Hayduke day 13: the longest hitch

March 30
Mileage: 8
168 miles hiked

Most of the day is spent sitting in the gravel on the side of a lonely seldom-trafficked highway amongst windswept sagebrush hills watching the storms move towards us, over us, and away. We’re halfway to the trail from Hanksville, there is one car going our direction every 20 minutes or so, and none of them are interested in us. Dan rolls out his sleeping pad, leans against his pack, and I lean against Dan. I’ve got all my layers on including my puffy with the hood up and for a little while it starts to snow. We’re listening to a podcast, the name of which I do not remember, wherein two men with incredibly soothing voices talk about the spirituality of athleticism, the messy sacrifices of “going big”, and AA. It’s so quiet in the podcast and the men’s voices are so calm and relaxed, as though they’re competing to see who can be more calm and relaxed. I imagine them recording in a dark room at 3 a.m. after the rest of the world has gone to sleep, only the cherries of their cigarettes glowing. I’ve had too much diet dr. pepper and I can’t stop touching my bangs. The podcast lasts for two hours.

At 4 p.m. we finally get a ride the last 25 miles, back to the breathtaking bridge spanning the breathtaking colorado river set amongst the breathtaking buttes and benches under the tumultuous sky. Utah! Who knew.

“Utah: Who Knew.”

We’re carrying 5 liters of water each, so our packs are heavy. It’s 25 miles to the first drinkable water. The Dirty Devil river, which we’ll walk up, comes before that, but its waters are “opaque, silty, alkaline, full of heavy metals and agricultural runoff”.

A few miles of dirt road, a few miles up a wash strewn with black chunks of petrified wood and edged in crazy balancing rocks, then a casual scramble up a class 4 chimney to get up onto a plateau. This is my first “chimney”, and it’s so narrow that I can’t turn my body around, once I’m in it. This sort of freaks me out. Dan goes up first, I hand the packs up to him, and then he sits down at the top and says nice things to me while I make my slow scared way up.

The plateau is a place called “the red benches” and it makes for chill cross-country walking over rolling terrain, sans cactus patches and deep sand. The light is incredible up here/right now, and the wide open space plus the light reminds me of the CDT. Except, unlike the CDT, I actually like this trail, ha ha.

We camp in a wash that’s sheltered from the wind. The night is impossibly quiet and not nearly as cold as it could be.

Photos on instagram