Hayduke Trail Day 42: Polygamy Land and Very Deep Sand

Daily Neat Beat
Day 42
Total Miles: 30.1
Cumulative Miles: 704.5
Map of Hayduke Trail Day 42 hiking from Yellowstone Spring across the plains and back into the Vermilion Cliffs south of Zion National Park

I am singing that old country song to myself “One step forward and two steps back, nobody gets too far like that”.  It is mid-afternoon and we are hiking on a Jeep/ATV road that is deep sand.  

Walking in the sand

The sand is tan-white; reflecting the color of the sun which has me bathed in sweat and squinting.  It takes double the effort and energy to walk in the sand and it has slowed us down tremendously.

Then the Gaia app on my iPhone blurts out “29 miles”. Twenty nine miles? Wow, I think to myself, maybe this is the day we hike over 30 miles which suddenly becomes a goal.
We started very early today as it is a lot of road walking across the sagebrush plains to get to Zion and it is expected to be hot. The nice thing about the desert in the southwest is that it cools off at night. If it is 90 degrees F during the day, it will cool off to about 50 degrees F at night. On late spring and summer days, generally it will start getting hot by 9:30am. So we get started by 4:30am. That means we will have about 5 hours of decent temperature weather. But, we have to start in the dark. Which we do.
Walking in the dark by headlamp along a dirt road

The road walking is easy and we get into a good rhythm, hiking at around 3.2 miles per hour. By 8:30am, we have hiked about 10 miles and are only a few miles from Highway 389 which connects St. George Utah and Kanab, Utah. A herd of pronghorn are galloping along a fence line ahead, looking for a break, a place to cross.

A herd of pronghorns run alongside the fence looking for a way to cross

We are doing our own crossing. Crossing of the plains to get from the Grand Canyon to Zion. Although this isn’t the scenic part, the vast openness gives me an appreciation for space and distance.

We cross Highway 389 and pass through the outskirts of Colorado City. Colorado City was founded in 1913 by the “Council of Friends”, a breakaway Mormon group that wanted to practice polygamy, where men could have multiple wives.  The part we pass by is run down, with half built buildings and trailer homes which haven’t been kept up. It is not surprising as the poverty rate for the population of Colorado City is about 32%.

The outskirts of Colorado City with half-built homes

Several of the homes have what look like “gallows” in their yard with tall beams with ropes hanging from them. It is a little eery. Ray and I hike through this area quickly; no reason to stop here.

There is some irony here – an “environmentally responsible” liquid dish soap container is thrown out alongside the road….

North of the outskirts of Colorado City the route takes a hard right onto a paved road through Canebeds and then after three miles takes a sharp left into Rosy Canyon. Future Haydukers making a choice between this route or the alternate through Colorado City should be made aware of some recent changes. The Rosy Canyon Road was paved for about 4.6 miles in the Fall of 2017 and there is now a continuous paved road from Highway 389 to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. This is likely to increase traffic volumes but is easier than hiking in the sand.

Hiking on the newly paved Rosy Canyon Road

At least in Rosy Canyon I feel like I am back in Canyon country as we wind up once again through the Vermilion Cliffs. Up and down. There  has been a lot of that on the Hayduke Trail. The Hayduke route veers off of Rosy Canyon Road onto a 4WD road that after a few miles turns into deep sand. Then what had been a fairly easy day turned into much harder hiking as the sun began to really heat us up through the sand dunes.

Pine Spring

So here we are, the sweat dripping of my nose and chin; staggering through the deep sand. Ray has slowed down too and his face is red. I think to myself at least I am sweating still so I am not to the point of heat stroke. I hope Ray is Ok; he sounds tired. But we are at 29 miles today, it is hard to believe.

Ray and I push on for another mile as we had planned to camp at the saddle near Elephant Butte. We had laughed earlier at how we couldn’t see any elephant in the butte. I am still not sure how it got it’s name.
Elephant Butte – but where is the elephant?
Elephant Butte

My Gaia app bleeps out “30 miles” and we find a spot to camp. There is plenty of sand here which makes for comfortable sleeping but not so comfortable for sitting. We drop into bed and I still can’t believe we hiked 30 miles today…We have set ourselves up well to enjoy the canyons of the Parunuweap where we will spend a large portion of the day tomorrow wading through the East Virgin river. After the heat today, I am looking forward to it.

Campsite in the sand near Elephant Butte

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