Twig Adventures

HayDay 25 & 26: Tropic

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′

I hiked the final miles of this leg as if I was being pursued by the Paria meerkats. Or maybe it was the possums…I couldn’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 I was too stubborn and cold to stop. Town awaited.

We turned up Sheep Creek right away and the rock changed character again, from the mixed red and white creamy swirly sandstone to the all-white granite-looking sandstone. Sheep creek was another nice canyon with impressive walls, but a smaller stream. It ran pretty straight for chunks at 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 journey, but it’s a feature of the landscape in the SW, so one just has to deal with it.

The confluence of Sheep creek and the Paria…both silty. After crossing the river so many times, the silt dried on my legs to make it look like I was wearing knee socks.

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 and found some more petroglyphs. The BLM had put out an ammo can with a logbook, hoping to offer people an alternative to etching their own 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 became 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. Slot Canyons are magical bliss…just not in a storm. There’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, wind 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 similar features in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), but the state seems to have a monopoly on them.

We got to the trailhead and parking lot by 0930. There were 2 cars, probably from the 3 day hikers we saw minutes beforehand. 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 Hayduke over several years, but unfortunately injuries kept getting in the way. She’d started at Hite this year, but had to get off trail at the Burr trailhead. So they’d decided to continue their trip while assisting other hikers. Yeti’s role from the start was to support Lemstar, so it was an easy transition for him. Since they’d started several segments ahead of us, they’d been helping hikers that were also ahead of us, with mid-March starts. But we’d nearly caught up to that group, which made a rendezvous and a ride possible.

I assumed they had a van, so was disappointed when I didn’t see one in the parking lot. We started down the road, resigned to walking while trying to get a hitch. Not more then a few minutes later, a Subaru came along and sure enough, it was our ride! What timing, especially considering that we weren’t sending continuous updates from the Garmin mini. 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 was an incredibly accomplished thru-hiker and mountaineer himself, so he knew our ways in that we’d be on the gas to get to town.

We had such good luck getting rides on the Hayduke. Technically, since we were doing the Bryce extension alternate, we should have walked this road into town to connect our footsteps. But we’d long given up on being purists. I didn’t know of too many Hayduke hikers that were sticking to such a plan. It was complicated, given all the alternates and remote locations. I still think the Hayduke would be best enjoyed as a series of section hikes…that was how I came to see and experience my own journey on it.

We all went to breakfast in Tropic, treating Yeti and Lemstar to a meal in exchange for the ride and all they were doing to help 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 hiking partner for the Hayduke, but we’d determined then that our paces probably didn’t align 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 town, her ankle was so 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.

Lemstar and Yeti

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, with 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 was all about what’s outside…the canyons and cliffs. That suited me just fine, since that’s what I was here for.

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. I was inclined to take the zero once we got to Kanab, since hotel prices were higher in Tropic. But in consideration of the strong and cold winds this day, inside wasn’t a bad place to be. We said goodbye to Yeti and Lemstar, as they were moving on to Kanab and beyond to assist the other group of hikers. Maybe we’d catch up again. We did more lounging and chores. In Escalante, we started a habit of watching South Park all day, so we picked up where we left off.

This is me being a fangirl of Jamal Green, for all his sage advice on routes and side trips

We also met a new Hayduke hiker named Worm. He’d hitched into town from the road after Grosvenor Arch and planned to return to his footsteps, so was still a few days behind us. I was surprised to learn that he’d started in Arches the same day we did, April 1st, and that his experiences had been very similar to ours. He’d been part of our bubble all this time without us even knowing it! Sky and Leah made it into town, so 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.

We all went out for pizza and in true hikertrash fashion, nabbed the leftover pieces that the table behind us abandoned. We scarfed them down before we even placed our orders. The waiter gave us some weird 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 us 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 other’s 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…

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