Hayduke Trail Days 30 and 31: All Roads Lead Somewhere

Daily Neat Beat
Days 30 and 31
Total Miles: 20.4 and 10.1
Cumulative Miles: 552.3
Map of hiking along House Rock Valley road to Nankoweap Trailhead, Hayduke Trail Days 30 and 31
I look at Ray and can tell he is thinking the same thing as I. It is early morning and we are in the sand and sagebrush, with the scarlet Vermilion Cliffs rising into the sky behind us. We have just left Jacobs Pool and are cutting across the desert to a dirt road that will take us to the Grand Canyon. We are in a swale about 30 feet across with small berms lining the side. “This looks like a Chacoan Road”, I exclaim. Ray and I have seen and pondered these great and mysterious roads built before horses and wagons, in prehistoric time. They have been hotly debated. Straight and wide, these “roads” are near and lead to Chaco Canyon, the densest and most exceptional ancient ruins north of Mexico. 
Swale of possible ancient “road” on ridge with sand and low berms. 

The weird thing about the “roads” near Chaco is they they are straight and wide and often go straight over a cliff (sometimes with a ramp or stairway).  Why would the Ancestral Puebloans have wide roads going straight over landscape features before horses were used and well before wagons and cars? Why are they so straight they go right over cliffs? Archaeologists have puzzled over these features and hotly debated whether they were symbolic or functional.  Maybe they lead to a place of origin along which the spirits of the dead travel. Or, they were used as transport pathways for economic purposes. At Chaco Canyon, they talk of commerce and finding turquoise, shells, macaws and chocolate. Maybe Chacoan roads were used to get these luxury items there.

Google Earth aerial photo of possible “road” slightly below center of the picture. This “road” is below Jacob Pool and has an alignment towards the springs and petroglyphs on the Vermilion Cliffs.

Ray and I are hundreds of miles away from Chaco Canyon but I still think this could be a prehistoric road. Chacoan experts seem to think everything is about Chaco. But it’s not. This alignment, or road, goes to springs at the base of the Vermilion Cliffs and points to a direct route to the top of the cliffs with petroglyphs marking the way. There are too many hints that this may be a very old “road”.  I wonder if or where there are great houses or kivas around here.

Looking back towards the Vermilion Cliffs
The “road”  also could be historic as the Honeymoon Trail goes through this area. The Honeymoon Trail is a route used in the late 1800s that went from the Mormon settlements in Arizona and Utah to the Temple in St. George, Utah. Groups of young couples would make this trek to St. George, Utah to exchange wedding vows in the Temple.
A black-tailed jackrabbit tries to hide in the grasses

Whatever the road is, it has an important presence here. It is a scratch on the skin, slicing through the landscape without regard to it’s curves and undulations. It demands it’s own story.

After a few miles of hiking cross country, we get to the House Rock Valley road and start hiking down our own modern road of dust and occasional car.
Hiking House Rock Valley Road

The sun is hot and beating down on us. We are supposed to be at the Grand Canyon in two days and hike down to the bottom on the Nankoweap Trail, bushwhacked along the Colorado River on the north side, hitchhike across by boat, and then hike along on the south side of the river along the Beamer and Tanner Trails to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

A Great Basin gopher snake glides away from us. They spend 90% of their time underground in burrows. Guess we caught this one in the 10% of it’s time above ground.

Ray and I discuss our options as it is now reaching the mid 90s in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We have done the eastern section of the Hayduke Trail that goes through the Grand Canyon and have completed routes on both the north side and south sides of the Canyon. The eastern section of the Grand Canyon at the bottom opens up and with names like “Furnace Flats” it gets unbearably hot. We decide to hike to the Nankoweap trailhead where we hiked in the Grand Canyon one and one half years ago.

Map of our 9-day trip in 2016 from Nankoweap Trail all on the north side to the top of the rim on the Bright Angel trail on the south side. This is a much more difficult way than the traditional Hayduke route which uses the Beamer/Escalante/Tonto trails on the south side to connect Nankoweap to the Bright Angel trail.

We will not be redoing the section of the Hayduke starting at Nankoweap and going to the North Kaibab Trail because we have done it before (several times actually). We also are a little beat up from long days through the Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Canyon, and we need a new tent as the zipper is completely broken. So we revise our plan.

View towards the Saddle Mountain Wilderness

After connecting to Nankoweap Trailhead, we will shuttle cars, get new shoes and tent in Flagstaff, and start back on the trail at Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. We will then hike the Hayduke through the western part from Bright Angel, across to the North Kaibab Trail, through Saddle Canyon and out to Crazy Jug, down to Deer Creek, along the Colorado and up Kanab Creek. We have done most of this part as well but it has been over 25 years ago for some portions (Deer Creek and along the river to Kanab Creek) and some of it will be new for us like North Kaibab to the north rim and Saddle Canyon to Crazy Jug.

We hike the House Rock Valley Road to Nankoweap Trailhead in a day and a half. Now it is time to clean up and get ready for the Grand Canyon.
It is not always easy to get an action shot of a kangaroo rat! Kangaroo rats get all their water from dew condensation and seeds.

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