Finally we are back on trail after two zeros in Tropic. Why two zeros? Well, we had planned to leave on Friday the 20th of April, but a snowstorm rolled into the area, leaving us no choice but to stay in town one more day. None of us wanted to battle cold snowy winds. Fortunately, it was only a one day event. Saturday (today) was clear blue skies and perfect temperatures for hiking. Needless to say we finally left, making our way into Bryce Canyon National Park via the back door. We bee lined it the 6 miles to the visitor center in order to get a backcountry permit from the rangers in order to camp legally inside the park.
From there, the trail leads 4 miles along the Rim for impressive views of the famous Bryce Canyon hoodoos. We took our time here and took more than enough pictures before descending into the canyon via the Under the Rim trail. This trail goes for many miles, before exiting you from the park. Our goal was 20 miles today which brought us to Right Fork Swamp Canyon campsite, where our legal permit said we had to camp. We were not expecting a wet camp. Fortunately we found water 1.5 miles back near another old campsite. That is where we lost Pete. Yes, literally Pete was lost. When Cuban B and I arrived at camp 10 minutes shy of sunset, we expected him to arrive 10-15 minutes later. After 20-25 minutes with him not showing up, I knew something was up. We had even already set up camp. Shit!! So after grabbing my headlamp and inReach, I told Cuban B that I would go fetch him. When I got back to the junction, the last spot we saw him, I saw that his footprints were going up the wrong trail. Instead of taking the direct 1.1 mile route to our camp, he took the longer, steeper 3 mile route. I was the first to leave the junction, followed by Cuban B. I could have sworn Pete saw what direction I went, and I am sure he would’ve seen Cuban B go in the proper direction as well. But I knew Pete was tired, and when that happens, he gets tunnel visioned. He apparently didn’t see the direction we went while he was rearranging his pack after gathering water.
Once I discovered Pete’s mistake, I sat-texted Cuban B the news. Cuban B proceeded then to climb the trail loop to intercept him, and I began following Pete’s prints up the incorrect trail he took. Fortunately, not more than 5 minutes up the trail, I saw the beam of a headlamp approaching me. It was Pete. Thank God. He realized his mistake about a mile up the trail and even took out his iPhone to reference his map on his Gaia map app. He essentially has the Hayduke Route track points on his maps. Pete seemed embarrassed, yet happy to be found. He said he knew to go back to where we last saw him and wait it out there, knowing we would look for him there. He had food, water, and shelter too.
So what was supposed to be a 20-21 mile day ended up being about 23-24. We all didn’t have dinner until 9:30-10:00pm, our latest ever. We were all tired and hungry. Close call today. In hind sight, i feel partly to blame for this close call. I actually did notice how tired, hence tunnel visioned and scatter-brained Pete was. We should have waited for him and made sure he went the correct direction.