Hayduke trail day 17: waterpocket fold/cache party

April 3
Mileage: 20
244 miles hiked

I don’t sleep well, for whatever reason. I wake up cranky and tired and sore and just feeling kind of off. It’s going to be one those days, I guess. You know how on a trail with actual tread, when you don’t feel great, hiking is kind of a bummer? If you’re not feeling 100% on the Hayduke, it turns out, the trail becomes a kind of torture chamber.

Walk up and down on all the things. Heave/crawl/slog your way over/around/underneath/through obstacles. Downclimb fantastical rock shapes in ways that frighten you. Accidently step on some cactus pieces barefoot. Develop chafe. Your pack is heavy. Heat. This feels like the first real hot day we’ve had, and we’re roasting. The sun is roasting us. Long water carries. The last two sources before a 20 mile dry stretch are both alkaline, their banks crusted in white residue. My water notes, which were purchased from Andrew Skurka for $35 and haven’t been updated since 2009, said nothing about this. So I’ll be drinking alkaline water again. Six liters of it, actually. 20 miles in the heat with a dry camp in the middle. Also, the line on our maps and our GPS tracks are off for today’s section. The GPS track wants us to fly through the air, among other things.

Why am I complaining. Oh, I know the rock shapes are incredible, and isn’t it amazing the way the water eats away at them. And dropping into a massive canyon with functioning eyeballs is like being on acid, even though I’ve never been on acid. And I have plenty of food in my pack and two good feet and a kind patient boyfriend and the night sky and flowers in the springtime, etc.

My mood finally shifts during our final act, the 2.5 mile, 2k ft climb up the Burr road switchbacks to where we buried our cache. The entire day before this was cross-country, and walking this dirt road is a blessed break. I keep turning around to look at the view behind me- the moutain-range-esque Waterpocket Fold is one of the coolest geological features I’ve ever seen. Literally a massive wrinkle in the Earth’s crust, according to the guidebook. The colors are taupe, pale pink, grey-green, and the angles are wild, nothing laying quite the way it should. A surrealist painting. I’m listening to the Who as I climb, and I’ve just come up with a new character for my action movie, which I want to write after I finish the book I’m working on now, although I haven’t googled How to write a screenplay yet. A car up ahead has stopped to admire the view. I catch up just as the driver is handing Dan a beer and two bottles of gatorade. Dan drinks the beer as he walks, and I stare at Waterpocket Fold some more. It’s better than any art, really. Then we’re at our cache, opening the buckets and exclaiming at how much food we left ourselves, thinking we had 90 miles, when it’s only 60. 60 miles to Escalante, where there’ll be food and a bed! We sit in the dirt and have an eating party as the sun sets. And hey, if I get super sick from this water again, we’ll have enough food to take a zero on trail.

Photos on instagram