Hayduke Trail Day 9: Stuck in the Muck without a Truck

Daily Neat Beat
Day 9
Total Miles: 13.8
Cumulative Miles: 138
Map of Hayduke Trail Day 9 hike from Canyonlands up into Beef Basin

Today felt like a survivor game. Only a survivor game usually includes palm trees, coconuts and beaches. We had none of that. We knew we had a tough day ahead as our plan has us climbing up  near 3000 feet and hiking over 18 miles to get to the next reliable water source. We are headed from the beautiful Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands up into the high plateau of Beef Basin. Beef Basin is a geographically remote area that is very hard to access unless you have a 4-wheel drive or mountain bike. It is known for it’s Ancestral Puebloan structures and rock art sites. We plan to stop at “Big Spring” (I love these original names!) will put us in a good position to drop into Dark Canyon. Dark Canyon was named because the high steep walls narrow so much in the lower section they block the light in the morning and afternoon. Ray and I have been in the lower part of Dark Canyon before and know how spectacular it is.

But life doesn’t always follow the plan. We wake up around 5:30 and it is pouring rain and it has been for hours. We have several choices. Pack and eat in the rain and get a lot of our gear wet, wait out the storm in the tent and maybe not make it to Big Spring, or surrender to the weather gods and head black down Salt Creek and skip this section. Ok so that third option was never really an option. We wait for a little while and the storm moves through. As we peek out of the tent, the black cloud that was over our head is running off on the horizon. The land responds in shimmers of blue reflections with the color and coldness of a steel bridge. The land also responds with noise. The dry wash next to us is spitting out the water left behind.
Shimmers of blue reflect in the morning light after the rain storm 

The storm has blown in cold air so we wonder about snow in the high country as we will be climbing to over 8600 feet today. We get enough water from the nearby spring to make a dry camp if we need to.

Spring at the Upper Jump. If you look closely you can see ducks in the pond.

For us in these colder conditions, 3 liters each will get us through to the next morning. 

The morning has us route finding up the east fork of Salt Creek Canyon.

East Fork of Salt Creek Canyon

We have left the main Canyonlands Trail and are now headed cross country. It is slow going when you are route finding. We eventually find the old trail that was on the topo map and the 4wd road up on the plateau.

Well you would think finding a road would make traveling easier but not today. 

Mud walking……

The roads are saturated from the earlier rain and they go through the Chinle and Moenkopi Triassic muds. Have you ever tried to walk with a backpack on in several inches of slimy mud that cakes on your shoes? It is like having dead weights on the bottoms of your feet that slide everytime you take a step. Luckily we had hiking poles to keep us upright. Hiking like this for hours is exhausting. And slow.
We eventually stop several miles short of the Big Spring and set up for a cold night at high elevation. Brrr….

Our camp at 8600 feet. 
Snow patches next to our camp means a cold night

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