Denied entry into Canada/total change of plans

I forgot that when you cross through customs into Canada they ask you a million questions, and if you don’t have a simple easy-to-digest story that seems totally 100% normal and common and legit (i.e “we are going into your country for one week and we are both gainfully employed and not homeless at all and we have a ton of money”) and instead tell the truth “we live in this van and are going to hike through the wilderness for 40 days without permanent homes or jobs,” then they run a background check, and if you have any convictions (even misdemeanors) it’s likely you’ll be turned away at the border.

I have a bunch of misdemeanor convictions from my youth riding freight trains and taunting riot police at political protests. Like a whole stack of them. Convictions with ominous-sounding names like “interfering with a peace officer,” “trespassing,” and “failure to appear”. The customs dude didn’t know that the “failure to appear” was the time a friend and I got pulled off a freight train in Arizona in the warm springtime near Yuma by a kindly black railcop who just wanted to tell us stories. After he’d given us our trespassing tickets and released us we circled around the yard and got on another train, headed for Oaxaca with its $4 hostels that were just hammocks on the beach under mosquito netting and the ripe mangoes that littered the ground. We never returned for our court appearance and a few years later, standing on an onramp in Arizona with another friend, sunburnt and trying to hitch into town after climbing off another train, a cop ran our IDs and I had a warrant. Luckily my bail was low. We spent three days sleeping in the weeds alongside a canal and swimming in the turquoise water, and at my court appearance I was given a fine.

“Interfering with a peace officer”- in 2003 I was 21 years old and we had just started bombing Iraq. Critical Mass was a big deal in Portland at the time- a bunch of bicyclists riding together slow through downtown traffic once a month, blocking traffic and interfering with commerce to make a point about car culture, fossil fuels, whatever. An extra huge Critical Mass was scheduled as part of the protests against the Iraq War- we wanted to block the freeways, stop traffic to downtown, disrupt everything as much as we were able. On the Portland news it was announced that Critical Mass riders would be arrested. The women’s jail was the only one with empty beds (I learned later), and they arrested eleven women. I made eye contact with a riot cop and that was that- they dragged me from my bike and zip-tied my wrists. I spent four days in the jail downtown that overlooks the grassy park blocks, the elk fountain spouting water and the lazy traffic that circles around it. Each bed in my cell had a long narrow window overlooking everything. My cellmate was in for check fraud, and she was very kind. I read A Separate Peace and Slaughterhouse Five.

After they denied our entry into Canada I turned the van around and we drove back towards Glacier in silence. I hadn’t had any caffeine yet that morning and there was a sharp pain right between my eyes. Outside heavy stormclouds alternated with patches of clear sky and rain splattered the windshield. The van was stuffed with all our resupply boxes for the Great Divide Trail- hundreds of dollars worth of bars and dinners, carefully boxed and labeled, our portioned-out maps, extra shoes and socks, new raingear, hopes and dreams and fears.

I’d crossed into Canada before- but I’d always had a neat story, and when they’d asked me “Have you ever been arrested?” I’d lied and said “No,” and they had never checked. But now I was officially blocked from entry until such time as I returned with a large stack of court documents from several states and $200, and applied for a waiver allowing me in. There was no time for that right now, in this narrow window in which we had to hike the GDT. And I could no longer bluff my way across the border- My name was in the computer. They had a photocopy of my passport. Etc.

As we drove through the wild stormclouds towards East Glacier I thought of the time, in March of 2009, that I’d gotten a craigslist ride from Portland to Alaska with a wealthy Israeli man and two other young vagrants in tattered clothing returning home after a winter in California. Before crossing into Canada we made up a story of how we were all related, where we lived and what jobs we held, how long we had known each other and how we had met, how much money we had, etc. They waived us across at the border almost impatiently, and we were free. Our driver flipped the car into a snowbank in the Yukon and I ended up hitchhiking the rest of the way to Alaska in -20 weather, but that is another story.

Once I got over the initial disappointment and sting of rejection from Canada (why?!!), I realized that it’s probably for the best that I won’t be able to hike the GDT this year. We only had 40 days in which to hike it, and we were starting a few weeks earlier than what is considered reasonable. We were counting heavily on the low snowpack in the Canadian Rockies this year and just kind of crossing our fingers for the best. Now I can hike the trail another year, when I have more time, in a more relaxed and reasonable manner. It was probs meant to be.

I’m in Montana right now, figuring out what to do next. I really have no idea. I thought briefly about the Pacific Northwest Trail, but I’m not sure that I’d love that one, with its miles and miles of dirt roadwalking. I might fly to Alaska for a month with my bike. Or, I might just drive back to Oregon, find a quiet place to live near some forest, and take care of my gut stuff. I really have no idea. Dan is thinking about southbounding the CDT- he hasn’t hiked any of the 3 long trails! And here we are at the northern terminus, right in time for SOBO season, and he has all these resupply boxes already made.

I’ll let y’all know soon.

Onward to the Great Divide Trail!

 

source: greatdividetrail.com

source: greatdividetrail.com

The Great Divide Trail is a 750 mile/1200 km trail of high mountain ridges and brush-choked valleys in the Canadian Rockies along the Alberta/British Columbia border.. While the Hayduke is said to be the most beautiful desert trail, the Great Divide Trail is said to be the most beautiful mountain trail! (I imagine that this is true, in a sense that there are several “most beautiful” mountain trails.) Only a few dozen people have thru-hiked the GDT, and thanks to the noble recent efforts of the Great Divide Trail Association (Canada does not have the money for trails that the US does, plz donate), the trail is in much better shape than it once was, although there is still plenty of soggy bushwhacking for that extra-super Canadian Rockies experience. (A really cool interactive map of the GDT is on the GDTA website here.)

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Steep mountain ridges! Glaciers! Wet, alder-choked valleys! Peaceful transcendental wilderness! Blowdowns! Tempestuous river crossings! Freezing rain! The shy and secretive Grizzly Bear! Gentle rural Canadians! I look forward to all of these things and more on the GDT. I gave myself only two weeks to prepare for this trip, which feels bonkers. Currently I’m in Oregon, where a heavy heat wave is cooking my brain. (Update: heat wave has passed, raining now.) I’ve been visiting with dear friends, making resupply boxes, eating vegetables, shopping for rainpants, texting with Dan about maps, wishing in vain that the brooks Cascadia 7s and 8s were still in production, reading Gone With The Wind, going to the dentist and having lots of mechanical trouble with my van which is also, it turns out, kind of miserable to sleep in in the heat. And I haven’t been running at all, in an attempt to heal my knee from the damage I did to it on the R2R2R. As a result, I’ve pretty much lost all the strength I gained on the Hayduke. So there will be some extra pain at the beginning of the GDT. Yay! Also! We have to finish the GDT in 40 days, in order to make it back to Oregon in time for a friend’s wedding. That’s not unheard of at all, but I’d rather there wasn’t the pressure, as I want to take a lot of pretty photos.

Dan flies into Portland on June 12th. We drive to Montana on the 14th and start the GDT shortly after. We’re starting a bit earlier than most, again because of me needing to finish in time for the wedding- but it’s a low snow year up there so we’ll probably be alright. I think?

Thanks in advance to Wired, whose blog, as on the Hayduke, will be our most comprehensive source of beta for this trail (other than our maps). Seriously you guys, Wired’s Hayduke blog was more useful than the guidebook. The amount of detailed, accurate beta that Wired puts into her blogs for each trail is insane. I kind of worry that she’s shortening her lifespan by staying up late in her tent every night pecking away at her phone, while the rest of us sleep. If you find her beta useful donate to her blog, so she can buy a lasagna mountain house!

The GDT is extra, extra remote, so some extra time might pass between blog posts here. I still don’t really understand how I’m going to get a Canadian phone plan for all of that? Really looking forward to getting to Montana, and then into Canadia. O, the Great North!

Moar updates soon.

updates!

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cruising into Oregon at sunset like

Hey readers!

Update things!

Thing one: I created a public facebook page. So…. interact with me there if you want. You can ask me gear questions and I’ll tell you your pack is too heavy. LOL.

Thing two: I’m in Portland right now. I came here to see friends and take care of a bunch of stuff. I’m also trying to plan for another trail! In a very small amount of time, while doing a lot of other stuff. So! Hopefully things will come together. We shall see!

I made an index for all my Hayduke posts!

My friend Vanessa wrote this great and important piece for Shape magazine on how America hates fat women, and how that affects ALL women. Just… don’t read the comments. Unless you don’t actually BELIEVE that America hates fat women, and you need some proof.

My friend Jenny Bruso made an instagram page for #UnlikelyHikers, which is timely and wonderful.

People sometimes email me asking if I know of any good hiker blogs from the big three trails for this year. I’ve only recently had time to poke around in this regard, but here are two good ones-

Amanda writes in that poet-philosopher style that is so wonderful to read in a trail journal. She also started the PCT with a history of walking injuries/general doubts as to whether she would be able to do it, so you get to watch her grow strong and triumph, which is always nice.

My friend Melissa “The Bobcat” Wyld is hiking the AT southbound this year- and she’s a GREAT storyteller. She also made her own pack, and she talks about that process. I think her posts from the trail are gonna be SO GOOD.

The route I took on my roadtrip from Utah to Oregon was super boring, and I listening to a lot of podcasts. I have recently discovered podcasts! These ones were particularly amaze:

The Sagittarian Matters podcast Powerful Business Women, part one- in particular the talk with Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, which made me laugh so hard in a dark, cathartic way and I loved it so much I listened to it twice.

The Phoenix Helix podcasts Meditation Healing Stories and Healing Stories Part 3

My book was mentioned by Nicole Antoinette on this episode of Being Boss! I was alerted as such by a few friends and then I discovered the podcast, and it’s great! Cheery advice for creatives who work for themselves! Yay!! (Relatedly, Nicole also has a great podcast… more on that later)

On the drive I also listened to the audiobook of Rising Strong by Brene Brown, which is about the importance of vulnerability in the process of growth and human authenticity. A v excellent book.

Ok, I’ll post more hike-planning updates soon. I have so much to do it’s hurting my brain. Remember, you can subscribe by clicking “subscribe” in the menu above, and then you’ll get an email every time I post something here. No spam I promise.

Talking with Mike Coronella, the co-creator of the Hayduke Trail

“It’s a terrible route, and no-one should try it,” says Mike Coronella. We’re sitting in a burger joint in Moab, and I’ve just asked him what message he’d like to pass on to future Hayduke hikers. He laughs. “No, I’d tell them to do their homework. This route is not like the triple crown trails. Be ready to come off the route a completely different person.”

Mike Coronella is the co-creator, along with Joe Mitchell, of the 800-mile Hayduke Trail. The impetus to create such an intense, arduous, transcendental backcountry route through Utah and the Grand Canyon came in the nineties, when Mike was fresh from a divorce.

“I needed eighty days in the desert,” he says. Those eighty days turned into several long trips over a number of years, gathering route information (“Some of these canyons,” says Mike, “we had no idea if they were passable. We had to find out for ourselves”) water information (“The Dirty Devil river ruined us. We were so sick from that water. We flagged down a jeep, but all they had was beer”) and making mistakes (“Joe was braver than I was, when it came to exposure. We looked at the descent, and not even he was comfortable with it. We ended up spending the night at the top. Of course there was no water). The end result of these adventures is the Hayduke Trail- a route so remote, difficult, and logistically complicated (as far as permits, resupplying and water sources go) that it’s unlikely that it will ever be anything other than what it is- a trail that exists not on the ground, but in the minds and imaginations of maybe a dozen hikers per year.

“Not while I’m alive,” says Mike, when I ask him if the Hayduke will ever be the sort of route that has trail signs. “I’ll rip them out myself.”  I ask Mike if he has any plans to update the guidebook, parts of which are now outdated, or to gather the beta that’s scattered across all corners of the internet into one comprehensive source.

“No,” says Mike, as he rolls up his fish tacos. “I like it just the way it is. It’s not a trail. It’s an idea. I love all the variations. It’s not the JMT. It’s an individual experience, and a way to get your butt kicked. That’s what the desert is for.”

He wants to remind hikers, however, to pick up their caches. “I got a call from a ranger once. He found a cache that hadn’t been picked up, and he called me.

Mike’s lived in Moab for twelve years- his house is right on the official Hayduke route through town.

“Sometimes I see someone walk by with a big backpack,” he says, “When I’m in my yard. I ask em if they’re on the Hayduke. ‘Yeah,’ they say. ‘You’ve heard of it?'”

Mike runs a guide service called Deep Desert Expeditions, and also works with Search and Rescue. He’s also involved in local land use politics, and works for more protection of undeveloped wilderness-quality areas. “Cows in the desert are inappropriate,” he says. “That’s why I stopped eating beef.” We finish our lunch, and Dan, Mike and I step out into the blinding Moab sunshine. “Thousands of eighteen wheelers come right through town,” says Mike, as a semi-truck rattles past on the narrow highway that serves as a main street of sorts in Moab. “It’s the most direct route for them.” He’s going out on the Colorado river with Search and Rescue later tonight. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says.

“Thanks for creating the Hayduke,” I say. I’m not sure how else to show my gratitude, my appreciation for the trust and generosity inherent in sharing such a route with the world, or at least with the few dedicated long-distance hikers who actually want to wander across the (generally waterless) hardscrabble Colorado Plateau for two whole months. What is wilderness, and who gets to access it? And what does it mean to protect an area? Sometimes I think that hiking and learning about an area gives me more of a connection to the land, and that writing about these connections help inform our current, urban culture. Wouldn’t a more land-based culture and spirituality save us all from this thing that we’re hurtling towards at the speed of light? And sometimes I think it’s too late, and that there’s nothing anymore to be done. Humans are gonna be humans, and eventually the earth will crush us all, and heal itself. Maybe the only way to say ‘thanks’ to the creators of the Hayduke is to pack out my caches, and to respect the desert. And to generally not be an asshole. It may not be the answer to everything, but it’s the best I can come up with, for now. Thanks Mike!

The man, the myth, the legend- Mike Coronella

The man, the myth, the legend- Mike Coronella

Grand Canyon bonus: rim to rim to rim

5/24/16
Mileage: 45

Alternate title: rimming the Grand Canyon

Sometimes you finish a trail and you’re tired and your stomach hurts so  you lay on the grass for five days reading back issues of The New Yorker and at night you drag the foam mattress from your boyfriend’s subaru and drop it in the dirt in the desert, blankets and all, and sleep beneath the full moon. You eat raw broccoli and conventional blueberries and roast chicken and drink apple cider vinegar and talk about life with interesting friends who also haven’t figured it all out but at least you’re together outside in the desert, where the moon is, and the wind. You cuddle your boyfriend and eat hummus and romaine lettuce and chocolate and on the fourth night you have dreams about hiking; you’re on the PCT or some similar trail where one can stretch one’s legs, and in the morning you’re no longer tired.

“Do you want to hike the rim to rim to rim?” I say to Dan. We’ve just picked up my new debit card from my Sedona PO box where it has finally arrived and I feel drunk on the freedom of once again being an emancipated adult. “Sure,” says Dan.

The “rim to rim to rim” is a hike wherein one goes from the south rim of the grand canyon all the way to the north rim and then back to the south rim in a single day. The route is between 42 and 48 miles, depending on how you do it, with 12,000 feet of elevation gain and 12,000 feet of elevation loss. The R2R2R is popular with ultrarunners, who run most of it, and with long-distance hikers, who walk most of it. I haven’t run in over two months and don’t want to injure myself, so I’ll be walking the entire thing. If we’re successful it’ll be the most miles I’ve ever hiked in a day (my previous biggest day was 44.5 miles on the last day of the PCT in 2014), and also the most elevation gain I’ve done in one day. Logically, nothing on the Hayduke has prepared me for this, as we had no big days and mostly hiked slow and used our arms a lot and my legs were rarely even tired, so I probably shouldn’t attempt it. But I’ve wanted to hike the r2r2r for over a year, and it’s on our way back to Moab, and I’ve been laying around for five days and it just sounds really, really fun. I think.

It is fun. We car-camp amongst the ponderosas on a forest service road just south of the park. My alarm set to 3:15 a.m. We’re up and at the grand canyon visitor center by the time the first shuttle bus pulls up at 4:30 a.m.. We’ve got light packs full of bars and a two-liter water capacity (there are springwater spigots every seven miles along the corridor trails!). I’ve also packed a puffy and a headlamp. By 4:45 a.m. we’re switchbacking down the south kaibab trail as the first light begins to wash out the stars above.
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It feels so good to hike. To just fucking hike. To walk as fast as I can on good tread with beautiful views and accurate mileage. We’re going down, down, down, pounding our quads and knees, 6,000 feet down to the Colorado river. A couple of hours after setting out we cross the emerald Colorado on a narrow footbridge and then we’re at Phantom Ranch, filling up our water bottles in the bright morning. A couple is there, sitting on one of the picnic tables. The woman has a blonde ponytail and a super cool magenta and purple hydration pack with a front pocket. The man has red-rimmed eyes and a tiny MLD pack.

“Are you Carrot?” says the woman. “I follow you on instagram!” Her name is Phoenix, and she hiked the PCT in 2015. She works as a nurse in Arizona. Her friend’s name is Bad Science, and they’re hiking the r2r2r as well, but they started yesterday- at 7 p.m. They’ve been hiking all night, in the dark, and all they have left is the seven miles up the south kaibab trail, back to the south rim. So cool!

“It’s easier in the dark, in a way,” says Phoenix. She laughs deliriously.

“We’re in the hallucinatory phase,” says the Bad Science. He rakes his hands through his long hair.

I can’t wait to be where they are- back at Phantom Ranch, exhausted, just one final 6,000 foot ascent left. We’ve got so much ahead of us, though, before then- about 28 miles. (Our hike is 45 miles total- 42 plus the 3 mile walk back to Dan’s car, as the shuttles won’t be running when we finish.)

I chug some matcha at Phantom Ranch, in my gatorade bottle. Matcha is this powdered green tea stuff that I bought at the whole foods in Sedona. This morning it makes me feel really good. Or maybe I just feel really good because I’m in the Grand Canyon on good corridor trails, hiking myself to death. Who can say.

We walk along bright angel creek in the cool canyonshade, almost imperceptibly uphill. There are lots of weekend backpackers of various demographics, some with giant packs and others with smaller packs, all of them communing with the rock and the water and the oncoming heat. Except the weather is perfect for us today. A little windy, a little cloudy. It’ll be maybe 70 degrees down here in the bottom of the canyon, max. We lucked out!

Everything is great. I drink more matcha. I love hiking! Walking forward without impediments makes me miss the PCT. I wonder what it would be like to do that trail again. Would everything seem smaller, and less shiny? Am I too old and cynical to make smalltalk with that many strangers? Who can say.
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Late morning we begin the long, long fucking climb up to the North Rim on the north kaibab trail. When we did this climb on the Hayduke, it was cold and rainy, and then it started to snow when we got close to the top. Our packs were heavy. Now my pack is light and I have five days worth of glycogen in my calf muscles. I am invincible!

The last chunk of the 6,000 foot climb ascends more than 2,000 feet in two miles, I think. (Don’t quote me on that.) It is essentially a series of steep switchbacks that go on for infinity, and you will not reach the top of the switchbacks until you let go of all your desires and accept the fact that you have always been climbing and you will always be climbing, amen. My knees are already a little sore from our initial descent, and now they start to complain loudly. Shut up, knees! I’m on the edge of glory here!

We reach the North Rim of the grand canyon, where it’s colder, in May, than any other known place in the appreciable desert (don’t quote me on that) and sit amongst the pines in our puffy jackets, assembling sandwiches and eating bbq potato chips. 21 miles! We’ve made it halfway! Two other groups, which are carrying small hydration packs and which we’d assumed were hiking the R2R2R, make noises of astonishment when we tell them that we’re about to turn around and hike all the way back. Apparently they were doing just one canyon crossing and are now done, free to change into leggings and heat soup on their jetboils. Where are all the other rimmers? I guess today it’s just us.

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Halfway! So stoked.

The descent back down the steep North Kaibab trail kind of hurts, as my left knee is now in a lot of pain. I do not care though. I can take a whole week off after this. I just want to crush!

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very crush. so hike.

Things get less inflamed once we reach the long flattish stretch before Phantom Ranch, so long as I sit down now and then to rest the knee. We reach Phantom Ranch in the early evening, and I assemble my last gf turkey sandwich at a picnic table while the folks who are actually staying at the ranch mill around us in their clean, good-smelling cotton relaxation wear, murming calmly in the canyongloaming. Deer stalk the perimeter unmolested, munching on delicate tufts of grass. Fat, mangy squirrels twitch in the shadows, yearning for the unparalleled, addictive rush of a single barbecue potato chip. I envy the people staying at this ranch- their good beds with the soft sheets, or whathaveyou. We’ve hiked 35 miles by now, and I’m feeling it. Mostly in my knee.

Dark falls as we leave the ranch. We’ll be getting back to the South Rim super late, but no matter. We’re going to make it!

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dark now

Everything up to this point has felt pretty easy, exhilarating even- but now I’m switchbacking 6,000 feet up the South Kaibab trail and I am so. fucking. tired. Plus it’s pitch black and a cold wind picks up and slams us with irregular gusts, blowing my hat off my head and making me recoil from the dark abyss beyond the edge of the trail. Presently the moon rises heavy and orange, and casts the massive canyon walls in a cold silvery light. It grows colder still, and I put on my puffy. I keep having to stop and rest the knee. Ahead I can see the little spot of Dan’s headlamp, bobbing. My headlamp bobs in response. Up and up and up we go, into the infinite blackness. Switching back and switching back. I remember the peanut MnMs I found on the trail in the afternoon. There were five of them, so brightly colored against the dirt, and I wiped the dust off of two and ate them. The MnMs were warm from the sun, and they tasted incredible. I focus on this thought. One more switchback disappears beneath my exhausted legs. I turn the corner to find more blackness. I’m dizzy with weariness. Woosh! Woosh! Goes the wind, in the dark. I clutch my hat. I turn on a podcast, and hold the phone up to my ear so that I can hear it. The podcast is about meditation as it relates to healing and physical health. Another switchback disappears. Ahead the small spot of Dan’s headlamp has stopped- he’s waiting for me. What a treasure. How did I find such a treasure of a human being to date. Except, people are wonderful. It’s letting oneself be loved that is the hardest part. I guess I’m finally maturing into the person I always wanted to be. They say that the ultimate lesson we can ever hope to learn, as humans, is how to love and be loved.

Another switchback disappears. More blackness. Time to rest the knee. I eat the last few handfuls of potato chips and the last square of dark chocolate. All that’s left is eleventy billion more switchbacks in the cold endless night.

I am euphoric when we reach the trailhead at the top. Limping, but euphoric. We fucking did it!

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Success!!

The hour is late, and the road to the visitor center is deserted. The temperature is close to freezing, and I pull the hood of my puffy up and retract my hands into my jacket sleeves. We walk on the pavement, without headlamps. The moon is enough.  It is the easiest three miles of the entire day.

Nothing is more wonderful, or has ever been more wonderful in the history of all things, than the heated seats in Dan’s car. And the fact that there is a bed in back. Twenty minutes later we’re back at last night’s campsite on the forest service road. An ibuprofen, a bit of a snack, and a few minutes later I’m asleep.

Helpful info on the R2R2R:

-You do not need a permit to hike the r2r2r, unless you are part of a group. You only need your Grand Canyon entrance pass.
-The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is open 24/7, 365 days a year. After hours there is a kiosk at the entrance station to buy your entrance pass.
-The dispersed camping on forest service roads just south of the park is most excellent, and a good alternative to the park campgrounds, which are often full.
-Spring and fall are the best times to do this hike. The temperature at the bottom of the canyon is generally 20 to 30 degrees higher than on the rims, so one must be prepared for both hot and cool temperatures.
-The South Kaibab trail is shorter than the Bright Angel trail, but is steeper and has more lumps and rocks in it, so it’s harder on the body. Taking the South Kaibab trail both down and up makes a 42 mile day, taking the South Kaibab one way and the Bright Angel another makes a 45 mile day, taking the Bright Angel trail both ways makes a 48 mile day (I think).
-The earliest shuttle to the trailheads from the parking areas, in May, is 4:30 a.m. Alternately, one can park pretty close to the South Kaibab trailhead on the curbside parking spots near the rim viewpoints (we only realized this after). The last shuttle on the south rim is “one hour after sunset”. If one starts from the North Rim, one can park right at the North Kaibab trailhead. (The North Rim opens for the season May 15.)
-There are regular water spigots and restrooms along the r2r2r- every 7 miles, sometimes more frequently.

Things I’d do differently next time:

-Train beforehand. It’d be nice to be able to run as much of the trail as possible. Completing the r2r2r in 12 or 14 hours would mean finishing while the shuttles are still running, and being able to get food after. It would also make the challenge even more interesting and exciting, I think.
-I’d start at 3 a.m., instead of 4:45. An even better chance of finishing in time for food!
-I’d carry a hydration pack instead of a daypack.

Fun Level on this hike: Maximum Fun.

Hayduke trail day 62: Zion/Fin

May 18
Mileage: 15
834 miles hiked

Even though I sleep long and hard in the dark clear night I wake up feeling tired. A deep tired, way down in my bones. It’s the kind of exhaustion I recognize from the end of a trail. I don’t want to hike anymore. I don’t want to eat bars. I don’t want to take photographs. I don’t want the chore of making nice sentences about my day before I’m allowed to go to sleep. I just don’t. I want to be alone in a quiet room with a bed and a stack of books, without the obligation to do anything or talk to anyone. Some birdsong would be alright. And vegetables.

The annoying cross country of the morning makes me even broodier. Annoying cross country? Who even am I. Sandy washes and big mounded slickrock to climb over. The mileages are off, per usual. We hike for three hours and cover three map miles. But I feel that we were walking at least 1.5mph. Oh Hayduke, must we have this argument on the last day.

We reach the trailhead for the east rim trail and begin to cruise on actual tread, past the cool zion rock walls and up into some conifers. It feels good to cruise. Still, I just feel so, so tired inside. I just need 24 hours to, like, stare into space.

The best part of the day comes when I get 4G on the mountaintop and learn that my book is now available as an audiobook!! I knew that it was in production, but I had no idea when it would be finished. So cool! A freakin audiobook!

We cruise through Echo canyon, which is just ok- a bit of a narrows, sort of. Some mucky potholes. Everything here seems smaller than what we’ve seen, and more trampled. I’m glad we came here when Dan’s parents were visiting, and hiked up to Angel’s landing. That was really cool. And my photo of Zion Canyon from the summit has more likes than any photo I’ve ever posted on instagram. Ha!

The sky curdles and it rains. There are hikers everywhere. Then we’re switchbacking down on paved trail (it’s manmade slickrock! I say to Dan) and then we’re at the restrooms at the parking lot. A 1/3 mile trail leads up an incline to weeping rock, a big chunk of cliff that drips onto maidenhair ferns. The western terminus of the Hayduke trail. Boom. We’re done.

Last week, when we were in Kanab Creek Canyon in the Grand Canyon, cooking dinner on the sand as Showerbath Spring’s perfect water cascaded through what seemed like a giant planter full of flowers, I said that, in my heart, Showerbath Spring was the real western terminus of the Hayduke trail. And as I stand in front of weeping rock today with all the other tourists, I know that, for me, this still holds true. Showerbath Spring is the end of the 1mph terrain through the Grand Canyon- that beautiful, grueling, transcendental 1mph terrain, and the Grand Canyon is the fireworks-in-the-sky grand finale of the Hayduke. So although I’m at weeping rock, trying to take a good selfie with Dan, my heart is at Showerbath Spring. And I imagine a piece of it will remain there forever.

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Sheep!!

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O zion

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Awkward finish photo at weeping wall

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Take 2

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Hayduke trail day 61: Deep sand to Virgin River narrows

May 17
Mileage: 15
819 miles hiked

This section going into Zion reminds me so much of earlier sections of the Hayduke. Absurdly deep, fine sand that packs into our shoes, and orange slickrock. It’s like it’s all come full circle. The review after the final. I’ve missed this stuff! We slog in the deep sand under a stormy sky in the morning (we were cowboy camping and the rain woke us up at 5:45), listening to podcasts and sinking back a half-step for each step we take. We’re on a jeep road, but no matter. The Hayduke, except for rare occasions, does not allow a person to walk faster than 2 mph.

The jeep road leads to some slickrock, which we scramble down into the east fork of the Virgin River. The river is lined in lush grasses and scrub oaks cottonwoods and winds through the slickrock, clear and burbling and quick but not in a threatening way. We follow the river, walking sometimes in the water, which is cool and pleasant, and sometimes on the bits of sandy bank. The canyon walls grow taller and more sheer, become narrows. A thunderstorm claps overhead and big raindrops come pelting down. We’re in a narrows… I don’t understand flash floods, not really. I know they mostly happen in the summer monsoon season, during heavy, driving rains that swell the drainages to bursting. Gentler, more pedestrian rains are not as likely to cause flash floods. But I also understand that the entire concept is new to me, I don’t really know what I’m talking about, yet, and right now I’m in a narrows with no exit point, in a heavy rain. What to do?

Dan, who is most definitely uncomfortable, makes the decision for us. We walk a few more bends down the river, until we see some slanted slickrock that leads to a shelf above. We scramble up this until we’re out of the canyon, sit on our sleeping pads with the tent draped over us, and wait for the rain to stop. I catch up on the blog posts of some PCT hikers I’m following, which I’ve saved to my phone. (This is a really good one.) It’s warm under this cuben fiber, under the patter of rain. By and by the storm wears itself out, and we scramble back down to the river again.

We follow the blue-green river for a few more hours, through waist-deep pools and over one slippery boulder obstacle to the parunuweap exit, which is a straightforward scramble out on slickrock with an obvious use path. This exit, the more commonly-used exit from the narrows, is on the right a few bends after misery canyon, where the traditional Hayduke exits via a ridiculous climb through poison ivy. We learned about the alternate exit from Jamal Green’s amazing website, which has loads of excellent information. Thanks Jamal!

We reach the top of the slickrock saddle, where there is an excellent sandy campsite, and drop our packs. If we camp here we’ll be just outside the boundary of Zion park, in which we do not have a permit to stay overnight. I’m soaked to the waist from wading in the river and although it’s only afternoon and I could keep hiking, I’m also worn out enough to feel ok about stopping. Besides, it’s our last night on the Hayduke. Why not make it a relaxing one?

As I cook my dinner in the sand, I think about all of the things I have to do after the trail. Pick up my van, pick up my passport, make appointments, drive across the country… the logistics of the rest of the summer are murky, there are still too many unknowns. It makes me uncomfortable, this not-knowing. But there are a good deal of obstacles between here and there, a number of boulder chokes and log jams. Bends in the river. Not-knowing is something I’m just going to have to sit with. I focus on the knowables, on what I can count on in the next few weeks. Sleeping in my van. Reading a book. Mooching vegetables from a friend’s garden. Being around queers again. Writing projects. Conifers. Getting my hair cut. A variety of outfits. Cuddling my boyfriend.

I drift off before it’s even dark. Dan is already asleep, his legs twitching beneath his quilt. Below us is the sound of the river and somewhere above, behind the clouds, is the moon.

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Back on slickrock candy mountain

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The east fork of the Virgin River

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Hayduke trail day 60: Touring polygamyville

May 16
Mileage: 13
804 miles hiked

Of course my debit card is not at the post office, care of general delivery to me. That would be too simple, too easy. I call my bank- they tell me they never sent the thing, because they packaged it fedex and then realized that fedex doesn’t deliver to general delivery addresses.

“Can you send it USPS?” I ask.

“Of course,” they say. “No problem.” I give them another address and Dan and I walk to the grocery store to supplement what’s in our resupply box for the next stretch. I feel sad today. Hurricaine is sort of a sad town. Just car washes and chain fast-food restaurants. I would be sad if I lived here, I think. But really I think I’m tired. I stayed up till midnight last night working on the blog in our motel room, and then woke way too early. Again. It’s time to get back out into the nature where I can sleep on the ground, like a normal person.

We don’t even have to put out our thumbs to hitchhike. A man calls out to us as we pass-

“Where are you going?”

He’s German, visiting the states for two weeks. He’s headed to the Grand Canyon in a shiny red rented convertible. He pops the trunk for us. Will out packs fit in there?

Today is the roadwalk through Colorado City- this roadwalk connects the Arizona Strip, which we just crossed, to Zion, where we’ll finish the Hayduke. Technically, one doesn’t have to walk through Colorado City, as there’s another roadwalk route that goes around it, but the Colorado City alternate is popular for, uh, cultural reasons. I am SO excited. I have been waiting all trail for this day. You see, three winters ago, when I was living alone in a tiny cabin in southern oregon, I got SUPER into reading about Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, aka FLDS, aka Mormon Fundamentalists, who splintered from the Mormon church not too long ago and are notorious polygamists. It started when I read Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven, which is just ok- but what really fanned the flames of my obsession were memoirs written by people who had left the church, with titles like Escape! And SO MUCH juicy detail about the history, culture, domestic life, inner workings and internal drama of the church. And Colorado City, which used to be called Short Creek and is owned and run almost entirely by the mormon fundamentalists (the cops, teachers, ambulance drivers and postal workers are FLDS), figures prominently in these books.

Our new German friend drops us off on the edge of town at noon, and we begin to walk. The anticipation is killing me. I want to see the hair poofs!!

Actually though it’s kind of sad. Although I’d read about how financially successful the church was, the town seems kind of run down. Large, plain houses, many in a state of disrepair. Bare dirt yards littered with broken toys. Building projects that seem abandoned. Some of the houses have the letters UEP worked into the construction. This stands for United Effort Plan, and these properties are owned by the church itself.

From what I’ve read of the FLDS, the community is structured as such: the dudes are “given” multiple wives. The more powerful you are, the more wives you are given. (And so that there are enough wives to go around, it is necessary to ex-communicate the majority of the young men.) The women work, and hand over their paychecks to the husband. They also bear as many children as physically possible- though they are usually married against their will, the most fertile wives are farther up in the wife heirarchy, and have more access to resources to care for their children. So everyone tries to be pregnant as much as possible. Also, since each man can only legally marry one woman, the rest of the wives apply for welfare as single mothers. They call this “bleeding the beast”. Some men have ten wives and fifty children. They don’t see western doctors, and if a wife gets sick or has trouble during childbirth, it means she’s out of alignment with her husband, and god is punishing her. If a woman tries to escape, the church throws all its financial power behind winning custody of her children, and almost always succeeds. For this reason women rarely escape. As far as I know, the community was doing a lot better before its most recent, and most outright fascist leader (he’s a fan of Hitler), Warren Jeffs, was imprisoned for “marrying” a 13 year-old. Jeffs still rules from inside prison, but the church has been losing members ever since. Now there are all sorts of factions, splinter groups of a splinter group.

We’re walking past a large compound when five small, tousled blonde heads pop up over the high metal fence.

“What are y’all doin?” Says the oldest boy. He’s maybe ten.

“We’re walking across Utah,” says Dan. The boys’ eyes practically bug out of their sockets.

“Why don’t you just drive?” Says one of the younger ones. His face is dusty and he’s wearing a backwards baseball cap.

“Because this is an adventure,” I say. The boys stare at me.

A woman with a hair poof and a prairie dress appears outside the front door. She’s putting empty plastic water jugs on the curb.

“It’s so great,” I say quickly. “We walk through all these canyons.”

“And you just find a place to camp?” Says the oldest boy.

“We have a tent,” I say.

The woman is calling the boys. They startle, and the blonde heads dissapear. The fence must be ten feet high. I wonder what they were standing on on the other side? And will they be punished now?

I grow sadder as we leave town and walk alongside Short Creek, a shallow sandy bit of waterway that trickles below the cottonwoods. I’ve always been drawn to, and fascinated by, American subcultures. There is beauty there, in people trying to find a different way to live, a more fulfilling way to be human. There is magic and wonder in making it all up fresh, in shaping a whole world from nothing. Marginalized subcultures are the primordial soup from which new ideas arise, the new ideas that help popular culture change and grow. I witnessed this in my twenties, in portland’s queer community. Ideas dreamed up by gender-fucking weirdo artists who lived in moldy, rundown houses and subsisted on dumpstered toast and femimist theory. Ideas that seemed so radical at first, but were eventually absorbed into popular culture and are now on their way to being taken granted by most everyone. (The newly-accepted as being gramatically correct singular they is a small example of this.)

So as I walk along Short Creek I feel sad. The mormon fundamentalist church may be based on rigid power heirarchies in which women are basically property and hundreds of children are raised up in total isolation without any knowledge of the outside world, but they tried. They failed, but they tried. They really fucking tried. And there is beauty in that. Also, the hair poofs are cool.

We climb up out of shortcreek and suddenly we’re in the land of swirly orange slickrock and deep, silty sand again. Zion is close! We trudge for a while, stopping repeatedly to empty our shoes of sand. A thunderstorm threatens, but nothing happens. Camp is in the sand amongst the fragrant sage. The sun sets and the night grows properly cold, up here at 6,000 feet. Only two days left.

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Hayduke trail day 59: zero in Hurricaine

May 15
Mileage: zero

Why not take one last zero, two days before the end of the route? No really though, we need to get Dan’s broken phone figured out. And wait until Monday morning post office hours to get our box. Also, there’s shitty diner food to eat. And I’m really behind on my blog. And these small Utah towns are strange and interesting. Fuck it! We want to zero.

I get my usual 5 restless hours of hotel sleep in a giant, comfortable bed, work on my blog in the pre-dawn dark, and then all five of us (me, Dan, DropNRoll, Joey and Bubs) go out to breakfast at the breakfast buffet across the street. The buffet is kind of awful, but also good, in a gross way. My favorite thing on the buffet is the canned tangerine wedges. I eat four plates of food and feel sick.

Then it’s time for our friends to hitch back to Zion for their bonus traverse. We’d wish them hitching luck, but they always get picked up in like five seconds anyway, ha ha. After they finish in Zion they’ll be biking back to Moab, which is amazing. All the sports!!

Much of the rest of the day is spent sitting on the patch of grass in front of the motel, watching the birds while Dan uses my phone to navigate an endless loop of his phone carrier’s customer support, in an attempt to get a new phone mailed out. The birds, whose names I do not know (Mary? Steve? Bill?) seem to be gathering bits of matter from one kind of tree, and taking this matter back to their nests in another kind of tree. I watch the birds go back and forth, back and forth. After a few hours of this and no broken phone resolution, we set out to walk the wide street that our motel is on, in search of snacks. It’s Sunday, and all of the chain stores in the strip malls are closed. Weird. If I had to describe what I can see of Hurricaine, Utah, I’d call it “a strip mall that’s closed on Sundays.” Arbys is open, though. Seeing Arbys makes me think of Nihilist Arbys Twitter, which I love. I don’t love arbys though.

We get snacks from the grocery store and I lose the rest of the day working on my blog in our motel room. It’s pretty boring. To make it more exciting I don’t wear any clothes and eat seven bowls of cinnamon rice chex. Later there is some television, which is good and reminds me how much I want to write a screenplay. Then more blog until midnight.

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Hayduke trail day 58: the Arizona strip

May 14
Mileage: 25
791 miles hiked

I dream that my house is in the upper freight container on a doublestack intermodal freight train that is hurtling down the track. I share this “house” with a bunch of people, all artists. We wear colorful clothing and live mostly off of butter cookies. We have bunkbeds and lace curtains and chandeliers. Except! Evil demon-possesed monkeys are trying to break in the windows to murder all of us and eat our faces. We have to stop the monkeys… but how?

I wake just before it’s light and gnaw on some “tropical” flavor caffeinated clif shot bloks. I love clif shot bloks, but the tropical flavor tastes like laundry detergent. Time to hike!

Life is a dirt road. A flat, straight, good dirt road cutting across the dry yellow grass towards some far distant benches. Tumbleweeds blow across this dirt road. We walk down it. It is very relaxing.

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All day

The heat is not as hot today- in a slow subtle way we climbed up to 5,000 feet in our exit of the grand canyon, and the sun is more merciful here. Also there are these wild isolated stormclouds like ships sailing across the sky, dragging their tentacles of rain. Now and then one crosses over us, spattering us with warm drops. Mostly, though, they add a weird pressure to the sunlight, and I sweat off the end of my nose. We walk.

We reach the highway in the late afternoon and a kindly Latina woman on her way to work stops for us, pushing things aside to make room. We talk about the polygamists in Colorado City, which we’ll walk through next.

“I worked with one of the polygamists,” she says. “I said to him- ‘If you can have seven wives, why can’t I have seven husbands?’ That made him very angry.” She laughs, her gold front tooth glinting in the sun.

Twenty minutes later we’re in Hurricaine, with DropNRoll, Bubs and Joey, who just finished the Hayduke!! But are laying over for a moment while they plan their bonus traverse of Zion. The five of us end up in a massive hotel room with thee huge beds, and eat a mediocre but filling dinner at the restaurant across the street. Showers, laundry, the desire to fall asleep when one has blog things to do… we’ll be zeroing here tomorrow, as we got in after post office hours and tomorrow is Sunday, so we can’t pick up our box and my new debit card until Monday. We could resupply here in town for our last few days and pick up our stuff after, but our box has our maps. Maybe that’s an excuse, though. We’re beat down from this last section- why not take one last zero? Other things of note- Dan’s phone died the first day out of the South Rim, so he is phoneless. This is sad, as it’s his camera too. He’s having a replacement sent to him after the trail, but it’s a bummer that he can’t take photos in the meantime.

I finally put down my phone way too late, after everyone is already asleep. I love being a writer, but sometimes I’m really tired, too. Fuck it! I love my life!

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