One thing that’s different for me on this route, is the long breaks, border-lining on neros, we’re taking on trail. A necessity, considering the limited amount of services available from the trail. [A nero is less than a day off. A zero is a full day off with no hiking].
We got a five minute shower and a couple of vegetarian burritos at Needles Outpost on day six. A can of green beans and candy (I never eat candy), sink laundry, and a better shower at Hite Outpost on day fourteen. Yup, we’re moving super slow, and I am so ready for a whole day off to help heal my chapped dry cracking everything, swollen foot, to take lots and lots of showers, and to eat ‘round the clock. There is talk of hitching to Hanksville at the end of this section, and I’m trying not to get too excited about that in case it doesn’t happen.
While at Hite Outpost, another Hayduke hiker, Tim, came hiking down the road. Wolverine had met him in Moab, but this was our first time meeting him. We exchanged stories and then he left to go collect his food Cache. As we were crossing the Colorado River we saw Tim again. He called us over to see something on the side of the bridge: “Hayduke Lives”. There’s a different kind of spirit out here for this route, and it’s really only starting to come to life for me.
The famous “chimney climb” was coming up in a few miles, and Tim suggested that we all hike there together so there would be four of us to get everyone’s packs up the climb. We hiked on and off together, between breaks.
Tim pointed out several pieces of petrified wood along our route. We made it to the chimney climb just before sunset. Mine and Neon’s packs are pretty small, compared to Tim’s and Wolverine’s packs, but having four people made short work of getting them all to the top.
Neon and I set up camp on the Mesa at the edge of the Red Benches, and watched the sun set behind the horizon. It was such an incredibly windy spot that I woke up choking on a dry wind-blown throat in the night, but it was warm out and the sunset and sunrise were so worth it.
The wind continued through the morning. We hike up and down the red benches, occasional rusted old cans dotting the landscape. We hiked along long ridge lines, up dry creek beds, and by tall cairns, worthy of being called “land art installations”.
By early afternoon we made it to Fiddler Cove Canyon, an impressive twisting deep canyon with only one way down. The canyon led us around old river bends, to the entrance of Hatch Canyon, the high water route around the Dirty Devil River.
Hatch Canyon turned out to be my favorite Canyon on the Hayduke Route so far. Smooth alien rock formations graced its walls. Big towers, big walls, and alkaline seeps made for an impressive afternoon. And its mostly firm sandy creek bed made for easy walking.
We made good time through the canyon, until we reached its exit point. A steep scree climb was the first exit option. Neon and I both turned up our noses at it, and continued through the canyon to take a look at the second option. The walls of Hatch Canyon grew closer, into almost a slot canyon. Tim hiked up behind us. The second option didn’t pan out, but we really enjoyed where the detour took us, and bonus, we found good water along the way.
We all returned to the first exit option. It turned out to be even worse than I thought it would be. And at least for me, it had the scariest moves I’ve done on the Hayduke so far. Parts of the steep silty scree slope required a slipping run to not slide backwards down it, followed by a thin strip of silty-sand about a foot and a half wide that was the only way across the cliff side (which actually felt more secure than the steep dusty scree leading up to it). We rounded the corner to broken red ledges, that led us to the top, and to Poison Spring Canyon Road. Just before reaching the top, the ledge Neon was stepping up onto, broke. I caught his back with one arm, and grabbed a pinch of material of his jacket with my other hand, as he tipped backwards. A harrowing ending to a beautiful day.
We all cowboy camped at an eroded bend in the road. The morning was cold, but the sun shone fiery red cliffs made a promise of the warmth to come. The hike out Poison Spring Canyon Road was stunning. Red cliffs and mesas lit on fire with the morning sun. Small pieces of light-colored petrified wood lined the road near Black Jump. And the cottonwoods stole the show with their electric spring green leaf buds contrasting against the red cliffs.
We reached the Dirty Devil road crossing by second breakfast. It was swift, but not too deep. I was in shorts by mid afternoon. My chapped, cracking, everything burned in the wind. Little cracks along my skin lines on the backs of my thighs starting bleeding a little at the deepest cracks. The wind out here is harsh, and the alkaline soils steal the moisture out of my skin. Days of not showering in this kind of environment is really wreaking havoc on my body. My partially exfoliated skin itches as it tries to break free. I have chafed skin in places I’ve never had chafed skin before, rubbed even more raw by the sand that gets in everywhere.
Water flowed through the canyon, starting at Black Jump. Little flies tickled my hairline. We got water at a piped spring, and camped just shy of our food cache. I rubbed the last of my olive oil into the back of my legs before turning in for the night.
We made it to the highway and decided to hitch into Hanksville for some rest and repair. We’ve been out for seventeen days now, and are well over due for some body repair time. We got a ride in twenty five minutes, in the back of a pickup. I starting feeling giddy. The idea of showers and food and a soft bed filled me with joy.
The Burger Shack in Hanksville had garden bean burgers, and salad veggie wraps. I found fresh produce and Epsom salts at the grocery store. I laid in bed for two days. Took four baths and five showers. Drank three beers. Ate avocados, Spinach, hummus, and baby carrots. And indulged in one too many milkshakes; I know, not vegan and way too much sugar, but seventeen days in the desert is a long time. My skin still itches on the backs of my thighs, and my foot is still swollen a bit, but I feel much more human than I did a few days ago.
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