Thursday, Oct 5th, 2023, 0700-1830
Maroney well to Short Creek, 3 miles north of Hildale
12 miles, elevation 5130′
It got really cold and damp overnight, due to our proximity to the well. I woke around 2 pm to find heaps of condensation on my tent, both inside and out. I was so chilly, I had to put my puffy on to sleep again. I hadn’t felt such a chill since the spring. By dawn, the wet had turned to frost. Worm was pretty soaked since he cowboy camped. I detested packing a wet tent, but at least we were on our way to town and I could dry it somewhere there.
We went about 3.5 miles to reach the highway and retrieved a bag of trail magic that our Hayduke cohorts Leah and Sky left for us. They drove from CA the day before to come back for some of the sections they’d missed. Leah had also paused her hike at the South Rim in the spring. Sky continued on but had not been able to go down Saddle Canyon or Tapeats creek. They also missed hiking through the Barracks in Zion, which was what we were about to do. They were following in our footsteps once again, after we’d hopscotched each other so many times in the spring. It was cool to have some of our bubble back.
We enjoyed the treats they left us (2 ciders, snacks, and alkaline water) while we walked the highway. It was another 5 miles to town and we tried to hitch, but it can be hard to get a ride in Utah\Arizona. We walked almost 3 miles, with lots of big trucks rumbling by, along with regular vehicles. The traffic was sporadic and moving fast. I was glad we didn’t wait at the intersection, even though it was a better place to pull over. It seemed like we were going to have to walk the whole way. Finally a van stopped, driven by a local outfitter that knew what the Hayduke trail was and that we were just regular backpackers. He gave us a ride a few miles to the grocery store and offered to even give us a ride out of town on his way back, which was very nice. But I didn’t mind walking, in fact, I was even kind of glad I hadn’t missed out on walking the Arizona Strip portion. Somehow it felt necessary to the journey, to really get a feel for the transition from the Grand Canyon to our final National Park and destination, Zion.
Entering the huge, brand new grocery store was like an explosion for our senses. It was not just a grocery, there were auxiliary stores attached like a coffee shop, fast food joint and even a wine and beer garden upstairs. The complex was far from what I would have ever expected from a formerly depressed and reclusive small town. Colorado City was recovering from the upheaval it went through years ago as the site of a federal raid and investigation, all steming from its polygamist background and criminal leader, Warren Jeffs. The town had changed a lot in the past decade, to the point that there was now a brewery downtown and a wine & beer garder built into the grocery. Being that we were still in Arizona, the grocery even had a full selection of liquor. Just across the border, Utah’s ultra conservative alcohol laws required all beer to be 5% APV or less and liquor and wine were only sold in select, state-approved places. I could care less about the alcohol, since I wasn’t much into drinking while on a hike. Dehydration and migraine issues forced me to take it easy. But I had to laugh about how readily accessible it was in this traditionally Mormon town.
I was most grateful for some really good coffee, though, which I partook of first thing. My favorite sin. We found a spot in some comfy lounge chairs upstairs, looking over the scene below us as we stuffed our faces with all the goodies. Not since the Vail AZ Safeway had I discovered such a perfect one stop shop. There were private bathrooms upstairs too, ideal for maybe some sink showers and laundry. I hung some small items to dry on the railing outside, which also had a nice lounge area as part of the wine and beer garden. I at least stopped shy of hanging my tent off the railing…but I considered it. We people watched, charged electronics and played with our phones for hours in our comfy spot. Good thing such a store exists along the Hayduke and not the PCT, otherwise it would have been overrun\over exploited by hikertrash a long time ago.
We finally departed in the late afternoon, walking through the rest of town, en route for the park. Some of the houses may have looked a little rough around the edges and the many high security fences along the way were a bit odd, but it mostly looked like any other desert town. The park sure had nice grass, so we dried out stuff for a bit. We walked on, crossing into Utah at a road aptly named Uzona Ave. The town changed to Hildale and we pondered how residents deal with 2 different time zones for half the year. Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings and so was 1 hour behind. Suddenly we lost an hour, but it didn’t really matter much to us…we only cared about daylight availability. Our single goal was to walk far enough outside of town to find a place to camp.
We randomly came across a cute calf tied to a tree alongside the road. I guess it was doing lawn mower duties and I couldn’t resit such an opportunistic petting. It was very friendly and seemed to enjoy its head being scratched. It mooed pathetically at me when I started walking away. Awe. As much as I disliked cows being along the journey, this one was very endearing. I made a friend in town.
We walked a few miles up Short Creek, surprised to find it running. We were reintroduced to our old time friend: Quicksand. There hadn’t really been any in the Grand Canyon but it immediately started playing tricks on us in this canyon. I now found it very amusing, laughing whenever it tried to suck me in. When finally we felt we’d gotten far enough away from the atv tracks, we found a spot in the sand under a tree and surrendered to the night. We tried to get a little ways away from the creek, wary of more condensation. The canyon felt dry and the air was once again quite warm. It was crazy all the climate variations we’d experienced just in the past week. Hot and cold, wet and dry. Oh the desert.
We had only 1.5 days left on the Hayduke, then a few more bonus hikes in the area. I was already sad about the adventure winding to a close. I’d been eager to finally finish the Hayduke and now I wanted it to go on forever. Thru-hiking in general is like that. There’s the singular goal of completing the hike and also feeling so tired that your bones ache. You want nothing more than to sit in one place for awhile, doing nothing. But the lifestyle and routine become a part of you. Repeat offenders like me don’t do well with going back to the pressures and responsibilities of “real” life. Life was so simple out here in the sand, surrounded by the walls of a canyon. I never slept so well as I did outdoors, not a care in the world. The peace in my mind and soul was what I was so addicted to.