Tuesday, April 25th, 2023, 0630-0930
Paria River 0.5 mile south of Sheep River to Willis Creek Trailhead, then ride to Tropic
8.5 miles, elevation 6300′
We hiked our final miles of this leg as if we were being pursued by the meerkats. Or maybe it was the possums…I can’t keep them straight. It felt pretty warm when I woke, with temps in the mid 40s, but as soon as I started crossing the river, I was freezing again. A cold wind was blowing straight into my face and my feet quickly felt like blocks of ice. I should have put my neoprene socks on but O was too stubborn to stop. Town awaited!
We turned up Sheep Creek right away and the rock changed character again, from the mixed red and white creamy swirl stuff to the all white granite-looking stuff. Sheep creek was another nice canyon, with a slightly smaller stream but the walls were still impressive. It ran pretty straight for chunks of a time, which wasn’t good in terms of the wind. It was blowing so strong again. I disliked the wind more than anything on this trip.
I took some shortcuts across the banks at some of the more predominant meanders, finding just the right animal trails to save some time. They also got me out of the wind. I was enjoying my route finding up this canyon, making 3+ mph pace. After about an hour, I came to the turn into Willis Creek. There I went up a hill to cut the turn-off but found some more petroglyphs instead. The BLM had put out an ammo can with a logbook, hoping to offer people an alternative to etching their names over the ancient artwork. It seemed to be working. But there was no help for the ubiquitous cowboy graffiti.
We finished the last section through Willis creek again in record time. This canyon was a real joy since it becomes a slot for about a mile. The creek was running strong, so muddy wet feet were in order to pass through. But it was still so much fun. I don’t know what it is about slot canyons but everyone seems to love them…just not in a storm. It’s something about the walls being so close and the wavy, intricate geology of the rocks. It’s the knowledge that it took so much time and water to form them. They are kind of impossible to describe, hard to photograph, and best appreciated in person. I don’t know how much they exist outside of Utah (I’ve seen a few in Colorado and Arizona), but the state seems to have a monopoly on them.
We got to the trailhead by 0930. There were 2 cars, probably from the 3 people we’d seen minutes before, out for a day hike. We had high hopes of finding Yeti and Lemstar, a couple who I’d been in contact with since well before the hike. Lemstar had been trying to complete the hike over several years but injuries kept getting in the way. She’d started at Hite this year but had to get off trail at Burr trailhead. So they’d decided to continue the journey by helping other hikers. Yeti’s role from the start was to support Lemstar, so it was an easy transition. Since they’d started several segments ahead of us, they’d been mostly helping hikers with mid-March starts. But we’d nearly caught up to that group, which made a rendezvous possible.
I thought they had a van, so was disappointed when I didn’t see one in the parking lot. We started walking the road, resigned to trying to get a hitch. Not more then a few minutes later, a Subaru came along and sure enough, it was our predetermined ride! What timing, especially considering that we didn’t have tracking turned on for Stellar’s Garmin mini. I don’t even have one anymore, preferring to carry just my PLB (no monthly contract). They’d seen where we camped and made an estimate on how fast we could hike nearly 9 miles up creek beds. Yep, 3 mph=3hrs. Yeti is an incredibly accomplished thru-hiker and mountaineer himself, so knows our ways. He knew we’d be on the gas to get to town.
They weren’t expecting there to be 3 of us, since we forgot to inform them, but we had no problem fitting in the back. We’d had such luck getting rides. Technically, since we were doing the Bryce extension alternate, we would have needed to walk this road into town to connect our footsteps. But we’d long given up on that notion. I didn’t know of too many Hayduke hikers that were sticking to such a plan. It gets complicated, given all the alternates and remote locations.
We all went to breakfast in Tropic, treating Yeti and Lemstar for the ride and all they do for other hikers. It was nice getting to know them a little better. I’d actually talked with Lemstar almost a year prior about being her partner for the Hayduke, but we’d determined then that our paces probably didn’t align too well. It had all been for the best, especially in light of her current situation. She was having to use crutches just to get around. Her ankle had really been messed up. I felt bad for her but hoped she could get back to hiking after some rehab and good professional advice. I wished I could link her up with my PT in Miami. Many doctors will just tell you to lay off of it for a long time and then avoid the activity altogether. That’s not an option most hikers can swallow.
We did chores in the hotel room most of the day, hiding from the bitter wind outside. The day never warmed up and the wind just kept getting stronger. It was hard to believe it was almost May. I was so glad to be indoors. We met up with Mac later and all went out to dinner. The food was just ok, much better company. Tropic didn’t have much to offer, but then most of these small towns had been somewhat lacking. None had libraries or movie theaters or any sort of entertainment. It’s all about what’s outside…the canyons and cliffs.
Wednesday, April 26th, 2023, Zero Day
We took another zero because, well, why not. We were ahead of schedule and waiting on snow to melt in Bryce and the Grand Canyon. We said goodbye to Yeti and Lemstar, as they were moving on to Kanab and beyond to follow the other group of hikers. Maybe we’d catch up again. We did more lounging and chores. In Escalante, we started a tradition of watching South Park all day, so we picked up where we left off. Sky and Leah made it in and our bubble was complete once again. It might be for last time, though. Mac planned to hike all the way to Jacobs Lake, not stopping in Kanab, then take a few weeks off to join a rafting trip on the Green River.
We had a similar notion of taking time off, since we had the car in Kanab. We thought we might backtrack to do more hiking around Escalante. I was sad that our little group was breaking up but hopeful we might all align again for the Grand Canyon sections. I called us the Badass Bubble, since we’d all made it this far with not one person dropping out.
We all went out for pizza and in true hikertrash fashion, nabbed the leftover pieces that the table behind us abandoned. We’d scarfed it all down before we even placed our orders… ha! The waiter gave us some funny looks and then we all proceeded to order salads, since we’d just gotten our pizza fill. It was pretty funny but maybe only to hikers. The amount of food that developed countries waste is truly deplorable! It takes a starving hiker to appreciate the bounty that we are privileged to have. I almost never leave leftovers and eating others leftovers is just a service we do to reduce waste and be efficient. Taking a to-go bag is NOT gosh! But maybe at least try to bring a reusable container…