Hayduke trail day 29: zen and the art of wash walking

April 15
Mileage: 28
386 miles hiked

In town I saw in the weather forecast that there was a storm on the way. In the morning, this storm arrives. Cold wind, low clouds. Rain. We’ve lucked out on this hike so far- we’ve been zeroing during every serious storm. (We’ve also taken a lot of zeros, ha ha.) This morning our luck is up. I pack everything inside my trash compactor bag pack liner, don all my layers, and fold my trekking poles away. We pull up our rainjacket hoods, put our heads down, and walk. The wind and the cold rain whip at us. As long as we keep walking we’ll stay warm. No need for sunscreen today.

It’s easy walking, though. Last Chance Creek canyon is more wash than canyon- open and straightforward with good hard-packed mud and no pouroffs or tumbles of boulders in the way. A little alkaline stream down the middle, a bit of cattle trail in the sagebrush now and then. I’m feeling better today- I was able to eat breakfast, and I don’t need to stop and rest every 40 minutes, as though my pack is crushing me. My energy is returning! Morale is high. Bring on the cold rain!

Another great thing about this section is that the map mileage is actually accurate, according to hikers who’ve GPSed it. That combined with how futile it is to take snack breaks in the freezing rain, and by noon we’ve gone 14 miles! That’s a record for us on the Hayduke. The one bummer thing is that I’ve almost used up the six liters of water I carried out of Page. Soon I’ll have to drink the gross stuff! We turn up Paradise Canyon, which is equally as gentle and nice. The sandstone cliffs on either side of the wash are full of holes and nooks and caves and overhangs, and I stare at them as I walk, until my neck hurts from craning. I love knowing that there are so many ruins out here, and that I might see one any minute. And there’s just so much texture in the rock- so many places for my eyes and imagination to go.

I finally finish my water at the end of Paradise Canyon, and reluctantly fill up from the alkaline stream. This water doesn’t taste as bad as the stuff in Roger’s canyon, so maybe it’ll only make me, like, a little bit sick? I can’t think about it. I pack out three liters, to get me seventeen miles to the next reliable source, per the water info we have. I would normally bring more as we’re dry camping and I use it to cook and also somehow comsume an entire liter while I’m asleep, but I’ve decided that being a little thirsty is better than drinking any more of this than I absolutely have to. I’m already thirsty from rationing the last 6 liters, but I make myself hold back. Ah, I hate this game.

The good news is that Dan and I made note of two good water caching spots that would make the long carries of this section much easier for Hayduke hikers of the future, should they have access to a 4WD vehicle and an extra day to spare. I look forward to contributing to the confusing mass of beta that already exists for this route, after I have finished hiking it. Hayduke lives!

In the afternoon we reach the dirt road that we’ll walk for the rest of today and much of tomorrow. The road is soft and nice and rolls gently across the sagebrush plateau. The cold rain has let up and we cruise. At 6:30 a fresh storm rolls in, and begins to pelt us with wind and hail. So we find a nice rock outcropping that will block the wind, kick the cow patties away, and set up our tent. Sweet, cozy tent! So warm and safe in storms! Double vestibules! The comforting smell of my boyfriend’s farts! I cook dinner with the poison water and listen while the hail moves on and the calm returns.

Photos on instagram