Twig Adventures

HayDay 21: The Ways of Water

Friday, April 21st, 2023, 0640-1830
Right Hand Collet Canyon to Grosvenor arch
25 miles, elevation 6230′

It was 25 degrees under the trees and 23 degrees in the wash in the morning. Three nights prior, the low had been 60 something. I’ve never been on hike with such temperature swings except maybe the GET and MRT. There was one benefit to the freezing temps…the quick mud in the creek was quite firm to walk over, making for easy travel for a few miles. But I still wished it would warm up some. It was supposed to be back in the 60s by the end of the day.

We thought we only had a few miles left before beginning a road walk up the canyon. But I read the map wrong and the road was just an old pack and mining trail. There was almost no remnant of it left but we followed it here and there. Mostly we continued in the wash, gradually having more near-misses with quick mud. Finally I sunk a foot in… it’s kind of like walking over snow and then postholing in that way. We came to a spring where it looked like the sidewall of the canyon was pissing water…it was. There were also stains of dark red and one sniff of the water revealed the high iron content. It reminded me of the disgusting water from pitcher pumps slong the Florida Trail. No thanks, I passed. Besides, there was still plenty of water in the creek.

The wash became very tedious because of all the thawing quick mud, but then so too was trying to find the old trail. After nearly 20 miles of walking in the wash of the canyon, I thought I’d be better at spotting the most problematic mud, but nope, it still surprised me now and again. Stellar and Artemis went higher on the canyon rim at one point and I stayed in the wash, resigned to having wet and muddy feet. They disappeared entirely so I checked the map to see that the road would eventually come back to the wash about a mile and half up. I figured I’d bump into them again there. This was the most separation I’d had on the Hayduke and it was kind of fun. I looked again at the map to see that the topo lines got pretty tight in the wash, so I was concerned about being stopped by a large pour off.

Fortunately there was nothing more than some rockfall, creating a small waterfall that I was able to climb up the middle of. My shoes were thoroughly soaked so I began making a point of walking directly in the stream. Finally I’d learned the secret of the canyon. Embrace the wet feet! Wherever there was water running, the mud \ sand was firm. Sloshing through the ankle-deep stream but not sinking to my ankles in mud was wonderful. I finally found the zen of hiking Right Hand Collet Canyon.

I also got to see something really cool. By 10 am, things had warmed up quite a bit and some snow had started melting. Suddenly, the stream turned muddy brown and rose by a few inches. I was standing in it when the surge rolled over my feet. This is how flash floods appear but I wasn’t worried. The snow melt wasn’t rising to dangerous levels in this smaller canyon. It was just fun to see.

I met up with the other 2 hikers just as we all came to the rendezvous point at the same time. They continued to try to find the old road while I continued my path of enlightenment in the water. Eventually we came to a left turn where the creekbed was dry. I named it Left Hand Collet Canyon. Just half a mile later we ran into another surge of snowmelt water. Then another left turn (lefter Left Hand Collet Canyon) and again from dry to snowmelt surge water. I was really enjoying the end of the canyon, even as it got more tedious. I thought it was very cool that we’d followed the canyon to its headwaters …a day and a half. The sprit of the Hayduke is exploring out of the way canyons that few have seen, so this alt felt in following with that.

We rejoiced coming to the road, which we thought we’d be on for most of the rest of the day. We took a long lunch break, drying our shoes and socks a bit. We were pretty high, with lingering snow all around. The road walk was a welcomed respite from having to navigate, scramble over rocks and jump across mud. We all put in headphones and zoned out. We collected some more water running from a culvert, which was good since it became very dry after that. At the top of a big long hill, I found my companions waiting. They’d noted that we needed to go cross country again for nearly 5 miles. I was grumpy that my perceived road walk had just turned back into slow, meticulous travel. But also glad that my buddies had noticed the transition before we did extra miles.

Fortunately the cross country was pretty easy, once we found the right ridge to walk down. Then came a pretty straight-line wash. It had hard-packed sand and just small rocks and stones to step around. It’s amazing the variety in wash consistency and quality. I gave this one high marks for being fast and easy, not too side-windy. Pretty soon we were back on a road, rejoining the red line at mile 73. Our alternate that had taken us less than 1.5 days of hiking, significantly cut short the official route…by about 36 miles. In fact, our alt was almost exactly half the distance. But I really enjoyed it, so that’s what matters. It was unique and different than what everyone else was doing. Blaze your own way.

We had only 5 more miles to knock out to get to our desired destination. Grosvenor Arch is a pretty remote attraction but one that comes with a pit toilet and picnic tables. Those are 2 things that make a thru-hiker pick up the pace to make it for a campsite…if the miles work out. They’re not necessary but a nice treat. Only problem was, we all needed to pick up some more water. One of the washes we crossed (Wahweap) was flowing but had terribly brown silty water. We’d noted this was the problem with snow melt… probably fresh rain runoff too. In a big enough drainage, if the water makes it far down, it’s going to be silty.

Where all the silt comes from…

We hoped to find more but if not, I knew I had just enough for the night and our 3 gallon cache was only 3 more miles the next morning. We climbed into a geologic fortress called the Coxcombs, which reminded me of the hogbacks around Boulder CO. We had great views back across the terrain we’d walked all day. As we came around a bend just before the arch, we spotted a huge reservoir. It’s usually reported to be bone dry but not this unusual year. It was filled to the brim with pretty clear water. It had been so nice not to really have to worry about finding drinking water on this notoriously dry hike.

We were also hoping for another kind of beverage often associated with vanlifers and rednecks parked at out-of-the-way places. It was not to be though. There were about 4 or 5 vehicles that came and went as we got to the arch. People were only parked long enough to snap a few photos and jump back in their cars. A couple of guys with fancy cameras stayed for awhile, capturing the arch in the best light. They asked me what I was doing (how far I’d hiked) but clearly didn’t believe me when I told them I’d walked from Moab. That’s either a conversation starter or ender… definitely the latter in this case. Oh well, they didn’t appear to have beer to yogi anyway. I was just happy to have a place to sit that wasn’t on the ground, covered in cow shit. Plus it had a view!

We cooked our dinners in style at the picnic tables, visited the privy, then found some sites away from the parking area. We all agreed that it had been another long and hard day, but fun. At least we were plenty tired and slept well at the end of each day. As usual, I settled into a small wash under a juniper for my camp. We were the only ones left and the night was dead quiet. Perfection.

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