Endless P Summer

8/21/20…..31 miles…..White River CG

The Wonderland Trail is the premier volcano perimeter trail of the Pacific Northwest, or at least it’s the longest, that I know of. It’s a footpath that stretches 90 miles around Mt. Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington and the beefcake you can see from Seattle and the Puget Sound among many other places. I first hiked this trail in September of ‘16 on three of the nicest days of that summer and have been telling people how great it is ever since. Sara had yet to see it for herself and I was definitely down to do it again, so here we are.
When I did this hike in ‘16 I showed up at the ranger station in the morning, waited around for it to open, then was told all the backcountry sites were taken. According to that ranger I could camp in the hiker/biker sites at the 2 front country campgrounds as long as I could get to them each in a days walk. This requires 3 days of 31, 25, and 34 miles each or the other way around. In ’16 all I did by waiting around for the ranger was waste daylight. This year I figured we could just do the same thing. That is, don’t get backcountry permits, just hike big days and camp in the front country hiker/biker walk in sites.
 Last night we slept in the car in a little campsite off the side of the road on National Forest land nearby. We got to Longmire which is more or less the headquarters for Mt Rainier National Park this morning and began hiking counterclockwise. There were chances of rain so a 31 mile day in the rain was preferable to a 34 mile day in the rain. All day the trail was great. We walked through deep dark old growth forest then had long steady climbs to alpine passes and long descents back into the forest. Halfway through the day we ran into a ranger who started asking us questions and feeling us out. Now we didn’t have a permit but according to the guy in ‘16 didn’t need one. I guess things change. This guy we just ran into wasn’t being a dick or anything but he did tell us we need a permit to camp at the hiker/biker site at White River. He told us we might be able to get a car camping spot if we got there in time but if not should plan accordingly. Sara wasn’t worried and figured maybe the guy had his facts wrong. I went along with her assumption that everything would work out just fine. After that it started raining and then pretty much drizzled all afternoon. The rain produced a few glorious rainbows and we even had a nice black bear sighting this afternoon. When we got to White River all the hiker/biker sites were taken and the campground was full. We hiked 30+ miles, it was raining, and getting dark. There weren’t many options but fortunately we met a new friend Charlie and his daughter who were on a road trip touring national parks. Since it was raining they planned to sleep in their truck so we could certainly camp in their unused tent space. They were so nice! And Sara was right, everything worked out just fine. I don’t recommend this though, just get a permit.
8/22/20…..25 miles…..Mowich Lake CG
I woke up in a fog today. Not like I wasn’t thinking clearly, I woke up inside of an actual cloud. We had a stiff uphill for a few miles to start the day and as we got to the top the fog lifted, the sun came out and we had some incredible views of Rainier. On the way up we had an owl swoop down in front of us and then perch him or herself up on a stump beside the trail. It was quite a sighting if you’re into birds of prey, which I am.
For most of the morning we had clear skies and excellent views of the impressive volcano we’re walking around. We stopped at Mystic Lake for lunch and sadly I didn’t swim. The lake looked good for swimming once you got out in the middle, but until then there looked to be just too much mud walking to justify it. From Mystic lake we walked downhill along a massive glacier with an angry river running beneath it. We did this twice actually, descend on trail beside huge glaciers with big mean rivers then cross the rivers on bridges and climb up on the other side. I remember in ‘16 seeing a huge chunk fall from one of these glaciers and scaring the bejesus’s out of me. It’s visibly noticeable to the naked eye how much they’ve melted and receded in only 4 years. No massive chunks falling off them this time but looking across the river we did see a mountain goat, or possibly a polar bear but most likely a mountain goat.
After crossing Carbon River on a suspension we took the Spray Park Alternate. This had the same mileage as the regular route and just a bit more elevation. I think it was cool but mostly it was just cloudy. Lots and lots of waterfalls and babbling brooks and stuff and a few times the clouds cleared and we got a view of the mountain. Tonight we made it to Mowich Lake Campground which is pretty crowded but seems to have a bunch of sites reserved for walk-ins. I don’t know for sure but the ranger we talked to yesterday said we should be fine to stay here.
8/23/20…..34 miles…..Ashford, WA National Forest land
Due to a massive day ahead of us, 34 miles and just under 9000 feet of elevation gain, we got up a little earlier than normal and were walking by 5:20 am. The first 3-4 miles were a steady downhill in the dark followed by a steady 3-4 mile uphill. This continued all day. Either we were going down or going up, nothing extreme but also no flat cruiser trail at all. Oddly each of the climbs and descents got a little bit shorter as the day went on. Today’s elevation profile looked like a saw blade, that could probably be said for just about all of the Wonderland Trail.
It wasn’t the fastest day but we finished before needing to put our headlamps back on(just barely) which was my ultimate goal. The weather was the best of the 3 days and views of Rainier were just the tops. Our only major obstacle today and really of the whole trip was crossing Kautz Creek with about 3 miles left. This is a rather angry river gushing down a gully and had washed out the previous log bridge. Maybe early in the day there’s less water and I’m sure there’s probably an easier place to cross had we walked further downstream but we got a bit misled by a confusingly placed rock cairn. I built myself a shaky bridge with a piece of driftwood while Sara opted for getting her feet wet and carefully walking across. I’d recommend walking further downstream to cross. An hour later we got back to our car parked at Longmire, high fived, and drove 15 mins into Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the same campsite we were at 3 nights ago.
The Wonderland Trail did not disappoint. I didn’t remember it having so much elevation gain and loss but that certainly isn’t new. The views were spectacular, the weather was decent and the trail was challenging but not difficult. I recommend hiking this trail. Mt. Rainier is a natural beauty and a true gem of the Northwest. Do yourself a favor and maybe get the permits ahead of time and take an extra day or two. 

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8/16/20…..33.7 miles…..6800 ft gain

We planned on running the perimeter of MSH, but it ended up being less of a run and more of a long day hike. The Loowit Trail is roughly 30 miles around and can be accessed by a handful of different trails. The shortest of which and the one we chose is the June Lake Trail at about 1.7 miles each way. The Loowit Trail itself is a big loop circumnavigating the (still active?) volcano.

We spent the day before the hike, driving across Oregon into Washington and preparing while putting ourselves in position for an early start. Getting to June Lake from the Columbia River Gorge there’s a super windy road that took upwards of an hour from Hood River, OR. In Hood River we loaded up on burritos, ice cream and a few necessities for the hike. Throughout Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a fair amount of dispersed free camping right off the road. I think there’s a million little unnamed logging roads up this way so probably pretty easy to get lost. We didn’t though. We found a great secluded campsite about a half mile from the trailhead and perfect for car camping. Before any big day I always have trouble sleeping, always, and this was no exception. A massive effort with minimal sleep is doable but frustrating. The weather in the gorge was supposed to be up near a hundred and although a bit cooler on the mountain, we’d be in direct sun for much of the day so we planned on getting up at 4:30. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I tossed and turned most of the night and pushed the wake up time back to 5:30. When we did get up, Sara and I both hemmed and hawed for awhile whether or not this was a good idea to hike on what was probably the hottest day of the year out here. We figured we had a few bailout options if it was horrible and decided to give it a go. This cost us a little more time and we didn’t start walking until 6:15. We survived though. Going up the June Lake Trail we passed through a bunch of massive old growth trees and a sweet waterfall that flows into a murky June Lake. At the intersection with the Loowit Trail we took a left going clockwise to avoid having the sun directly in our faces all morning and it would also give us more water sources later in the day. It was a good choice, I think clockwise is the way to go. For the first 10-12 miles we alternated between lush old growth forests with massive trees(they don’t call it the Evergreen State for nothing) with soft trail underfoot and then rock hopping through volcanic boulder fields. Every once in a while we’d have to cross a gully created by runoff from snowmelt at the top of the volcano. Some were deeper and steeper than others and if so the trail would follow along them downhill until it was safe enough to cross. A couple times there were fixed ropes in place in order to get down into or up out of them. It was a manageable challenge. Some but not all of these had streams running through adding another level to the challenge. Around 12 miles in we grabbed water out of one of these streams and then climbed way up on sandy switch backs into the direct sun. Our next 6-8 miles were probably the crux of the day. We were in direct sunlight going around the north side of MSH where it had erupted 40 years ago. A huge chunk of the peak was missing and we walked through the debris field following poorly defined trail marked by cairns. Our next water source was an extremely silty stream in one or these runoff gullys. I carried some water from it for the next 2 miles but only planned to put it through the filter if our next source was a bust. In 2 miles the water source was far from a bust, only the greatest oasis I’ve ever seen. A beautiful spring with crystal clear, ice cold water coming up from the side of the mountain. This spring created a little ecosystem in the middle of an otherworldly landscape providing shade and a perfect spot for a nice long lunch.

We still had another 12 miles to go but Sara and I felt like we made it. We were rejuvenated after our late lunch, there was a bit of overcast and it felt much cooler. We walked through a section called the Plains of Abraham which was enjoyable. In the distance we could see some waterfalls and a couple of mountain goats, or polar bears, but probably mountain goats. The last 5 miles of the Loowit Trail were tough, this section included a lot of steep gullys we had to drop into and climb out of. At this point though we could smell the barn and knew we’d soon be back within the deep forest and walking down to the car and our cozy bed. Overall we had a great day out there. It was hard but not too bad and I think on a cooler day it would be much more runnable and easier. It took us about 12.5 hours and for us that seemed reasonable. I’d recommend it and I’d do it again.

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8/12/20…..10 miles…..Edna Lake

*Note that I dropped my phone in the ocean since we returned from our honeymoon so I lost a lot of pictures. The ones you see in this post are probably from Sara’s camera or ones I have recovered from text messages. This is why there aren’t as many shots of my beautiful bride as there should be. 

I don’t know if this hike has an official name but Sara came up with a 45 mile hike in the Sawtooths and we’re 11 days into our honeymoon so the Sawtooth Honeymoon Loop is what we’re going with. It’s not really a loop though, more of a figure 8 and even more than that the route is shaped like a barbell or a pair of eyeglasses. It’s 2 roughly 20 mile loops connected by a section of trail about 2 miles long that we’ll do twice. If this is how you actually draw the number 8, you’re doing it wrong. I may also refer to it as the ‘honeymoon barbell.’ Ok, I’m getting way off track here.

If you’re still reading let me give you a little background. We’ve been driving west across the U.S. for the past week and half hiking, running, catching up with friends, checking out new places, and sleeping in the back of our Subaru while trying to tip toe delicately through the country in the time of COVID. Today we woke up in our friends Tami and Kasey’s driveway in Boise and drove a few hours to the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho. I’ve been meaning to explore these mountains since I first hitchhiked through the state 5 years ago. Sara’s never been here either so this place is brand new to both of us. From the Tin Cup Trailhead outside the town of Stanley we walked about 10 miles into some amazing scenery. The trail is well graded and the walking was simple. Since the trail wasn’t too strenuous we took our time stopping to drink out of ice cold springs and taking in the views. Right away there were mountain lakes, then waterfalls, and jagged peaks like the teeth of a saw(hence the name). We started the first loop going counter clockwise, climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the intersection of the second loop. For the second loop we’re going clockwise and camped at the first lake we came to; Edna Lake. We got a sweet spot on a little peninsula and the tent is tucked in between some big rocks and pine trees. The lake is bright blue, clear, and cold. Just the way I like it and perfect for an evening swim. Supposedly there will be a meteor shower tonight, ‘the Perseids,’ so fingers-crossed the sky is clear and we stay awake for a few shooters. 

8/13/20…..20 miles…..Edna Lake, again

Last night it was overcast as we went to sleep but when my bladder woke me up at 3am the meteor shower was in full effect. I woke Sara up and we enjoyed a nice middle of the night stargazing session. This morning we slept in and didn’t get moving until after 8am. Walking clockwise around the second loop we passed alpine lake after alpine lake, it was rad. Halfway around the second loop we took a spur trail up a short but steep pass to Everly Lake, a pristine mountain lake and a perfect spot for lunch and a cold swim. From Everly lake we returned down the pass to the loop and walked all the way around and back to Edna Lake. The second half of the day the trail was more forested so it didn’t have quite as many views as this morning, still cool though. When we passed Benedict Creek it provided a short little natural water slide in the rocks, so I slid down that half a dozen times. We liked our campsite from last night so much that when we reached the junction to return to the other loop we kept walking the short distance back to Edna Lake. Our site was already taken but we found another one nearby and I went for my third swim of the day. Sara only had 1.5 swims today because I guess we have different standards for what counts as ‘swimming.’

8/14/20…..15 miles…..Oregon Rest Stop

First thing this morning we backtracked just a little bit from our campsite to the junction that would lead us back to the first loop or other side of the barbell. We climbed up to Sand Mountain Pass then down to the other loop that we followed counter clockwise. After passing Toxaway Lake we climbed another pass(it’s either unnamed or I can’t remember it) then dropped down to Twin Lakes and Alice Lake.  

At some point after Alice Lake a pair of hikers stopped us and recognized us from our adventure last year. Mold had picked us up hitchhiking a year ago about 30 minutes outside Hanksville, Utah while we were hiking the Hayduke. He and his wife Mildew(trail names) were up in the Sawtooths from Salt Lake and were on their way to climb a peak. Both thruhikers, they didn’t seem super surprised at this strange coincidence.

We walked another handful of miles and went for a nice swim in Pettit Lake just before reaching our car. From the Tin Cup trailhead we drove through the town of Stanley then stopped for a few hours at Kirkham Hot Springs. Both thumbs all the way up for these springs, lots of pools and some rocks you could jump off and then float down a rapid in the South Fork of the Payette. In a couple days we’re planning to run around Mount St Helen’s in Washington so after leaving the hot springs we drove west out of the mountains and eventually crossed into Oregon. Tonight we’re sleeping in the car at the Weatherby Rest Area on I-84. So far so good for a rest area. I think the Sawtooths are incredible. This small sampling of these mountains provided lots of impressive views, big jagged mountains, cold clear waters, and well maintained trail. I’ll definitely be back. If you’re planning on coming out here keep in mind that the first loop, known as the Alice Lakes Loop, is quite popular and for good reason. The second loop was also incredible but had far less people out there and felt much more secluded, and if you’re out this way don’t skip Everly Lake, it’s well worth a little extra walking. Kirkham Hot Springs

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Day 1…..28 miles…..Cherry Mountain Trailhead

The Cohos(pronounced co-os like the way you would say co-op) Trail is a 165 mile footpath through northern New Hampshire. The southern terminus is at the Davis Path trailhead in Crawford Notch and it stretches to the Canadian Border in the North. We’ll be hiking from south to north. 
Yesterday Sara and I finished Vermont’s Long Trail, drove my car back to Smuggler’s Notch to pick up her car, then drove both cars to the tippity top of NH and dropped her car off by Third Connecticut Lake. From there we drove south to Crawford Notch and spent the night sleeping in my car before setting off in the morning. Along the drive we cached food about halfway in Stark, NH off rt 110 where we hid bear canisters in the woods stuffed with 3 days worth of ramen and Mike and Ike’s. Living in Massachusetts I have always felt that New Hampshire pretty much ends at the White Mountains. Boy was I mistaken. There’s so much more up here in The Great North Woods, as they call it and I’m about to find that out.
This morning we rolled out of the Subaru, crossed Bemis Bridge and climbed up Davis Path towards Stairs Mountain. The Cohos Trail goes up and over Mt. Isolation then drops way down to the Dry River. Actually not dry, we crossed it in knee deep water. From there we climbed up over the Presidential Ridge near Eisenhower, took a left on the AT and followed that for a quarter mile then dropped steeply down Edmonds Trail. We finally had some easier walking on snowmobile trails once we got to the bottom. After passing the Mt. Washington Hotel monstrosity we went west on 302 for a bit. 
For dinner we grabbed gas station sandwiches and walked another mile before looking for a place to camp. The Cohos Trail runs along Old Cherry Mountain Road which has ‘primitive’ camping but everything was taken. These are sites carved into the woods with no toilets or electrical hookup. There were cars in every single one of them. Besides the primitive spots, the woods are so thick with brush it’s next to impossible to find a spot for the tent. We walked a bit longer than we would have liked to but finally found a spot in the woods right across from the trailhead up Old Cherry Mountain. A pleasant and productive first day on the Cohos Trail. 
Day 2…..25 Miles…..Mt Weeks Summit
Yesterday I forgot to dry out my sleeping bag. We got rained on at some point, my bag got wet and I forgot all about it until we set up camp. Sara and I made due with 1 sleeping bag for the night. Fortunately it wasn’t that cold out and we were both exhausted and able to sleep. From our spot next to the trailhead we walked up and over Mounts Martha and Owls Head(the other NH Owls Head). Finally seeing some Cohos Trail signs and yellow blazes we followed these down through a series of snowmobile and rail trails around Pondicherry wildlife sanctuary before doing a decent road walk on 115A. Before starting the road walk I think I saw a bear. I can’t confirm it, it was either a bear or bigfoot, but I think it was a bear.
At the junction of 115A and Rt 2 there’s a country store attached to an Irving gas station. This place has massive subs, both thumbs up, and good pizza. We took our time eating lunch, went back in to pick up a few things for a 1 day resupply then sat on the porch doing some housekeeping; organizing food and cleaning our feet and stuff. We had been there for about an hour and as I looked over towards the gas station I thought I saw my cousin’s husband pumping gas. As I walked over to get a better look, my cousin Kate walked out of the store! Kate, John, and their daughter Mila were up here on vacation and were coming from Santa’s Village. And it was Kate’s birthday! What a treat. I know we’re only 3 hours from the North Shore of Boston and to see someone from home isn’t outside the realm of possibility but at one of the only places we’ll stop this whole trail, and a first cousin, that was quite a coincidence. 
After an unexpected visit with family Sara and I walked up the Starr King Trail towards Kilkenny Ridge. A few miles later my back started burning like a son of a gun. It felt like somebody was simultaneously pulling out every single one of my back hairs. I took my shirt off and Sara wiped my back off, gave me an examination, and a diagnosis: heat rash. Neither one of us knew the cure. For the rest of the day I adjusted my pack so it wasn’t directly on my back and it seemed to help a little. We rolled along Kilkenny Ridge summitting Waumbek and a few smaller peaks before setting up on top of Mt. Weeks. My back seemed to get better for now which is a big relief. 
Day 3…..27 miles…..Percy tent site
This morning we continued on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail slowly for another 15 miles. We went up and down a few smaller peaks and topped out for the day at Mt. Cabot, the northernmost 4000 footer in New Hampshire. On the way up Cabot we met a pair of southbound Cohos Trail thru hikers, Goliath and Handsome Dan. Long distance hikers, if we didn’t know the same people we knew the same trails and traded info with them on stuff coming up.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, we got off the Kilkenny Ridge trail and found ourselves at South Pond. This pond is at the northernmost part of the White Mountain National Forest. There’s a beach here and a swimming area. While the other beach goers did their thing Sara and I took baths washing off a few days worth of bug spray and B.O. It was extremely refreshing. 
Leaving the pond we had a few miles of road walking, crossing rt 110 then the Upper Ammonoosuc River and entered Nash Stream Forest. We located our hidden bear canisters with our untouched 3 day resupply in them and took a few minutes to organize our food. I think we have now entered the Great North Woods and virtually everything up here is uncharted terrain for me. I’m very familiar with WMNF but I’ve only been hiking north of Cabot once, it’s all brand new to me. Sara and I walked another 6 miles with the last 2 being extra grueling and got to camp at the Percy tent site. 
Amazingly today my heat rash on my back all but vanished. I did my best to keep my pack off my back and the weight of it more on my hips but other than that I didn’t do much to cure it. Had it been as bad as yesterday I would have considered getting off trail at rt 110 and figuring out how to get back to my car. 
Day 4…..29 miles…..Panorama Shelter
Today started off innocently enough. A nice 4 mile downhill to a waterfall with an excellent swimming hole. A cool dip was a perfect way to start the day. 
For the rest of the day we just walked. Here and there we find ourselves on decent trail for a few miles but I’ve noticed much of this trail is a conglomeration of snowmobile trails, road walks, atv or jeep roads, rail trails, and old logging roads. I don’t hate it, I’m enjoying myself, but it hasn’t been super scenic and the trail at times is just ok.
This afternoon we walked through the Balsams Ski Resort. I thought someone was supposed to build a big resort up here but this place looks like a thing of the past. There sure was a huge hotel in the distance though. We dropped way down to Dixville Notch, crossed rt 26, then climbed way up on the north side. Dixville Notch is a highlight of the trail (also the place where the first presidential ballots are cast every 4 years). There’s cascading waterfalls and great views from steep jagged cliffs on both sides. Sara and I had planned to camp once we got up the north side but there was nothing even close to suitable. Another thing about this trail, camping options are very limited. We had to crank out another 3 miles at sunset to Panorama shelter and got in just before the rain started. 
Day 5…..30 miles…..Pittsburg, NH 
All night it rained absolute buckets. Sleeping in the shelter the sound of the rain was amplified by the tin roof making it even scarier or more soothing. We were very lucky to push on last night. Had we set up it most likely would have been in an uneven campsite probably right in middle of the trail somehow and we would have got soaked. 
Although the rain had stopped this morning we still got soaked through splashing in puddles, mud, and walking through wet ferns. The trail turned to road after half a dozen miles and the skies opened up on us. We walked through an empty Colebrook State Park and then had a series of road walks for most of the day. Our goal today was Young’s Store in Pittsburg, 30 miles from Panorama Shelter. It was ambitious especially since it closed at 7pm but with about 20 of those miles on road or ATV road(this area is a hotbed for ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts) I felt pretty confident we’d get there. Since we were a bit ahead of schedule we both had enough food to only be a little bit hungry before finishing the trail tomorrow. By the afternoon we had moved fast enough that we had time for a nice lunch and quick swim in Lake Francis. 
We got to Young’s Store by quarter to 6, got subs, macaroni salad, ice cream and a little bit of food to supplement our bags for tomorrow. There’s cabins for rent across the street so we decided to rent one for two nights. This way we can slack pack the last 25 miles to the border then drive Sara’s car back here and totally relax for a night. 
Day 6…..25 miles…..Canada
Today’s hiking wasn’t great. Sara and I were both glad to be finishing up the trail but the miles today just didn’t have much going for them. It poured again overnight which didn’t help and when we got going at 6am it was already warm. The cloud we were walking through felt like a steam room and the overgrown snowmobile trails were muddier than usual. 
We spent all day within the town of Pittsburg, the largest town by area in New England. The trail parallels rt 3 and took us by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Connecticut Lakes. These lakes are the headwaters of the Connecticut River that becomes the NH/VT border and flows all the way to Long Island Sound. Once we reached the Canadian Border the Cohos Trail takes a left for nearly a mile up through the clear cut which is the actual border. Don’t write off this last mile as easy clear cut walking. It’s anything but. After climbing about 500 feet the trail comes to 4th Connecticut Lake and does a small loop before returning to the clear cut then the dastardly mile back to the road. When we got back to the road we walked past the border patrol office then a mile south into the USA where we left Sara’s car by 3rd Connecticut Lake. We jumped in the water and washed off all our sins. Tonight we’re staying again at the Mountain View Cabins in Pittsburg. So rewarding and comfortable! 
Overall Sara and I had a good time out there. We beat the bag out of the trail and had fun. It was difficult but we kind of did that to ourselves. Had we slowed down and taken another day or two it probably would have seemed significantly easier. The weather however, didn’t make me want to stick around too long. I probably wouldn’t hike this trail again but like I said it may have been more enjoyable if we took a bit longer. Also just like the Long Trail, the time of year to hike probably isn’t the dead of summer. One other thing, it might be better to hike this trail south as it gets more mountainous in the south.

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7/19/20…..10.5 miles…..Bear Hollow

This will be my last installment of Vermont’s Long Trail. From Smuggler’s Notch(rt 108) to the Canadian border is my fourth and final section. 

If you’re confused reading these posts, note that I haven’t done the Long Trail in order. In 2015 I hiked the southern most section from Massachusetts to Sherburne Gap, then again while thru hiking the AT in ‘16 I repeated that section. In ‘18 Sara and I hiked from Lincoln Gap to Smuggler’s Notch and in ‘19 we hiked from Sherburne Gap to Lincoln Gap. 

Due to Covid-19 Sara and I figured hitching would be potentially unsafe and more of a pain in the ass than usual so we drove two cars, dropping one at Journey’s End road in Jay, VT then drove the other south to start our hike from rt 108. After about 5 hours altogether and shuffling cars around we started our hike steeply up through the Smugglers Notch Ski Resort. This trail is rugged! I’m reminded of that every time I come out and start on this trail. It feels like it’s always either straight up or straight down and packed with rocks, roots, and mud. Always mud. Unless we come across it in the next 55 or so miles there is very little cruiser trail out here. And it always seems hot and muggy and buggy. Section hiking is definitely tougher than thru hiking. There’s so much more logistics getting to and from trail and you’re always starting fresh. When you’re thru hiking you only have to start once and after a few days your body is conditioned for the next two thousand or whatever miles. But today my body felt good and we had a great day out here, just not my favorite trail. We topped out on Madonna Peak, the summit of Smugglers Notch ski resort and had an excellent refreshing swim in Sterling Pond. This evening we even got a nice mansplanation of every nook and cranny of the next 4 miles of trail trail from an adult wearing a gun on his hip in a camouflage holster. I spent those 4 miles wondering what that guy was so afraid of that he needed to carry a gun out here for.

We made it to a flat spot out front of the Bear Hollow shelter and had our dinner in the tent as it started to rain. 

7/20/20…..28 miles…..Belvedere Peak

Today was a banger of a day out here. Nothing like easing into the hiking season with 8000 feet of vertical over 28 miles on the Long Trail. Since shelters are gross even when there isn’t a pandemic going on we slept in our tent last night and got poured on. It wasn’t the best night sleep, it was wicked hot, then it poured. Luckily we had about 7-8 pretty chill miles right away. It was a very gradual way to wake up. Once the sun came out we stopped and dried out all our stuff from last night. The trail then went up and down all day in muddy, rocky, rooty conditions typical of the Long Trail. It was hot and humid, not quite as bad as yesterday but still, and it was buggy. Sara either wasn’t getting bit or was keeping it a secret because even with deet on and wearing a bug net I was still the object of the deer flies desire. Today also had some of the highlights of the whole Long Trail, especially the showers we took at a waterfall pouring over a cliff. Shortly after that I busted my ass in a mud puddle, but I guess that’s why they call it ‘Vermud.’ We also went through Devil’s Gulch which is a short chasm through big boulders, something like a miniature Mahoosuc Notch if you’re familiar. Tonight we’re camped in some trees just off the summit of Belvedere Peak which has some awesome views in all directions, some of the finest I’ve seen on this whole trail.

7/21/20…..21 Miles…..Shooting Star Shelter

Never have I spent more time walking and covered less ground than I did today. I smell like I’ve been out here for a month. The trail was extra slow today. Super steep climbs followed by steeper descents on slippery rocks were interrupted only with muddy flat sections that we had to tiptoe around instead of ending up knee deep in mud. There were no easy miles today and we were traveling at a warp speed of 1.5 mph. That being said, it was much cooler out and there were no bugs which was a big relief. The highlight of today was a climb up to the top of Jay Peak. I had planned on skiing Jay in March but the mountain(and the world) closed early due to Covid. At the top we had great views in every direction. We could see Lake Champlain and into NY to the West, North into Quebec, East to Mt Washington in NH and to the South back to Mt. Mansfield and beyond on the Long Trail. This evening instead of making it back to the car like we had hoped, we finished our day tenting outside of Shooting Star Shelter. 21 miles with 7000 feet of gain in almost 14 hours with very little dilly dallying.

7/22/20…..5.7 miles…..Canada

Done with the Long Trail! This morning’s miles were rather smooth and in a few hours we reached the clear cut through the forest with the monument symbolizing the end of the trail and the Canadian border. It’s actually quite a nice terminus as long trails go. There’s a view north into Canada and a boulder perched up above the obelisk looking down towards the clear cut border. Sara and I high fived, took a few pictures, and vowed never to step foot on this trail again(just kidding, but seriously). We enjoyed ourselves but the trail itself isn’t my favorite. I’m not sure how much I would recommend this trail to prospective hikers. Well let’s say this; maybe don’t hike the Long Trail in the dead of summer. Hiking the LT in the fall is probably much more enjoyable, not that I’ll ever know. And I think I’d rather hike it in one shot, I prefer thru hiking but since I live relatively close to the Vermont I figured I’d hike this trail in sections whenever I could fit it in.

Once we reached the border we took the 1.5 mile side trail to the parking lot where my car was waiting. Our plans were to shuffle the cars around and begin hiking NH’s Cohos Trail tonight but zigzagging up and down Northern Vermont and New Hampshire took a fair amount longer than we expected. We settled on a bath in a lake and a full night sleep in the car at the Davis Path Trailhead and starting the Cohos Trail the next day.

For more pictures of this adventure and others feel free to follow me on Instagram @endlesspsummer

11/8/19…..Hayduke Day 43…..20 miles

We woke up to a delicious home cooked breakfast of potatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, eggs, toast, yogurt, fruit and coffee. Then, after we packed up, Lynn drove us 40 miles out of Kanab to where we got off trail yesterday at the corner of AZ 389 and Yellowstone Rd. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Lynn and her husband Richard are the ultimate trail angels and have done so much for not just me and QB but so many hikers on the Arizona Trail and the Hayduke.

We walked dirt roads through the tiny town of Cane Beds, AZ and then a paved highway for awhile. It was boring. The walking all day today and yesterday was a road walk across the ‘Arizona Strip’ and the best way I can describe it is just boring. I have to just go elsewhere in my mind for monotonous boring road walks like this. For awhile we were on a paved road with a fair amount of traffic, and I found a cell phone in good condition on the side of the road. We charged it up and turned it on but the thing’s locked and we don’t know how to find the owner. Did anybody lose an android near the Arizona/Utah border? I didn’t think so. When we did cross back into Utah after lunch we turned onto a very sandy 4wd road. It was like walking on the beach for 10 miles with no waves. Tomorrow we’ll be in Zion and all this road walking/connector trail will be worth it.

11/9/19…..Hayduke Day 44…..15 miles

We woke to frost on the tent, which wouldn’t be a big deal if we didn’t have to walk through an ice cold river this morning. It warmed up a little as we walked 5 more miles of very sandy jeep road. The road dead ended and we followed a steep trail down to the bottom Parunuweap Canyon aka ‘The Barracks.’ This canyon contained the East Fork of the Virgin River which we would walk along and through for the next 6 miles.

The water was ice cold! Bone chilling. At least for the first hour. We had to keep crossing over and over and only had these small sections of dry land for our feet to warm up a bit. Luckily it didn’t get more than knee deep and it must have been in the low 30’s or colder. I don’t think my feet have ever been more uncomfortable. For some reason the cold water didn’t seem to bother QB or at least she didn’t complain, I had trouble doing anything else.

There was a bald eagle down in the canyon keeping us company for awhile. Or maybe it was 4 bald eagles. Most likely it was 1 eagle that I saw 4 times. Finally after one of the coldest hours my feet have ever endured the water definitely warmed up and became bearable and the canyon was really very cool. It just seemed like the Hayduke’s final boss that we had to defeat. After 15 miles of super sandy jeep road and a half dozen miles of a viciously cold river and 1 quick class 3 scramble you can finish the route. The scramble was through a lemon squeeze beneath a giant boulder and down a natural tunnel all to avoid an impassable waterfall. Shortly after this we climbed out of the river by way of a route called ‘Fat Man’s Misery’ and walked 4-5 more miles crossing into Zion NP and reaching Mt. Carmel Highway.peeing

The official end of the Hayduke is the Weeping Wall within the park but because of a rockslide the Weeping Wall as well as the East Rim Trail are closed. We’ve done both of these before so I’m not losing much sleep about it. Going into Zion our plan has been to hitch around into the park and walk the Zion Traverse starting on the West Rim Trail and finishing at Kolob Canyon. Since Mt. Carmel Highway goes through a huge tunnel that is illegal to walk, we had to hitch and quickly got a ride from Hugo and Manuel. These guys dropped us off at the ranger station where we got our permit for tomorrow.

We’re camping in the park tonight and got into Springdale for a meal. If you come to Zion, Oscar’s just outside the park is where it’s at for food. Very good and they’ve got thru hiker portions.

11/10/19…..Hayduke Day 45…..23 miles

From our campsite at the Watchman CG we took the Zion free park shuttle to the Grotto stop and started up towards the West Rim Trail. The beginning of this trail is the same one that goes to Angel’s Landing. It’s paved, moderately steep, and crowded. After a mile or so we fell in step with an older couple and the woman started asking increasingly personal questions. It was getting weird, and I couldn’t out hike her. Good thing they were stopping at Angel’s Landing because I could only lie to her for so long.

Quickly we got away from the crowds and walked through a very cool part of the park. I feel like so many people in Zion stick to the main attractions within Zion Canyon but there’s a lot to see if you get just a little beyond them, for example the West Rim Trail.

In 2017, roughly the same time of year, QB and I hiked the Zion Traverse or Trans Zion Trail in the opposite direction. The next section the trail splits for 4 or 5 miles, you can continue to take the West Rim Trail or get on the Telephone Canyon Trail. I would recommend staying on the West Rim Trail, we did that last time and it was definitely more scenic. No big deal though. We carried on up near Lava Point, took a left through Wildcat Canyon and by the end of the day got to the Hop Valley Trail and the beginning of Hop Valley. For about a mile the Hop Valley Trail dips out of the Park into Zion Wilderness and that’s where we camped for the night. As we closed in on our campsite we were treated to possibly the most magnificent sunset of the entire Hayduke.

11/11/19…..Hayduke Day 46…..13 miles

Hayduke Lives!!! Finished the trail today.

We got going from our campsite and proceeded to walk through Hop Valley. This is a very underrated part of Zion. If you’re in the area I definitely recommend exploring the east side of the park and especially getting yourself to Hop Valley. If we had been here just a few days early the cottonwoods would still have been flying their bright yellow leaves. We crossed a bunch of partially frozen streams in Hop Valley then descended to La Verckin Creek. After following the creek for half a dozen miles we came to Lee Pass and for us the Western Terminus of the Hayduke. We high fived a few times, took a couple pictures and got busy hitching.

Deanna picked us up and ended up driving us almost 3 hours to Vegas. She even brought us to a thrift store in St. George, UT so we could buy clean new clothes for the next couple days. We’re staying 2 nights in Vegas, flying to NY for a few days then driving home to Massachusetts. Tonight we’re gorging ourselves at a buffet on the strip. We’re both trying to eat our weight in crab legs.

Thanks for reading! The Hayduke was a truly incredible endeavor, it was very difficult but the payoff was well worth it. I hope you enjoyed following along, I enjoyed having you. Feel free to follow us on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes.

11/2/19…..Hayduke Day 37…..14 miles

I think someone camping nearby in Mather Campground was having night terrors last night or they were screaming at the top of their lungs at 4:30 in the morning for a legitimate reason. Either way I didn’t check it out or get back to sleep.

From the South Rim the Hayduke follows the South and North Kaibab Trails through the main corridor of the canyon back up onto the Kaibab Plateau on the North Rim. Normally the Hayduke goes along the Plateau then drops back into Saddle Canyon on Northwestern part of the GC. Because of an active fire closure near Swamp Point there’s a reroute that requires almost an extra day of walking roads on the Plateau before dropping back into the Canyon.

Last year while on the Arizona Trail, QB and I went Rim to Rim of the Canyon but this time decided to get a later start and eat a full breakfast before leaving. We started downhill with heavy packs around 10 am with hordes of other people. After a few miles it thinned out and soon we were nearing the river. From about a mile away and a ton of switchbacks up we could see 4 blue boats beached near the bridge we’d soon cross and wondered if it was our friends who gave us a ride the other day. Of course it was. We’re all on much different schedules and hiking along the river and floating it are far different lengths so the chances are low that we’d be crossing back over during the hour that they’d stop for lunch. Everybody else was surprised, I wasn’t.

We carried on up the North Kaibab Trail and stopped shortly at Phantom Ranch. The next half dozen miles are pretty cruiser and have just a slight elevation gain so we whipped through those then took a side trail over to Ribbon Falls for a quick swim. After that little field trip we were within a mile of Cottonwood CG where we had a permit to camp for the night.

11/3/19…..Hayduke Day 38…..26 miles

We broke camp and walked a mile up canyon to Manzanita Rest which is our last reliable water source for potentially 50+ miles. I left there with almost 9 liters of water and 6 days of food. It felt like I was carrying a Volkswagen. From Manzanita the North Kaibab Trail climbs nearly 4000 feet in 5 miles on nice wide groomed trail. It was a stiff climb but QB and I kind of crushed it. The views were spectacular, walking up the North Rim you can see all the colors of the canyon and look back and see across to the South Rim and even Humphrey’s Peak way in the distance. In the trailhead parking lot we met Karla working for Wildland Adventure Trekking company and she hooked us up with some apple juice, chips, and another liter of water each that we guzzled on the spot.

For the next 20 miles we walked dirt roads across the Kaibab Plateau within GCNP. It was a peaceful 20 miles through a pretty forest full of ponderosas and aspens but with the wicked heavy packs it was a bit of a slog. Tonight we’re camped on the border of National Park and National Forest land, never even saw a car out there today on these roads.

11/4/19…..Hayduke Day 39…..27 miles

“Here’s the great thing about the Southwest, there’s so much more than desert. Along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a forest as lush as you’ve ever seen.”

-Deangelo Vickers

Not exactly, but still it’s a big forest.

It was so cold this morning! Overnight it was chilly and as we got going the temperatures seemed to plummet for the next couple hours. The road kept bringing us through gullies and the sun took forever to get above the trees. Our water bottles froze and my coffee drink turned to slush. And then it warmed up and just like that we were super comfortable.

From where we camped we walked 22 more miles of forest roads until finally getting to Monument Point and the edge of the Canyon once again(still never saw a car). Before dropping in we could see to the northwest side of the GC, across the Arizona Strip, and all the way to Zion National Park(I think). We took the Bill Hall Trail that zigzagged steeply down about a thousand feet to the Thunder River Trail. This trail cut across a huge flat red rock area for a few miles before dropping steeply down another thousand feet. We found a spot to camp just before sunset and amazingly are so much warmer down in the canyon. Probably won’t even use the fly on the tent tonight.

11/5/19…..Hayduke Day 40…..19 miles(12 hiked, 7 rafted)

In the first few miles today we dropped almost 2000 feet and soon were at Deer Creek. This was our first reliable water source in 54 miles(the longest water carry I can ever remember doing). We followed Deer Creek as it flows about another mile to the Colorado River. During this mile it cuts deep into the rock creating a super narrow canyon that we walked above on an incredibly narrow ledge and then turns into a tall waterfall that pours into a pool just before the river. It is quite spectacular! Of course I took a quick bath at the base of the falls.

The next 7 miles were supposed to be a very tedious rock hop along the side of the river. We started along this and then followed an animal path higher up to get around some cliffs before reaching a super sketchy section of something of a path through a rock slide. This didn’t look good. Luckily we had just seen a group of rafters breaking camp and decided to backtrack a bit and ask them for a ride around the sketchy section. They were totally cool and happy to help us out, not just for the sketchy stuff either. Kevin our oarsman got us safely through a handful of class 4 rapids and down the next 7 miles to the mouth of Kanab Creek. This was solid fun especially opposed to the tediousness of rock hopping all day.

From the mouth of Kanab Creek we left the Colorado river for the final time and started making our way up this canyon. The creek serpentines for miles below very impressive thousand foot cliffs. It’s been slow going as there isn’t any trail and we’ve done a lot of walking through water and scrambling around boulder chokes but at the same time it’s been very awesome and possibly my favorite part of the Grand Canyon. We even saw a golden eagle down here fishing or something. After about 8 miles it was getting close to sunset and we found a campsite that we couldn’t pass up.

11/6/19…..Hayduke Day 41…..25 miles

Today started off ordinarily enough. We walked up canyon about a mile to Showerbath Spring which created an amazing hanging garden and I had to resist the urge to strip down and take a shower. The walking became easier in the canyon after the spring and shortly after that the creek all but dried up for awhile(it would be intermittent the next 10 miles so we stocked up on water when we could). Eventually we crossed the boundary of GCNP into BLM land and as we walked the canyon became wider and the walls got shorter. We saw bighorn sheep running across impossibly narrow ledges and amazingly saw not only a bald eagle but a California condor! The thing looked like a pterodactyl.

Around 2pm we came to a 4 way canyon intersection. Kanab Creek continued on straight, Lawson Canyon went to the right and Hack Canyon which was our turn went left. Because Kanab Creek had been so bendy going left felt just like another bend in the canyon. This is a confusing and possibly dangerous intersection. We have GPS and knew which way to go but when we got to the intersection there was about a dozen college kids looking for their friend. They were out doing a 2 week adventure course with their school and somehow one member of their party had got ahead, or behind, or went left or right. Nobody had seen him in over 2 hours. He had food, shelter, and water(although there weren’t any water sources nearby) but he didn’t have a map or a phone or GPS. We started down Hack Canyon and told them we’d send him back to the intersection if we came across him. Their plan was to head down Lawson Canyon and I figured he just carried on straight up Kanab Creek and would eventually turn back. Hack Canyon was a dry rocky wash that occasionally had animal paths on either side of it. We were now way more out in the open in the desert and without the canyon walls for shade, the sun was hot. I had forgot all about the missing hiker until an hour and a half later when QB pointed out a big beefy backpack on the side of the wash. It gave me the chills. This was a panic move and who knows where or how far he could have gone. His water bottles were empty so I filled those, and wrote him a note, while QB drew an arrow with rocks. We were at the backpack for about 20 minutes when the hiker came running back towards us. He had dropped the pack because it was so heavy and gone onto look for his friends or water even climbing to a higher vantage point to look for them. Luckily, 2 miles north of where he dropped the pack he came to a road where some cowboys had a camp set up. They gave him water and told him they’d drive him into town so he went back for his pack and that’s where he found us. It was getting on in the day and his headlamp was on it’s last legs plus he had just gone through a hell of an ordeal so QB and I decided to get him back to his crew. She walked with our new friend while I ran ahead and after about a mile ran into a 3 man search party that had been walking up Hack Canyon. Soon they were all reunited and QB and I turned back to carry on our way. When we got to the cowboys we delivered the message that the hiker wouldn’t need the ride after all and these guys hooked us up with some ice cold cokes! They were out here taking tourists on a cattle drive similar to City Slickers. I can only imagine how far the missing hiker would have gone if he didn’t see these guys. At this point the wash had turned to a jeep road so QB and I walked another hour until finding a spot to camp for the night.

11/7/19…..Hayduke Day 42…..31 miles

Last night we realized our stove is broken. Actually it’s QB’s stove but it’s still broken. Our original plan for today was to hike about a regular days worth of miles and camp a few hours short of Colorado City then go in and out of town tomorrow doing a quick resupply. Now with our broken stove we needed to get to a gear store and there happened to be one in Kanab which was in range again as the Hayduke kind of horseshoes around the town. As interested as I was in Colorado City I was ok with skipping the Fundamentalist Mormon town and going back to Kanab.

This morning we got an alpine start and were up and crushing miles below the stars by 4:30. There was really nothing to it, just long dirt roads all day with nobody out here. By sunrise we were out of Hack Canyon and walking along the Arizona Strip. It’s pretty boring out here but the walking is fast. We had walked over 30 miles by 3pm and started hitching east towards Kanab on AZ HWY 389. After about 5 minutes a guy in a pickup pulled over and we rode in the back for a half hour to Fredonia where we got picked up by Noah and Gracie who took us another 10 minutes into Kanab. We quickly bought a new stove and food for the next few days then made it to our favorite trail angel’s house. Richard was out of town but Lynn hosted us and of course cooked a delicious dinner, Mediterranean veggie tarts. I couldn’t have asked for anything more than a home cooked meal, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed.

Going the extra mile today(literally) put us back up ahead of schedule and with only 70 or so miles to go we are well within range to finish this thing.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes

10/25/19…..Hayduke Day 29…..9 miles

QB and I got back on the Hayduke today after a nearly 2 week hiatus. Let me catch you up real quick. On October 12th we started hitching to Las Vegas from Jacob Lake, AZ. In Vegas we rented a car, drove to Southern California to explore Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, and climb Mt San Jacinto. We returned the car to Las Vegas, walked up and down the strip then flew to New York to attend QB’s friend Aneesa and her now husband Kevin’s wedding. After a very brief visit to the east coast we returned to Vegas and were picked up at the airport by QB’s folks Nancy and Dave. The 4 of us did a little road trip around the southwest going to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam, Zion NP, and Bryce Canyon NP. This morning we parted ways in Bryce and started hitching south while Nancy and Dave continued on their tour of the southwest towards Moab.This morning we watched the sunrise then beat the bag out of another continental breakfast before saying our good byes with QB’s parents and putting our thumbs out. Oscar and Milo were our first ride and they brought us out of their way about a half hour to Junction, UT where we were picked up by Breck who got us another 40 miles into Kanab. In town we stopped at the PO and resupplied at the grocery store. We’re getting very familiar with this town. From Kanab we got a ride from Opie, a helicopter pilot, to Fredonia, AZ then waited awhile before getting picked up by Drew and Nate, two hunters in a tiny Suzuki Samurai. These guys got us up to the store at Jacob Lake where we had a quick sandwich then started walking back the two miles towards the trail. Braxton and Brenna who were taking their time driving from Alaska to Virginia gave us a short lift the rest of the way in their van.

Back on the Hayduke we were still on the section that coincides with the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau. The hiking up here isn’t too exciting but it’s peaceful and easy. It’s deer hunting season and we’ve been walking by lots of hunting camps. I really hope I don’t get shot. I hope QB doesn’t either. Probably should get her a matching orange hat next time we’re in town. We walked for a few hours and set up at sunset which came super early, around 5:30 Arizona time.

10/26/19…..Hayduke Day 30…..28 miles

Our first 10 miles or so today we walked through a burn(a section of forest that had previously burned in a wildfire). This apocalyptic looking area is exposed to the elements, luckily it wasn’t too windy or sunny, it’s just a little ugly. There were lots of hawks hunting, so that was cool, nothing like a bird of prey to spike my tone.

Eventually we reached a ponderosa forest and walked through that for much of the afternoon before reaching a view of the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. In April of ‘18 while we were hiking the Arizona Trail, a lot of the trail was still covered by multiple feet of snow. We decided then to walk the road that’s parallel to the trail which had minimal traffic because the north rim of the GC was closed. With no snow on the trail today a lot of the hiking was uncharted terrain of the AZT for us.

Late this afternoon we met up with just the 3rd other Hayduke thru hiker we’ve seen. We’d been in touch with Clax online and knew he was close. He did a massive day to catch us and then the 3 of us walked a couple hours together until sunset. We reached a road where the Hayduke splits from the AZT and found a couple flat spots to camp beside it.

10/27/19…..Hayduke Day 31…..7 miles

We parted ways with Clax this morning as he went right to go pick up his Grand Canyon permits at the North Rim ranger station and we followed the Hayduke to the left along forest roads for 7 miles. It was super windy this morning up on the plateau, like ridiculously uncomfortably windy, like hurricane force wind. It sucked. When we got to the edge of the canyon and the trailhead for the dastardly Nankoweap Trail we met Talitha walking uphill. We hoped that below the rim would be a lot less windy but Talitha, who was just down for a day hike, told us it was pretty miserable. The Nankoweap Trail is supposedly the most difficult trail in the Grand Canyon. It drops steeply and follows narrow ledges with huge drops off to the side. I haven’t been looking forward to it. I especially don’t want to be walking down it while also competing with massive wind gusts. Neither does QB. It was only 10 am and we weren’t going to wait around on the edge of the canyon so we asked Talitha for a ride out of there and she was super willing to help us out. She works tracking California Condors in the area(one of my favorite subjects) and drove us all the way back to Jacob Lake.

Back at the Jacob Lake restaurant/gas station/gift shop/hotel again we ran into Chris and Sanjay the 4th and 5th other Hayduke hikers we’ve met. These guys have been just behind us for awhile and we’ve been in touch with them the whole trip sharing info and finally met them in person. We talked with them for awhile about how our hikes have been going(we’ve all taken much different routes so far) and of course we had a few mutual friends. Because of the cold weather predicted for tonight the 4 of us all got cabins for Jacob Lake and elected to stay indoors. I really would have liked to be below the rim tonight but descending the Nankoweap in the wind was out of the question.

10/28/19…..Hayduke Day 32…..23 miles

It snowed overnight. Just a couple inches, but still. We met Chris and Sanjay for breakfast and then went our separate ways. Those guys are getting back on trail right by Jacob Lake whereas QB and I are trying to hitch back to where we got off yesterday.

The temperature was in the single digits when we got out to the road and put our thumbs out. The maple syrup leftover from breakfast in my beard and mustache was freezing solid.

After a mile of walking down the road, Vince and Jim picked us up. They’re from Kanab and Vince, a trail runner, knows our friend Lynn. These guys took us 25 miles down HWY 67 to where they’re gathering firewood and QB and I took a left down the dirt road toward Saddle Mountain trailhead. We thought for sure we’d get a ride back to where we hitched from yesterday but no cars ever came. Instead we walked 14 bonus miles on snow covered roads. Neither of us had expected this would happen and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I guess maybe we would have done things differently yesterday had we thought it would be so difficult to get back. At least it wasn’t windy out. By the time we got to the trailhead on the edge of the canyon we were more than ready to be done road walking.

I have been thinking about the Nankoweap Trail for about a month now and it’s been keeping me up at night. It looked really scary and parts of it were really scary. There’s trail the whole way and for the most part it was decent but at times it gets quite narrow and a false step would drop me thousands of feet to the canyon floor. It was pretty but it was scary. I’ve hiked on gnarlier terrain before but I guess I built this up in my head and it lived up to the hype. Eventually we got through the high exposure stuff and we really started to descend, something like 5500 feet in a slow going 8 miles from the rim. We got to Nankoweap Creek in the dark and set up camp. I feel very relieved to be down here in the Canyon in the relative warmth of the lower altitude and with the wild and wooly Nankoweap Trail in my rear view mirror.

10/29/19…..Hayduke Day 33…..11 miles

This trail has been dealing us a little string of bad luck lately. Let me explain. Two days ago the wind forced us to retreat back to town and not drop into the canyon. Yesterday we think the snow prevented anybody from driving out to the trailhead therefore shutting down any opportunity of hitchhiking and adding 14 miles to our day. Today we got shutout trying to hitch across the river.

This morning we walked along Nankoweap Creek for 3 miles until it reached the mighty Colorado. From the mouth of the Nankoweap for 8 miles along the river there was no trail, just a nasty bushwhack. It was scenic, sure, but it was very difficult. Occasionally there would be animal paths here and there but there was lots of bushwhacking through thorny bushes and cacti, scrambling on loose talus, and some tricky route finding. For awhile we were in 1 mph terrain. Then we still had to get across the river. Our trail continued on the far side of the Colorado at the mouth of the Little Colorado River and the only way to get across was to get a ride, but no rafts came. Maybe tomorrow.

Today wasn’t all bad though we’re in the Grand Canyon for Christ’s sake so it’s beautiful plus QB and I got in for a swim so that was fun. Oh and if you were wondering swimming across the Colorado is not an option.

10/30/19…..Hayduke Day 34…..12 miles

Finally a change of fortune today. We packed up early and waited on the beach by our campsite making sure not to miss any opportunity to get a ride across. Around 12 a party of about a dozen rafters on 4 boats floated by and were happy to be able to help us out. They brought us across the river and to the mouth of the Little Colorado River.

QB and I thanked our new friends then walked up the LCR about a quarter mile looking for a place to ford it. This river is a striking turquoise color and was moving pretty quickly. The bottom was invisible but luckily it was only chest deep. We packed all our stuff inside trash bags within our packs, held hands so we wouldn’t get swept away and crossed. It wasn’t that bad or cold. On the far side of the LCR we gained the Beamer Trail and walked that for the next 10 miles.

I won’t say that the Beamer Trail was absolutely terrifying but it had its moments. The trail follows along a bench that has a 500 foot cliff on the right hand side going straight down to the river. There was a fair amount of times where a false step would have been my last. Other than that it contoured in and out of hanging side canyons and provided absolutely magnificent views of the Canyon. In the distance we could see the Desert View Lookout Tower on the South Rim. Last week we were up there with Nancy and Dave looking way down at this trail and I guess I had mistakenly thought the trail was a lot lower. After about 6 miles the Beamer Trail drops down to river level and is much more relaxed. At some point we crossed the intersection with the Tanner Trail and picked up the Escalante Route(not technically a GC trail but felt pretty good to me). We walked a couple miles of this before finding a place to camp for the night under a tiny sliver of a moon and a gazzillion stars.

10/31/19…..Hayduke Day 35…..25 miles

The Escalante Route brought us up high over the river and had a handful of big climbs and descents. At one point it brought us along the rim of a side canyon then we turned a corner, dropped into the canyon and were in a section of narrows for a mile back to the Colorado. There wasn’t as many dicey spots as the Beamer Trail but the Escalante Route did provide a couple of b-hole puckering moments, specifically while climbing up and over Papago Slide. It was also a slow trail or at least we moved slowly. On a day we had to really boogie we couldn’t seem to make miles for the first half of our day.

After we crossed Hance Creek we were now on the Tonto Trail. This brought us up high up onto the Tonto Plateau and far away from the Colorado River. For the rest of the day we would walk the Tonto Trail on the rims of huge side canyons.

We came across Tank, the first and only eastbound Hayduke hiker we’ve seen and now the 6th other thru hiker we’ve met.

If you’re wondering what we did for Halloween, QB and I wore the only costumes we had on hand; each other’s clothes. Then we listened to Dirtbag Diaries ‘Tales of Terror’ and night hiked for an hour. I was hoping I would see some tents to trick or treat at because I’m extremely low on food but no such luck.

11/1/19…..Hayduke Day 36…..18 miles

We realized yesterday that the P.O. at the South Rim of the GC closes at 3:30 on Friday(today) and is closed for the weekend. Because the store there is super expensive we mailed a box of food and originally figured we’d be there either Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s why we walked an hour into the dark last night and then got going this morning before sunrise. We had 14 more miles of the Tonto Trail and then a 4 mile climb up to the South Rim.

Finally some consistently cruiser trail. The Tonto Trail was a breeze and even though the South Kaibab Trail climbs 3000 feet in 4 miles and stinks like mule piss we motored right up it. We even saw a condor! I spotted it perched up high on a rocky point and then as we rounded a corner we saw this majestic bird soaring in circles way up in the sky.

The main corridor of the GC consists of the South Kaibab Trail, and the Bright Angel trail on the South Rim side and the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim. These trails are steep, well manicured, and very very busy. Grand Canyon is an absolutely massive place but the overwhelming majority of people are concentrated in the main corridor. As we got onto the South Kaibab Trail we started to see lots of people all the way up to the rim. Once on the rim we caught a shuttle to the P.O., got to the backcountry office to rearrange our permits, then supplemented our food at the grocery store and ate a big meal. Tonight we’re staying at the hiker/biker site at Mather CG(I think all National Parks have these extra cheap sites for people like us) there’s laundry and showers across the street and I’m just about all the way rejuvenated. Tomorrow we’ll begin our next week of zigzagging first North and then West through the Canyon.

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