Hayduke day 23: riding on ATVs in the beds of pickup trucks/hail/the long hitch back to the trail

April 9
Mileage: 4
308 miles hiked

In the morning I wake up itchy. Ah, yes, the poison ivy, in the beautiful mess that was Steven’s canyon.  I remember. I found a couple little burbles on my skin yesterday, clusters of small blisters, and now I seem to have more- a spot on my hand, a stripe down the back of my arm. Dan has just a wee spot of it. Luckily, we managed to procure the one small bottle of technu for sale in Escalante, with which to do damage control. I’m in a motel room in town, it’s not hard for me to shower and wash all the things. I just hope that this is it, as far as my reaction goes- that I don’t break out in some horrible systemic rash in the middle of this next section.

My digestive system is feeling a little better today, although I still feel wiped from how sick I was yesterday. But we know, from reading the blogs of those who’ve come before, how hard of a hitch it can be getting from Escalante back out to the trail. It’s 40-ish miles down remote and rutted Hole in the Rock Road. So in all likelyhood, we’ll have much of today to rest as well.

And we do. We pass the time sitting in the dirt at the intersection where Hole in the Rock Road splits off from the main highway, listening to podcasts and doing the duct tape and dental floss mending we didn’t get around to on our zero, as clouds race across the sky and we wait for traffic that never comes. We watch a storm build on the horizon, the far-away curtain of rain touching the earth; we watch the storm move slowly towards us across the open land. We repack our bags into trash compactor bag liners and don our rain jackets just as the wind whips up and the storm reaches us; hail. Big, stinging hail. We take shelter on the lee side of a juniper tree. After ten minutes the hail passes and the storm moves on, looking for its next victim.

A few hours later a family pulls over in a truck pulling a trailer with an ATV on it. They’re going twelve miles.

“No room in here, but you can ride in the ATV on the trailer,” they say. It’s one of those buggy-like vehicles, with a roll cage. I’m not sure what they’re called, specifically? We climb inside and buckle up and go jouncing and swaying down the dirt road, way up high as though on a parade float. I look down at the ATV’s tires, where they move back and forth on the trailer. Is this thing gonna fall off? The gas can bungeed to the front of the trailer keeps tipping over, and the smell of gasoline is intense. Back and forth go the buggy’s wheels as we hurtle down the road. After a while I can’t watch, and I focus on keeping my hat on in the strong wind.

We are incredibly grateful for the twelve miles this buggy ride takes us towards our destination. Having arrived intact, we say goodbye to the family and resume our post, again, in the dirt on the roadside with our podcasts, watching the storms. Another hour passes, and we start to consider that we might be camping here, in this spot, tonight. But we’ll need more water for that- we start looking at the maps, thinking about cattle tanks. And then a man and a woman in a pickup pull over, with a 4-wheeler in the back.

“There’s no room in here,” they say. “But you can ride on the four wheeler.”

We climb up into the bed of the pickup and onto the four wheeler. I straddle the seat, gripping the handles, while Dan sits behind me. The 4-wheeler rocks in the pickup bed as the truck hurtles down the dirt road. How do these things work? What if I accidentally disengage the parking brake?

We say goodbye to the couple at the Hurricaine Wash trailhead, where we’ll start the steep climb on a jeep road up 50 Mile Bench, a mesa that stretches the length of the western horizon. It’s almost evening, and we hike 4 miles before finding a peaceful spot in the sagebrush to camp. I’m brushing my teeth, looking at the sliver of a moon, when I realize I’m set to get my period in about four days. So that’s why I’ve felt strange all day, sort of meloncholy for no reason. And then I realize- it’s seven days until we reach the town of Tropic. We hitched all day to reach this super remote spot. And I packed out nothing for my period. Nothing. Fuck!

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