Hayduke – Willis Creek to Buckskin Gulch

After the Paria, we had a long road walk, following Willis Creek to higher elevations, with views of the Bryce Canyon cliffs in the distance. It was hot, the miles dragged by in the heat of the afternoon. Tall trees shaded us by the evening. We camped on the rocky banks of Willis Creek, its waters still flowing orange. It feels very different to fall asleep in a forest, the fading light and emerging stars filtering in all around through the trees. The world feels bigger above ground, out of a canyon—the views, the sky, everything—my thoughts and dreams more expanded with a feeling of “anything is possible”.

In the morning we followed old logging roads through Dixie National Forest, reaching an old trail by second breakfast that skirted the border of Bryce Canyon. There was a bit of crawling over logs and landslides, as the trail seems unmaintained, but soon improved into a beautiful forest walk with the orange cliffs of Bryce coming in and out of view. The cliffs glowed in soft shades of orange and pink, as if they were lit from the inside. By late afternoon we were back in the deep forest heading south again.

• old logging road in Dixie National Forest •
• an old tree stump logged long ago •
• horned lizard •
• collecting water from a small trickle •

This route zigzags around so much—each section is its own—there’s no feeling of progress in a forward line. I never really feel like “the end” is drawing closer like other long trails. It’s much more like getting to know an area, all the secret nooks and crannies, like getting to know a person—there’s always another surprise around the corner, but you never feel like you’ve got a whole picture. And yet, there is still a sadness that is setting in—the kind where I wonder if I’ve really appreciated the experience—was I really being present, or am I just getting lost in the motions of moving forward.

• entering Bullrush Gorge •

The next day we dropped into Bullrush Gorge. It reminded me a little of the cliffs in Linville Gorge in North Carolina. Places are funny that way for me, always reminding me of somewhere else I’ve been. From Bullrush Gorge, we turned into Park Wash. maybe it was the name, but I wasn’t expecting much, other than maybe sand, a lot of sand. And that there was—a lot of sand. But it was stunning, big cliffs, color, waves, texture. I was mesmerized by its beauty. It held my attention all the way to the highway.

• Adam’s Spring •
• The “White Cliffs” in Park Wash •
• On a late afternoon break I made friends with this beetle, sharing one of my pepitas with it. I accidentally dropped the pepita right in its head when I was trying to set it in front of the little fella. It shook its head for a moment, then proceeded to feast on the pepita. It sat there the whole break chewing on the pepita I had given it.
• Bull/gopher snake in Park Wash. I’ve been seeing more snakes now that the weather is getting hotter. •
• old wheels, perhaps once part of a pulley system, at an old mine in Park Wash •
• We made it to Highway 89 •

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