Hayduke Part 1: Arches NP

First of all the Hayduke is more of a route than a trail so I’ll do my best to refrain from calling it a trail. It basically goes across southern Utah from Arches to Zion traveling through all of Utah’s national parks and dips down into Arizona and through the Grand Canyon. We’ll be mainly following the route west from Arches and planning to take plenty of alternates. There’s no signed trail. Instead it consists of a blend of cross country travel, jeep roads, trail, canyons, mountains and a 60+ mile section of the Colorado River that we’re planning to raft. In total it will be roughly 800 miles and we expect to take about 2 months(with a couple of pre planned hiatuses). This will be much different than established trails I’ve done in the past as there will be longer water carries, longer food carries, slower foot travel, extreme temperatures, and difficult route finding. Wish us luck!

Sept. 10,11,12 from SLC to Moab

After hiking the Uinta Highline Trail, QB and I spent a night in Park City then made our way to Salt Lake where we spent the day exploring the city. In Salt Lake we stayed with our friends Johnny and Karla aka the Eggs from the PCT in ‘15. The next morning Karla drove us to the train station in Lehi where we took public transit to Spanish Fork before we started hitching. We got 3 rides that brought us all the way to Moab from Alex, Amanda, and Rob with a stop in Helper, Utah to check out the town.

As soon as we got into Moab we ran into Quiet Earp at the grocery store who we first met on the Arizona Trail in ’18. Quiet Earp is working as a rafting guide for an outfit in town and had all kinds of info for us about the section of the Colorado River that we’re planning on rafting. Plus he’s playing music tonight at a local open mic so of course we went to check that out after getting all settled into the Lazy Lizard Hostel.

The following day we got out to the La Sal mountains just south of town and did a little bit of fishing(struck out again)and a fair amount of walking. There’s an alternate start to the Hayduke that starts out here in the La Sals, which we won’t be doing, but we did want to explore this place a little bit as they’ll provide a distant backdrop for lots of views from Arches and Canyonlands.

9/13/19…..Hayduke Day 1…..3 miles

I never planned it this way, it just happened. QB and I woke up this morning camping in the Manti-La Sal National Forest outside of Moab, Utah. From our campsite we walked about 6 miles, mostly on road, until a truck finally came by and we put our thumbs out. Dean lives nearby and was going into town to pick up firewood. He drove us through Castle Valley, along the Colorado River and into Moab. On the way we heard from our buddy Mac who was supposed to start the Hayduke and hiking a section with us. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it and although this is a bummer it did give us an opportunity to rearrange our plans a little bit.

Originally our plan was to start hiking 9/17, walk 2 days through Arches into Moab, then pick up our rafts at the PO and float the Colorado for 3 days into Canyonlands before resuming hiking. For this we got permits for the river from 9/19-21. We also needed to rent a car to cache food and water at a couple of spots for later on during the route(this is a strategic move for sections that have wicked long stretches between water sources and resupply locations). The problem we came across today was that being a Friday, there were no cars available until Monday. We figured no big deal. We’ll start the hike tonight in Arches, which is about 26 trail miles to Moab, walk tomorrow and Sunday morning then take a 2 day road trip to cache food and water and most likely have a little bonus adventure before returning to Moab to start paddling on the 19th.

In town today we ran a couple of errands, spent sometime at the library figuring stuff out and of course ate a bunch of food before making our way to Arches. We got rides from Roy to the park then from Don and Lissa to the Visitor Center. At the VC Ranger Keely took care of us and set us up with a couple of primo backcountry sites. I couldn’t believe they had completely open availability for a Friday and Saturday night(Friday the 13th for that matter, and a full moon!). From the Visitor Center we got picked up by Chris and Anne, a German couple vacationing in the states, who took us all the way to Devil’s Garden. We had about a 3 mile walk to our site through amazing red rock fins and slick rock while checking out a bunch of arches along the way. Around sunset we got to the designated backcountry site and set up on some flat slick rock that was still warm from the day’s sun. As we ate supper the sky changed colors and the stars started to twinkle on.

9/14/19…..Hayduke Day 2…..22 miles

It was a hot one today and we knew it would be. We got up a little bit before sunrise but not too much because we’d have some off trail travel and that would be near impossible in the dark. It was awesome walking early this morning as the full moon was still out competing with the light from the rising sun.

From our campsite we walked along the maintained trail for awhile until we got to the edge of Devil’s Garden. We then descended a series of rock ledges and ramps before doing some cross country travel through Salt Valley to a jeep road. Walking cross country is difficult in the park because it’s imperative to avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil (This is a particular kind of desert soil that takes years to build up and reverts back to nothing if stepped on, often times it’s already all smushed by cows but since there’s no cows in the national parks it’s greatest enemy is humans. Check out the picture below). The jeep roads were a breeze though and we walked along them for a few miles while the temperatures started to rise. We then left the road and picked up a fence line for awhile before dropping into a wash that we walked through until Willow Spring. Good thing we didn’t count on there being any water here because there wasn’t. Nice enough spot to take a lunch break though.

After lunch we continued down this drainage until it was joined by Courthouse Wash. Until this point in the wash it had been just slickrock and sand with a few narrow slot canyons to navigate through. When it became Courthouse Wash water began to appear and then suddenly some of the most vile and disgusting bushwhacking of my life ensued. It was just really dense reeds that we had to maneuver through, I sure could have used a machete but of course neither of us are carrying one. We had to keep crossing over the water also and at one point a beaver had dammed it and we were crossing through waste deep beaver water. At times it opened up and we could walk through sandy washes for awhile but inevitably we’d be right back in the middle of thick vegetation. It was pretty though, as we got lower the tall red canyon walls got higher and provided a nice backdrop to this bushwhacking nightmare.

When we reached the crossing with the main road in the park Tom and Michelle pulled over and set us up with some ice cold water, what a treat! We continued from there down into Lower Courthouse Wash. This had a bit more walkable trail and a little less of the nonsense. After a couple miles we got to a beautiful spot that we had reserved next to a large red rock wall radiating heat that was all stored up from the day.

9/15/19…..Hayduke Day 3…..3 miles

We only had a short distance to get to the road and back into town today but it still wasn’t simple. From our campsite we followed Courthouse Wash for 3 miles until it fed into the Colorado River. For a while there was trail or at least a dry sandy wash to follow then suddenly the canyon would become more narrow, the beavers would have a dam built, the water would back up and thick reeds would be everywhere. So even for a short stretch of hiking today there was still a fair amount of bushwhacking to do. Besides the bushwhacking though, it was awesome, much like yesterday where we walked through a canyon with massive red rock walls.

At the same place the wash reaches the Colorado it also reaches rt 191 which is just a few miles outside of Moab. We got a hitch into town from Josh and Nat then demolished breakfast followed by a couple donuts(we’ve been hiking for over a month now so even though this is the very beginning of a trail our hiker hunger is in full effect.) After breakfast we made our way out to Mill Creek Canyon, a local swimming hole on BLM land. This isn’t your average swimming hole, after about a mile walk into a gigantic red rock canyon there’s a waterfall into a large pool. It’s quite a place. If you’re ever in Moab and looking for a place to cool off I recommend it.

Our next section of the Hayduke involves a little red tape. We’ll be paddling 60 something miles of the Colorado River into Canyonlands NP and we’ll need permits for all but the first 15 of those miles. Our permits start on the 19th so we’ll be getting back on trail(river) on the 18th and camping somewhere before we cross into the park. Starting tomorrow we’re renting a car for a couple days and going out to cache food. @endlesspsummer

@sarahikes

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