We made it to the South Rim. From Jacob Lake to the South Kaibab trailhead, the distance was 127 miles total and not 108 miles like I had anticipated. One thing we have learned while on this journey is that that guide map miles do not match the actual GPS miles. The miles are less on map and more while on trail. Either way, we finished this last section in 7 days as planned, despite the longer miles over rougher terrain. Speaking of rougher terrain, having hike many times all through out the Grand Canyon before, I knew that these bigger miles in the canyon would be taxing on my body. I never felt I got enough sleep at night during this stretch in order to aid in body recovery. It was quite the grind.
We left our camp by 7:45ish making our way to where the Tonto Trail meets up with the S. Kaibab Trail 5.3 miles away. Once on that trail it was 4.5 miles with about 3800 feet of climbing to the Rim. After being in very remote trails with minimal human traffic, it was somewhat a shock and annoying to see so many people on this trail. It was sensory overload for me, and I just wanted people to get out of my way so I can hike faster. Like I’ve said before, give me a route and I’ll grind it out. Give me an actual well maintained trail, and I will fly. Well, that is just what happened. When I saw the train of mules carrying humans unwilling or unable to enjoy the act of hiking up, i ran to get in front of them before they blocked me from passing for miles. Pete and Cuban B didn’t bother to pass them and stayed behind. Cuban B stayed behind because he wanted to text his girlfriend because she was attempting a R-R-R run that morning. He essentially wanted to check up on her to make sure she was ok. I was in beast mode at that point and just wanted to hike up as quickly as possible. I was the first one up to the Rim. Pete and Cuban B caught up about 45 minutes later.
So here is the big surprise. We are stopping here. I am stopping here. South Rim is my final destination on this Hayduke Route journey. I am not continuing on to Zion National Park. The reality of it all is that I am 5 hours away from home, and I have been missing my wife more and more ever since she came to visit me while in Escalante. My wife’s gravitational pull at this point is greater than escape velocity. The gravity of my nostalgia sank in even deeper yesterday as I was hiking under Shoshone Point, the point in the Grand Canyon South Rim where my wife and I married less than a year ago. I definitely did not factor in how much I would miss my wife while on this journey. So here is the other surprise. My wife is 5.5 months pregnant. The fact that I will be a “first time” father sank-in deep in my heart, mind, and soul when my wife came to visit me in Escalante. My wife had told me that our baby had started to kick a lot. When at our hotel, I placed my face on her slight 5 month belly and felt our child kick me in the face. Our child literally kicked me in the face. How much more tangible can this be for me? That was the spark. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to hike faster without killing myself and trail companions in order to get home quicker. So when I say that my wife’s gravitational pull is greater than escape velocity, I recognize that it is also our daughter’s gravity that is pulling me home. Yes, we are having a daughter. I long to be home soon so I can feel our daughter kick me in the face.
You are probably wondering why I even left for this journey knowing that my wife was pregnant. Well, the reality of it all was that we had not planned to get pregnant until after my hiking the Hayduke Route. Obviously we jumped the gun. I was conflicted about leaving her while pregnant, but Vanessa knew how much this trip meant to me and how long I had been planning for it. She knew this was my 40th birthday celebration trip. She also knew that anytime she wanted me back home, all she had to do was say the phrase, “come home”. She knew that she always meant more to me than Hayduke Trail.
Hayduke Route was not only a trip to celebrate my 40th, but it was my last hoorah. At least it’s my last hoorah of this caliber. I have been on many wilderness adventures during the last 17 years of my life. I was never married and never had children in that time span. I guess you can say I lived for myself and backcountry wilderness adventure. I’m not giving up the adventure lifestyle, but I will tone it down a few notches for the sake of family life. My priorities are shifting. The last 47 days on the Hayduke Route were definitely cathartic, a time for reflection and mental preparation for this point of transition in my life. If you’ve ever spent an extended amount of time in the wilderness, especially the desert, hiking, you’d know what I mean. Not to compare myself to Jesus Christ, but I feel that the Hayduke Route for me was similar to what JC did, fasting and praying (meditating) for 40 days and 40 nights before he began his 3 year ministry. Wilderness forays have always been to me not only a place to recreate, but a place to pray, meditate, and reflect, something difficult for me to accomplish in the omnipresent distractions of modern society-civilization. I guess you can say that I can feel God loud and clear out there.
Although my intention was to complete the entire Hayduke Route this season, I have no qualms about not hiking the last 150 miles to Zion. If you want to know the truth, I have already seen the nitty gritty, the main attractions of those last 150 miles. I have hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Heck I’ve run that twice already as a 47 mile ultra run rim-rim-rim. I’ve seen Grand Canyon’s Tapeats Creek, Thunder River, Surprise Valley, Deer Creek, Kanab Creek, and Shower Bath Springs. I’ve done extensive canyoneering, backpacking, and hiking in Zion National Park and even canyoneered Fat Man’Misery into Parunweap Canyon and the East Fork of the Virgin River, where the Hayduke Route has its grand finale. The parts in between those main attractions are essentially just hot, dry, dirt road walking. Being that there are so many alternate routes that hikers can take while Haydukeing, I’ve never really felt the Hayduke Route was like your typical thru-hike. There is the official route, but even the creators of the Route intended for hikers to cater it to their own liking. Like the cliche goes, “hike your own hike,” and/or “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey .” If it was really all about the destination, than we’d all hurry up and die. Either way, hiking thru these lands for 47 days was not my first, only, and last time visiting the Colorado Plateau. The Hayduke Route was never just another thru-hike for me, a notch in my meager thru-hiking resume. The Colorado Plateau is my spiritual home. I will always keep coming back to these lands, however, next time with a wife, child, and dog in tow. And they too will understand what Hayduke is all about. It’s not just a trail or route; it’s a state of mind, a state of heart, a state of soul. It’s a love affair.
In closing, I am looking forward to being home with my wife and beginning this journey called fatherhood/parenthood. Heck, while this Hayduke journey may be the best gift I gave myself for my 40th birthday, I feel my wife has one-upped me. This child will be the best 40th birthday present ever. I love you Vanessa.