Twig Adventures

Hayduke Intermission #1

What follows is kind of a bullet list/summary of the days and activities of a week off from the Hayduke (Sunday, April 30th–Saturday, May 6th). I needed time to rework my plans for the upcoming Grand Canyon segment and hopefully let some of the snow melt. But first, a bit of an explanation is in order:

During this interim, I had time to really assess my situation, coming to terms with many concerning factors. To follow the official Hayduke route through the western Grand Canyon in the spring of 2023 was straight-up impossible. The record snowpack had not only made the Kaibab plateau difficult to traverse, the snow melt also led to extreme flooding in most of the major side drainages, causing damage to several trails. As a result, the North Kaibab trail was closed until June and Tapeats creek was too flooded to travel down safely. This affected our ability to get from the South Rim to the North Rim and also our route to get back down to the Grand Canyon from Muav Saddle on the North Rim.

While in Kanab, we submitted a request for an alternate permit/route, and a day after it was approved and paid for, a ranger wrote back to say: “It would be prudent to look into another option rather than risk North Bass Trail.” I was very confused by their approval and then strong advisory against our route, due to the dangerous flood conditions in needing to cross Shinumo creek. This was the only other established trail leading up to the North Rim. True, there were a few other routes, namely a rough one up Crystal Creek, but everything involved a pretty high level of risk and uncertainty. So too did the alternate route that we devised to avoid Saddle Canyon and Tapeats creek. Further, our exit from the Grand Canyon via Kanab Creek was also experiencing flood conditions. In other words, it was compilation of problems, the sum of which worried me greatly.

Also weighing heavily on my mind was my Aunt Peggy’s memorial service on May 20th. It had been scheduled months after my Hayduke planning began, coinciding with dates for our original GC permit. By then, I’d already vested so much time and money into the trip, plus I didn’t want to leave Tom hanging. But after all the changes and uncertainty with the Grand Canyon section, it was perfectly reasonable to accept that the conditions were just too extreme this season. Many other Hayduke hikers had already come to the same conclusion, or would do so in the weeks to come. In my case, having this realization now rather than weeks later (when I might have to backtrack from a raging river) enabled me to shift my time and energy towards attending my Aunt’s memorial. I still had time to hike as far as the South Rim, then put the Hayduke on pause, at least until the fall or maybe longer…indefinitely? This way, I’d still get to experience half of the Grand Canyon section and end in a location with easy travel logistics.

This being my 11th long distance hike, it was rather disappointing to assign a big ‘INCOMPLETE’ tag to it (spoiler alert: updated fall 2023 to ‘COMPLETE!’). In doing so many hikes, at least I understood how arbitrary a trail can be, especially these routes that were basically invented by one or two people. As such, I’d made up my own endings in several cases, often doing extra miles just for the fun of it. The Hayduke was perhaps the most arbitrary of all trails I’d done…I’d probably spent over half the time just on alternate routes. It was a choose-your-own-adventure hike that didn’t make any demands about being a purest. I tried to reason with myself that the western terminus at Zion had always seemed a little forced. There was a long, hot and boring road walk to join the Grand Canyon, across the Arizona Strip. A 2018 landslide had further closed the trail to the Weeping Wall, the official terminus in Zion. Most Haydukers were now finishing at the park’s first road intersection…a rather unceremonious and uninspiring location. I kind of liked the idea of ending at the South Rim instead, with its prominent world status and famous vistas. Plus, I could easily come back to complete the official route through the western Grand Canyon when conditions were more favorable. I still had hopes and options.

So that’s where I was in the midst of this ‘week off’, working through a lot of emotions and figuring out new logistics. Even the process of taking a week from the trail derailed my motivation quite a bit. I’m usually pretty goal oriented towards finishing a trail once I begin, rarely taking more than 2 days off in succession. I don’t even take that many zeros…4 during the whole AT and 5 on the PCT. I’d already surpassed those numbers on the Hayduke, in just a quarter of the distance. This was not my style, nor did I feel a part of some the decisions that had been made in the past few weeks. I felt pretty rudderless, so it was good to commit to a new timeline with an end date and location, focusing on getting back to my family.

Sunday, April 30th, 2023: zero in Kanab, reworking plans.

Monday, May 1st, Total distance: 5 miles: Drove to Escalante and then 22 miles down the Hole In the Rock Road, day hiked a 5 mile loop up Peekaboo slot canyon then down Spooky slot canyon. Funny sign at trailhead depicted the width of the slots…if one couldn’t fit through the bars, then one might get stuck and need rescue. I mistakenly brought my backpack as a daypack, otherwise the width wouldn’t have been much of a problem for me. Drove to another location and car-camped a few miles before the Egypt trailhead.

Tuesday, May 2nd – Wednesday, May 3rd, Total distance: 35 miles: hiked 3 miles down to the Escalante River, dropped packs for a 4 mile RT side trip to the Golden Cathedral, ran into Number 2 there–a hiker I’d met on the PNT, continued 2 miles up Escalante river, went up Choprock canyon about 10.5 miles to a mesa, found water in pipe trough, camped among junipers next to a wash. Next day went 10.5 miles down Silver Falls Canyon, walked down the Escalante river about a mile, went up Harris Canyon a bit to collect water, then climbed out of the canyon near the rincon feature to go 5 miles cross country along the bench back to the trailhead. Really amazing canyons similar to Muley Twist, Stevens, and Coyote Gulch. Went back to Escalante for dinner and stealth camped just outside of town near the trailhead we planned to hike the next day.

Thursday, May 4th, Total distance: 16 miles: woke up at 5 am to pack and drive to Trail Angels Steve and Page’s house, got a ride up to Boulder with Steve on his way to work, dropped off near the Boulder airport to start the Boulder Mail Trail by 7 am. Lots of up and downs through drainages, cool section through Death Box Hollow, tons of waterpockets…swimming pool size, and gorgeous white slickrock throughout. A fantastic day hike (or overnight). Saw about 8 other backpackers, including Fancy Feast, a Hayduker from Fall 22 and PNTA employee (hiked with Horsepower, who I met on the PNT). Finished the trail around 2:30 pm and was picked up at the trailhead by PCT Alumi Plants, who just happened to be in town guiding a trip for Andrew Skurka. Had a late lunch reunion at the Outfitter pizza place. Drove back up to Boulder to stay with Jared, another PCT hiker that had reached out about offering trail magic. Turns out he managed B&B Annie’s Place, owned by his aunt. He’d offered to make us dinner and let us take showers and do laundry…so incredibly kind and appreciated! The meal was fiesta lime chicken cutlets with rice and beans…delicious! The evening got late and JJ Giveaway (his trail name) graciously offered for us to stay in a spare storage room at the the B&B. It was the most luxurious accommodations and pampered treatment we had all trail!

Friday, May 5th, Total Distance 6 miles: Jared cooked us an amazing and professional breakfast prepared with locally produced sausage, eggs, and oven baked pancakes with buttermilk syrup. After, I played with tiny kittens and chickens…the joys of living on a farm! Jared also gave us the VIP tour of his family’s home, with beautiful landscaping all around and a peaceful stream running through. We met his parents and later his Aunt Annie, who owned the B&B and also ran the well-provisioned general store and gas station…she was just the sweetest and I gave her a big hug! Jared took us to the Singing Slot Canyon, down the Burr Trail, so we could practice our vocals. It was a very short and easily accessible slot with wonderful acoustics. We finally bid farewell to Jared and headed a short ways back towards Escalante. We stopped at Calf Creek to camp at the BLM site for the night and go for the 5 mile RT hike to Calf Creek Falls.

Of course I had to harass JJ’s rooster, Rocky. JJ thought he might be a challenge, but I have to say, Rocky was a pretty tame chuck. JJ and I both recalled Cornelius from Hiker Heaven on the PCT…now that was one formidable rooster! He put a hole in my foot and I never could even lay a finger on him. Rocky was no Cornelius, but that’s probably a good thing.

Saturday, May 6th: drove back to Kanab, where I rushed to ship all my extra stuff in the car home, after changing my plans and bumping up my start of the eastern Grand Canyon section by a couple days. I no longer needed to set caches on the North Rim, so I put these extra days towards finishing and having more flexibility built into my travel to my Aunt’s memorial. I researched logistics for how to get back to Denver, in addition to meeting up with Sky so that I could hike on their Grand Canyon permit. My (2nd issue) permit was again off-schedule and partially irrelevant, plus it was too late/complicated to change. We met up and had dinner with new-to-us Hayduke hikers Weekend and Double Happiness, a couple that had been about a week ahead when we started. They’d skipped ahead to hike the Zion portion of the Hayduke and were now back in Kanab, ready to begin the GC section, same as me. It was nice to meet some more Haydukers, but I was anxious and happy to get back to hiking the route for a final week.

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