Hayduke trail day 3: spirals, whorls, piles and stacks

March 20
Mileage: 19
43 miles hiked

It’s freezing at the trailhead where we parked the van so I get up early, start the engine turn on the heat and crawl back into bed. Now we’ll never get up. All the other vandwellers have left, the dirtbag climbers we saw at the grocery store buying ramen in their patagonia jackets with their unwashed hair. I wonder where they went in such a hurry this morning, while it was still so cold. What secret canyons with their ruins tucked into caves, pot sherds everywhere. I wish someone would show me the petroglyphs.

By the time we’re walking out of Moab, back on the Hayduke, it’s 10 a.m. We’re on a paved road for some miles as it winds through a canyon along the colorado river. There’s no shoulder so we dodge the traffic. People stare at us- we’re neither mtn bikers nor climbers nor jeepers, what are we? It’s Jeep Safari Week in Moab, and all of the off-road vehicles are headed to the backcountry. They’ve got their dogs with them, their cases of redbull. It takes all sorts, I guess. I’ll be the dork in the bucket hat if anyone needs me, walking.

After a time we get on an alternate that promises more trail, less roads and better views. We are not dissapointed. The trail swithbacks up onto a mesa high above the river, until we’re looking down at the slow green water and the tiny boats. The cliffs here are a trip to look at- so many burnt browns and black-greys baking under the bluebird sky. We cross the top of the mesa and have our daily mildy dangerous scramble down the other side. Then we’re on a dusty jeep road in the heat of the day, following the colorado river again, mesas all around. About twenty jeeps pass us at one point, churning up dust. The landscape grows more barren and wild-seeming- cracks in the earth grow into massive canyons, there are caves high above us full of who knows what, the moon rises. We make dinner on the banks of the Colorado, wash our feet in the murky cold water. I drink my first liter of the cloudy stuff- it tastes pretty good. I’m on the Hayduke now for sure. It’s 20 miles to the next water (the Colorado again) and we’ll dry camp in a few miles, so we each pack six liters. It was kind of hot today, not sure what tomorrow will bring. After dinner we walk another hour in the gloaming, and climb up into a canyon, letting it swallow us. There are no straight lines here in this landscape, no measurable planes. This world is made of spirals, whorls, piles and stacks. One is not on the Hayduke so much as inside of it.

Photos on instagram