Some notes for better understanding of this trip report:
(1) I began this section hike with a partner. I’ve changed his name for this report. He chose to leave the trail a few days into the trip.
05/03/2019 – Atlanta, GA to Denver, CO
As quickly as the semester ends another journey begins! Last night was spent packing and prepping for the first journey of the summer: a section hike along the Hayduke Route.
We headed out early at 3:30 AM (thanks Kyle!), only to find the MARTA was not even open yet! We quickly hopped into an Uber and made our way to the airport.
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It’s not adventure if you’re not running, right?!? We chased the train to Union Station at the airport terminal like cat and mice. The ride in we watched the mountains approaching on one side and the plains receding on the other.
We headed towards REI to pick up fuel and some last-minute gear, and stopped in Cascade Park, where I had a phone call with one of my sponsors in regards to an upcoming expedition. When they asked for me to send them an email I raced to the public library for a computer. CLASSIC!
Hungry, we jogged over to Chipotle. Somehow it always seems that I crave Mexican food during backpacking trips.
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The day only accelerated from there. Hans [a friend of mine in the area helping us out with transportation] asked us to pick up a cupcake for his Dad, so we ran over to Whole Foods by Union Station to grab a birthday treat.
We met up with Hans in Peoria Station and surprised his Dad with a cupcake, which he tried to shrug off. We tossed our stuff into Hans’ van, which was packed full, and headed to the airport to drop off Hans’ Dad.
From there, we headed to a Walmart to pick up a Coleman stove and some food for dinner. We headed back towards Denver to meet up with Josh Barua and Matthew Wallace [two other friends who would be road-tripping with Hans], and loaded even more things and people into the already cramped van.
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And off we went! Towards Moab, not before Hans’ car had the “Check Engine” light flick on. As always, every adventure with some misadventure. Our initial goal of Grand Junction for the night became unattainable, so we stopped off in Wolcott, CO at a perfect campsite by the river.
I hopped out of the van, cooked up some food, shoveled it down the hatch, and jumped in bed!
Saturday May 4 – Moab, UT
A cold night and up again, ready to start out this journey. Dylan and I laid out our gear and food and hopped in the car as we drove to Moab.
The other side of the Rockies was starkly different than the mountains themselves. For one, the desert expanse is so vast and seemingly goes on for miles and miles.
When we finally got to Arches National Park, we were stunned by its beauty, awe-striking in its natural features. Sandstone slabs and desert towers sticking straight up from the Earth!
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The sand loose, we trekked out to see Tower Arch, a bit of a diversion but definitely worth it! We trodded onward and made it to a nice sandy flat for the night. We laid out our sleeping pads underneath the night sky and chatted about the school semester we had just finished for an hour or so, before we knocked out for the night.
Sunday, May 5 – Arches National Park, UT
We pitched the tarp before we headed to bed and were glad we did. Just the small bit of security it provided felt nice.
It took me a while to fall asleep, but once I did the rest was peaceful. I woke to the sun rising over Moab, which did not provide many great photos but was quite pleasant. We started out the day on a dirt track, which quickly changed to off-trail scrambling. CACTUS HOPPING!! Every two steps we would have to zig and zag to avoid spikes piercing our soles. I found it to be like a game; Dylan disagreed.
After a while we met up with two other hikers, Tom and Hannah, and stopped for some water in Willow Wash. The water trickled through the sandy wash, and I just managed to squeeze out a few liters through my Sawyer filter.
The day took a huge turn as soon as we began Courthouse Wash. It felt more like jungle bushwhacking than desert hiking, and we took ages to make our way through the wash. Quicksand sunk me down to my shins, reeds thrashed against my pant legs, and muck began to pile up in my socks and shoes.
Dylan decided he wanted his journey to end in Moab. We raced to the park road in Arches, and hitchhiked our way into town with Lee, a trucker from Ohio. His thick cowboy accent and rodeo past felt straight out of a movie.
Dylan checked into a Super 8 motel and we made plans to separate tomorrow. We spent some time talking and debriefing about the trip.
We went to a Denny’s for dinner, woofing down eggs, potatoes, and pancakes after a good day’s work. I later prepared my pack for my continued trek ahead, as I planned to still continue onward.
Monday, May 6 – Bears Ears National Monument, UT
My body tore itself from the bed sheets around 6 AM for breakfast, repeating the early morning ritual it knows is to come. I loaded up, slapped on my pack, said my goodbyes to Dylan, and headed out.
Today was a long walk up dirt roads to Hurrah Pass along Kane Creek Boulevard. I pressed “Play” on my audiobook [I listened to David Goggin’s Can’t Hurt Me] and marched on for 17.5 miles before my first long break on top of Hurrah Pass.
Hurrah Pass was stunning, perched high with amazing views over the Colorado River. In the distance I could see desert mesas and Dead Horse Point. This scenery truly is like that of the movies.
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I am beginning to notice a bit of a blood blister forming on the underside of my left foot, similar to the one I had in Colorado. I am hoping it does not develop further!
I took a break along the Colorado River, taking in the amazingly remote nature of this place. For miles you can see the landscape expand. TRULY AMAZING!
I kept on plugging in the afternoon, trying to put in some miles and add more buffer room for later in the week. I felt machine-like, trodding away at the endless expanse.
I pulled off for camp at a flat overlook near a 4WD road junction and prepared to take in the sunset. The night lingered a bit, and my thoughts drifted to the days and miles ahead. I struggled to get my tarp up, which only made matters worse. I need to remember to break this trip down into smaller pieces, just like I found worked for me in Colorado.
[NOTE: this anecdote comes at a mental “low point” for me during the trip, where I am working through the struggles of hiking alone. If you’ve ever solo-hiked, you’ve probably had a moment or two like this.]
Tuesday, May 7 – Bears Ears National Monument, UT
After a sweaty night, I was ready to get rolling again. I realized I had been foolish and head left my camera battery on all night, which ticked me off a bit. I filled up my water, pressed “Play” on my audiobook [still Goggins], and headed out onto a 4WD road to knock off some morning miles.
Mid-way through the morning I met up with a few guys with 4WD cars. We chatted, they gave me a drink of water, and we kept on our separate journeys.
Lunch was brief but enjoyable underneath the shade of a wash. I enjoyed the short off-trail jaunt, a welcome break from the 4WD roads, which felt endless at times.
I had pitched my tarp before trying to sleep, but its rattling in the wind led me to take it down. Which made me hop out of my sleeping bag in the nick of time before a rainstorm came in the middle of the night!
Wednesday, May 8 – Canyonlands National Park, UT
The sunrise today was marvelous, and I set out determined to tackle some big miles. Today was not as trivial as previous days, with significant off-trail portions. I pressed “Play” on my audiobook [now Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog] and kept on. For a half mile or so in Indian Creek I took off my shoes and waded upstream. I could feel the soft, orange mud between my toes.
Today I WORKED! Lots of off-trail through Canyonlands National Park; I pushed on through rain until my legs tired. I met a nice father-son pair at a camp who offered me a ground tarp and some water! I’ve been able to drink plentifully because of the kindness of others, a luxury here in the desert.
My legs were TIRED and ached as I laid down to bed. Sleep came fast!
Thursday, May 9 – Canyonlands National Park, UT
I woke cold and wet but to even MORE kindness. The son of the father-son pair gave me some CLIF bars and an orange to take with me. I immediately inhaled the orange.
The trail was rougher than I expected today, and slowed my pace at times as I had to navigate through pour-offs and climb up broken layers of the wash. I took action on the blister on my left foot, draining and bandaging it. I realized I had screwed my camera tripod on too tightly, and attempted to open it with a knife, which to no surprise, resulted in a self-inflicted stab. Oh well. . .
I wanted to reach the end of Butler Wash by lunch but its sandy bottom was harder than I thought, and I stopped two thirds of the way down for a rest and some lunch.
I continued down Butler Wash and I could feel the miles beginning to wear on me a bit. Maybe a bad night’s sleep? I wasn’t sure, but it was not my typical energy. Marching across the sand I felt almost half-asleep.
I trudged slowly up the drainage to a divide just before Beef Basin, tired and getting whacked by bushes. Make no mistake, I am having a BLAST, just a bit worn down today.
I caught a second wind late in the day and pushed hard, trying my best to make it past Young’s Canyon tomorrow. I stumbled my way to Homewater Spring and was delighted to find fresh, flowing water.
I pulled off the trail near a dirt road and ate as I heard cows mooing in the background. “Beef Basin,” I remembered, “seems accurate.”
Friday, May 10 – Dark Canyon Plateau, UT
Early in the day I realized I wouldn’t make it through Young’s Canyon by tonight, and didn’t need to. Rain drizzled down as I got my ass HANDED to me bushwhacking up to the Dark Canyon plateau.
I made camp below a beautiful overlook of Young’s Canyon, carved intricately by the flowing water below. I caught up on some much needed sleep, heading to bed around 6 PM after listening to some music for hours, my best attempt at wasting the minutes and hours away. I was in a tricky spot where I could either hike through Young’s Canyon at night or camp where I did and tackle Young’s early the next morning. I chose what seemed to me the safer of the two options.
Saturday, May 11 – Young’s Canyon, UT
Excited for some real food today and meeting up with Dad, Josh, and Hans!
[Note: I planned to resupply with Hans this day, and my Dad decided to fly out and join me for the next section of my hike in the Grand Canyon]
This section has been a blast, and I am excited to put the finishing touches on it.
I woke up early to try and give myself as much time as possible for tackling Young’s Canyon, and I needed every last minute! The scramble down to Young’s Canyon was fairly trodden, but from then on route finding down the numerous pour-offs was challenging. I slowly made progress down one end of the canyon, only to find a precipitous drop ahead of me, plunging hundreds of feet downwards. Numerous backtracks were needed.
I sloshed through Dark Canyon as fast as possible, but even then I was a little behind schedule. Finally, I made it to the base of my climb out of the canyon, all 1,200’ of it.
Once on top, I raced to meet up with Hans and Dad, only for them nowhere to be found. I asked a camper named Ben to drive me down the road towards a nearby town of Hite, UT [where Hans, Dad, and I had discussed meeting up previously] and I walked the rest of the way to Hite, where I called Mom and had a popsicle. You can imagine my surprise when Hans and Dad walked in the door of the store. Blissful delight.
[EXPLANATION: Hans and Dad had made it to our designated meet-up point before I got there, and then proceeded to move around looking for me. Thus, when I got to the meet-up, we missed paths.]
We then set out on the road through Monument Valley, stopping for food along the way, and camped out in the Navajo National Monument.
Sunday, May 12 – Grand Canyon, AZ
Woke up a bit bruised and scraped from yesterday’s fall, but ready for Part 2 of this adventure! We [now my Dad and I] drove with Hans to the Saddle Mountain trailhead and began our climb up towards the northern rim of the Grand Canyon. Amazing views along the way kept us going, especially at Point Imperial, which we had all to ourselves [since we were there before the North Rim access road opened on May 15]. It was a cold night up on the northern rim, but truly stunning.
Monday, May 13 – Grand Canyon, AZ
Caught an AMAZING sunrise over Point Imperial, my GoPro and Nikon D5600 firing off frames. We headed out onto the Ken Patrick Trail and through the continual ups and downs made it to the North Rim. We even encountered snow, which made us laugh and reminisce about times on the John Muir Trail back in 2017.
Today had some major ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. When I turned on my phone to take some pictures, I caught a brief moment of cell service, which flooded my inbox with messages. One from a climbing partner of mine informed me of some bad news about an upcoming trip I had planned, which dampened my spirits a bit.
I re-focused on the trip at hand and got back in the moment. “I’m in the GRAND CANYON!” I told myself.
Once I got to camp, I did some self-preservation on my wounds and bruises, which were turning the corner but not looking so great.
Tuesday, May 14 – Grand Canyon, AZ
A good night’s rest did me a lot of good. I woke up feeling more like myself, my leg appearing better and my mind more at ease.
We marched down the Bright Angel Creek to Phantom Ranch, where a village of cabins lay near the Colorado River. We took a long break, as I bandaged myself and my backpack, while Dad adjusted his trekking poles [their power lock had come loose].
Across the Colorado River we went! We stopped for lunch at a hut along the river, chatted with a couple, and then took on the switchbacks up to Indian Garden, our camp for the night.
Wednesday, May 15 – Grand Canyon, AZ
Wind and early morning hikers woke us up early. We took our sweet time packing up camp, with no real hurry to the day.
We hugged along the Tonto Trail to the west, which gave us some AMAZING views through the canyon. I LOVE this trail! It has me dreaming of a backpacking-packrafting trip through the canyon someday.
The heat. . . man was it hot today. We got into camp early, with wind howling but we were ready to lay down. We have a BIG climb out of the canyon ahead tomorrow towards Hermit’s Rest, so our plan is to get up and out early.
Thursday, May 16 – Grand Canyon, AZ
A desert start! Dad rolled over at 3 AM and asked if we should start. Initially I said no, but then I changed my mind. I’m glad I did. Hiking in the dark was a nice break from the sun, and we caught a stunning sunrise over the Colorado.
Up, up, and up we went along the sides of massive cliffs on the Hermit Trail, feeling as if we were tip-toeing along the edge of an abyss. We took a nice long break at Santa Maria Spring before our final push up to the top.
Before we knew it, DONE! Another father-son adventure complete. And my first desert experience. What a treat. . .