“Wait, the Hayduke Trail Guidebook says Section 4 should take approximately 7 days and we are doing it in 3 days?” Ray looks at me with that look of what have you gotten us into now. You see, I am a lofty goal setter, or foolish planner. Take your pick. BUT, we end up doing Section 4 in two days and it was not because of me. Here is the story.
I am a little apprehensive about quicksand. The Dirty Devil River is known for it’s treacherous quicksand which forms when the water in the sand cannot escape and the soil becomes liquified, losing it’s strength. Often times the sand and clay appears to be quite solid until you step on it and it liquifies and you sink. There was a guy who got stuck in the Dirty Devil quicksand for 12 hours seven years ago and had to be rescued. He was stuck up to his waist in quicksand and even a helicopter couldn’t pull him out. Eventually they got him out by using two boats of people on both sides of him holding him up and having someone dig underneath. Outside Online wrote an article about this (https://www.outsideonline.com/1916551/surviving-12-hours-quicksand) . Even the cattle know not to cross the river as their poop is on one side and not on the other. And we are doing this voluntarily. Yeah right.
Ray takes the lead on these crossings and he does a great job. We both have hiking poles and take turns with the other person ready with a pole rescue or help if needed. It is cold in the morning but the light orange glow off the river makes you forget the harsh reality of the river’s nature.
In one spot we try at least 5 different areas before finding a safe place to cross. It feels very strange to cross this river. You are essentially blind probing with your pole. Sometimes you are in ankle deep water and less than a foot away your pole goes up to the handle. Sometimes if you stand in one place more than 2 seconds you start to sink in the quicksand. And yet, the river looks no different on the top. It is very deceiving.
It takes us most of the morning to go about 4.5 miles. We discuss whether we should take Nic Barth’s Dirty Devil Escape route. This would save us 1.5 miles on the river before we exit out Poison Spring Canyon. We decide to check it out and hike up the mud scree slope to a sandstone cliff. Whoa! The route looks doable but the exposure is intense! For about a 30-foot traverse, if you fall, the drop is about a 1,000 feet. Not just injury but sure death. We decide the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t and head back to the river.
We do about four more river crossings without too much trouble and get to Poison Spring Canyon. It is 1pm and we discuss our water situation. We are both down to about one liter. We started this section yesterday with 3 1/2 liters each of water and so far have chosen not to drink the Dirty Devil River water. The Dirty Devil River is known to be extremely saline and contributes 150,000 tons of salt yearly to the Colorado River. We will drink it if we have to but only if really necessary. We have seven miles up Poison Spring Canyon road to the piped masonry spring and it is hot. We decide to go for the masonry spring on one liter water each.
Of course they are camped at the masonry spring we had planned on stopping at. Ray and I grab some water. It is now close to 4pm and Ray is out here for solitude and nature; not big crowds. I can see it in his face – he is ready to take off running. I have a suggestion he says, “why don’t we hike the eight miles to the car tonight, drive to Hanksville and get a milkshake?” He knows what works for me.