Hayduke trail day 2: Sand: an Introduction

March 19
Mileage: 18?
24 miles hiked

Sand: an Introduction. If the hayduke trail was a college course with a textbook, that’s what I’d call the first chapter/this section. And other jokes that seem very, very funny only when you are hiking.

The night is cold! An icy angry wind blows and reaches its arms into my sleeping bag and tries to steal my warmth. Coyotes how and the stars are hard and bright. I dream that small mammals are circling us as we sleep, that they want to tug the food bag out from under my legs.

The sun doesn’t rise until 7 and by 7:30 we’re walking, wearing all our layers. My toes and fingers are numb. But the sun is coming up over this red land and the sand is fine and soft beneath our feet and we’re winding our way in and out of washes towards willow spring wash.

Sand: an Introduction

The sand here is so fine it becomes sand-air at the smallest wind gust and coats your cookpot, water bottles, lips, hair, anything with sunscreen on it and whatever you’re eating. About a half pound of it seeps through the mesh and fills the toebox of each shoe, clumping up and crowding your toes until your shoes feel too small and you’re lugging your feet like bricks. And then there’s quicksand(slowsand), which can’t actually swallow you unless you tried really hard, slicksand, sandstone, and wetsand, which is even heavier when it fills your shoes than its dry counterpart.

We fill our waterbottles at a deep pothole of clear water that exists for some magical reason and then find more of these potholes, again and again, as we make our way down willow spring wash. We cross-country on the slickrock above the wash to avoid having to wade through these deep potholes and then we merge into courthouse wash, which is actually more of a large canyon, its floor being choked with brush and a stream running through. We walk in the nice cool stream, splash splash splash, and wetsand fills are shoes. Streamwalking alternates with finding one’s way through the brush, in that slow torturous/methodical way that one makes one’s way down a river canyon. A few miles before the end we hop on a cross-country alternate that takes us past some of the actual arches in arches national park, then more cross-country on slickrock way on top of the world, now we’re on top of the canyon looking down into courthouse wash, and across the way I swear I can see ancient ruins in a secret little alcove that would be very hard to reach. Then- a cliff! We have reached a cliff! Of course there is a cliff. I’ve decided on this hike not to be afraid of exposure anymore and I proceed to do some lowering of myself via bracing my arms down a tall “crack” without freezing up in instinctual fear and then we do it twice more and it’s actually fun. Then we’re at the highway for a few miles of roadwalking back into Moab. My van is glorious to come home to, like a little house. Thai food and out of season raspberries are procured. I love this trail so far!!

Photos on instagram