Hayduke trail day 4: we’re never gonna make it

March 21
Mileage: 22
65 miles hiked

We’re sitting in the dust next to the jeep road we’ve been following all morning as it contours around great cracks in the earth called canyons, eating second breakfast, when a jeep rumbles up to us and stops.

“Doin alright?” Says the driver.

“Yeah,” we say.

“Where ya headed?”

“Needles outpost.”

“You’ll be there in three, four days.”

“No,” I say. “We’ll be there tomorrow.”

“It’s fifty miles,” says the driver. “Three, four days.”

“We’re going cross country,” I say. “It’s shorter. We’ll be there tomorrow.”

“You won’t make it,” says the driver. He waves as the jeep rumbles away.

“We’re never gonna make it!” Dan and I laugh as we pack up our bags. It’s a joke within the world of long-distance hiking. Thru-hikers write it in trail registers, use it as a greeting. You’re never gonna make it. Never. Gonna. Make it.

Today is on this flat dusty jeep road, coutouring the infinitely intricate edges of canyons as they cut in and out of the burnt-brown mesas- these branching labrynthine canyons with their fluted edges and stacks of delicate boulders- these great scalloped cakes of dirt and rock- and today is cross country, scrambling down into canyons and following their smooth rock and sandy basins until impassable pour-offs. A pour-off is basically more canyon, opening even deeper- you think you’re at the bottom of something, the canyon walls reaching high above and then suddenly you’re at a cliff looking out into open air and the tumbled houses of fallen rock piled way below and you can’t get down there. The cracks in the earth are deep, they go both below and above. This world is a burnt-brown MC Escher painting and I am a wild creature, covered in dust, drinking silty-green water from the Colorado River and losing my fear of scrambling on slickrock. This is a world as vertical as it is horizontal. One could get lost here, spend a hundred years here and never learn its secrets.

In a side canyon off of Lockhart Canyon just before reaching another jeep road we find a camp of sorts- a truck with the hood up, camp chairs and canopies blown every which way, a table covered in food, a crossbow, sleeping bags in the dirt and a hundred beer cans, strewn across the desert. Broken wine bottles glitter in the sun. Lots of trash. There’s no-one at home so we poke around, and I take a GPS waypoint. Fuck these people, trashing this place as hard as they possibly can. When we get reception we’ll call someone, the BLM maybe.

In the afternoon we reach our first necessary alkaline water source- a clear trickling pool that seems harmless except for the white stuff caked to the rocks all around it. It tastes a little salty, like a hotspring. They say this stuff F’s you up. I load up for dry camping. Guess we’ll find out!

Clouds roll in just before camp and the wind picks up and the sky turns flame-red. We pitch our tarp in a little alcove in the rock, in case of rain. It’s warm though, odly warm. I’ve got some back chafe already, and I’m farting a lot. I almost feel like a thru-hiker!

Photos on instagram