Total Hayduke Miles (including Grand Canyon October 2016 trip): 824.4
Our last day on the Hayduke! Today we hike out the Weeping Rock Trailhead in Zion which is the “official” end to the Hayduke Trail. This is Ray’s and my third thru hike and I am always emotional at the end. The John Muir Trail, our first thru, ended on the top of Mount Whitney and I unraveled in tearful emotions appreciating public lands and my wonderful partner Ray. The Colorado Trail ended in Durango where I live with friends picking us up and celebrating the ending. A fun and happy time! The Hayduke Trail, to me though, ends wierdly compared to the other two hikes.
The day started like many of our usual Hayduke days. We get up early and have about 16 miles to hike today to get to the Weeping Rock Trailhead. Once again, we want to beat the heat so we start at 4:30am. But this time there is a little more route finding in the dark as we are not on a road and there is not much of a trail. We end up using the gpx route on our phone sometimes to correct our location as it is too dark to see landmarks. It is a strange way to navigate but it works for us in this situation.
It also means we see the sunrise and light bouncing off the striking white cross beds and cliff walls of Navajo Sandstone. This is classic Zion country. I think one thing I have learned is the beauty of the morning and being up to see the awakening of the day. This is a glorious day to see the sun rising, bringing color and life as the coolness of the desert night begins to fade.
Soon we are on a pack trail in Zion which is so well used as a hiking trail it is wide enough for ATVs. We are now definitely in a well-loved park.
By mid-morning we are on the Echo Canyon Trail and there are people everywhere.
I mostly notice their scent. Cologne, soap, different shampoos, lotions, DEET, I smell it all. All my senses from being out in nature for so long have been heightened. But no one smells like a cliff rose, which is a pleasant mixture of rose and honey. This scent will forever remind me of the Hayduke Trail.
We wind down the last few switchbacks which are paved with concrete and barely wide enough for the two-way pedestrian traffic that is now a constant flow. Clearly Zion is well-loved and visited.
It is such a strange way to end the trail. The Hayduke Trail is a wild route, off-trail and goes through very remote and unspoiled parts of Utah and Arizona. With no trail signs, the constant water management, and off-route navigating, it definitely challenges a person much more than a trail like the John Muir or the Colorado. I reflect back on these remote and fairly unspoiled areas: the glow of turquoise water in the Paranuweap Narrows, the lush hanging garden and scarlet monkey flowers at Showerbath Spring in Kanab Creek, the excitement of finding projectile points and other signs of our ancient past in Arches, Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon and Arizona Strip, the nights of star gazing and being serenaded by canyon tree frogs, the tall massive walls of the Paria Canyon, and the deep emerald pools and water in the Dark Canyon Wilderness and the Waterpocket Fold. Yes, there were trying times – running out of water, dealing with poison ivy and sore feet, equipment failures, cold nights were the temperature dropped below 25 degrees F and warm days where it was over 100 degrees F. And yes, it was springtime so we had plenty of wind. But I truly loved this adventure and exploring the remote places in the desert that are still out there. These are public lands that belong to all of us.
The Hayduke Trail ended with a bang as we get on a bus and are whisked away to the Zion Visitor Center. I am still unsettled, my spirit remains with the roaring canyon Paranuweap and places beyond in the wilds of Utah and Arizona. I will be processing this experience for a while.