Hayduke trail day 38: the Arizona trail on the Kaibab plateau

April 24
Mileage: 21
559 miles hiked

The Arizona trail as it relates to the Kaibab plateau. Ah, what a gentle, ponderosa-shaded dream. The Hayduke and the AZT are one and the same, for the next couple of days. Tidy single track through the forest, AZT signage overkill at every dirt road crossing, bonus cairns along the perfectly visible trail for no reason at all. So relax. Such guided, gentle walking. I put one foot in front of the other and otherwise turn off my brain. No navigation, no objects to step over. Nothing to climb up or down. The temperature is perfect, sunny and cool. The forest envelopes me in its chill vibe.

We get to meet AZT thru-hikers today! I am so excited about this! We meet four northbound ones, moments from the terminus. In their final sprint towards the Arizona/Utah state line. Smiley, Don’t Panic, Haiku/Molly and Tim (I just remember your non-trail name Tim, I’m sorry!). It is SO FUN to get to talk to other thru-hikers. The interactions buoy my spirits and I practically float through the forest all the way to the highway. As I float, I finally figure out how to describe the Hayduke. Like, the actual nature of the route. The Hayduke, so far, is this-

Walk cross-country towards a canyon, over lumpy slickrock and/or sagebrush plateau with the occasional stretch of faded jeep track. Drop into said canyon, at one exact specific spot (this is the ONLY way into the canyon!) by climbing down loose rocks and boulders and/or a series of ledges. Once in the canyon, traverse the length of the canyon, wherein you will encounter any number of the following: boulder chokes, impassible pour-offs, piles of flood debris, impenetrable tamarisk, slickrock, narrows, caves, ancient ruins, cowboy trash, petroglyphs, poison ivy, potholes full of water, alkaline springs, non-alkaline springs, mini waterfalls, no water at all, gravel, loose, deep sand, good hard-packed sand, walkable ledges, cruisy cattle trails, mud, quicksand, a river.

Climb out of the canyon, via one exact spot (this is the ONLY way out of the canyon!!). Travel cross-country via lumpy slickrock and/or sagebrush plateau with the occasional stretch of faded jeep track, to another canyon. Repeat.

And therein we have the Hayduke trail. It’s slow but it’s magical and I love it. I love it so much!

We reach the highway in the afternoon- from here we’ll hitch into Kanab, where we’ll meet up with Dan’s parents, who we get to be tourists with for the next three days. Then we’ll set our caches for the rest of the trail (the buckets are in Dan’s car, which is in storage in Kanab) and finally, a few days of hiking after that, we’ll drop into the most epic canyon of them all- the Grand Canyon. The Hayduke spends ten days, I think, In the Grand Canyon, and it does not fuck around. Our hardest, slowest days of the entire trail will be in that otherwordly inverted mountain range. I can’t wait!

Also- I haven’t had to drink Alkaline water in a week (the sources have gotten much better, I think the stretch from Escalante to Tropic was the worst of it) and I have had ZERO digestive issues. Yay!!!

Photos on instagram