Hayduke Trail day 8: so many ruins, so little time

March 25
Mileage: 18
107 miles hikes

All day yesterday as we walked up Salt Creek I craned my neck, looking for ruins in the rock high above, and didn’t see any. And then, partway through the morning today, when the sun is just begining to warm us and I’m almost ready to take off my puffy jacket, I spot some very masonry-like stacks of rock on a ledge way up on the rock, and then suddenly they’re everywhere- crumbling circular nests tucked into every concievable nook and alcove.

“Ruins!” I say to Dan. “Houses!!” We leave the trail and walk cross-country to the cliff, and find a way up to the ledge, heaving ourselves up onto boulders and walking carefully on narrow bits of shrubby ground. Here- a granary! And another! And a dwelling! Or were they? Who’s to say! Now they’re inhabited only by rabbits and the accumulation of passing time. Others who’ve come up here recently have laid potsherds and arrowheads on a flat stone in one of the dwellings, almost in reverence. We contour around the ledge until the farthest dwelling we can reach without a ladder, and a rewarded with a petroglyph. Three humans with round bodies and small heads on long necks hold hands. The one on the end has zigzags coming out of his free hand. What even. Who’s to say.

I admire the view from this dwelling. What a nice place to live. A defensible spot, and one could grow corn in the flat sagebrushy area below, next to the creek. I wonder if the people who made the pictograph were on their way to somewhere else. Or maybe they planned to stay forever. What did they believe, how far did they travel. What were their hopes and dreams and fears.

We spend kind of a long time exploring the houses. Today is a slow day. I mean, there’s actually a good bit of trail that comes and goes, and it’s flat and cruisy, but there are all of these ruins and things to look at. I feel like I’m in a dreamscape. There’s just no urgency. Maybe the Hayduke trail has that effect on everyone. Also, as much as we walk today, the miles just don’t seem to come. Other hikers who’ve GPS’d this stretch say that it’s about three miles longer than what the maps say, so I’ll blame our aparent slowness on that.

In the afternoon I sit on a cactus, one of the ones with hundreds of tiny hair-like spines. All of these hairs stick into the seat of my pants. I try to pick them all out but I can’t, and for the rest of the day my pants feel like they’re poking me. I’ve realized that thru-hiking can be summed up as “feeling at least some discomfort the entire time you are awake”. Today: pokey pants, painfully cold toes (from walking in the stream), a sort of vague irritability, and the sun seeming too bright. That’s actually pretty good, for a thru-hike. I feel fucking GREAT on the Hayduke so far.

We walk so far up Salt Creek that it dissapears into a deep sandy nothingness and we tank up for the coming 27-mile dry stretch, with (hopefully just) one dry camp therein. This means 6 liters for me, 4 for Dan. It’s been super cool and cloudyish, and that has helped with the needing to drink lots of water. We then start the steep bonkers trailless scramble up out of the canyon onto a high cold plateau, in the morning which we’ll descend off of into the ominously named Dark Canyon, where there is no water at all. We pitch our shelter in a sandy spot that’s sheltered from the wind. Goodnight!

Photos on instagram