More About the Hayduke Trail

Now that I have expressed my reasons for tackling the endeavor of thru-hiking the Hayduke Trail, it is time now for a little history of the Hayduke.  The Hayduke trail is the brain child of Mike Corenella and Joe Mitchell, two intrepid hikers and Colorado Plateau enthusiasts from southern Utah. As mentioned in my previous entry, the founders named the trail the Hayduke after the fictitious renegade character George Washington Hayduke III from Edward Abbey’s novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang.  In naming the trail, the founders wanted to pay tribute and homage to Edward Abbey’s ceaseless and eloquent fight to defend and promote protection of the fragile and ever threatened public lands and wild places of the Colorado Plateau. Coronella and Mitchell tasked themselves with reconnoitering and establishing what is now the Hayduke Trail, pouring over topo-maps, taking multiple backpacking trips over many years before setting the final route.  Studying the route on topo-maps and Google Earth, you would find this is not a track that seeks the path of least resistance or a simple straight line. Instead, you will see that the track purposely meanders for many significant distances, as if to take you on some scenic joy ride. And that is exactly what the intentions of Coronella and Mitchell are, to show-case in 800 miles to the intrepid adventurous hiker the very best of the Colorado Plateau, from Arches National Park to Zion National Park and everything in between.

It is my understanding that after scouting and establishing the route, the founders had intended to register it as a National Scenic Trail, just like what the Pacific Crest Trail and the newer Arizona Trail have become. (There are currently 11 National Scenic Trails. For more info, visit http://www.americantrails.org/resources/info/National-Scenic-Trails.html) After discovering the copious red tape and bureaucracy that entails the task of designating a trail a National Scenic Trail, the founders abandoned their endeavor.  Look at a map of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona and you will see the many public land jurisdictions that the official Hayduke Trail traverses, from National Parks, BLM lands, National Forest and maybe even State Trust and Tribal Lands. It is no wonder that the founders abandoned that monumental task of having to deal with government forces like the Department of the Interior and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Because of the Hayduke lacks National Scenic Trail designation, it has for the most part been under the radar, even from your typical hardcore thru hiker. As a mater of fact, it has just barely begun to be discovered, even after its approximately year 2001 debut. To add even more rogue status to this clandestine trail-route, there are not even trail markers along the way to tell you that you are on the right track.  This fact perhaps is what has kept at bay your average Joe and Jane thru hiker that favors instead the typical, well marked, smartphone friendly National Scenic Trail like the PCT, AT, CDT, and AZT.  Before I rant more, let me explain what I mean by smartphone friendly trail.  Needless to say, we live in an era where our smartphones function like an essential appendage, ever so making everyday task so much easier and convenient.  Being that every smartphone today has a GPS chip in it, rendering it into a navigation tool even when no cell phone signal abounds, your smartphone is the perfect navigation device even in the backcountry.  Hence, there exists thru-hiking apps that essentially have trails like the PCT, AT, AZT, and CDT on them, making the smartphone your perfect navigation device while thru-hiking.  The Hayduke Trail has escaped smartphone navigation app developers until just barely this past year as far I’m concerned.  As the trail becomes more popular, I am sure that will change soon.

Studying the Hayduke Trail Guidebook and official website, http://www.hayduketrail.org,  the founders make a very strong emphasis and disclaimer that the Hayduke is a very rugged, dangerous, difficult, and strenuous route.  Furthermore, they stress that the route is mostly off trail and is not marked at all.  In other words, this is the land of map and compass and route finding skills, where, essentially, skills in cross country travel are a must. Yet, despite the hardships and difficulties of thru-hiking the Hayduke would ensue, the rewards far out weight such challenges, especially to any true peripatetic persona and nature lover.  For the founders and any that aspire to the challenge, just simply skimming the surface was not enough. Skimming the surface, the periphery in a motorized contraption would not suffice.   As Edward Abbey once wrote:

“In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”

In closing this blog entry, I thank Mike Coronella and Joe Mitchell for establishing the Hayduke Trail, and in my endeavor to thru-hike the Route, I hope to bring to light and show to the world trough my blog, the beauty of what is the Colorado Plateau and the endless threats and harms it faces from extractive industries, politicians, and developers, especially in the current era where the powers that be seek to shrink our public lands for private interests.  For more information on how you can help protect and defend the Colorado Plateau, I encourage you to visit these websites:

https://suwa.org

https://www.grandcanyontrust.org

For information on the Hayduke Trail:

http://www.hayduketrail.org

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