Hayduke Route 32nd day: 22 (14) miles/ 490 total. Goodbye Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Hello Tropic and Bryce.

Damn it was cold this morning! 27 degrees F. I thought I’d be used to it by now. What was worse was that our socks and shoes were frozen from yesterday’s all day wet hiking in the Paria River. It didn’t help for me also that I fell into knee deep quick sand while getting clear natural spring water from the side canyon we camped adjacent to. Quick sand is as quintessential as blue skies and wind in this Hayduke country. Hence, my pants were wet as well. We waited for the sun to shine on us on our corner of the canyon, at least to get my shoes thawed out so i can put them on.

Off by 9:15-ish, our latest start of the day ever, we had our goal to reach Tropic, 22 miles away, by 6-7pm. No big deal, since 12 of those miles were on trail and the rest on dirt-paved road. We eventually left the Paria River, and began up Sheep Creek Canyon, which led us to the confluence of Willis Creek, where there were both ancient and modern petroglyphs. And yes, of course, we had to stop to investigate them. The petroglyphs were the 10 mile mark for the day and also our lunch spot. It was at this confluence where we saw many day-hikers, and we knew we were so close to the Skutumpah Road. After a nice hour lunch there, we bee-lined it the 1.5 miles up Sheep Creek canyon to Skutumpah Road. Pete, Cuban B, and I agreed that if we were able to score a hitch for the 10–12 miles to Tropic, we would take it. So, almost immediately once we got to the road, a car was approaching. Pete said, “alright BearLee, work your hitch-hiking magic.” For some reason, I’ve gotten good at hitch hiking. Maybe it’s my benign looking baby face, or my shiny aura. Who knows. Either way, the first car didn’t stop despite how much plenty of space it had for three hikers. Surprisingly, the next five-passenger car, already with 4 passengers, did stop. These were the nicest older-retiree folk ever. They offered us a ride in there mini-SUV. Pete rode in the back seat with the other passenger and his pack in his lap, while Cuban-B and I somehow barely were able to fit in the trunk with our packs. We essentially had to keep the back hatch opened. So off we went, packed like sardines on Skutumpah road. After about 4 miles, the dirt road turned to asphalt and the driver didn’t feel comfortable driving fast with us in the trunk and the hatch open. Either way, we were happy and greatly appreciative. So off they went and we continued our walk along the road.

All of sudden, no more than ten minutes later, the driver that picked us up before came back for us with an empty car. We were in shock. He actually came back for us. What a true saint. So he gave us a ride to Cannonville, the town 4.5 miles shy of Tropic and where he was staying. He asked us how much further we were going. We told him Tropic. Being that he was a tourist from New York, he wasn’t familiar with this area. So off he went, off we went, saying our thank you’s and goodbyes. Back on the main road, Highway 12, we began our march once again to Tropic, occasionally sticking out my thumb for a hitch. No kidding, 10 minutes later, the New Yorker came back for us again. I guess he felt guilty. We, of course, accepted the ride and were even more appreciative. Thank you New Yorker. God bless you and may karma pay you back soon. So, here we are, a day early into Tropic and at the hotel by 4pm. Trail magic does exist on the Hayduke Route and so do the trail angels, even the ones that didn’t know they were trail angels. We will take a nero and zero here in Tropic after this last 7 day stretch.

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