9/21/19…..Hayduke Day 9 continued…..8 miles
Before we got back to walking we paddled 14 miles this morning to Spanish Bottom, to read all about our boat trip you’ll have to refer back to my previous post.
After Keith took our rafts and life jackets with him back to Moab we were literally up a creek without a paddle. We took an extended lunch, jumped in the river and put our shoes on for the first time in days. And I was just starting to get my sea legs! We then packed what seemed like a massive amount of water and started up a steep thousand foot climb to ‘The Dollhouse.’ Nothing like easing back into it. The Dollhouse was a very cool feature with a bunch of these really odd looking sandstone hoodoos. From there we walked a handful of miles before coming to a ridge that overlooks ‘The Maze.’ This place is just other worldly! Its this huge sea of canyons and looks so unreal. We walked along slickrock for awhile until finding a good place to camp. It was a clear night and a good one to cowboy camp so we decided to forgo the tent.
9/22/19…..Hayduke Day 8…..22 miles
Immediately this morning we dropped down from our cowboy camp into the Maze and it was truly spectacular. I feel like I’ve seen my share of wild spaces and I’ve never seen anything like this. The Maze is a labyrinth of yellow, orange, and red rock canyons that create an absolute natural masterpiece.
Walking through the Maze was a gd treat. While we were walking through we took a side trail up Pictograph Canyon to check out the Harvest Scene, an ancient pictograph on a canyon wall. If you’re planning to come through here note that we didn’t find any water at Maze Spring(doesn’t mean it wasn’t there). We did however come across a pool of decent water just off trail to the right about a half mile beyond where we expected Maze Spring to be. The climb out of the canyon took us up an adventurous route. There were some steep sections with class 3 climbing. At times we had to pass our packs up to each other and scramble up cracks in the rock. There was one ledge we had to shuffle around and then make an athletic move to get up onto the ridge but it wasn’t as scary as anticipated. It was fun.
We got up onto a mesa and had a great view looking back over the Maze before moving on. The next 5 miles were on a jeep road that had a couple of sweet overlooks of Horse Canyon. After lunch we turned onto the North Trail that led into a wash that became the appropriately named North Trail Canyon before steeply climbing up and through the Orange Cliffs. The trail up through the cliffs was well cairned and easy to follow, it was just a steep climb in the heat of the day.
Our plan was to get to the Hans Flat Ranger Station to buy water. When we got to the mesa at the top of the climb I had service and found out the ranger station was closing at 4:30. At the time it was 3:10 and we were 4 miles away. Luckily it was a pretty flat jeep road and we were able to make it with a few minutes to spare. Not sure if we’ll have water for the next 30 miles, QB and I took as much as we could carry and walked another hour out of Canyonlands NP and onto BLM land. We’re camping a little off a jeep road in between some junipers.
9/23/19…..Hayduke Day 9…..17 miles
I wish we had walked just little further last night and we would have found ourselves camping with an overlook of French Canyon. Can’t live in the past though. We made it to the edge of the canyon this morning then picked our way down ramps and ledges before following a cow path for about a mile of cross country travel until we came to a stand still at the real rim of French Canyon. It didn’t look like it would go but after scoping it out for awhile we found the point to drop in and amazingly an old or maybe not so old trail started to develop. The trail zigzagged relatively safely lower and lower until we got to some large stable talus in the bottom of the canyon. Occasionally there was some loose scree but taking our time it never felt dangerous and the exposure level was low.
At the bottom of this descent we came to a wash filled with stable talus that we had to navigate for about a mile until it widened out and became sandy and easy walking. The wash went on like this for a few miles until it intersected with Happy Canyon. We took a right down Happy Canyon and walked on nice hard packed sand and slick rock for about 12 miles. As we walked this afternoon the skies went from blue to overcast. It wasn’t exactly threatening rain but I wasn’t going to bet my life on it. Eventually Happy Canyon becomes a narrow slot canyon for 2 miles and in the event of a flash flood it’s the last place I’d want to be. When we reached the point where we’d have to drop into the slot we stopped and evaluated the sky. After waiting a half hour and it didn’t become any better so we decided to call it a day and wait until morning to carry on. We found a spot to camp higher up overlooking the slot canyon and never did see a flash flood.
Oh yeah, there were a few times we came across small pools of water in Happy Canyon, lots of cows around but it didn’t look completely horrible. We had enough so didn’t take any.
9/24/19…..Hayduke Day 10…..21 miles
Well there was never any flash flood last night, still glad we waited until morning to walk through the narrows though. It was nice and clear when we woke up so walking through a 2 mile slot canyon was much more enjoyable without worrying about immediate death as we would have had we carried on last night. These slots were rad! They went on for a couple miles and got higher and tighter as we went. Eventually they spilled out into a larger canyon containing the Dirty Devil River.
There was water in the Dirty Devil but we passed on it as we had enough to get us to the next source. On the far side of the river was a relatively short but very steep climb up to an old mining road. There was a faint path and even a few cairns so the navigating wasn’t difficult. The old mining road was at the base of the Orange Cliffs and we followed that left for a mile or so until it became a more modern 4wd road. Along the way we had awesome views of the Dirty Devil and were tripping over massive pieces of petrified wood, I’d never seen so much of it in my life. We followed the 4wd road up into Poison Spring Canyon and after rejoining the Hayduke proper reached Poison Spring. I really hope it’s not actually poison because it is an excellent water source.
After lunch we walked this road for 9 more miles meandering through canyons in the hot sun until we got to UT Rt 95. After hitching for 10 minutes we got picked up by Walter and Mold, a thru hiker! What are the chances? He hiked the CDT last year and undoubtedly we know some of the same people. These guys dropped us off at Stan’s in Hanksville where I had the best blackberry shake of all time. feel free to follow this blog or find me on insta @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes