Hayduke trail day 15: in & out

April 1
Mileage: 11
199 miles hiked

All night it storms. On and off. Rat tatt tatt tatt! Woosh woosh! For an hour and then, silence. An hour later it picks up again. Eventually I sleep, in spite of the cacaphony. We’re warm and cozy in the tent, although in the morning the fabric is covered in condensation, and some of that condensation is frozen. Oh the magic of being in an enclosure!

I think the number of times I’ve successfully “in and outed” a town on a hike, wherein one goes into a town, resupplies, and gets out the same day, can be counted on one hand, probably on a hand missing some fingers. So when we arrive at the highway in the morning after 9 cruiser miles on a dirt road, and I lean against the guardrail and stare at the deserted asphalt with the hiker hunger ripping through me like a feral beast, devoid of all logic, knowing only longing, I am aware that the odds are stacked against me. But we zeroed in Hanksville just a few days ago. This route isn’t gonna bushwhack itself. We’ve got another zero day planned in Escalante, a winding 110 miles away. We must get back to the trail today, after resupplying in Hanksville a second time. We must.

It takes us a brief 1.5 hours to get a ride. First thing we do in Hanksville is hit up the Burger Shak attached to one of the gas stations. The Burger Shak has the best wifi in town. I consume two large orders of curly fries and immediately have diarrhea. Hiker hunger doesn’t give a fuck. Hiker hunger does what it wants. Then to the wee laudromat/shower building behind the grill for laundry, showers and charging. Post office to send some things away, and lastly the depressing grocery store a quarter mile beyond the edge of town, where the shelves are mostly empty. Back to the Burger Shak for more wifi. The pace of the day feels hectic and I’m grumpy. I don’t like myself when I’m grumpy and that makes me feel grumpier. I consume a grilled chicken salad, a few bites of Dan’s milkshake, and then break completely and eat a hotdog and a huge pile of gas station nachos. This dairy is really gonna hurt me come tomorrow. Hiker hunger cares not for tomorrow. Hiker hunger lives only for today.

I kind of hope no-one picks us up hitching so we have to stay. But at 6 p.m. a teenager just getting off his shift at the Burger Shak takes pity on us and puts us in the bed of his pickup, and we go hurtling down the highway well above the speed limit. Success! But at what cost? I think, as I watch the comforts of town, namely food, grow smaller in the distance. It’s freezing- it’s been cold all day- but at least the sky is clear. It’s supposed to be clear this week. There was already a bunch of new snow on the Henry Mountains, and since the storm last night, there is now even more. The ridgeline and high slopes are a perfect unblemished white-frosted cake. We don’t have snowshoes, so there’s no way we’re taking the high route, up to the summit of Mt. Ellen and along the ridge. There’s a route just as long but a bit lower, that avoids the snow. We’ll be taking that, and I’m happy about it.

It’s 6:40 when we reach the Hayduke, which is right now a dirt track that takes us towards the mountains. We walk a few miles and find a slickrock shelf that’s sheltered from the wind. I’m still full from gas station food, no need for dinner. Sleep.

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