Endless P Summer

10/16/19….22 miles….10300 feet of gain

Cactus to the Clouds is a day hike up Mt. San Jacinto in Southern California. It is considered one of the most difficult day hikes in the country(this is debatable of course) because of its massive amount of elevation gain. The climb gains over 10,000 feet in 16 miles with about 8,000 of those feet in the first 10 miles. If you’re here to only read about San Jacinto feel free to scroll down a little, otherwise read on and I’ll fill you in on how QB and I got here from Utah.

QB and I are currently taking a break from hiking the Hayduke and find ourselves in Southern California. We’re headed to NY for a wedding this weekend and the timing worked out where we had a few extra days to find something to do. First we hitched from Jacob’s Lake in Arizona to Vegas where we rented a car.(All they had left was pickups but the Nissan Frontier we rented would come in very handy. Not only did it help us get down difficult roads but we also filled it with hitchhiking backpackers multiple times and slept in the back 4 nights.) From Vegas we drove to Death Valley NP. What a massive, unique, and beautiful piece of the planet! We ran into some hikers beginning a Lowest to Highest route and gave them a ride to the start, Badwater Basin. The lowest place in North America, this was an awesome place to enjoy the sunset.

The next day we climbed Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley. This mountain had awesome views 11,000 feet down to the Basin and over 100 miles in every direction. We could see Charleston Peak to the East outside of Vegas and Mt. Whitney to the West among other peaks in the Sierras. Historic Charcoal Kilns

After spending the night sleeping way out in the middle of the desert somewhere, we did a little exploring of Joshua Tree NP. I’ll definitely have to go back there with climbing shoes and crash pads to get the full effect. It’s a beautiful park loaded with Joshua Trees(of course) and millions of buttermilk boulders. Climbing is the real draw for this place. Leaving J-Tree we headed south to Palm Springs.

The Skyline Trail up San Jacinto begins in the parking lot for the Palm Springs Art Museum. There is most likely BLM land or another free camping option outside of town but since we wanted an early start we opted for the Happy Traveler RV Park about a mile from the museum. I think we were supposed to have an actual RV but we told the woman all we had was this truck or a tent and she only charged us half price. Half price or not I was still too excited to sleep and instead of getting up at 4 like we planned we reset the alarms for 5. Depending on the time of year, an early start on this hike is a pretty good idea. It was supposed to get up to the mid 90’s in Palm Springs today and would be in the 50’s at the summit. The higher on the mountain you can climb before the sun starts roasting you, the better off you’ll be.

We were on trail by 5:40 and were immediately climbing up steep switchbacks in the dark. It was already warm and the trail proved this was going to be a difficult day. Navigating was relatively easy(just keep going up) and we never had any mountain lion or rattlesnake encounters if that’s a concern. Looking back we could see the lights of Palm Springs spread out below us and enjoyed a very nice sunrise. Going forward we passed every kind of cactus you could imagine, except maybe the saguaro, I don’t remember seeing any of those. Although scenic, the trail was definitely tough, for awhile we were traveling less than 1.5 mph. Especially between miles 8-10, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As we got up around the 10 mile mark we crested a large climb and reached Long Valley. This is a huge, relatively flat area filled with massive ponderosa pines and impressive Douglas firs. Places like this are referred to as ‘Sky Islands’ where they tower high above the desert and provide a much cooler climate. There’s a tram that brings people up from Palm Springs and dumps them out up here so when we got to Long Valley there were a fair amount of people. As far as I know we were the only smellies that walked up from museum.

San Jacinto is a state park and to hike beyond Long Valley you need a permit. This is no big deal, we went to the ranger station, filled out a form, listened to his spiel and got the summit permit. There’s also a spigot with potable water here which was nice because there’s no water on the way up. The next 6 miles only had 2400 feet of gain so they were very relaxing and enjoyable.

In 2015 QB and I both hiked the PCT and although that trail doesn’t quite go over San Jacinto it’s very close by and a popular alternate for thru hikers. When we reached the stone hut near the top we went in, signed the register and were surprised to find all kinds of old trail logs. It was so much fun to look through and see all these names of people hiked with that year. QB must have been in either too much of a hurry or too stealthy to sign because we couldn’t find her name. Shortly beyond the summit hut was the peak itself that had some awesome views down into the desert. We spent a few minutes up there then retreated the 6 pleasant miles back to long valley and the tram(you didn’t hear it from me but word on the mountain is they don’t charge on the way down). It was just before sunset when we got to the bottom of the tram and we still had to get down and around a few miles back into the city and our rental car. We put our thumbs out and got picked up by Rex and Steve in a Tesla! A Tesla for crying out loud! This was a very classy way to end our hike. After getting back to our truck we stopped for burritos then drove a couple hours north and found a place in the desert to spend the night.

If you’re looking for a fun, challenging, and rewarding hike I’d recommend this one. Start early though, chances are you’ll be using a headlamp at either the beginning or the end of your day or both. All in all it was something like 22 miles total with 10,300 feet of gain. The museum is around 500 feet and the summit is over 10,800. It took us roughly 12 hours and almost 7 if those were during the first 10 miles. The tram runs until 9:45 but I’d check on that beforehand. Good luck! And don’t for get to:

Feel free to check out my insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB’s @sarahikes

10/9/19…..Hayduke Day 25…..0 miles

This morning Josh caught up to us as we were breaking camp and apparently he also had himself a ballgame going through Starlight Canyon yesterday. Since we were camped almost on top of HWY 89 the 3 of us started hitching right away. The first pickup truck drove by us then turned around and picked us up. Josh and I sat in the back and it was a mighty chilly half hour drive into Kanab. I’ll take it though!

In town we immediately got down to the first order of business, breakfast. We ran a couple errands and got in touch with our friends and local trail angels, Richard and Lynn. Last spring, after QB and I finished the Arizona Trail, Richard and Lynn hosted us in their beautiful house, Chateau Relaxo. Because Kanab is a trail town for both the Hayduke and the Arizona Trail they’ve become vital to the trail community here. They’re super nice and have provided us with a very enjoyable place to stay and are also a wealth of knowledge about the area and the trail.

Lynn picked us up from the library and brought us first to the supermarket to resupply then back to their house. We met Birdy at their home who is starting a southbound AZT hike this evening. Tonight QB cooked us all a delicious meal and we enjoyed a proper day off trail.

10/10/19…..Hayduke Day 26…..14 miles

This morning Lynn baked us all muffins before we got up(awesome right?) then drove me and Sara to the BLM field office in town. We were trying to get permits to hike to ‘The Wave.’ This is an iconic southwest image that I’m sure you’ve seen, either on a computer screen saver or your high school science book cover. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google images to refresh your memory(when you’re done reading this whole blog of course). Everyday at 9am they hold a lottery for 10 permits for the following day. This is quite a production. 140 people showed up and most of them, including me, were big losers. No big deal, there’s plenty to see out here and QB and I are planning to take a little side trip into some slot canyons tomorrow instead.

My friend Eileen and her family happen to be out in Utah from Massachusetts and as luck would have it today they were traveling right through Kanab. The Brennan’s picked us up at the BLM office, took us to breakfast in town, and then drove us back to the trail on their way to Page. It was so nice and really fun! Plus it’s always so refreshing to hear a familiar Boston accent.

Back on trail QB and I walked south through Buckskin Wash to the Wire Pass trailhead. It was mostly uneventful but we did find some petroglyphs that Richard gave us directions to. It was easy walking and there was cool stuff to see, especially the last mile when it got really narrow. On the way out we met Eric and Gina. Eric’s a Seattle area firefighter and these two are road tripping to Arizona for a University of Washington football game. They gave us a ride all the way back to Richard and Lynn’s house in Kanab. We usually don’t do this(stay 2 nights in a row with trail angels)but we’re in no rush right now and it’s supposed to be in the 20’s tonight! And Lynn told us beforehand she was making Shepherd’s Pie. The deal was sealed. We got back just in time for dinner and then homemade peach cobbler and ice cream for desert. Like I said, these are the ultimate trail angels.

10/11/19…..Hayduke Day 27…..17 miles

Lynn made breakfast burritos for QB and me this morning then drove us all the way out HWY 89 to the corner of the dirt road that leads back to Wire Pass Trailhead, so nice! We got a hitch from Jolie, a local guide, the rest of the way. Since we didn’t get permits for The Wave or get an overnight permit for Paria Canyon we decided to take a little side trip today. First we backtracked a mile and a half to Wire Pass then took a right and walked down into Lower Buckskin Gulch. This is a massive slot canyon that goes something like 9 miles to the Paria River. We only had a day permit so we walked about 5 miles into the slots and turned around. It was really cool, I would definitely recommend this hike to other lottery losers.

Back at the trailhead we walked a mile south on the road and crossed into Arizona. This is the end of or beginning of the Arizona Trail, at Stateline Campground. In the spring of ‘18 QB and I hiked the AZT North and finished here. I remember walking downhill the last few miles through a ton of sagebrush, pinyons, and junipers while looking over at the massive amount of red rock on the Utah side. I had wished the trail would just keep going last year and I guess we could have kept walking but we didn’t. This year we did that in reverse, walking up through the sagebrush until finding a flat spot on the side of the trail to camp.

It’s supposed to be wicked cold tonight but luckily we planned ahead. We both picked up another layer at a thrift store in Kanab so I’ll be very cozy in my stylish $4 argyle sweater.

10/12/19…..Hayduke Day 28…..23 miles

The air was rather crisp this morning, nothing crazy though. It would eventually warm up as the sun got higher. Walking today was uneventful. The Kaibab Plateau section of the Arizona Trail, north of the Grand Canyon, is flat and fast. We walked cruiser trail through a sagebrush desert packed with junipers and pinyons and when we gradually climbed higher we started seeing some ponderosa pines. When we reached HWY 89A we put our thumbs out and got picked up by Sev, a Frenchman living in his van who brought us to the store at Jacob’s Lake.

After today we are taking a little hiatus from the Hayduke. Pay attention because I’m only going to explain this once. We have to go to a wedding in New York on the 19th. We’re flying from Vegas the morning of the 18th and returning the 20th. On our way back we’ll be joining QB’s parents for 4-5 days on their road trip thru the southwest and then getting back to the Hayduke around 10/25-26. Had we gone up to Bryce and if that trail was open the timing would have worked out swimmingly. If we continued on the Hayduke south into the Grand Canyon we’d be able to hitch to Vegas but since the North Rim of the Canyon closes mid October, we wouldn’t be able to hitch back and would have to re walk a bunch of miles. Did you follow all that? So tonight after eating sandwiches at Jacobs Lake we started hitching west. Tanner picked us up and drove us 20 miles to Fredonia, AZ then Leticia and Elizabeth picked us up on their way home from a fair in Navajo Nation and drove us an hour to Hurricane, UT. A good rule of thumb is to stop hitching at sunset so we got the last room in town and ended up with a sweet deal on a gigantic suite at the Rodeway Inn. Tomorrow we’ll try to get to Vegas, rent a car, then take a little side trip somewhere we’ve never been.

I probably won’t be writing this blog for the next couple weeks but I’ll most likely be putting pictures up on Instagram. Feel free to follow me @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes.

Thanks for reading!

10/2/19…..Hayduke Day 18…..zero miles

Zero miles today but not for lack of trying. Our plan was to lay around half the day, take care of a few little errands, then hitch back to the Hayduke this afternoon and get a few miles in. From the town of Escalante it’s 5 miles down rt 12 to Hole in the Rock road then another 35 miles down a bumpy dirt road to our trailhead. We unexpectedly waited for about an hour before getting a ride the first 5 miles from Isabella and Claudette, a pair of French tourists, and then waited almost 2 hours before getting shutout at the corner of rt 12 and Hole in the Rock. This was a real rarity, I feel like I can almost always count on a hitch especially in a place like this with so many outdoor activities. It made more sense to get back to town and enjoy the rest of the day relaxing and trying again tomorrow rather than waiting out there and possibly spending the night camping by the side of the road. No big deal but it would have been nice if we had just stayed in town and took a proper zero.

We got some news this morning about our upcoming route. Apparently there was a wildfire in Bryce Canyon NP and the ‘Under the Rim’ Trail is closed. This was our whole reason to go up towards Bryce so I guess we’ll be doing some sort of alternate in the next week. This is too bad but I’m sure it will provide an opportunity to do and see something else that we otherwise wouldn’t.

10/3/19…..Hayduke Day 19…..19 miles

We had much better luck today with rides. First we met Mike at Mimi’s Bakery(make sure you stop here if you’re ever in Escalante). Not only did he offer to drive us out of town and out if his way to Hole in the Rock Road but he was super nice and insisted on buying us muffins and coffee. 30 seconds after he dropped us off we got picked up by the first car going our way and Josh, Sandro, and Anika brought us all the way to the Hurricane Wash trailhead as they were going to spend the day in Coyote Gulch. It was a fun ride and we even saw 3 coyotes, finally!

Once we got back to the trailhead, QB and I started hiking up Fifty Mile Bench, or ‘The 50’ as the locals call it. We followed dirt roads most of the way and then turned onto a trail for the last couple miles with the last mile being super steep until we got to the top of the bench. Up top it was relatively flat and we walked a few miles following cow paths to Mudhole Spring. There was good water here, a spigot and everything, and we loaded up 7+ liters each because it’s 30 miles until our next reliable source.

With heavy packs we walked cross country following cow paths until descending into Monday Canyon. For the next 7 miles we walked slowly through this canyon choked with boulders and trees. It was tedious and very slow going. There were lots of pour offs that were too steep to just jump down so we had to maneuver around them and navigate lots of boulders. There may have been a way around all this but we didn’t find it. Eventually the sun started to set so we found a flat spot and set up for the night. I think there’ll be more boulder choked canyon hiking for the morning.

10/4/19…..Hayduke Day 20…..24 miles

From our campsite we were only a few hundred feet down Monday Canyon to the confluence with Rogers Canyon. These canyons were similar, both dry and full of huge boulders and pour offs that we had to work around. Rogers Canyon eventually let up on us and we walked on sandy wash until taking a right and walking up Navajo Canyon. For awhile Navajo was sandy and easy walking and then this one too was choked with boulders and dry falls. We found it easier to navigate walking up canyon opposed to down as we were able to see from a distance which routes go and which don’t.

After half a dozen miles we turned left onto a faint 4×4 road and climbed up that for awhile. This track joined a regular dirt road for a mile then left that climbing higher and providing vast views of the Grand Staircase(the Grand Staircase is a vast 200 square mile geological feature, not one particular formation.) We descended on this 4×4 road down into Reese Canyon for some nice easy walking. This was a sandy wash that we cruised along until reaching the junction with Last Chance Creek. At one point QB discovered 5 or 6 of what just have to be fossilized dinosaur prints. If only there was a paleontologist around. See for yourself and let me know what you think:

Turning up Last Chance Creek Canyon we reached decent water for the first time since yesterday afternoon. There was a good amount of water in Rogers Canyon earlier in the day but it was pretty nasty looking. Unfortunately QB slipped and busted her ass in a big puddle of it. I felt bad and everything but sure glad it wasn’t me. After getting water this evening we saw a massive tarantula crawling across our path. Shortly after that we found a rocky shelf on the side of Last Chance Creek to cowboy camp. Hopefully that tarantula doesn’t try to crawl in my fartsack to cuddle.

10/5/19…..Hayduke Day 21…..25 miles

For the first half of the day we cruised up canyon alongside Last Chance Creek. We didn’t see any wildlife but plenty of evidence of animals. There were lots of coyote tracks, surprisingly a few black bear prints, and a good amount of cat tracks. Either a very large bobcat or a small lion.

We took lunch around noon and were caught up to by Josh, the first other Hayduke hiker we’ve seen. In 2017 we all crossed paths briefly in Wyoming while hiking in opposite directions on the CDT. This guy is absolutely flying and told us about 3 other hikers he passed behind us. Earlier this summer he broke the FKT on Vermont’s Long Trail and held it for 6 weeks, and also made a substantial attempt at the PCT record. He’s super fast but was in no hurry today so joined us for the rest of the afternoon.

Today was the easiest day of hiking we’ve had out here. This afternoon we followed Last Chance Creek a little further then took a left on Paradise Canyon where we walked for about 6 miles. There’s a little slot canyon off route that we went to check out, Yellow Paradise Slot. It was very cool and although we couldn’t have made it through and back to where we were headed, it was well worth the side trip. This evening we loaded up on halfway decent water from a seep then took a left onto a dirt road that we followed for 3 miles before finding a place to camp.

10/6/19…..Hayduke Day 22…..26 miles

This morning QB, Josh and I cruised through a long road walk for 13 miles until getting to the Grosvenor Arch trailhead. We passed a group camping on the side of the trail eating breakfast and they hooked us up with fruit, orange juice, and water. They just happened to be a group of paleontologists out looking for fossils. What are the chances? It was confirmed that the footprints we saw the other day were actually dinosaur fossilized prints most likely from a duckbilled dinosaur(with a more scientific name). Our new friends also showed us some dinosaur bones and how to identify them.

A few weeks ago at Grosvenor Arch, QB and I cached a bucket of food and 3 gallons of water and it was still there in it’s hiding spot untouched. We took an extended lunch as people were coming and going from the arch and while there were joined by Scampie, another Hayduke hiker. We’d never met but had mutual friends and now the 4 of us, which we considered must be the Hayduke Bubble, carried on down the dirt road. After a mile Josh got a hitch into Tropic because he had new shoes coming in so the bubble was back down to 3.

QB, Scampie, and I walked a few more miles of dirt road before dropping into a narrow slot canyon, Round Valley Draw. This place was very cool! A few times we had to relay pass our packs down so we could down climb some steep narrow chutes. It went on for awhile as a tight slot canyon then got a bit wider before reaching Hackberry Canyon. We walked down Hackberry for a few miles and found a spot to camp beside the wash.

10/7/19…..Hayduke Day 23…..21 miles

Dang it was cold last night! And this morning. I think we’ll be setting the tent up from here on out, the stars have been incredible but cold wind in the face in the middle of the night has been uncomfortable. Plus my sleeping pad deflated on me all the way down to nothing a couple times last night. I’ll have to rectify that situation in town.

The first few miles today were nice and fast through Hackberry Canyon. Eventually a trickle of water started to develop at our feet and before long it was ankle deep. Trying to avoid the water meant bushwhacking so after a little bit of that we decided to just walk down river and deal with cold feet. The canyon was pretty enough though but the high walls kept the sun from reaching us until 9:30. We passed Watson Cabin, a relic from another time, being refurbished by the BLM, that was cool and worth checking out. I wonder if one can camp in that thing? Not that I would have.

This afternoon Scampie got out ahead of us and since we’re taking different routes going forward, the Hayduke bubble was back to two, QB and me. The two of us walked down Hackberry Canyon until it became a dry wash then reached the Paria River where we took a right. In the Paria the water was low and silty and the river bed was very wide. The Paria River begins up near Bryce but because of the trail closure there we only followed it a half dozen miles or so until we reached the mouth of Kitchen Canyon. We took a left and began an alternate through Kitchen Canyon where we were hoping to find clearer water but without any luck. The water is super silty so we put it in our platypus bags and hopefully some of the red dirt will settle overnight. We camped in this very pretty, bright red canyon. Our shoes are wet and doubtful that they’ll dry by morning when I’m guessing it will be mighty cold out. Not tonight’s problem though.

10/8/19…..Hayduke Day 24…..23 miles

Most of the dirt in the water bags settled to the bottom overnight, so that worked out well but even better than that was the nice clear water flowing out of a side canyon a few minutes into our morning. Shortly beyond that, Kitchen Canyon goes to the right and this alternate follows Starlight Canyon to the left. We followed Kitchen Canyon a short distance to where it dead ends at a tall and super silty waterfall giving the appearance of chocolate milk pouring over a canyon wall, Yum!

Starlight Canyon was very cool, until it wasn’t. There were big red walls, bright yellow cottonwoods, and even a slot canyon section. The walking was difficult with a fair amount of bushwhacking and running water but the scenery made up for all that. We followed Starlight for 4 slow miles then hit a dead end. The beta we had on it wasn’t much but we were following a gps track that looked like it went straight up this 15 foot drywall we were staring at. To the left and the right of the dryfall were massive walls of a series of cliffs on each side but we attempted to give the left wall a shot as it was the less daunting of the two. After getting up about 20 feet of tricky climbing we had nothing above us but a high exposure class 5 route. Maybe the person who created this alternate found a better way but we didn’t and I guess we also didn’t research it enough. So began a bushwhack backtrack, the worst kind of backtrack. Retreating, we took a right down the first significant canyon, walked up that a bit and took a good look at the topo maps. There seemed to possibly be a way up a series of steep grassy ramps and there was! We had to do some class 2 scrambling up some rocky stuff but we found a ridge and were able to follow that all the way up to a jeep road that ended up rejoining the alternate that we were on. Not only that but we had amazing views looking back over the Grand Staircase from high up.

Following the jeep road for 5-6 miles brought us to a dirt road that we walked for about 10-11 miles to route 89. It was mostly uneventful besides a couple stopping in their Land Cruiser to give us cold water and me almost tripping over a gopher snake. We got to the highway right around sunset, tried hitching to Kanab for about 15 minutes, then gave up and set up the tent behind a bluff near the road.

Thanks for reading! And feel free to follow this blog or find us on insta for more pictures: @endlesspsummer @sarahikes

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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