in a remote place gives feelings of fear and adventure that cant be found elsewhere. I found myself excited and scared at the same time. I have done many solo hikes before, but never into a place like this. My risk assessments go into play more, when reality says that i must get myself out of any situation I get myself into. Sure, after a few days lost or trapped somewhere, d=rt would send help. But it could be days, and even if they did find me, it would be a royal pain to rescue me out of a lot of places. So I take less risks by myself and hope for the best.
   Through the rest of Lower Muley Twist Canyon. It was amazing, I absolutely love this area. Soon I made my way up Red Slide, a 2200 foot climb out of Grand Gulch. It was nothing short of exhausting. The guidebook says to take the path of least resistance. I couldn’t find a path. I did find other hikers prints and was proud of myself for finding my way.
 The other side took me down Moody Canyon. It was a lot of fun, I weaved in and out, over and under boulders that choked the narrow canyon closed. It was fun but eventually it did wear me out. The canyon opened up and evidence of cows was abundant. I must say this is not the place to put cattle. For one, how much sage brush must a cow eat to maintain itself? I am guessing a lot. I also stumbled across another reason not to put cattle out here. I was getting close to the Escalante River when I heard a Moo. It sounded desperate. I looked up to see if it was trapped on a cliff. Nothing. Then I start to think I am going crazy. Walk on. Then I hear it again, look over and see a full grown cow trapped between a rock and some dirt. It looks like the dirt gave way and trapped the bovine. I wanted to help, but couldn't think of anything that I could do that would not put me in danger of being kicked. So I took a picture, marked the waypoint on GPS, and told Betsy I would let the ranger district know when I got to town. 
    About a half mile down from the struggling bovine, I smelled death. Some ravens took off and sure enough, a full grown dead cow laid in the mud. Tough luck, some rancher just lost a lot of money.
   I made it to the Escalante River around 7. I set up camp and washed up in the river. My god it felt nice to rinse off. The water is a might bit chilly though. I have 25 miles of river walking to do. Its going to be beautiful. The cliffs on both sides of this drainage must be 2000 foot tall. I have a feeling tomorrow could be slow going, guidebook says I will cross the river one million times.
   I hiked 27 miles today. Not easy miles either. I am exhausted, but feel like I did good today. Though I miss the company of d=rt, I know this is good for his foot, and it feels nice to have some time completely alone.

April 3, 2012

Today was one of the best yet on the trail. I slept so well last night. The temperature was perfect, I was sleeping on a nice patch of sand, and a light breeze whipped through camp all night.
   We were on the trail by 8, headed to Capital Reef National Park. It was easy navigation on the benches we were traveling through. We eventually dropped in to another canyon and found a decent water hole. Followed the canyon out to a road that took us up to the Waterpocket Fold.
   We passed about 5 cars, all waving, 2 stopped and talked to us, one who gave us each an apple. Fruit tastes amazing after over a week without any. Amazing.
   We then hiked through Lower Muley Twist Canyon. This canyon is somethin else. It is full of beautiful rock formations. The drainage carves deep into rock as it rounds corners, leaving sandstone cliffs that are 2000 feet tall. The sandstone has colors that vary from red, orange, tan, even purple.
   I found myself lost in thought this afternoon while walking down this canyon. Most times on this route it is dangerous to not pay attention to where you are going and know where you are on the map. But here we are simply following a canyon, nowhere to go but down for 10 miles. It was relaxing and comfortable.
   d=rt is not feeling much comfort right now. His foot has 2 blisters that are causing serious pain. I tried to convince him to take the road to the nearest town and take a day off, but his stubbornness is pushing on. Its still 4 days to town, and that’s at 17 miles a day. I am just hoping that his infection doesn’t get any worse.
   For now, I don’t want to leave this canyon. Capital Reef may now be my favorite national park. Looking forward to Escalante National Monument tomorrow.

April 2, 2012

Woke at 3 AM to snow hitting my face. At first I thought it was just dust, then turned on my light to see it blowing sideways through my tent. Not much I could do, just buried my head in gear and eventually drifted back to sleep.
   Morning came too soon. A light dusting of snow had fallen. It seems its so dry here that whatever snow falls is quickly evaporated. d=rt and I had a lot of trouble getting out of our tents. It was so cold! Our water bottles had frozen, not solid, but enough that they would not allow us to drink from them. I had all of my clothes on, still not super comfortable.
     We walked dirt roads for 10 or so miles. It was very uneventful. We did see a bunch of turkeys, probably close to 50 of them. I wanted to try and catch one, but d=rt did not like the idea.
   The wind howled all day, really strong. The Henry Mountains, where we spent last night were in the clouds most of the day, looked like off and on snow. Beautiful though!
   Water became an issue once again today. As we left the high mountains we quickly returned to cow country. We had 2 water sources shared with livestock, both troughs. The first had what we think was a coyote leg in it. Though the water was crystal clear, I could not bring myself to drink it. Where did the coyote leg come from and why was it here? We may never know. The second trough was full of green slime and cow poop. Yum.
   We turned off Tarantula Mesa around 3 pm. The decent to the canyon below was nothing short of brutal. Loose dirt and crumbly sandstone. But we made it.
  The last few miles of the day were the toughest. We got off route and on some steeper nastier stuff than we needed to be on. It was tough. We made it to some water though, and a nice campsite.
   d=rt has a nasty blister on the bottom of his foot. He thinks it is infected, but says he can make the 5 days to Escalante, where we plan to take a day off. It will be the longest I have gone without shower, 17 days. Hope we can find a ride!
 Amazing sunset today yielded amazing pictures. Once again, I was tired and frustrated, but I got over it by taking a look around at this amazing country. Oh, and it's Monday and I did not work.

April 1, 2012

This route never seizes to amaze me. Last night we slept in Poison Spring Canyon at around 4000 feet. Tonight we are at about 7500 feet in the Henry Mountains. Its snowing and I am happy to be surrounded by down in my sleeping bag.
   Last night the wind howled through our camp and coated everything with sand. It was so bad at one point that I had to put my hat over my face to keep from getting my eyes sandblasted.
   The views up into the Henry Mountains were nothing shy of  incredible. We could see the vastly laid out Colorado plateau, and the snow of the mountains we were about to enter.
   Took a nap along a stream and in a grove of aspen. This is the life, so relaxing.
   We took the lower elevation alternate route as we could see this storm building. Right now I am extremely happy to be  camped at 7500 instead of 10,000! Tomorrow we head back down to 5000 or so. Going to be a cold night!

March 31, 2012

Woke up to another amazing sunrise. It was incredible. Red rocks have so much color when the sun is coming up. We ended yesterday off route, but this morning we quickly found the place we needed to be. Dropped quickly into Fiddler Canyon, which was named after a fiddle playing sheepherder.
    Quickly we were at the Dirty Devil River. The guidebook states to try not to drink it. The reason being that it is alkaline, extremely silty, contains heavy metals, and contains agricultural waste. The guidebook states that it will give you diarrhea. Glad we still had water to get us through. The dirty devil was a fun challenge, the route had us going from one side of the river to the other, as it weaved through a canyon. Quicksand filled the banks, never a real threat, fun to play in. The hardest part was not being able to see the bottom of the river, and it got deep in some places.
   We were on a road after that, it was beautiful though.  Took us through Poison Spring Canyon. No traffic on this sandy road to nowhere. We pulled off a 23 mile day. It felt good to finally make miles.
   Tomorrow we head into the Henry Mountains. Up to 11500 or so feet. Cant wait to get in some snow for once on this trip.
   I saw a sign at Hite Marina yesterday, which spoke about Butch Cassidy. He used to run cattle through this area on a series of trails. It made me wonder if he traveled the trails we are hiking. It made me wish I could see the world way back then, things have changed.

March 30, 2012

Saw amazing shooting stars last night, like most nights on this trip. I woke up with the sun and started trying to pack my backpack. 10 days of food and 9 liters of water. With gear, it amounted to over 60 pounds, i am guessing. That made today tough.
   We agreed to take it easy and get a later start today, still got going by 9. It was a perfect town stop. Zach gave us amazing trail magic. the lady running the concession stand could not sell us anything because the store was not open yet, but was happy to get our packages for us. I had sent over  35 pounds of food to Hite, including 3 V8 drinks and a Lewis and Clark beer, heavenly. It truly is the little things. I was also able to call Lauren and family from a payphone, really glad they had one there! Thank you Lauren and family for supporting my crazy dreams of hiking.
  Found a tiny scorpion under my groundsheet this morning. Apparently he was the kind that just leaves a sting like a bee, no major threat!
   We hiked the road out of Hite and soon got on to a dirt road, which lead us to cross country. There was a sweet climb up to a rim that took us awhile. Both of us were really glad our moms cant see this kind of stuff. The climb involved me climbing to a point, d=rt pushing the packs while I pulled, then us repeating. I wonder how long it took the founders of the trail to find that route, its amazing.
   We then began getting lost. On a place called Red Benches. It’s beautiful, but difficult to navigate. We walked the wrong way more than a couple times. We finally decided to camp. It is so beautiful today, and every day out here. Even with some frustrations, I am very happy to be here and consider myself lucky to be able to do this.

March 29, 2012

KABOOM! Just as I had finally turned off my headlamp for the night, I heard a large crash. We were sleeping in a drainage and my first thought was flash flood. There was clear skies when we went to sleep though, and did  not feel like there was a threat of floods. We assumed it was just a rock that was loosened by the temperature change of the evening. It left me nervous, but exhaustion took over, I was asleep quickly.
   Woke up to clear skies and we were hiking early. Both of us, nearly out of food. Made good time out of Young’s Canyon, where we found a group of NOLS. The first question they asked was if we saw the meteor last night. Apparently the loud crash was a meteor hitting earth. Crazy! We hiked down Dark Canyon, which was beautiful, all the way to an extremely steep climb out of the canyon. Still, anytime I get annoyed, I take a look around. It is so beautiful.
   The last 12 miles of the route to Hite were on roads, all dirt roads. Zach came in with a rental car, unexpectedly. He gave us watermelon, gatorade, and a bunch of other food. His knee is still bummed, so he is driving to Missoula tonight.
   We made it to Hite, camped right by visitor center, got our packages, 10 day stretch here we go!

March 28, 2012

Another butt kickin day today. Started out smoothly, we had very easy cross country, which lead us to a trail. There was a register at the Fable Valley trailhead, we signed it, and only about 20 others had signed in the last few years. The trail was poorly maintained and we often were forced to walk cross country, but it was better than no trail at all.
  We took an hour long lunch break at the point that we broke off the trail. We both cooked and ate a big lunch to fuel us for the climb ahead.
   I love the hardcoreness of this trail, we are constantly climbing in and out of pour offs, and surprises are around every corner. Even though it kicks my butt on a daily basis, i want more, and look forward to the challenges that tomorrow throws at me.
   We did about 15 miles today, tough miles. We are both low on food and have 25 miles to go before we can resupply. Its going to be a push, but we are going to try and make it to Hite Marina tomorrow.

March 27, 2012

Woke up cold again last night. I think it was in the 20s, but the wind coming down the canyon, made it much colder. We left around 730, headed up canyon. Water was on my mind  from the time I woke up. 3 liters, 12 miles. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, but after a few hours, it was apparent that water was going to be a concern.
   Me and d=rt are both familiar with desert hiking, him more than me. Nothing can fully prepare you for hiking in the desert without water. The sun becomes your worst enemy, and simple tasks become hard, such as reading the   maps and topography.
   The hike was a full blown sandbox today, walking up Butler Wash. It’s amazing how much energy it takes to walk, even just 2 miles per hour. The critters loved this wash  too. I found bobcat, coyote, and bighorn sheep tracks. Lizards, and their tracks, are abundant as well, tiny little feet that move quickly! Also spotted a downy woodpecker.
   The route lead us to a canyon that appeared to dead end, a common occurrence, a pour-off in a canyon. We once again found a route around, but it always is scary to see a dead end.
   After milking my water all day, I ran out at 4 pm. It took us over 2 more hours to find water, which proved to be the best we have seen on this route yet. It was piped into a tub, cold, crystal clear, beautiful! I drank a liter instantly, and packed up six more, and we moved on. A couple miles from the spring we set up camp. Over 12 hours to go 14 miles. That’s some tough hiking.
   Tomorrow looks a little easier, we will be on trail for some time, cant wait! Amazing dinner tonight, noodles with chili, hot sauce, mashed potatoes, and dried deer burger, sweet!

March 26, 2012

Today had its challenges, I am exhausted. Woke up a few times to wind blowing from every direction. Clouds forming overhead. I assumed this meant we may actually see some rain. It did finally rain, I think I felt 15 drops, not bad.
   The wind blew all day though, a stiff headwind. You wouldn’t think it would make hiking harder, but it does!
  The big letdown today was when Zach said his knee would probably disable him from hiking on. We were all bummed, but hopeful that his knee will get better and he can rejoin the trip at Hite Marina on Friday. Lucky for him there was an easy hike out, as we are in Canyonlands National Park. Zach gave me and d=rt most of his food, which we consumed in about 15 minutes while saying goodbyes.
   The route got easy for awhile after Zach left, we were on trail for the first time since we started the Hayduke last week. Canyonlands is beautiful, very remote feeling.
   We left the trails around 5 pm, headed cross country. It was flat, we were taking a canyon off to the left. The flat walking went on a long time though, we passed a canyon, but thought it was too soon. So we continued, through the sandbox, every step  losing six inches. Finally went up a canyon, but didn’t think it was right, the GPS showed us off the map. 2 miles in the wrong direction!
   I was annoyed at first. But what can you do? I looked around while back tracking through the sandbox, it was beautiful. Plus, I picked up some coyote scat for the ASC project. How lucky am I? Pretty darn.
   We are camped at the mouth of a canyon and the stars are amazing. No tent, just the sleeping bag.

March 25, 2012

This trail is nuts. We have been traveling in and out of canyons the last day and a half. We hiked a lot on jeep roads, but then anytime there is some really interesting canyon, the route takes us off trail and down, then back up a canyon.
   I have no idea how they got the idea to put a route through some of this, it’s gnarly. Many points we come to are huge pour offs with 50+ feet below, and somehow we find a route down. The canyons are still beautiful and the feeling of remoteness is unbeatable. We have not seen another individual since we left Hurrah Pass, 2 days ago. All we see is the occasional footprints, and tire marks on the jeep roads. It feels amazing, I don’t expect we will see another thru hiker on this route.
    The water has gone from bad, to worse, to better. We drank Colorado River water all day yesterday, not bad taste, just fear that it is filled with chemicals. This morning we made our way to a great looking spring. The problem was the salty taste, I gagged more than a few times drinking it. Indian Creek was amazing, clear, cold, crisp water. We ponied up there, all with as much water as we could carry, for me, thanks to Zach, that was 10 liters. We are in the middle of a 35 mile waterless stretch, though we found water in the creekbed near where we are camped, 30 miles to the next guaranteed water source.
   I am beat up. My pack  must be pushing 50  pounds with the water, slightly sunburnt, scratches from bushwhacking, sore feet from blownout shoes, and dehydrated slightly. The other 2 guys are hurting as well. This is a tough route, but anytime I am annoyed, I look up, and the scenery reminds me just how good I have it. We made close to 15 miles today, a lot considering the amount of rock scrambling we did.
   We have 70 miles to Hite Marina, our next resupply. We will have to pick up the pace in order to not run out of food. Looks like a little easier stuff coming up, we should be ok.

March 24, 2012

It’s siesta time on the Hayduke Trail. It’s 3:30 and hot out, maybe 85 or so. But for 3 boys from Montana, it’s hot. The sand must make it hotter too. We were on jeep roads for the first 14 miles today. You would think that would mean fast miles, but with seven liters of water and 6 days of food,  it’s not so fast. We did ok though. Took a couple shade breaks, now we are siesta-ing.
   We are off the road now, in a sweet canyon.  I absolutely love the canyons on this  trip so far. They have great colored rocks, many have no trails, so there is a good sense of adventure.
   We have found a great spot here in the canyon, a waterhole and all. It has caddis in it, which Zach says may be a rare or undocumented species. He keeps wishing he had vials to collect samples.
  d=rt says my beard is looking good. Finally, 25 years old, and I have a beard. Yay.
  It’s almost 4 pm and we will be heading out soon. It feels amazing to be out here and I am stoked for more days in paradise.

March 23, 2012

Ate a ton of food last night. I’ve only been at it 2 days, but somehow I feel the urge to eat a lot in  town. Pizza, ice cream, burrito, and fruit. Amazing how much I can eat, and after only 30 miles!
   After a stop at the post office, we got out of town by 9 am. Super heavy packs, six days of food. The walk out of town continued to get more and more beautiful. It also got hotter and hotter. We made our way up to Hurrah Pass, all on dirt roads. It was so beautiful though, the rocks are full of color.
   Kane Spring was flowing nicely and could be the last good water we find for awhile. We drank a bunch and continued on. It was amazing how many people we saw recreating today. Bikers, hikers, climbers, and ATVers. Glad we can share this land and everyone was extremely friendly.
   Once over Hurrah Pass, we saw less people and it was apparent that we were about to enter more rugged and less accessible areas. There was hardly anymore traffic, and the road would be impassable by most.
   We set up camp early, about 6 pm, 20 miles from town. We are right by the Colorado River, drinking from it. Its silty  water is the last water we will have for another 20 miles. Guess its time to break out the gatorade powder to cover the flavor of the river.
   Amazing sunset, and now its 8 pm and I am considering sleep soon. And guess what? I DON’T HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW.