This is a long post, mostly for my own recollections of my preparations and travels prior to the hike. It encompasses several weeks, just to give an idea of how much pre-planning the hike involved. I spent some of the time visiting family and friends, which was good training at altitude in Colorado, too. Stellar and I had planned to head to Utah sooner, checking out some day hikes as we placed our food and water caches. But it was so bloody cold and snowy, we extended our stay in sunny (and kind of warm) CO. We spent the extra days at our friend Jolly Rancher’s home near Westcliffe \ Rosita. I met him on the Colorado Trail in 2017 and he’s remained one of my good trail friends all this time.
At around 9000 feet, a few walks up the hill from his house and some indoor aerobic exercises helped our fitness. Finally, we departed Colorado, but not without first dropping off some beers for The Trail Show podcast. One of the hosts, POD, lives in Salida (where we’d be passing through), so we donated some brews from our respective home towns…mine being the Florence Brewing Company. The show’s motto is “more beer, less gear.” If you listen to just one episode, you’ll understand.
Our first day in Utah was a Sunday and mostly uneventful. We drove through Hanksville, the first trail town we’d come to after Moab. We left a small resupply box with the RV park and continued on. We were met by some snow, but thankfully just a passing shower. Our next stop, Hite marina, was a true ghost town. Just a year prior, the store was stocked and open but now was already defunct and empty. The abandoned campground bathrooms were locked but the ranger station bathrooms were at least open. We stashed our resupply in a nearby culvert of sorts (standard practice by previous Haydukers), then needed to find a place for the night. We shunned the $150 per night hotel\cabin rates in Hanksville…peak season had started. A pull-off and FS longdrop worked just fine for storing all the stuff in the back of the car overnight, clearing room for us to sleep there. At least we didn’t sleep in the bathroom but certainly considered it. We did hang out inside for a bit.
A short hike to an overhang and pictograph (the Moki Queen) was just the wake-up call we needed to warm up the next morning, Day 2 in Utah. I don’t think it got below freezing inside the car but was it cold. Clear skies revealed heaps of snow on the Henries…the same mountains we were supposed to go over in a few weeks. Yeah, right. PCT hikers weren’t the only ones with snow problems. Arizona and Utah had record levels too, affecting AZT, MRT, GET and Hayduke hikers alike. We drove over Boulder pass to Boulder UT to find huge drifts around 9000 feet. The snow level extended to between 6000-6500 ft in the area. It didn’t bode well for us.
We drove a long lonely road out to the Burr trailhead, Capitol Reef National Park, to cache some more food and water, then came right back the same way. We stopped in Escalante to leave some more resupplies with the outfitter store. There was a restaurant attached offering excellent pizzas. That solved our dinner and breakfast needs. We headed on towards our last cache but it was getting late. Locals had warned us about the muddy and rutted road, and we found their advice to be accurate. We pulled over to the side in a desolate windswept spot and quickly crawled into the back, shutting out the cold. We needed to wait until early morning, when the mud would be frozen, making the road more passable.
Sure enough, it was 19 degrees overnight, 23 inside the car. We were able to drive far enough to a spot where we could bury our food… a shallow grave since the ground was so frozen. We didn’t make it all the way to Grosvenor arch as planned but the cache site was still along our route. We made haste getting out of there, before the road melted and we risked getting stuck. I was so grateful to arrive Tropic, where a hot breakfast and coffee really hit the spot. We also dropped off our last little bit of food and I bought thick socks to double up for sleeping.
Caching chores done (for the first part of the hike at least), we headed towards Kanab. We went through Bryce National Park on the way and saw nothing but many feet of snow. We suspected that we would need to skip our planned leg through Bryce but wouldn’t have to decide this until weeks later. We dropped several thousand feet into Kanab and it was like getting plopped into spring. The temps finally climbed above 50 and we celebrated by getting a hotel room for the night, go figure. Prices were the cheapest we’d seen thus far and we both wanted a hot shower. I pondered if how cold the car trip had been, how desperate was I going to feel after weeks of hiking in the cold?
Everything finally fell into place in the last few days. Last minute, we were able to get a storage space for the car in Kanab, only because Stellar had put his name on a waiting list months prior. Perfect timing! The site was a few miles outside of town but in the direction we needed to go to hitch to St George. We gathered our essential gear and locked the rest away in the car, hopefully to be seen in another month or so. Freed of all burdens but our packs, we returned to the familiar hiker mode of transportation: begging for a ride. I had no expectations for this hitch and had I realized just how far it was, I would have been sweating it a lot more. True to my hitching luck over several decades, a ride stopped within 5 minutes. I say this every time, but even still I was surprised
Debbie was a lovely lady from New Mexico on her way back to her home in Las Vegas. She’d had car troubles after an oil service went awry …the filter had been placed incorrectly. Some very kind people had helped her troubleshoot and tow the car to Page and now she felt motivated to turn her troubles into a chance to help us out. Lemons and lemonade. We tried to give back by trading stories and leaving her a 20 spot for gas. She was most happy since it was enough to buy her last tank, after being short due to the unexpected break down. She even offered her phone number in case we needed further help. I often note that it’s the people most down on their luck that are the most generous.
Our stroke of luck continued in St George. I’d been in touch with my PCT friend Plants for awhile, given that he hiked the Hayduke in 2021. I knew that he and his partner were visiting the SW but wasn’t exactly sure where they were. We’d just missed them around the Moab area, so I sent another message asking of their location. They were also in St George with an apartment rented for the month, go figure! They offered us a place to stay and we bought them dinner. It was great to see Plants again…the past time had been somewhere in Northern California but he’d shared helpful information the rest of the PCT via text. I was always trying to catch up to him but never could.
We stayed 2 nights in St George with Plants and Kay. On the day off, we explored the area on foot, visiting a beautiful desert botanical garden and a red rock park just outside of town. Plants made an incredible vegan meal on the second night and we were so grateful for the nourishing food to see us off on our adventure.
We caught a bus to Green River early Friday morning, our 6th day in Utah and final leg of our rambling pre-journey. We hoped to start hiking in the afternoon, but this depended on more luck getting a hitch to Moab. The bus was of course 2 hours late and very full. Greyhound bus trips are just the worst but we didn’t have any better options. At least I made friends with the nice lady I sat next to, Fonda. She was a hoot.
The bus dumped us in the center of town, a long way from a good hitching spot. Green River was the most unappealing town I’ve walked through in awhile. Everything looked pretty run down. We had to walk 2 miles west towards the interstate to find some traffic that might be going our way. Then we stood outside the busy truck stop for several hours before we finally got a ride. Hitching in the vicinity of an interstate is the absolute worst! No one understood that we’re just hikers…to them we were probably dangerous transients. Finally we got lucky with a sweet older couple, Kent and Sheila, who were going back to Moab where they live. They’d come all the way to the truck stop just to get Arby’s.
They drove us right to the Gearhead store in Moab, where we’d planned to leave some extra food. It was across from City Market, so I was able to shop for the rest of the food I needed for 2 days. Also, while all our travels were unfolding, I’d made acquaintances and been in contact with 2 Hayduke hikers, Leah and Sky. They’d just finished the first section through Arches and were spending the night in town. We arranged to meet up at the store and just like that, we began a Hayduke hiking bubble.
We swapped some info and hung out for a bit. I scarfed down the second half of my subway for dinner and was ready for bed. Leah conveniently had a car and drove us north towards our planned stealth site. Being Jeep Safari week, we didn’t figure we had a chance of getting a reasonably priced hotel room. Plus, I was ready for some camping. We cleaned up a bit in the Lions Park restrooms, walked the pedestrian bridge across the Colorado river, then found a nice stealth site up a wash. The overhang had a small hole, a precursor to the day of arches yet to come…