Hayduke trail day 5: on the roof

March 22
Mileage: 20
85 miles hiked

There is no sleeping. There is only… the Wind. The sky was dark and clouded so we set up our shelter in case of rain, but now the wind won’t stop beating the walls of the shelter WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAP WHAP and it’s absolutely impossible to sleep. At 2 a.m. I look over at Dan in the grey moonlight and he’s just as wide-eyed as I am. The wind dies down for a minute, just long enough for me to start to drift off, and then it’s back. WHAP WHAP WHAP! It seems as though the stakes will be ripped from the sand soon and our shelter will collapse on us. How alarming. And that’s when I remember I have earplugs.

Sleep is so sweet.

We wake late, at 7. It’s nearly 8 by the time we start hiking. My mouth, my eyes, my face are coated in dust. I’m groggy. I should be in a bad mood. But I feel GREAT. I’m on the motherfucking HAYDUKE TRAIL! Just a few weeks ago Dan and I were watching Game of Thrones and staring at our resupply boxes and now we’re HERE, on this wild plateau of rock and light and red blowing dust, making our slow overland way from one secret canyon to the next.

Six slow miles up a sandy wash we reach a creek that is not alkaline!! Indian creek! To celebrate we take a long break on its shaded banks and I attempt to replace the three liters of alkaline water I drank since yesterday with this good non-alkaline water. Dan’s questionable strategy was to not drink any water at all, so now he’s rehydrating, much like a peanut butter jar of instant refried beans. What even is alkaline water? Neither of us know. Your can taste it in there, whatever it is. Not quite salt, but something similar. And it’s crusted all over the landscape here, at each sad undrinkable spring we pass, and there are many of them. White stuff, all over the rocks. It’s supposed to cause stomach upset if you drink it- my gut’s been a bit upset this morning, but nothing to write home about. Maybe I’m in the clear.

After Indian creek we climb out of the canyon and up a cliff by way of many small nooks and crannies (each sheer-seeming cliff, it turns out, is full of secret nooks and crannies where the animals pass through, one only has to find them) and suddenly we’re on top of the world, Indian creek way down below, as well as other canyons, spreading out like arteries. It actually feels like I’m on a roof- broken shale and soft black dirt beneath my feet, bright sun, sort of lifeless, the wind beating me. Like I snuck up onto the roof and now I’m poking around, scrambling on broken tiles, looking way down on the world below.

We contour on the roof all day. Dark stormclouds amass in the afternoon, just as we climb out of our last wash to start the 5 mile jeep road walk to Needles Outpost, whatever that is, to resupply. We can see the red-roofed building a half mile away when the temperature plummets and the rain begins to fall. We arrive shivering, and are told that the campground is full. But after a moment the owner asks us-

“How would you like to camp in a cave?”

There’s a huge manmade cave in the rock that the owners use to store supplies. Way in back is a soft sandy alcove, completely protected from the wind and rain. We spread out our things, take hurried showers in the shower building (5 minutes or 5 gallons, whichever comes first! And the water is fucking scalding!!) and heat cans of chili from the store over our stoves in the cave. Outside the wind is absolutely howling like a creature possesed, but it can’t reach us in here. We’re warm in our sleeping bags in this dark cave. We’re safe.

Photos on instagram