Saturday, May 12, 2012

Back in Helena, reflections of the trail!

Well I am back in Helena! It was a wild ride, the Hayduke Trail. Even if I complained a bit in my journal, I loved everyday out there. Even the days I was suffering from stomach problems, I could not ask for a better place to be sick, well... besides a bed with a toilet nearby! But really, it was a great trip. All in all, I walked about 750 miles. I missed nearly 90 miles, due to the stomach problems and bad weather near Tropic. I wore out 3 pairs of shoes, ripped holes in my hat, tent, shorts, rain jacket, and had a mouse chew through one of my stuff sacks.
   To future Hayduke hikers: I would first of all recommend doing this trail with at least one other person, at least the first time. Its an extremely demanding trail, requiring you to constantly be thinking of where you are, where you are going, and how the hell you are going to get there. I could not have asked for a better hiking partner. d=rt helped me, I helped d=rt. We shared water, food, fuel, and its always nice to have someone to laugh with, or at. Given that I have hiked the trail once, I would be inclined to try it again solo. It would mean a lot of time completely alone, but it would be interesting.
    I believe that we hit this trail at the perfect time. We never had to deal with too much snow. We also had plenty of water. We had a few cold nights and mornings, but nothing that we couldnt handle.
   The Hayduke has its challenges to hike. The biggest challenge we saw was the permits. Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Escalante, Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion, all require permits to camp overnight. We honestly only took our Grand Canyon permit seriously. Most public areas do not have the funds to have folks out patrolling on a regular basis. We spent over $140 on permits for this trip, and I honestly think that I would probably poach the parks if I did the hike again. A $100 ticket wouldn't be terrible. Sticking to permits for 45 days would be terrible. I would even consider trying to packraft the Grand Canyon. It would be impossible to get a permit, but it would be an amazing addition to the trip.
    East to west, west to east. Either way would work on this trip. Hitching across the Colorado River in Marble Gorge could pose a problem. Other than that, there are a few climbs that would be hard to find going Westbound, but it would be okay!
    At any rate, here I am back in Helena. Jobless and homeless is not so bad after all! I will be going to Wyoming for an internship in June, right before me and Lauren will take off for the Pacific Crest Trail on June 14th. This year has already been something that I will never forget.
  Its 70-80 degrees in Helena right now. I ran the Prickly Pear 30K today! I ran it slower than the last 2 years, but I also did not push myself too hard, and feel better than I did the last 2 years!

May 8, 2012

We finished! Yesterday at about 8 AM, we finished our last 3 miles into Weeping Wall, the Eastern terminus of the Hayduke Trail. It was not a very exciting finish. There was a bathroom at the end though, a treat for us on this trail. Both of us had wore out shoes and feet. We were planning to hike a couple day hikes, but opted out when we took the bus to the visitor center and sat for nearly an hour. Instead we went right to Springdale, a quick walk from the park. We found a cafe and ate celebratory breakfast burritos. Good way to end!
  Then we started thumbing to St. George. Not 3 minutes after we began hitching, we had a ride. A man named Rich who is the Vice President of a group called Friends of the Escalante. He works to get federal land protected. It was nice talking with him, and he was happy to hear a bit about our hike. He was also headed right to St George, perfect!
  Driving into St George was overwhelming. A lot going on! We quickly found a hotel, and began lounging. We enjoyed a lot of food. My favorite was eating watermelon by the pool under some palm trees. So relaxing!
  We are headed home today. The little Mazda rental car is getting a workout while we travel 800 miles today. Its weird driving after 7 weeks not driving. I am tired, ready to be home. Not ready to be done hiking the Hayduke. This trail is the one I would do again, if I was given the chance to do it.

May 6, 2012

Sleep was great last night. It was cool out, a light breeze blowing, and the sound of the East Fork of the Virgin river put me at ease. Perhaps falsely though. We were camped deep in the depths of the gorge, a mere 3 feet above river level. We did have an escape route though, a little gorge going up from thee river. If it were to start raining, we would quickly retreat up the gorge.
  We didn’t have any rain, or floods. We were up and hiking by 7. The waterfall was still there, and there was still no easy way down. So I tried to rappel down the fall. The webbing harness scared me. It felt really loose and insecure. I decided to tie the rope to a tree, and downclimb, with the rope to keep me from falling. It worked well. I was soaked at the bottom, but alive. D=rt then lowered me the packs, and I ferried them through the plunge pool at the bottom. D=rt decided to downclimb as well. At the bottom he could not free the rope. We tried for awhile, eventually I climbed back up, unsnagged the rope then climbed down. We were both soaked and at 8 am, this water wasn’t warm! Glad our moms did not see this.
 The next challenge was "fat man’s misery". It was an extremely steep climb out of the river bottom. Fun for us though, just happy to have the waterfall out of the way. This lead us to sandstone walks, again very colorful, up to the highway and entrance station.
  About this time we decided that the webbing harness was to sketchy to take into Orderville Canyon. We also figured out that we would need to get to the permit office, 12 miles away, to make Orderville happen. We talked about it for hours. Finally decided to skip Orderville, camp out tonight, then head to the main part of Zion tomorrow, for a couple short day hikes. Then we will try to hitch to St. George.
 We hiked 8 more miles and are camping without a permit in Echo canyon. Its beautiful here. We have about 2 miles left of the Hayduke Trail tomorrow. Then 10 miles of other trails that we want to hike. Its bitter sweet ending this journey, but exciting to start another one soon! Plus, I get to be homeless and jobless for awhile. Can’t wait to get out on my bikes.

May 5, 2012

The wind was howling last night, it was peaceful though. We were camped among cottonwoods, and for some reason there were a ton of hummingbirds around. One kept flying around a tree, checking me out. As soon as I would turn to look, the bird would retreat to the other side of the tree. It was a game of peek-a-boo, that both me and the bird seemed to enjoy. Makes me fall more in love with nature and not want to leave this area anytime soon. But I am excited to get home to Lauren. The PCT is right around the corner too.
  The hiking was a bit rough this morning. Easy to follow road, but the sand made for pretty slow going. It was beautiful though. The area is wilderness and protected for good reason. The sandstone has many colors to it. Red, white, tan, black, orange, all mixed together in waves. Its really a neat area.
  We were on D=rt time today too. We both have very different hiker styles. I try to get up early and get miles in early. D=rt prefers to sleep in, take a siesta, then hike late to get miles in. We have done a good job compromising on this trip so far, but I decided to hike D=rt’s way today. The easiest way for me to do that was without a watch. So I took it off first thing. It went well too. We hiked a bit later, but never rushed, and still got in 21 miles.
  The best part of the hike today was hiking the East Fork of the Virgin River. It’s super beautiful. Red Sandstone cliffs on both sides of us, hundreds of feet high. The area between cliffs is often 10 yards across, so we are forced to hike right through the knee deep river. We did come to an obstacle at the end of the day. The river narrowed and went right through a tight shoot. It seemed tricky and a bit different than the guide described. So we backtracked and found a place to camp, and checked the GPS to make sure it was right. It turns out that it is right. We are guessing the water may be a bit high. That is why it is so intimidating. We have a rope right now for Orderville, so we plan to use it to rappel down tomorrow morning. It’s only a 10 foot drop, but looks super slick, with a deep pool right beneath. Seemed sketchy at first, but with rope, should be fine. Everything will be wet though, so I will be doing my best to waterproof everything come morning.
  That is one thing I love about this trail. It seems that we ask ourselves on a regular basis, "is this really the route?" Most of the time it is the route and we just have to put our big boy shoes on and go for it.

May 4, 2012

The moon was so bright last night. On top of that, the birds were singing all night as well. It was very peaceful and relaxing, and sleep was good. I was up with the sun, and woke D=rt up. Very excited to get to town. I was nearly out of food, and really hoping to get lodging to soak my feet.
  We made really good time to the road to Colorado City. Dirt roads are so easy to hike, though not super scenic. At the highway we decided to hitch in to town. It was 6 miles of asphalt. We received a ride quickly from a few friendly Mormons. They took us right to the grocery store.
  We resupplied, and started to ask about lodging. It sounds like the only places nearby, are 15 miles away. Too far off the trail for us. We have about 50 miles of hiking left, we will live without soaking feet.
  This town has gotten a bad rep with some other hikers. It is known for polygamy and fundamental LDS. But we have experienced very friendly people everywhere. The post master even invited us to stay at her house tonight. We refused though, I think we both are ready to get out of town... once this siesta is over.
  The people in town do look at us a bit differently, but we are smelly hikers coming into their town, its pretty normal for us to get stares. I am just happy to have gotten some town food and a good resupply.
  It is a beautiful day, and almost 4 pm. We are hanging out in the city park. Green grass and shade. My belly is full and I have water. Life is good. I am happy to be here.

May 3, 2012

Today has been great. We started the day at 5 AM, walking by 6. I love walking that early. We were up and walking before the sun. Then slowly watched it rise. For the first time on this trip, we are in really open country, left the canyons far behind.
  We walked through Hack Canyon, then began the trek across the Arizona Strip, which is a huge swath of open land. Not appealing to many people, but for us it meant fast walking on dirt roads. It was such easy walking that we made 3+ miles per hour all day.
  We took a siesta at Yellowstone Springs. Not the best looking water, but it tasted great. We made 22 miles by 130, deserving a long siesta. We found shade in some rocks and napped and ate food until 5. D=rt fell asleep after making himself a cooked lunch. He was so excited to have lunch when he woke up. I must have slept good as well, woke feeling refreshed. We walked a couple more hours after the break. Made over 30 miles today, our biggest day on the trail. My feet are not too excited though. The hot ground seems to be really rough on both my feet and shoes.
  We are headed into Colorado City tomorrow. We need to resupply and get our box with rope for Orderville Canyon. We are also hoping to get a meal, maybe even some lodging. We will see how the day goes. I am exhausted now.

May 2, 2012

Yesterday took its toll on me. The sun wiped me out. We started early, nonetheless. Hiking by 7. Kanab canyon was beautiful. It was also exhausting, we walked through the creek, navigating around boulders. One pool I walked through was high on my chest. The water was really warm, as it is hit by the sun much of the day.
 I honestly was not feeling the hiking today. It was such slow going, and I am tired and hungry. My hiker appetite is here but I am low on food! Maybe it is the perfect amount, but it doesn’t allow me to gorge like I would like to.
 We are now in a 37 mile waterless stretch. We have 23 miles left to water, and both of us have about 5 liters. It will be easy hiking though. With any luck it won’t be a problem.
 I must say this trail challenges a person in every way possible. Both mentally and physically, it tries hard to get the best of you. Food and water are always on my mind. Its a good thing this trail is so darned pretty, or I would be gone a long time ago.

May 1, 2012

I am beat. We started early and hiked late. We went through some tough stuff! The day was good though. We started out hiking up Thunder River. It’s the world’s shortest river. It was amazing though, a river pours right out of a hole in a rock cliff.
  On the other side of Surprise Valley, was another waterfall pouring out of a rock, and into Deer Creek. It was also real nice to have trail, if only for 5 miles. Then things got tough. We had 7 miles of walking along the Colorado River, with no trail. Sometimes we would have a game path, but mostly it was boulder hopping on a slope. It was slow going. This is D=rt’s least favorite kind of hiking, and it took him 2 hours longer to complete this stretch than me. I found shade and waited. It didn’t help that we hiked this stretch through the heat of the day.
  Kanab creek has been amazing so far. Our feet are wet from trudging through the creek bottom, but the canyon is so cool. The walls rise hundreds of feet on both sides and twist and turn through this amazing landscape. There are hanging gardens and dripping springs. It is great after the hell we both feel we went through today. I am low on food and hungry non-stop! Hoping we can get some good miles in towards Colorado City tomorrow.

April 30, 2012

Slept so well in that little cabin at 8000 or so feet. It was about the perfect temperature, 50’s, and my Z-rest felt great on top of the old metal cot. The morning came, and we had to start hiking. Down the canyon we went. This section had some crazy amounts of thorns. We took turns cutting our way through the nasty tangle of thorns that was well over our heads.
  My arms quickly became scratched by the thorns, and every hit made them more sensitive. We moved at less than one mile an hour through the hellish terrain. Finally it cleared up, and the walls of the canyon rose high on both sides of us. We ended up climbing down one pouroff that lead us to another one that we could not get down. So we climbed out of the first one, and climbed up the ridge a ways to avoid the pouroff, before climbing back down to the canyon. It was slow going, about an hour for 100 yards of progress.
  The best part of this canyon was the slip and slide. It was an area with several pools lined up in the canyon. There was no way to avoid them, so we slid down into the pools and walked to the next one. They were only waist deep, but the water that rarely sees the sun, was ice cold! Still so much fun that this canyon was one of me and D=rt’s favorites!
  The going down Tapeats Canyon was really slow too. Partly because we started fishing for trout with our hands. We were both successful, but released them as we wanted to hike more. Tapeats got much larger at one point too. Its now a raging river! The trail had us walking right through it for about a mile. Its knee deep and very swift, but not hard to keep upright.
  I left the South rim with 2 beers the other day. One must have gotten jammed on a rock today, as I felt liquid running down my butt. I stopped quickly, but had no choice but to drink the rest of the beer mid-day. It was such a good IPA, but oh well. I wanted to save them for the end, but ended up drinking the second one tonight. Not worth the risk of losing another!
  We spotted 2 garder snakes today, as well as our first rattler of the whole trip. The bats are going crazy tonight, its beautiful. The sound of the creek will be a great way to fall asleep.

April 29, 2012

Today was just about perfect. We slept in, until 7 AM. Hiking by 8! I slept so well last night. It was cold outside and I was huddled under a tent and thick layer of down in my sleeping bag. It was perfect.
  The cold did bring a new challenge though. We were out of water, and the snow we had gathered last night was frozen in our bottles. Nothing we could do, just had to wait for some running water or the snow in bottles to melt.
  We followed an easy going dirt road all day, the Swamp Ridge Road. It doesn’t sound nice, but it was extremely nice, no marsh in sight. It took us through ponderosa groves, aspens, and even some green grass. It was beautiful. We also got occasional glimpses of the Grand Canyon, which is always amazing. It is so much more enjoyable to look at here on the closed North rim than the crowded south rim. In fact we didn’t see a soul other than each other, all day. The north rim does not open for 2 more weeks.
  We did see a coyote and a herd of bison today. They must be open range bison. Why don’t people raise more bison? They are smarter, faster, and therefore survive better in the wilds. They are also healthier for us to eat, less fatty, and more tasty. So why don’t more ranchers raise them?
  We ended our day pretty scared. We had been melting snow slowly all day, each had about 2 liters left. We thought we would have snow all day, but at Swamp Point, there was none. In fact the last snow was 3 miles back. So we had to choose to either hike another mile and 500 feet down to a potential spring, or hike back 3 miles to snow. We only had 6 miles to definite water, but those are supposed to be the hardest of the entire trail! Which is scary, as we have had some hard miles!
  We opted to go down to the spring which was a mile down. We lucked out too. The seep was flowing well and we tanked up. We are staying in a cabin built for Theodore Roosevelt. He never slept here, but camped near here while hunting mountain lion. It’s beautiful here.         

April 28, 2012

Last night me and D=rt joined hundreds of others at a presentation about John Wesley Powell, the first white man to float through the Grand Canyon. It is fascinating to me that a man would run the rapids in a wooden boat, not knowing what could be around the next bend. Talk about adventure, his trip puts ours to shame!
  The talk kept me up late, and we were up early. We had 23 miles to hike with a 5500 foot climb. We were up at 5 AM, and hiking on the Bright Angel Trail by 620. It was so nice to beat the sun, and all the way down to the Colorado River there was a light cloud cover.
  The trails were busy all day. We must have passed hundreds of individuals. Some were day hiking. Some were backpacking, but the biggest group we passed today were runners, most going from the South Rim, to the North Rim, then turning around and retracting the last 23 miles, back to the South rim. I was so surprised to see so many people doing just that. We eventually ran into TC while we were taking a siesta! Him and his friend Susan are doing rim to rim to rim. They seemed to be in good spirits when we saw them, even though they still had 18 miles to go! Congratulations to them for completing such a feat!
  We made it to the North Rim about 6 PM. It was a tough climb! I am glad I did not have to turn around and hike back to the South rim! Crazy ultra-runners! We are camped among ponderosas, drinking snowmelt, and probably looking at a cold night tonight. Glad I did not mail home the long underwear.
  I can not believe that I was on the verge of quitting a couple days ago. I am so glad that I was able to experience today, and look forward to the next 10 days. I am not sure that I will be ready for it to be over when it is over.

Monday, May 7, 2012

April 27, 2012

Last night I slept great. I was worried, camped close to so many other campers, but the sleep was good. It’s nice and cool on the South Rim, making for good sleep.

Woke up to the sound of ravens patrolling the campground. They make a variety of calls, all of which I am assuming are codes for finding different types of food left out by campers. We did not leave food out, yet I still woke to a raven looking at me, not 6 feet away. I immediately took my flip flop and gently tossed it at the bird. These birds are not used to this action from humans, and he took off right away. In fact many people don’t see them as a problem, but instead see them as part of the Grand Canyon. These birds have outsmarted many! I saw them enjoying many campers’ leftovers...

I enjoyed eating too. I ate a lot today. It feels great. Drinking a ton of water, that helps. This has also produced good bodily functions, showing me that I should be ok taking off tomorrow.

Me and D=rt decided to check out the visitor center. It’s a real zoo here. This is seriously the most overwhelmed I have been by people since the last family reunion! It is neat to see people from around the world, experiencing the great USA. Most will spend less than 4 hours here, the ranger at the visitor center told us, and we are often reminded that we are on the trip of a lifetime. This has been one of the greatest trips of my life, but so was the AT, PCT, CDT, SHR (
Sierra High Route
), and so will be the PCT this summer. I do feel extremely lucky to do this trip, and every other one. Life is good.

I resupplied at the General Store here, it’s a great resupply. There are a lot of natural and organic foods, good produce, and great juices. A bit expensive, but it can be expected.
I also enjoyed talking with Lauren today on the phone. Really hard to be apart so long, but glad I have her support. Twelve more days, she reminded me. I am excited, but also not ready for this to end. It’s always exciting to start another chapter of life, and this one will forever be a part of mine.

We will take off tomorrow down the Bright Angel Trail, then heading up the North Kaibob Trail. A 22-mile day across the Grand Canyon. I have always wanted to do rim-to-rim, so this is exciting! Our friend TC will be doing a rim-to-rim-to-rim tomorrow. We are hoping to see him somewhere along his 42-mile journey!