Hayduke Route 5th Day: 18.6 River Miles/88.3 miles total. Cloudy Float Day

We are still on the River. Thus far we have paddled about 55.1 miles on the River. It looks like tomorrow we have about 15 river miles left to the canyon where we deflate our rafts and climb the nine miles out. That’ll make 70 total River miles. Nice!! Myself and the rest of the group have definitely been enjoying these easy river miles. Well, relatively easy compared to hiking. We still have to paddle most of the time, especially on the points where the River cruises at a mere one mph and when we have head winds. My hands are blistered and my shoulders, arms, and back have been definitely feeling the work. Pete and I are definitely the stronger and more experienced paddlers. Cuban B has been doing good for his first flat water packraft paddle trip. Sonya is the the slower paddler and least experienced. David, Sonya’s husband, is a strong paddler too, but he hangs back with her like the good husband that he is.

The weather has been overcast all day with occasional 10-12 mph winds. The sun never shined on us today. Overall the weather has been good, and we hope that persist. I fear it can rain any moment tho. We shall see.

Oh, I forgot to mention today was Cuban B’s birthday. He turned 33 today. He is the youngest of the group.

Thus far tonight’s camp spot is my favorite. It is not a beach along the river, but rather a sandy terrace elevated about 30 feet above the River over some limestone outcroppings. No evidence of beavers on this one.

Hayduke Route 4th day: 19 miles today/69.5 total. A relaxing float entering Canyonlands National Park

There is something about floating, meandering down a calm lazy river. That is what this section of the Colorado River is, from Moab to Spanish Bottom. Beyond Spanish Bottom, the beastly Colorado River becomes a demon thru Cataract Canyon with rapids that swallow and projectile vomits rafts like an exorcising Linda Blair. Fortunately we are not headed that far in our dingy pack rafts. We were all mostly awake by 0800. Yes. We slept in and awoke to cloudy skies, which all of sudden began to drizzle rain, then snow intermittently. That sparked us to pack up quick and in a haste and get on the river. Either way we didn’t start paddling until 1000. It took about 10 miles before we finally left any sign of civilization and enter Canyonlands National Park. Before the 10 miles, we would hear the occasional 4 wheeler motoring thru the jeep roads that prevail these canyons and mesas. We did see one motorized boat doing a run thru this section. The skipper was kind enough to slow down so as to not leave a mean wake.

Finally entering Canyonlands National Park, the canyon walls became steeper and the silence prevailed. Thank you! Paddling thru this silence, it made me think just how annoyingly noisy the un-wild world is. It feels so refreshing and therapeutic to be in this quietness. Anyhow, trying not to bore you with this hippy fufu talk, after 19 miles we made it an island in the middle of the River with a huge beach and willow trees. After dinner, Dave and Sonya discovered that on the other side of the island there is evidence of a presence of beavers. He even discovered a den. As i write this, I can here them gnawing thru wood and moving brush around. I’ve seen beavers before but never on the Colorado River. Very cool! Good night beavers. That’s it for today. Until tomorrow.

Hayduke Route day 3: 17.5 mile float via packraft down the Colorado River.

Today was a nice change of pace. Instead of hiking, we paddle-floated down the Colorado River. When I say we, I mean Pete, Cuban B, Dave, Sonya, and myself. Dave and Sonya are packrafting-paddling with us up until the takeout at Elephant Hill. As I mentioned before, the next 3-4 days, we will be floating 65 miles or so down the River, followed by a 9 mile hike out of the gorge, carrying all our gear and rafts overland. We didn’t start paddling until 11am and were done by 5:30 pm, knocking out 17.5 miles. We even lunched for about 45 minutes. Sonya was struggling the later part of the day when the headwinds picked up. Pete and myself, being the more experienced paddlers in the group powered thru it. Dave and Cuban B were somewhere in the middle. It feels good to be paddling again. I truly enjoy it.

Despite being on the River, we felt we were still under the confines of civilization, for there was a road paralleling us for the full 17.5 miles. Tomorrow we should be entering the Canyonlands National Park Wilderness. Yes!! Finally!! We all crave to finally be in that, away from the sights, sounds, and smells of the “civilized” world. Pete and I are familiar with

part of this float section, having done a 7 day, 95 mile packrafting-backpacking loop two years ago.

Anyhow, the weather is good tonight. The sky is clear with bright stars and a waxing crescent moon. On that note, I noticed we started our trip with the new moon. It is good to have that time stamp noted.

Hayduke Route day 2: Devil’s Garden to Mile 0. 7 miles/ 33.2 total

First off, after yesterday we decided to stop calling this Hayduke Trail a “trail”. Yesterday’s 26.2 mile grind showed us why some refer to this madness as the Hayduke Route. We slept in this morning needless to say. I didn’t bother to awaken Pete and Doug. I figured we all would just gradually all awaken. I gotta remember not to be such a slave driver, lest the group threaten mutiny and throw me over a cliff. Even so we were up by 0745. It was cold overnight, as cold as 24 degrees F. Burr!!! It was a slow morning packing, and since we only had about 7 miles to hike today, we took our time, making sure all our gear was dry.

Leaving camp at 10:15, we made our way to Devil’s Garden, where you can witness many of Arches National Park’s arches. We took our time, taking photos as we hiked. After the last natural feature known as Dark Angel, we proceeded to route find our way down the cliff and eventually onto the road where our friends Dave and Sonya where to pick us up for a ride back to Moab, where we have a hotel waiting for us so we can prepare for the next 65 mile segment. Oh… and about this next segment, we are not hiking it. Well actually, yes we are, but just nine miles. The other miles are actually floating down the Colorado River in our packrafts. That is the beauty of this Hayduke Route, you can cater it to your liking. I am looking forward to this section float because heck, who doesn’t like the idea of floating down a river a la Huck Finn style. On that note, the rest of the day was spent car shuttling a vehicle at the take out point where we are hiking out for this packrafting section. Stay tuned!!

Hayduke day 1: A flip floping marathon (26.2 miles in 11 hours)

What a day? I think Cuban B and Pete hate me after today. We left our Moab motel at around 7:30am with rain showering us. We actually began the Hayduke as a flip flop, which means that we started backwards. Instead of starting at mile 0, we began in Moab, mile 23 or so. The reason why we did that was because tomorrow we wish to be done with the remaining 7 or 8 miles of this section by noonish so that we can prepare for our packrafting section on Monday. Anyhow, it was about three miles by the time we left the asphalt and began pounding dirt. By that time, it began to rain heavily, so much so that waterfalls began to form along the canyon walls as we were hiking up Courthouse Wash. Needless to say, the wash began to flow quite heavily but not in a dangerous flash flood kinda way. It was delightful to see the many waterfalls. Well, hiking up Courthouse Wash, we began to realize how tedious and gruesome this hike would be. It was endless bushwhacking and route finding. To avoid bushwhacking so much we eventually just started hiking in the ankle deep water, getting our feet wet. After about 17 miles, we finally left the confines of Courthouse wash and began to travel cross county over slick rock, paralleling another wash, which the route had us go thru. We avoided that wash because we were fed up with getting our feet wet in cold flowing water. It snowed on us intermittently as we traveled over slick rock. Eventually, 20.8 miles later, we made it to the pipeline route, which was the direct route to the road that was to take us to our camp. That pipeline went forever. By then, Pete was slowing down significantly. Even Cuban be began to complain. The terrain was taking its toll. Finally reaching the road, Cuban was starting to bonk and needed food. Pete was far back but was still in view. We waited for him so that he would not miss the campsite turnoff. As we waited on the road pullout near Skyline Arch, people stopping by began asking us questions about our hike. They were mesmerized and impressed. I don’t know if they felt sorry for us or were just being kind, but they gave Cuban B and I food. Ha!! Let the yogiing begin. It was right at sunset when we made it to camp. Even I was beat.

Today was essentially an intro of what’s to come, the arduous journey we have up ahead. Today was a break in-period, and a hard break-in for sure.

T minus 10 hours. Moab!

We are here!!! After 2.5 days of driving over 950 miles for food and water cacheing shenanigans, we are here! We are in Moab, Utah, gateway town to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and hence, Hayduke Trail’s northeast terminus. The Hayduke Trail Starts on the north west corner of Arches National Park. Moab, a town once prominent for uranium mining during the cold war, the era of nuclear warheads, is now an adventure hub for many likes: mountain bikers, rock crawling jeeps, river runners, hikers, canyoneers, rock climbers, slack-liners, and, of-course, now thru-hikers too. Hayduke thru-hikers!!

After picking up camp and cacheing our last food and water this morning near Grosvenor Arch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we decided to drive by and explore Tropic, one of the towns we plan to zero and resupply in while doing this stretch of the trail. All three of us agreed that this town is a sweet place to zero, with plenty of motel options and a grocery store more than adequate enough to resupply from.

The drive from Tropic to Moab was uneventful. The only thing that had me concerned was the obvious lack of snow, even at 9000 feet elevation, which was how high the road we took elevated us to. This drought in the southwest is indeed concerning, especially when thru-hiking thru this high desert and canyons. On the bright side, just after three days, there is another cold front bringing in a winter storm with snow and rain in our direction. Needless to say, that means we will start the Hayduke Trail tomorrow wet, windy, and cold. It can’t always be sunny. In a way, I don’t mind. We need the precipitation. I’d rather have rain and snow give us flowing springs and creeks than have to carry so much water on my back. We are prepares for days like this. Hayduke Trail, here we come!!! Colorado Plateau, I’m home.

The food and water cacheing shenanigans continue. T minus 2 days.

Today was a very long day. We were up by seven and after a shower, we proceeded to begin the ordeal of cacheing our food buckets. While we were out looking for a good spot to cache, it dawned on us that this was bear country and the five gallon buckets were no match for a black bear if it were to find our food. Shit!! So we decided to ditch our plans to cache food near Jacob Lake and instead take this cache to near the AZ/UT stateline. Hence, we proceeded to Kanab UT for breakfast and then to the AZ strip and the road that leads to Toroweap. The road was moist but not saturated, making for an easy drive to where we had planned to cache water to alleviate a 40 mile dry stretch on this trail section. After camouflaging our cache as best we could and dropping a waypoint pin on our GPS map software, we beelined it to our next cache point near the AZ/UT state line, the AZ trail northern terminus. This is the point where the Hayduke Trail piggy backs onto the AZ trail or, in other words, the two trails merge for many miles before entering Grand Canyon National Park near Nankoweap Trail. We eventually made it to near our final cache at Grosvenor Arch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We set up camp near the Arch and called it a day. Tomorrow morning we will hide the cache and then drive directly to Moab.

T minus 3 days. Food Cacheing Road Trip.

We hit the road today, leaving Tucson around 0800, driving into an ominous storm. The rain started just north of Phoenix, and by the time we arrived at Flagstaff, the snow was blowing down hard. Our goal was to make it to Jacob Lake to cache our first food buckets. While we did make it to Jacob Lake, we were not able to cache the buckets, as the whiteout, blizzard conditions were not conducive to traveling on the forest road we had intended on driving. All three of us agreed to get a room at the Jacob Lake Inn. Camping in this blizzard would have been silly, heck maybe even stupid. We were surprised to discover that the room was only $90. At that price for three souls, why not lodge it. Not bad for a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

After settling in the room, Cuban B and I decided to reconnoiter on foot the forest road we intend to cache our buckets. We confirmed that driving Pete’s FJ thru this road would be unfeasible, as the snow was too high. We hiked in about half a mile by headlamp and scoped out possible spots to hide our buckets. By then the blizzard had subsided.

So why are we cacheing food here at Jacob Lake? Well it turns out the Jacob Lake Inn no longer holds food packages for thru hikers. That and the resupply options at the convenience store here are slim. Hence, we have no option but to cache food buckets in the adjacent national forest.

Tomorrow morning first thing we will hike our buckets into the forest and hide them. The weather should be better tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Don’t forget about my fundraiser for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA). Here is the link.


Packraft ready and T minus 11 days

March 18 is precipitating quite fast.  I am commited to four more days of work, and three more off days before I depart from home. I have been anxious and nervous lately and very excited with butterflies in my stomach. I guess the feeling I have can perhaps be compared to preparing for a summit of Mt.Everest. The sentiment is the same. Such preperations for adventurous endeavours I do not take lightly and quite frankly can be somewhat stressful to me. Needless to say, adequate preparations are essential in order to increase the odds of having a successful trip.

All of my food caches are set and ready to be hidden appropriatley in the backcountry.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but yes, the Hayduke trail requires that we cache food and water at certain locations in the backcountry in order to resupply ourselves.  The trail is so remote, not crossing major highways for most of the time, making it difficult or nearly impossible to resuplly at a nearby town.  Despite that, we will be resupplying in some nearby towns like, Hanskville, Esclante, Tropic, South Rim Grand Canyon, and Colorado City, requiring us to hitch hike or walk into the nearest town.  In order to eleminate the need to carry 8 to 10 days of food in some sections, we opted to establish a total of five food caches and one water cache in order to alleviate a 40 mile waterless stretch.  Because to this cache dynamic, we aloted ourselved 3 days for travel from Southern AZ and the pre arranged food cache drop-offs. We leave home on the 15th.  We had planned for one more food-water cache at Burr Trail in Capitol Reef, but fortunately, we have some friends joining us from AZ in order to hike 5 days with us that section of the Hayduke. They will be brining us our resupply food from home.

On another note, I am excited to try out the new retrofits on my Alpacka-raft.  I may not have mentioned it before, but we are actually taking an alternate Hayduke route. That is the beauty of the Hayduke Trail Route, the flexibility to take alternates, catering the journey to our own desires. Hence, the reason for the packraft is that we will actually be floating the Colorado River from Moab to Lower Red Lake Canyon for 65 miles in Canyonlands National Park Needles District. After the float section, we will hike the nine miles to Elephant Hill Trailhead with our gear and pack rafts on our backs.   I had the whitewater spray deck and cargo-fly zipper added.  The spray deck will help me stay drier and warmer while the cargo-fly zipper will enable me to store my gear inside the packraft tubes, instead of on top of my legs on the bow, lowering the center of gravity.  Despite the added weight that the retrofit added to the packraft, I am looking forward to paddling it thru this section of the Hayduke.  Eleven days to go.

Basic packraft set up with backpack strapped to bow. Picture taken on Escalante River, May 2014
Packraft with whitewater spray deck and cargo fly zipper

My Attempt at Ultra-light Backpacking

I think I am done choosing and preparing the gear that I will ultimately use for my 2018 Spring Hayduke Trail Thru Hike.  What I am about to blog about now is essentially my final gear choices.  Before I describe some of the gear I will be using, I have a disclaimer.  As much as I try to lighten up my load, I will be the first to admit that  I am no ultra-light backpacker. I have come to terms with the fact that by base-weight (all my gear on my back minus food and water) will never be under 10 pounds (4.5 kilos). My base-weight goal for Hayduke was 15-18 lbs, and I am some-what sad to report that my base-weight is about 22-23 lbs. Yes, I know……I know that perhaps many a few die-hard ultra-light backpackers are cringing and scoffing at my 22 lbs base-weight.  But fortunately, I have an old saying that absolves and redeems me, “Hike your own hike.”  Yes, I said it.

Either way, I did not thru-hike the PCT with an ultra-light base-weight, and despite the fact I was sill able to average 22-27 mile days, some days hiking as far as 32 miles.  I would say my base-weight for the PCT ranged anywhere between 18-25 lbs, with me adapting my base-weight to trail and weather conditions as I made my way north.  With the Hayduke Trail, I will adapt my gear just as accordingly to the conditions.  While I may be starting at a base-weight of 23 lbs, that does not mean I will stay with that.  I may do some adjustments as I go, perhaps getting rid of gear that I am not or just barely using.

In choosing my gear for the Hayduke Trail, I took into account the climate (time of year), terrain, trail conditions, and remoteness of the trail.  We will be hiking the Hayduke trail from mid March to mid-May.  Spring conditions in the Colorado Plateau can be very erratic. We can expect night time temps in the teens F and daytime temps in the 80s.  In other words, we have to be ready for winter and summer conditions.  Because of this, I am bringing extra layers that I otherwise would not bring on a summer hike.  Also, I am bringing along 50 feet of 0.5 inch webbing for lowering or lifting our packs as there will be parts of the trail (route) that will entail scrambling up or down class 3-4 cliffs. Because I will be blogging-journaling, photographing, navigating with phone, etc, in a very remote area with little options for resupply, I had to take into account my power sources. I am bringing a heavier (13 oz) 22,000 mAh Anker battery brick and a solar charger.  Essentially, since we will be food caching significant portions of the Hayduke, there will be little chance to find a power outlet to plug-in and charge our electronics.  Places to plug-in and charge will be up to 11 days apart, maybe even more. Because of heavier Anker brick, it was the electronics, as you will see in my spreadsheet, that contributed to my high base-weight.

One of the biggest modifications I made in my gear was in choosing my big four (pack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad).  I decided to try the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest  4400 backpack.  Some of the biggest reasons why I decided to choose this pack was because of the claim that it can carry up 70 liters of volume and 60 lbs comfortably (I hope not to actually carry that much).  This is an important feature for me on a trail like the Hayduke where heavier food supply of up to 8 days and water carries of up to 10 liters are expected. The other feature I like about the pack is that it has a roll top closure like a dry bag.  The pack is also almost water proof since it is made of Dynema fabric (aka Cuben fiber). While I would not let it get submerged in a river without internal water-proofing redundancies,  I know I would not need a pack rain cover when it rains.

I decided to also try out a sleeping quilt instead the traditional sleeping bag.  For the PCT, I used the 1 lb, 14 oz  Western Mountaineering 10 degree F Versalite . For the Hayduke Trail, I went for a custom made 18.95 oz, 10 degree F, 950 fill down quilt called the Engima by Enlightened Equipment.  This will be my first foray in using a quilt, so we shall see how it fares on this thru hike.  I did get to try it on a three day section hike of the AZT this winter where it only got down to the upper 30s, and it felt warm enough in those temps.

While I did end up buying a new 22 oz one man tent, the One by Gossamer Gear, for the Hayduke Trail, Cuban B and I decided to ultimately share a 44 oz two man tent, the Big Agness Copper Spur HV UL 2.  Dividing the weight of this tent in half, we will each be carrying the equivalent of the One tent by Gossamer Gear.

Everything else was pretty much is the same gear I used for the PCT, except for different shoes, a new down jacket, lighter rain jacketa and different stove. Because we will be scrambling much on the Hayduke, I decided to use the very comfortable and trail tested La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoe.  These are the shoes I have used for technical canyoneering and have great sticky rubber, even on wet rock.  I have hiked up to 23 miles in them in one day and found them very comfortable due to the wider toe box compared to other approach shoes that scrunch your toes tight.  I decided to ditch my 9 oz down jacket for the 4.6 oz Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket .  I can attest that this jacket is even lighter than Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer.  For cooking, instead of the 16 oz Jetboil MiniMo that I used on the PCT, I decided to switch to an 11 oz MSR Pocket Rocket with a titanium stove set-up. My sleeping pad set up is the same as the PCT.  I am still using the same Thermarest NeoAir Xlite combined with the Thermarest Z-Lite (Short).  Why two mattress? Well, good sleep is a priority for me and having a foam pad as a back up in a desert with sharp pointy cacti is important for me.

So without further ado, here is the spread sheet and picture of my gear.

Hayduke Gear List