Endless P Summer

9/25/19…..Hayduke Day 11…..Zero miles

We took the day off today in Hanksville and a nice relaxing day. Overall it was a nice little trail town, had everything we needed anyway. Last night we stayed tented in the RV park and ate at Duke’s Grill next door. Two thumbs up for Duke’s and they served a good breakfast over there as well. Today we’re staying at the Hanksville Inn and although it’s not the Taj Majal they give a very good discount to hikers and cyclists. We left boxes of food at the motel last week while we had the rental car so we didn’t have to rely on the couple of small markets in town to resupply(they were only so so at best). If you ever come through this way Stan’s Burger Shack was a great little restaurant and had awesome shakes. My least favorite thing about Hanksville was the pizza at Bull Market. What can I say, it was the worst pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life.

9/26/19…..Hayduke Day 12…..20 miles

We started hitching this morning around 8am and there were barely any cars heading south on 95. After 20 minutes or so Don, a geologist for the state, picked us up and drove us the 17 miles back to Poison Spring Canyon where we got off the route.

From the highway we took a right onto a 4wd road and started walking towards the beefy Henry Mountains, the last mountain range to be named in the lower 48. We walked dirt roads for the next 11 miles gradually climbing higher until we got to Crescent Creek which was flowing nicely. At one point during this road walk we had to switch roads and unexpectedly do a class 3 down climb into a wash before gaining the other road, it seemed out of place compared to the rest of the morning.

After lunch at Crescent Creek we started uphill on roads again for a couple miles and began to pickup the scent of other hikers, or at least we saw two sets of massive Altra footprints in the dirt(thru-hiker tracks). A guy driving a truck down the road asked us if we were hiking the Hayduke and said something like ‘I’ve lived here all life, never heard of the damn thing and today met two separate groups of people hiking it.’ So I guess there’s a couple of guys ahead of us which is cool because we haven’t met any one else yet.

We then left the road following something of a shortcut that climbed directly up a ridge towards Mt Ellen. This was a very steep climb but it cut off about 3 miles of a much more indirect route to the summit. From the highway we gained 6,500 feet to top out at 11,400+ feet on top of Mt Ellen, the high point of the Hayduke. After summiting, we descended along a steep ridge walk and then an even steeper bushwhack before reaching the mostly dry creek bed of Sweetwater Creek which we walked for another mile. This descent wasn’t all that much fun but there were lots of aspen trees that had turned a bright yellow and from our campsite we were rewarded with a magnificent sunset over Capitol Reef.

9/27/19…..Hayduke Day 13…..20 miles

We started downhill from our campsite walking cross country and occasionally following bison trails for a bit here and there. The Henry Mountains are home to one of the last 3 herds of purebred wild bison in the U.S.(you should probably google that fact but I think I’m at least close to accurate). Unfortunately we didn’t see any bison, and I’ve yet to see one in the wild. After a couple miles we got to a dirt road that we walked for 8 miles, climbing up onto Tarantula Mesa and then leveling off.

Around lunch time we reached some rain collecting tanks a half mile off route to fill up on water for the last time until tomorrow evening. Getting water out of them was a bit of a chore. I took the cover off and reached down as far as I could with out falling in to get to the water then passed down liter after liter as QB filled our bags and passed bottles up. We each carried 8 liters from there so I did this 16 times. I’m sure there was a better way. From the tanks we walked another mile or so on road with wicked heavy packs then cross country for a couple miles until we reached a cliff on the rim of a big unnamed canyon. To get down this sucker we had to take our packs off and pass them to each other as we down climbed a short rocky stretch then carefully navigated loose scree until we got to a wash at the bottom. The rest of the afternoon became a little more difficult. We walked cross country the rest of the day and navigating the terrain was tough. We followed washes, bison trails, an old mining road, and went in and out of drainages and up and down small canyons all day in the hot sun. Shortly after we dropped into the mouth of Swap Canyon we found a place to camp.(If you’re hiking this and planning to get water at Swap Canyon Spring, there was a small pool but looked filmy and full of alkaline in the creek bed).

9/28/19…..Hayduke Day 14…..23 miles

Today was pretty rad! From our spot in Swap Canyon we got up and walked a gentle downhill through the wash for a handful of miles until crossing into Capitol Reef National Park. The canyon spilled into the park which is narrow but stretches a long way north to south. We were on the southern end of the park and joined the Burr Trail for a few miles which is actually a dirt road that switchbacks up steeply to the trailhead for Lower Muley Twist Canyon. This place was awesome!

The canyon serpentined or twisted(hence the name) for about ten miles through huge red rock sandstone walls. There were caves, rock formations, and giant alcoves with huge overhangs where over time water carved away big portions of the walls underneath. Amazingly we didn’t see another person in Lower Muley Twist, granted we aren’t close to the main visitor center but this would be an easy day hike within a national park on a beautiful Saturday(I think) in September.

Eventually the canyon dumped us out onto Hall’s Creek which is actually a dry wash right now. After a mile or so we reached Muley Tanks, these are huge potholes in the sandstone that keep water in them year round and are just brimming with life, they’re kind of like tiny ponds. This was our first water source in awhile so we filled up and it was pretty good water. We carried on down the wash for a few more miles alongside Waterpocket Fold. This is a giant uplift in the earth’s crust that causes an almost hundred mile long wrinkle of Navajo Sandstone in the desert landscape, it’s very cool. We then found a spot to camp underneath and within a giant juniper tree protected nicely from the wind. At the end of the day instead of following the regular Hayduke and climbing up to Red Slide, we started down an alternate that will take us through Halls Creek Narrows and through some supposedly spectacular canyons.

9/29/19…..Hayduke Day 15…..21 miles

QB and I cruised this morning for the first 9 miles through and alongside the dry bed of Halls Creek. Stopping just briefly to fill our bottles at Fountain Tanks, a couple more natural potholes holding water. When we reached Halls Creek Narrows the clouds behind us were dark and threatening. It would have been less fun and kind of stupid to carry on through the Narrows with the possibility of a flash flood. We were at a bit of a stand still so we climbed up on the sandstone and planned to take an early and possibly extended lunch to wait for the clouds to dissipate. Luckily for us this didn’t take long and soon we had blue skies and could walk through the canyon without worry.

Halls Creek Narrows were so cool! I don’t know if they were technically slot canyons but the canyon got pretty tight. In a way it was similar to Muley Twist as it had the large walls and big alcoves but Halls Creek was tighter and had considerably more water. Often times we would be walking up to our knees and waists through the dark water on slippery mud. At one point we went through holding our packs above our heads and the water was just above my mouth while I was on my tip toes. QB followed me and even though we’re the same exact height, she somehow got to the same spot I was at and had to swim using only her legs as she was still able to hold her pack above her head. I guess my toes are longer. To see some video of this event go to my insta @endlesspsummer.

Shortly after the deep stuff, the canyon began to widen and we were dumped out into an area that looked much like before except this time there was water in the creek bed. We followed alongside this for 6 miles sometimes able to find stretches of animal trails and sometimes bushwhacking cross country. There had to have been a better way. At some point we left the boundary of Capitol Reef NP and entered Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We walked this section of Halls Creek until almost reaching an outstretched arm of Lake Powell. Had Glen Canyon Dam never been built, Halls Creek would carry on through Glen Canyon eventually feeding the Colorado River.

Before reaching the Lake we took a right and started a steep climb up slick rock onto Waterpocket Fold. Looking back we can see the huge red cliffs on the far side of the creek, the Henry Mountains and beyond that way in the distance the La Sals. Our route continues up this slick rock but after a mile or so we found a spot to cowboy camp and call it a day.

9/30/19…..Hayduke Day 16…..22 miles

First of all, there must have been a meteor shower last night or we were in a dark sky park or both because we saw plenty of shooters while laying in bed. Anyway, this morning we climbed a few more miles up the slick rock to the top of Waterpocket Fold while behind us we had a beautiful sunrise over Lake Powell. Once at the top we could see lots of red rock formations, canyons, and in the distance was Fifty Mile Bench a massive feature within Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument(GSENM).

We navigated our way around and then down into a drainage that led into Stevens Canyon. For a few miles we walked through the dry canyon as it snaked it’s way lower and lower. After lunch the route ascended the side of the canyon and we walked slickrock along the rim. This was faster than walking within the canyon and gave a different perspective of what it looked like from above. There were a few sections that looked a bit scary in the distance but as we got to them and were walking them they weren’t too bad. I would call these ‘just don’t look down’ situations. When we could go no further on the rim there was a spot where we could descend back into the canyon following a cairned route down some ramps and ledges. Back on the canyon floor it suddenly felt like a rain forest, it was cooler, there was lots of vegetation, and a good amount of water. The vegetation created some bushwhacking and the water caused some navigational trickery but nothing we couldn’t manage.

After a couple hours Stevens Canyon dumped out into the Escalante River, another tributary of the Colorado. QB and I went for a quick swim then waded downstream in the shin deep water for a mile and a half. The whole time with great views of the very impressive Stevens Arch. When we reached Coyote Gulch we took a right and walked upstream for a couple hours before finding a place to cowboy camp in the sand. I’ve been down this gulch 3 times now in the last couple years and I’ve yet to see a coyote. Really starting to wonder how they got the name.

10/1/19…..Hayduke Day 17…..11 miles

Coyote Gulch really does have it all: arches, waterfalls, a natural bridge, pictographs, cliff dwellings, giant alcoves, swimming holes. It’s quite a magical place. Well I guess it doesn’t have hot springs, so maybe it’s not that magical. It’s alright I guess. We walked up the gulch this morning until reaching Hurricane Wash then followed that up for about 5 miles until it became real desert again when we came to a trailhead on Hole-in-the-Rock Road. We were 40 miles out on the dirt road from the town of Escalante with very little traffic so we started walking. After an hour Hazer drove by and picked us up. He’s been interning for the GSENM and was out this way cleaning some remote public bathrooms. On the ride into town he enlightened us on raising cattle, hunting mountain lions, and all things rodeo. It was quite fascinating. Escalante is becoming a busier tourist town every time we come through and seems to have everything necessary to be a good little trail town.feel free to follow this blog and follow our instas for more pictures @endlesspsummer and @sarahikes

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

9/18/19…..Hayduke Day 4…..10 miles(river)

We took the last two days to rent a car and drive out to the middle of nowhere, UT to cache food and water for the future. Last night we camped just outside of Moab within Sand Flats Recreation Area. This place is a hub for Jeep owners, mountain bikers, and 4WD enthusiasts.

This morning we drove down into town to tie up some loose ends before we continued on the Hayduke. First we had to go to the post office to pick up our ‘pack rafts.’ Actually the pair of Intex Explorer 200’s we’ll be paddling are more like a glorified pool toy than a legitimate pack raft. Then we met up with our friend Quiet Earp who dug up some life jackets for us and gave us a bunch of tips about the river. We ate a couple meals, returned the rental car, and got a ride from Kim at Enterprise to the boat launch on the river.

While we were blowing up our pool toys and staring down the mighty Colorado, I was definitely having second thoughts. The wind was whipping, the water was choppy, and it seemed to be going backwards up river instead of flowing gently downstream like I was hoping for. Plus I don’t know how to paddle one of these things! You’re supposed to sit backwards and paddle it like a rowboat. I have zero rowboat experience(besides the 4 times I watched ‘The Notebook) and the last time I was on a boat like this was probably when I was 10 years old on Lake Ossipee. QB had a little bit more confidence, she was a Girl Scout and a camp counselor. What’s the worst that could happen? I got in and for awhile probably looked like a baby deer on ice but it didn’t take me too long before I somewhat got the hang of it. Luckily the wind settled down and there was a bit of a current that pulled us along while we figured out the paddles. And then after only 15 minutes I noticed my boat seemed to be leaking!

We pulled over and gave it a good inspection and found a few tiny pinholes on the topside of the raft. What the heck dude! I can’t imagine I did the damage myself but I guess I might have, I really think it was a defective boat and came out of the package like this. QB patched it and reinforced the patches with duck tape and that seemed to hold up for about an hour. I was paddling along just fine then suddenly I could hear the leak hissing and bee lined for the shore. The tape seemed to get wet and that pulled the patch off, so this time we put on just the patch and hoped for the best(our last patch already!). I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do because that seemed to do the trick. Fingers crossed!

Besides being a little nervous I would sink the rest of the day, paddling the river was awesome! With a gentle current we moved about 2 mph and had spectacular views of big red rock walls the rest of the day. From the boat we could see petroglyphs and mountain climbers on the walls. Because the road parallels the river for the first 15 miles of our trip people have access to the river and the canyon that it’s in. Around the time it was starting to get dark we got to an island across the river from a campground and set up for the night. 10 miles done, we just might make it in these things.

In total we have about a 67 mile stretch of river through Meander Canyon and then a similar amount of hiking to do before our next town, Hanksville.

9/19/19…..Hayduke Day 5…..22 miles(river)

Going into this trip my main concern was whether or not we’d be able to paddle these boats fast enough to make decent mileage. It hasn’t been simple but we’ve been moving along. As long as the weather doesn’t do anything too crazy and we don’t have any major hiccups I think we just might be alright. The patch was still on the holes and we still had two boats floating. QB insisted on switching boats this morning so she could keep a close eye on her patch job(I think she thought I would sink that boat.)

When we first got on the river this morning there was no wind and with the gentle current we seemed to move relatively quickly. Here and there throughout the day we’d face a significant headwind and would have to paddle pretty hard to make any progress at all. Other times when the water was flat and the current was just pulling us along it was very enjoyable. It’s actually a really nice way to travel, sitting backwards in a rubber raft with my feet up and just drifting slowly and effortlessly through a beautiful red rock canyon(one time we even had a tailwind!).

Seven miles into the day we passed the Potash Salt Mine and the last hints of civilization. This thing was a bit of an eye sore. Shortly after the mine we reached a boat launch where a guiding company was dropping off a handful of canoes and paddlers. As luck would have it there was a privy at the launch. I have no qualms with digging a cat hole in the woods but this is wag bag territory so any chance at using a toilet is a luxury.

The rest of the day was really uneventful. We stopped a couple times to eat and swim. We saw just one other party canoeing and a few jet boats that motored up and down the river with a bunch of guests on board. For wildlife I saw 3 bighorn sheep, 2 beavers, and a ton of great blue herons. At first I thought maybe it was the same heron I just kept seeing over and over again but then I saw 5 of them all at the same time. Other than that we just paddled through a beautiful canyon on a beautiful day. Shortly after we crossed into Canyonlands NP we found a nice place to camp on a big beach at a bend in the river.

9/20/19…..Hayduke Day 6…..21 miles(river)

For the majority of today it was smooth sailing, so to speak. We got up and just cruised for the first 8 miles to Lathrop Canyon where there’s a top secret privy, take note if you want to save a wag bag. Beyond Lathrop the wind picked up just a little for the next couple hours until we took lunch. After lunch it got a bit crazy. At first we were just clipping right along and even caught a really nice current at one point and then some seriously fierce winds hit us right in the face. The river was pretty wide at this point and the wind was going directly against the current causing some major waves. We stuck to the side of the canyon and a couple times had to pull over altogether and wait for the wind to subside. I’m not sure exactly what these Intex Explorers can handle and I’m not sure I want to push them to the limit. During this whole event I managed to put a little hairline crack in part of my paddle that I had to slap some duct tape on. For the most part the wind hasn’t been unmanageable but for about an hour today it was straight up unpleasant.

Once the wind and water settled down we got back at it and got about 6 more miles down river to a campsite on a beach right the start of ‘The Loop.’ This is where the river serpentines through the canyon creating a couple of goosenecks. Check out image of the map below.

9/21/19…..Hayduke Day 7…..22 miles(14 river, 8 hiking)

Wow! What a day! First of all absolutely no wind on the river which made the paddling super smooth and fast. Paddling through ‘The Loop’ was definitely my favorite part of the whole river section. There was a fast current and huge sandstone on both sides. Next we easily made it through ‘The Slide’ where the river narrowed due to an old rockslide and created a minor rapid, nothing these rubber rafts couldn’t handle. Shortly after that was the confluence of the Colorado and the Green River. In the last month we’ve walked by the glacier that is the headwaters of the Green River, hitchhiked through two towns named Green River(Wyoming and Utah) and now paddled by the spot where it ends and flows into the mighty Colorado.

3 miles past the confluence we reached our destination, Spanish Bottom. This is a big flat area surrounded by thousand foot high canyon walls across from a beach at a bend in the river. Earlier in the day we met Keith who was guiding a rafting trip down the river and we asked if he’d be able to take some gear back to Moab for us. Of course he knew Quiet Earp and he’d be glad to return the life jackets to him, as well as our rafts, paddles, and cake pan.(Per order of our permit we were required to carry a fire ring, not that we ever have campfires, and the cake pan would meet that obligation. It also doubles as a bailing device if I was to take on water and triples as an onboard urinal). This was super lucky and couldn’t have worked out better if we planned it , Keith got to Spanish Bottom at the same time we did and saved us about 15 pounds each of gear to carry.

From here we have about a similar distance that we need to walk to get to our next town and resupply but because the rafting was so unique I had to split the blog and the day into two posts. I hope you’ll understand. To be continued…..

Feel free to follow this blog or follow me on insta @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes

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

The Uinta Highline Trail is a 104 mile trail that goes east to west in Northeast Utah from McKee Draw trailhead to Hayden Pass trailhead(or vice versa). One of the few mountain ranges in the lower 48 that run horizontal. QB and I will be attempting to do it in 5 days, but first we have to get there. From Pinedale, WY it took us a full day of hitching as we hopscotched from Pinedale to Boulder, WY to Rock Springs, WY to Green River, WY then finally to Manila, UT where we spent the night.

9/5/19…..UHT Day 1…..23 miles

From the hotel in Manila I walked across the street and got a coffee at the Sinclair then QB and I started walking south on Utah Rt 44 with our thumbs out. There wasn’t too much traffic and it took us a couple miles before Kevin and his son Liam stopped to pick us up. These guys drove us about 45 minutes around the Flaming Gorge to the McKee Draw trailhead, the Eastern Terminus of the Uinta Highline Trail.

I knew this coming into it but the easternmost 20 miles of trail are supposed to be a bit bland. And they were. A fair amount of people either begin or end their hikes 20 miles west of McKee Draw at Leidy Peak Trailhead, but not us. We walked the relatively boring terrain all day and it wasn’t unenjoyable. It was mostly pine forest with some rocky trail criss crossing with a few service roads here and there. It was desolate as we didn’t see another person out here all day and we were under the constant threat of thunderstorms. Luckily we barely got any rain just walked into some super dark clouds.

If you’re planning to do this hike note that there is a significant dry stretch from around mile 4 near the East Park Reservoir to mile 21 where we found a small creek in Summit Park.

11/6/19…..UHT Day 2…..19 miles

Overnight we got a fair amount of rain. At one point QB and I both woke up to the flash of lightning and tenths of a second later heard the crack of thunder. That was scary, but we were in a secure spot so didn’t expect to get struck.

The skies were clear in the morning though, at least for a little while. We walked gradually uphill through forest for about 3 miles to the Leidy Peak Trailhead and then had an option of going left or right around the peak. From the trailhead we were now right at treeline closing in on 11,000 feet. The trail to the left of the peak became a bit difficult to follow. If you’re doing this trail note that the trail itself takes a sharp left turn downhill but the GPS track sticks closer to the treeline. QB and I stayed high and followed some elk trails until we got to a steady stream of cairns. For the next 5-6 miles there really wasn’t much trail but there were lots of highly visible cairns since we were above treeline and easy enough to follow.

We made it up and over Gabbro Pass and then walked another mile or so to Deadman’s Lake. The skies were starting to look very ominous now and thunder was rumbling so instead of bolting right up the pass by the lake we decided to take an early lunch and see if we could wait for clearer skies. Our first attempt ended when we heard a loud crack of thunder and retreated back down to the lake. After waiting 15 minutes the skies cleared up and we had no problem getting up and over the pass.

This afternoon we more or less cruising through the forest without getting rained on. We’re not trying to beat the bag out of this trail and strategically camped early next to Lower Reeder Lake after 19 miles. I tied a fly to a stick and tried fishing the lake but there must not be any fish in there, hopefully better luck tomorrow.

9/7/19…..UHT Day 3…..25 miles

From our spot by the lake we got up and going by sunrise and steadily climbed for a few miles to the top of North Pole Pass at 12,200 feet. This was a nice beefy pass with comfortable graded rocky trail switchbacking nicely to the top. Once we crested the pass we crossed into High Uintas Wilderness (not sure what wilderness we had been in before this). We could now see some beefier peaks in the distance.

From North Pole Pass we dropped into a pretty forested valley that we were able to cruise through for most of the day. After lunch we noticed the air was starting to get hazy and I got a whiff of smoke. Dang wildfires! It would have been a beautiful day had it not been for the smoke, and now it was hard to tell if we had blue skies or clouds rolling in. We got to the base of Anderson Pass and the air quality hadn’t improved but we climbed up anyway. This was about a 3 mile climb that gained roughly 1500 feet bringing us to the highest point of the trail, 12,700 feet. At the top of the pass we had the option of climbing up steep talus to our left for another 500 vertical feet to the summit of King’s Peak, the highest point in the state of Utah. This would have been nice but the smoke really hampered visibility and it looked as if the summit was about to be socked in with clouds. Plus it was around 4:30 and bad form to summit so late in the day, right? We’ll have to come back and climb this one, the state high points aren’t all that important to me.

Instead we descended down some steep switchbacks and ended up in another valley. We walked a few more miles to get water and found a place to camp among some pines and pink boulders.

9/8/19…..UHT Day 4…..16 miles

It was cold this morning and had rained overnight. I noticed some water had even got into the tent. So I basically woke up cold, wet, and without a goodnight’s sleep. Not a good start.

At first it was dry out but there were clouds threatening in every direction and as we started up Tungsten Pass(a poor excuse for a pass) it started to rain. A cold driving rain that fortunately didn’t last all that long. We were quickly up and down Tungsten and as we made our way across a valley and started up Porcupine Pass some hints of halfway decent weather started to show up. On the way up we saw a dead horse down in a gully, awfully sad and strange because this isn’t a steep pass. Ironically, tomorrow we’re due to go over Dead Horse Pass.

From on top of Porcupine Pass at 12,200 feet we could see far into a spectacular valley with treeline about 3 miles ahead and 1000 feet down. Beyond that were some formidable looking clouds. This was a situation where the only thing we could do was walk directly into the weather and hope we reached the treeline before the storm clouds reached us. As we got closer to the trees the weather really turned on us and soon we had a combination of freezing rain and sleet driving into us while getting whipped with a relentless cold wind. QB and I rushed towards the safety of some pines and we quickly realized this storm front wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We set the tent up as fast as possible and did what we had to do to get warm and dry.

While in the tent we eventually warmed up as the rain outside turned to snow. After a couple hours it seemed to let up and of all things the sun came out. We changed back into our wet clothes, packed up, and got on with our day. Not before admiring the landscape with a brand new paint job though: a fresh layer of snow was on Porcupine Pass, the mountains, the valley walls, and part of the valley that we had just walked through. Oh yeah, and if you’re wondering not a hint of smoke from those phantom wildfires yesterday.

Round 2: the sun was now in and out of the clouds and the wind and precipitation had stopped but we still weren’t completely in the clear. Our objective was to make it 8 more miles to the bottom of Red Knob Pass to set ourselves up for a 22 mile 3 pass final day tomorrow. Ideally we’d have liked to get over Red Knob this afternoon and give ourselves a better chance of getting to a hotel room tomorrow night. Odds weren’t in our favor though. We got almost 2 hours of hiking in when the clouds started to close in on us and we began looking for a spot to set up again. As soon as we took off our packs we suddenly were getting pelted with pea sized hail, better than rain I guess or at least dryer. Soon we were back in the safety of the tent reading Harry Potter and listening to the hail ping off the little poles that are keeping our shelter in place.

After an hour of hail, rain, and b-hole puckering thunder and lightning, the sun came out again. We packed up as quickly as possible and were soon back on trail. There was only about 4 miles the bottom of Red Knob Pass and we made it here without incident. From the base of the pass the clouds were moving very quickly and were too difficult to read. We decided to camp and leave the climb for the morning. Shortly after we set up for the night the rain started again, so I guess we made the right call. What a day!

9/9/19…..UHT Day 5…..22 miles

Brrrr!!! It was a gd cold one this morning! I wore almost all my clothes I’ve been carrying as we packed up the tent and started up towards Red Knob Pass, our first climb of the day. It didn’t take long before we crested this pass and were looking down at an amazing valley and across to our next obstacle, Dead Horse Pass.

As we dropped down into the valley full of domestic sheep, the sun finally started to warm us up. We crossed this forested valley and started up Dead Horse which was said to be the crux of the whole trail. It was definitely steep and at times maybe a little sketchy but it really wasn’t all that bad just wicked steep switchbacks up the side of a mountain. It was all walkable, actually at no point during this whole Uinta Highline Trail has anything been more than class 1 walking.

From the top of Dead Horse we looked down into another incredible valley and spotted a pair of mountain goats. Finally some wildlife! I heard this place was loaded with animals but besides these 2 goats we’ve only seen a handful of deer out here. We must be scaring them.

For the next few hours we cruised through forest until we came to Rocky Sea Pass, our final challenge. This was another steep pass with nice switchbacks all the way up. From there we made quick work of the 8 miles of forest to Hayden Pass, the Western Terminus of the trail. With a few miles to go we met Chris and his dog Frankie, one of the very few hikers we came across our here. Chris’ girlfriend Ally was picking him up at Hayden Pass and the two of them gave us a ride to Kimball Junction(part of Park City I think?) where we will spend the night.

The Uinta Highline Trail was pretty rad. I didn’t know too much about it going in but I would say in some cases it didn’t live up to expectations and in others it exceeded them. If I was to do it over again I think I would do either an out and back of the westernmost 50-60 miles or some kind of loop involving the western half. I thought the western half of the train was amazing while the first half was a bit underwhelming. Especially the easternmost 20 miles, if you’re planning to do this trail just start or end at Leidy Peak Trailhead, the first 20 miles are definitely skippable.

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The Wind River High Route is exactly what it sounds like, a high route through Wyoming’s Wind River Range. There are basically 2 well known routes: the arguably more popular route by Alan Dixon or the more aggressive version by Andrew Skurka. The two routes often overlap but have different starting and ending points. We started on Skurka’s route at the Bruce Bridge trailhead outside of Lander hiking south to north with the intention of staying on his route. As we moved along we took different alternates depending on what we thought would be more enjoyable and ended up finishing on Dixon’s route at the Green River Lakes trailhead outside of Pinedale.

8/26/19…..WRHR Day 1…..3 miles

We slept at the Holiday Lodge in Lander, WY last night and slept in just a little because we were in no major hurry today. Our only objective was to get on trail at some point and get a few miles in.

Walking downtown to take care of a few errands we ran into 4 southbound CDTer’s; Whiz, Dad Jokes, Golden, and Sultry Bear. It really felt like the Seinfeld episode when they meet their doppelgängers. While resupplying at the supermarket, a couple of Garbelly and Critter’s friends; Heath and Julie came to pick us up and drive us out to the trailhead. These 2 have been traveling in their van and climbing all over the Winds putting up first ascents. We still had a little hiccup with Budget rent-a-car, so while Critter dealt with that whole situation we hung out in the parking lot.

Heath and Julie dropped us off 10 miles outside of Lander at Bruce Bridge around 4:30. After a couple miles we caught up to this family that was headed to a rock you could slide off into a swimming hole. We took the side trail with them and we all opted to skip the sliding rock and I just went for a swim to see how deep it was (not very). We got back on trail and found a place to camp a mile or so later. Tomorrow we should be getting into the good stuff, today we walked along Po Po Agie River among scrub brush and pinyon pines. Soon we’ll be getting into the alpine areas of the Winds.

8/27/19…..WRHR Day 2…..17 miles

Today could easily be split up into 3 distinct sections. The first dozen miles or so were really cruiser. We gently gained a few thousand feet while while walking through pine trees along the PoPo Agie(pronounced popo zsa) river. Around noon time we reached Deep Creek Lakes, just in time for lunch. We stopped basically right on trail facing the lake and not 100 yards away there was a couple bathing in the buff. They had to have noticed us but that didn’t stop them, they just kept doing what they’re doing. I’m cool with it, and apparently they are too.

Today part 2: After lunch we left the trail and very steeply climbed up to Wind River Peak. I was all about this climb. It was a steady climb and there were big rocks to climb up and over but they were solid with very little sliding around. The climb from Deep Creek Lakes to Wind River Peak gained something like 2600 feet over 2.5 miles topping out at 13,192. It’s tough to move faster than a mph on that stuff. At the top we had absolutely incredible views of the Winds. We could see the Cirque of the Towers, Gannett Peak, the City of Lander and Frozen Lake which I swam in while on the CDT in ‘17.

Part 3: The Descent. This was by far my least favorite part of the day. We started off by walking down a steep boulder field with stable medium sized talus. This lasted for a half an hour until we got to the West Gully, supposedly one of the most difficult parts of Skurka’s route. It sucked. It was super steep with scree and medium to large loose talus. Surfing on gigantic rocks downhill is no fun. For some reason QB loves this shit, I on the other hand wouldn’t mind if I never walked on loose talus again(I have a feeling I will be though). Garbelly and Critter weren’t fans of it either, Critter said it was the dumbest trail she ever walked down.

There was a section that was a class 3 scramble down some bedrock that wasn’t too bad, and another part that was covered in snow and I was able to shoe ski down it. Other than that the talus seemed to go on forever. Eventually we got to an unnamed lake that we walked around and then the route dropped again for awhile. Finally we got low enough and found a couple spots to put our tents. It’s an incredible campsite, in the shadow of East Temple Peak in a valley with no trails that I bet not too many people make it back here.

8/28/19…..WRHR Day 3…..17 miles

When I got up in the middle of the night to take a leak(per usual) the Milky Way was visible and the stars were absolutely spectacular. This morning the stars were gone of course but the day was still beautiful. We rock hopped down a few hundred feet and walked along a couple of lakes. Critter tied a fly to her trekking pole, threw it in the water and almost caught herself a sizable cutthroat trout. We dropped down again and walked by Big Sandy Lake before starting to climb towards Jackass Pass.

From Jackass Pass we could see down into the Cirque of the Towers. The Cirque Route is a popular alternate off of the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I attempted to get over to it but there was still too much snow on the passes to get there comfortably. We figured we’d just come back in a couple years and do a high route through here. Today we walked right down into the Cirque to Lonesome Lake and it was everything I’d ever dreamed of and more. We ate at the lake and I went for an invigorating swim before the afternoon climb up Texas Pass. The Skurka Route goes over New York Pass that leads to the same valley but that one looked super sketchy, Texas Pass was steep on the way up and steep on the way down but nothing too difficult or scary.

On the other side of the pass we walked by 4 lakes then walked on smooth trail for half a dozen miles along a river. It was pleasant and easy going especially compared to the rock hopping that makes up a lot of this route. We found a campsite next to Maes Lake, there seems to be a fair amount of people over this way but none within earshot which is nice.

8/29/19…..WRHR Day 4…..13 miles

Don’t get hung up on mileage totals, it really doesn’t mean much with this off trail stuff.

This morning we walked along Maes Lake and Pyramid Lake then followed an animal path to the base of Raid Peak Pass where we left the trail and started climbing large talus. It was a nice climb to get the blood going and there were exceptional views from the top. We dropped down a moderately dicey descent to Bonneville Lake and then immediately started climbing up to Sentry Peak Pass. This was a fun climb up with a lot of hand over hand scrambling. At the top we came across an adult Nols Class coming from the other direction that were on a trip that would last 23 days. They were cool but there was 11 of them in a place I didn’t expect to see anybody. It’s a bit overwhelming to see that large of a group out here.

We walked down from Sentry Peak Pass picking our way over large talus and then navigating around thick willows at the bottom by Lee Lake. At the lake we ate and of course swam. From Lee Lake we followed very faint animal trails on some flat tundra until we got to Middle Fork Lake and the bottom of a stiff climb. This was just a very steep traverse up a dirt elk path that didn’t last all that long just enough to work up a post lunch sweat. When it flattened out into a hanging valley there was another lake, Bewmark Lake, and QB and I jumped in real quick. From here we gradually climbed until we topped out for the day on Photo Pass (if you’re planning on doing this route, from Photo Pass until Europe Peak we’ll be within Wind River Reservation and need special Tribal Permits). The descent down this one sucked, it was a super slidy gravel path. It didn’t last forever and we soon found ourselves camping in a really nice forest next to a river.

When we were in Lander I picked up some minimal fishing equipment. While waking I found a good stick and Critter, who’s a fly fishing guide by trade, tied my fly on and we went down to the river. She showed me what to do and where to throw it and within a few minutes I had a decent sized cutthroat trout in my hands. The first fish I ever caught on a dry fly.

8/30/19…..WRHR Day 5…..15 miles

From our campsite this morning we crossed a river and then started climbing uphill searching for some kind of a trail. There were elk trails here and there that got us above treeline where we rockhopped on large talus and scrambled up short sections of bedrock until we got to Europe Col(similar to a pass). I even wore my microspikes for the first time out here to walk up through a small snowfield.

From Europe Col we got a good look at the main feature of the day, Europe Peak. There was a good amount of buildup about this mountain and the route we’re taking up it. Besides the West Gully this was supposedly the other crux of the route. The tricky part of the climb was described in Skurka’s guide as a 15-20 foot slab that had a class 3 scramble up to a Knife’s Edge. This produced a fair amount of anxiety for me. Getting to the slab was no big deal, there were lots of short ramps and ledges with a good amount of vegetation and the rocks were stable. Critter then Garbelly went up the scramble first and were able to identify where the good hand and foot holds were. It really wasn’t that bad but it felt a little too exposed for my liking. After walking across a narrow knife’s edge with long steep drops on either side we walked up over a boulder field to the summit of Europe Peak.

From the summit we walked down along a ridge with rocks and tundra for most of the afternoon until we got to Golden Lakes. We walked along a couple beautiful lakes and then climbed up to a valley where we could see Skurka’s next obstacle, Douglas Peak Pass. The climb up this pass looked obnoxiously difficult and the description in the guide going up and over it sounded ridiculous. The 4 of us decided to skip it. There was a lower route to the east of the pass that adds a couple miles but I’m sure saves time overall. The alternate was very pretty and took us by Camp Lake where we are appropriately camping for the night.

8/31…..WRHR Day 6…..14 miles

What a day! Right away we started climbing from Camp lake, where we slept, to the Alpine Lakes Basin. We climbed uphill across boulders for about an hour until we had to do this gnarly down climb on the side of a cliff next to a lake. It’s supposedly a class 3 or 4 climb (depending on what guide book you look at) but we climbed down the cliff too early and made it harder on ourselves. Garbelly went first and we used an assembly line of passing all the packs down so we could climb without them.

Safely at the bottom of this cliff we slowly started traveling through the alpine lakes. It was all large talus that we had to navigate and a few times where we had to climb up some short cliffs to get around bluffs by the lake. We had to have been traveling at less than a mph. Eventually we got to the bottom Alpine Lakes Pass where we had a nice stiff climb to the top.

Once over Alpine Lakes Pass we had a decision to make; we could either continue on the Skurka Route or take the Dixon Route. We had a team meeting at the top of the pass and made the decision based on what would be the most fun. The Skurka Route is the one we started and seems to be the higher, more aggressive and remote route. I’m sure it’s beautiful but the description made it sound tedious and would probably take longer. The Dixon Route seemed pretty awesome, besides going through some beautiful valleys it would be lower and also included a couple features that I missed while hiking through here on the CDT, we’d also be able to move a little quicker since there was a fair amount of trail.

We chose the Dixon Route and headed left over Knife Point Glacier to Indian Pass. Walking across the glacier was pretty rad, we used micro spikes and contoured along the side of the mountain kicking in steps where we had to. Once up and over the pass we dropped into Indian Basin. This was my favorite part of the WRHR so far, huge sharp mountains everywhere, lots of lakes, wildflowers and there was even trail, something we hadn’t had for awhile. Plus I got to swim in some ice water for the first time in a couple days.

We walked a few miles through Indian Basin and into the incredible Titcomb Basin and found an awesome place to camp on a hill among the rocks.

9/1/19…..WRHR Day 7…..20 miles

This morning we walked along the Titcomb Lakes towards Knapsack Col. The route through Titcomb Basin and over Knapsack Col is a popular alternate for the CDT. In ‘17 QB and I skipped it and elected to stay on the regular route since we had already sent our snow gear home. Glad we were able to get back here for this highlight.

On the way up to the col we were joined by L-Fox, a CDT hiker who recently retired from a career in the Czech special forces and still works part time testing parachutes(sounds like a dangerous job). This dude was a badass, he bombed through a dicey boulder then took the riskiest line possible to the top. The rest of us took our time navigating the boulder field then ascended up a loose scree field until we climbed through a snow cornice at the top while L-Fox waited for us. It was a difficult pass but the way down wasn’t too bad and the views were magnificent. We passed a glacier that forms the headwaters of the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, then followed these waters for the rest of the day.

We ate lunch by Peak Lake, where QB and I swam in some icy cold aquamarine glacier water. After lunch we had one more small pass, Cube Rock, then started the descent out of the Winds. We walked through a narrow rocky valley until that gave way to a pine forest. We dropped a few thousand feet and were back to the CDT walking along the Green River(it actually is green). There were a handful of former thruhikers we came across who were beginning the WRHR, some who were on the PCT in ‘15 just ahead of me.

At our campsite we met a couple, Lewis and Laura(Little Shark), who were friends with our buddy Smiley. They joined us for supper at our spot beside the Green River in the shadow of Squaretop Mountain.

9/2/19…..WRHR Day 8…..6 miles

Essentially we finished the route yesterday but we still had to hike out and catch a ride to town.

This morning as we walked the trail along the Green River we spotted a beefy bull moose and his girlfriend eating breakfast. In ‘17 we had camped nearby and had seen a bull moose in almost the exact same spot. I know what you’re thinking but there’s really no way of knowing if it was the same moose.

After walking by the Green River Lakes we got to parking lot for the campground and the first car that came by picked us up. Dennis and Marilyn had been camping out here in their trailer for the past two weeks. They had a canoe on top of their pickup, were pulling their camper, and had the truck full of supplies. We were able to move some stuff around and the 4 of us stuffed ourselves in the back. The road from the trailhead to the parking lot is 18 miles of washboard dirt road that gets grated once a year and it hadn’t been recently. That took about an hour and then we went another half hour to Dennis and Marilyn’s house in Pinedale where they offered up their showers to us. We showered and hung out with them on their patio eating popcorn and drinking ginger ales. It turns out they knew John who gave us a ride last week and had actually got a ride from him once when they were in a jam. Small world, but I already knew that.

Two thumbs all the way up for the Wind River High Route. If you’re looking for an off trail backpacking route that will test your abilities and also has intense scenery I highly recommend it. As for us We’ll most likely stay in Pinedale tonight then start making our way down to Northeast Utah tomorrow to start the Uinta Highline Trail in the next few days.

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8/21/19…..Rock Springs, WY

After we finished up hiking in Colorado’s San Juan mountains we had a few days before we were planning to start the Wind River High Route. We decided to get up to Wyoming sooner than later and check out the Grand Tetons, a place I’ve never been.

This morning Garbelly, Critter, QB and I rented a car in Gunnison, CO and began the 650 mile drive North to Jackson, WY. Basically we followed the Continental Divide and made it as far in a day what would take a month to walk. Our first stop was Monarch Pass where we picked up a few snacks and a hitchhiker, Jersey Mike, who was hiking the CDT. Mike was trying to get down to Salida so we got him off the Pass and most of the way to town.

Our next stop was the iconic trail town, Leadville, for lunch. We got chimichangas and burgers and the rest of this crew picked up a Melanzana fleece, but I couldn’t be peer pressured. I’d rather buy property here. We drove north for awhile by Copper mountain, through Frisco then Silverthorne, and picked up a couple hitchhikers near Steamboat. Gravy and Mouse are hiking the CDT and they were waiting at an intersection that I’d been at before with my thumb out. We all had mutual friends and a similar scent so we stuffed them in the rental and got them where they were going.

Another hour or so and we crossed into Wyoming and shortly after that stopped in Saratoga at the Hobo Hot Springs. We were planning to camp somewhere in the Basin beyond Rawlins but after watching an incredible sunset the thunder, lightning, and winds picked up big time so we turned in our dirt bag cards and opted for a room in Rock Springs.

8/22/19….Jenny Lake CG, Grand Teton NP

There was still 3 more hours to drive this morning from Rock Springs to Jackson where we were scheduled to return the car. So we got up early, made quick work of the Days Inn Continental breakfast (took some to go), then Garbelly got us safely to J-Hole.

In town we had a few errands to run before getting up to the Tetons; post office stuff, supermarket to resupply, I got a new shirt at the thrift store, and a gear shop to pick up a few essentials. Critter figured out there was a little snafu with how Budget Rent-a-Car charged us, not a great situation, hopefully it will get ironed out soon. Of course we also had to check out the town a bit and get pizzas. Jackson Hole isn’t my favorite place. It seems like a super manicured ski town with a cowboy theme. A little rich for my blood.

To start the Teton Crest Trail we had to get up to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station for permits and info. Jenny Lake is 20 miles north of town so we took a city bus to the edge of town then got 2 quick hitches, 1st from Kent and then from David. Since we’re completely winging this thing we had zero reservations but Ross the Ranger was very helpful. Tonight we’re able to camp at the hiker/biker walk in site at Jenny Lake(I think most NP campgrounds have these so you almost always have a place to stay as long as you don’t have a car.) Tomorrow there were no backcountry sites along the TCT but fortunately Alaska Basin is 20 miles away and not technically in the park. It’s just over the park boundary in Jedediah Smith Wilderness so we don’t need a permit to camp. The following night we did get a permit at Marion Lake and that’s really all we need since the trail is only about 40 miles. One of the drawbacks of this hike is that we have to carry bear canisters but luckily they’re free to borrow from the ranger station.

After Ross got us all squared away we walked over to the campground, set up, and checked out Jenny Lake. There was a couple down there having a borderline risqué photo shoot but that didn’t stop me from jumping in the water nearby.

8/23/19…..Sunset Lake, Jedediah Smith National Forest…..23.2 miles

Leaving the campground this morning we walked along Jenny Lake for a couple miles and had some sweet views of the mountains reflecting in the water. When we got to the edge of the lake we got to Paintbrush Canyon and began steadily climbing.

It was crowded, as National Parks tend to be, and we came up on a group of about 5 or 6 people with their bear sprays drawn. Apparently there was a cinnamon colored black bear in the bushes just below the trail, no big deal. We walked past and not until a few minutes later looking back did Critter notice there was also 2 cubs up in a tree. Still no need to be alarmed, I’m really glad nobody fired off their bear spray.

We walked uphill for miles and eventually topped out at 10,700 feet on Paintbrush Divide Pass. There was a couple snow patches to walk through but other than that really nice well built trail and good hiking. Up the top the views were spectacular. The Tetons are really quite a site, I mean if you’re into looking at sharp jagged peaks like I am.

We walked down from the pass for a few miles until we got to Solitude Lake for lunch. I wanted to swim so bad but the cloud cover was making it a bit too cold for an alpine lake. When the sun finally came out and looked like it would stay out for a minute, QB said, “Endless this is your chance!” I ran barefoot over to a jumping rock and cracked my foot on the granite. I looked down and had a little trickle of blood but jumped in anyway. When I swam to the edge and climbed out I noticed I lost a toenail on the middle toe of my right foot. It hurt a little but worse than that it was bleeding like a sieve. Luckily some kids at the lake had some gauze and tape and I fixed myself up. I walked a few miles after lunch and there still wasn’t too much pain but I had to re dress my foot because of the blood(I’ll be monitoring this situation).

With 9 toenails I started climbing into the beautiful Cascade Canyon and was surrounded by the Grand Tetons incredible scenery. Eventually we got to the top of Hurricane Pass and then crossed the boundary of the park into Jedediah Smith National Forest. Since there were no permits within the park we’re camping here tonight in the Alaska Basin by Sunset Lake.

8/24/19…..Marion Lake, Grand Teton NP…..17.5 miles

What we’re doing out here isn’t exactly the Teton Crest Trail but more of our own variation of it. If you’re using this blog as a how-to manual for the TCT, don’t. We’re mostly staying on the trail but also doing what we want.

This morning leaving sunset lake we walked up and over Buck Mountain Pass, contoured along the beefy Buck Mountain to Static Peak Divide Pass. The trail was narrow but well built up to the pass with steep drop offs to the side. From there we followed not so much a trail but more of an animal path steeply to the top of Static Peak. The views from up here were simply stunning. From the summit we backtracked down until we were on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass and back in Alaska Basin. We passed a bunch of lakes before stopping at one to eat lunch and swim. My toe is bruised and it was still bleeding so after I swam I cleaned it and redressed it. Other than that it doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would.

After lunch we climbed up to Meek Mountain Pass until we got to Death Canyon Shelf. The shelf was really cool, it was flat but on the left was a steep cliff to the canyon floor and on the right were tall cliffs. We walked along this for awhile until we got to the turn off for Marion Lake.

This was an aquamarine alpine lake with a 500 foot granite wall behind it. We all went for a dip and we have permits for sites near here so we camped nearby.

8/25/19…..Lander, WY…..14 miles

It was rather windy overnight, with gusts waking me up every so often. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either.

From Marion Lake we climbed up for a couple miles and rejoined the official Teton Crest Trail then dropped steeply into Death Canyon. Once we got down low we rounded a corner and saw 3 bull moose, 2 of which were some of our bigger boys. Come to think of it one of these moose was the largest moose I’ve ever seen up close and personal. We followed the canyon along a creek as the walls grew higher beside us. Further on we saw a mama moose lying down with her calf.

The canyon became narrower and more crowded as we got closer to Phelps lake and by midday we reached the trailhead. Another mile of walking on the road and we got picked up by a hiker, Peter, who drove us to the Moose Visitor Center and Ranger Station so we could drop off our bear canisters. 2 thumbs all the way up for the Teton Crest Trail even though we didn’t exactly do the official TCT. (Instead of hiking down Death Canyon we could have hiked over to Rendezvous Mountain and taken a $40 gondola down but that was never going to happen). We ended up doing 50+ miles north to south through the Tetons. There was spectacular scenery, a fair amount of wildlife, and some awesome alpine lakes for swimming plus the logistics were relatively easy. I would recommend.

From the ranger station we got a ride from James 20 minutes into Jackson where we pigged out at the supermarket then got on our way hitching. Our plan is to hitch to Lander, WY 4 hours away to start hiking the Wind River High Route tomorrow. Our fist ride was from Elisa who got us to the Hoback Junction, then we got picked up quickly by Sabrina who brought us 20 miles closer. John a contractor from Bondurant drove us well out of his way bringing us down to Pinedale. From Pinedale, John and Cesar were headed back to their jobs in Green River, Utah and they drove us about an hour down 191 to Farson then got ice creams with us.

After our ice creams we had a little over an hour to go to Lander and not much more daylight than that. A cowboy called us over to his horse trailer and said we could ride in that to Lander. “Just don’t mess with my dogs” he said. Ok, why would we do that I thought to myself. The novelty of riding in the back of a horse trailer on a Wyoming Highway with a farting horse and 4 cattle dogs on a horseshit covered floor wore off in just a couple minutes. It was a ride though and it beat trying to stealth camp in the wind outside of Farson, and at least there were coolers to sit on(wasn’t going to check what was in the coolers). follow us on insta: @endlesspsummer, @sarahikes and @ourtrailingthought

8/14/19…..Zero miles in Pagosa

We took the day off from hiking today and spent it in Pagosa. It was great! Took care of a few errands; doing laundry, buying food for the next section and eating a bunch of food of course. This town is really cool but it isn’t ideal for hikers. The only laundromat is 2 miles away from the downtown where we stayed and the Wal-Mart another mile from there. Instead of walking all over the place on our day off we just hitched around town which made life easier.

This afternoon our friends Garbelly and Critter hitched into town and our joining us for the next few weeks or so. These 2 are currently 850 miles into an Appalachian Trail southbound thru hike. I went out and camped with them a couple weeks ago in NY and told them our upcoming plan. I swear I wasn’t trying to persuade them to join us, but not long after that they took an ‘alternate’ in New Jersey. They rented a car, drove to Buffalo, then to Nashville, then flew to Denver. From Denver they spent a day and a half taking buses and hitchhiking before crawling into Pagosa this afternoon. I know I’ve introduced these 2 in this blog before but in case you forgot; Garbelly and Critter are from Nashville where he works as an arborist and Critter is a fly fishing guide. I first met Garbelly on the PCT in ’15 and then we hiked with both of them in ’17 on the CDT. They are very fun, and very rad. If you don’t believe me check out their blog: trailingthought.com

The 4 of us had a nice soak in the local hippy dip, this is basically a free hot spring along the San Juan River formed from the runoff of the hot water coming from the resort hot springs. We got pizzas then met up with our friend Smiley for ice creams. Smiley has been thru hiking for years and lately has been living in and enjoying Pagosa Springs. He adopted and takes care of a section of trail that we’ve got coming up. We’ll definitely be going over that section with a fine tooth comb and promptly reporting to the CDTC.

8/15…..CDT Mile 882.3…..20.5 miles

First thing this morning we did a decent job on the San Juan Motel continental breakfast. All you can eat Toaster Strudel and I haven’t had one of those since the 90’s and then I was always fighting over them with my siblings.

Since a foursome hitching back up to Wolf Creek Pass would never work, we split up. QB and I got picked up by Jeff, a builder, who moved his family out here 20 years ago for the skiing. We stopped at his house in a neighborhood 6 miles out of town closer to the Pass. He built the house himself out of refurbished antique timber. Critter and Garbelly got picked up by some hikers and met us at the trailhead.

The hiking today was so much fun. Much easier and more relaxing than the last time we came through here. We did get delayed a little bit when a hail storm rolled through so instead of following the trail up and over a ridge the 4 of us quickly set up the fly to our tent and waited out the weather. After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the day. We passed the Creede Cutoff route that we had all taken back in ‘17. For our friends the trail was all new after the cutoff. (The Creede Cutoff is a lower route through the San Juan’s that is often taken in during lousy weather conditions). Unfortunately for me and QB, in ‘17 we carried on past the cutoff before coming to an impasse and having to backtrack costing us multiple days. More on that later.

Because of our late start and the delay waiting out the weather we hiked until sunset to get to where we were going. We found a really pretty campsite on somewhat uneven terrain. Hope it will do.

8/16/19…..CDT Mile 904.8…..22.5 miles

I made over the dastardly Knife’s Edge today. In ‘17 QB and I decided against crossing the narrow trail in the snow and decided the safer thing to do would be to find another way through the San Juan’s. We made a couple of mistakes before cutting our losses and heading south to the Creede Cutoff. I wrote more about it then and you can go back in my blog and check it out. Since then the Knife’s Edge has been the asterisk on my CDT thru hike.

Today we got across it. Granted there was barely any snow and it was much simpler, I’m still glad I wasn’t snowshoeing across it. From here until the Colorado Trail intersection the trail is all new to me and QB.

Besides the pinnacle of the day the rest of the hiking was really good. We seemed to have some big climbs or maybe they felt that way since we’re up over 12,000 feet and we somehow dodged significant rain and thunderstorms all day. In the evening we saw in the distance the biggest herd of elk I’ve ever seen. A conservative guess would be 120 elk but probably more like 150(the number grows every time we talk about them). We’re camping at Squaw Pass tonight which feels more like a valley and we all had nice fat bags of Mac n’ Cheese.

8/17/19…..CDT Mile 919.9…..15.1 miles

We strategically had a shorter day today in order to camp below 11,000 feet, and to prevent us from camping well over 12,000 the next 2 nights. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

Squaw Pass was cold last night and there was frost on both tents when we woke up. There was a long climb out of camp and all morning we had incredible views. We saw more elk and for the first time of this trip we saw about a dozen big horn sheep.Critter and Garbelly

This afternoon we walked across a marshy area with a couple of river crossings/jumps and then we were back climbing into the woods. We found a spot to camp in some trees next to a creek in the shadow of a beefy mountain. I was able to sit in the creek and cool off a little but it wasn’t ideal for getting myself fully submerged.

8/18/19…..CDT Mile 938.3…..18.4 miles

First thing this morning we started climbing up a pass to the right of which was the Rio Grande Pyramid, a 13,900 foot peak shaped like a Mayan Pyramid. There’s a long wall on the left shoulder of the mountain and in one spot a massive chunk of the wall is missing creating a big window. We went off trail and climbed up to that, it was awesome.Garbelly inside the Window

After getting back down to the trail we had 5 more passes to climb over 18 miles. It was a lot of climbing for a relatively short mileage day. And it was awesome, packed with some massive mountain views and lots of wildlife. QB and I saw what we really think was a golden eagle (unconfirmed golden eagle sighting), and I definitely saw a hummingbird right after that. We met multiple parties with pack llamas that had actually just met each other. Garbelly said it was a llama meetup group. Then at lunch we stopped at West Ute Lake and the place had cutthroat trout jumping out of it like crazy. We ate and swam at the lake and met a family with 4 kids and 4 dogs out in the mountains for 8 nights. That’s impressive.

From West Ute Lake we climbed up a steep pass that had another lake with a rocky island just a short ways down from the top. Garbelly and I raced down to swim out to the island before the girls got over the pass. Icy cold water never felt so good.

A little further down from the pass we came across the first moose of the trip about 20 feet from trail. An adolescent bull moose with velvet antlers was just chilling out eating bushes and barely paid us any mind at all. We descended a little further before turning and immediately started climbing again. This was Hunchback Pass, the last and beefiest pass of the day. We took our time getting up and over it then found some campsites near Beartown trailhead.

8/19/19…..CDT Mile 961.9…..23.6 miles

Immediately after breaking camp this morning, before we even made it from the campsite to the trail, we saw 3 bull moose eating breakfast. It was quite an impressive sight, to see these massive wild animals up close and personal. Minutes later I saw a couple elk up on a ridge, all before sunrise.

We climbed for about a mile and half and the CDT joined the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail(CT) stretches roughly 500 miles from Waterton Canyon near Denver to Durango, CO. The CT and the CDT coincide for about 300 miles. In 2016, QB and I, as well as a few other friends hiked the Colorado Trail. In the opposite direction though so everything seems new.

All day we were up high above tree line and over 12,000 feet. We saw about 15 southbound CT hikers as well as 7 bike packers as the CT is one of the few long distance trails that allows bikes. It was a good day for animals too. Besides the moose and elk we saw this morning, I saw a weasel(a week ago I saw one of these and mistakenly referred to it as a pine marten), a peregrine falcon, 2 more bull moose and 2 coyotes separately, plus a herd of hundreds of domestic sheep in the distance.

We’re camped up high at 12,300 feet at Carson trailhead. Most likely it will be a cold night and since this is the sight of an old mining camp, with remains and everything, it is undoubtedly haunted.

8/20…..CDT Mile 978.9…..17 miles

Town Day! We cruised all day, barely stopping because for the first time in almost a week we’d have a chance for some burgers, sodas, and a little civilization. The sooner the better.

The trail was mostly up above treeline all morning and we passed the Colorado Trail High Point at 13,271 feet. We saw half a dozen CT hikers traveling south including my friend Lexy who I hiked some of Virginia with on the AT in ‘16. When we got to the road we all had every intention of hitching but a CT hiker, Quincy, had called for a shuttle and when split 5 ways it was pretty cheap. Worth it not to wait around for a car.

In Lake City we picked up packages ate burgers and sodas then came up with a new plan. Originally we thought we’d be getting back on the CDT and traveling north another hundred miles but decided against it. Garbelly and Critter had already done that section and QB and I had hiked it twice in the last 3 years. It’s ok and everything but as far as Colorado goes it’s not the most exciting section of trail between Lake City and Salida. Instead we’re going to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’ll be meeting a friend in Jackson Hole on the 25th anyway to start the Wind River High Route so why not go a few days early and check out the Tetons. To do this we need to get to Gunnison, CO, spend the night, rent a car in the morning and drive all day.

After lunch we split up to make the hitching easier. QB and I got 2 rides; first from Caleb up 149 to Blue Mesa and another from Hunter the rest of the way on Rt 50 into Gunnison. Our friends arrived shortly afterwards and then we found out that it was college move in week for Western Colorado University and there was barely any vacancy in town.

Finally Critter found us a room at the Island Acres Motel on the edge of Gunnison with a kitchenette and everything. We walked to the market, got some groceries to cook for dinner, then walked the mile or so to our room and took some long overdue showers.

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