Hayduke Day 1

Memories from October 4, 2018

My alarm went off at 6am to wake me on the floor of gate B83 in the Denver airport. Camping gear makes sleeping at the airport much more comfortable but until the tests of the emergency warning system stopped around 3am, I didn’t sleep well enough to dream. So I slept on the flight to Canyonlands Airport outside Moab, UT. I woke that time by turbulence shortly before landing and slid the window screen up.

I’ve read several blogs about the Hayduke but there’s a reason you do it yourself.

A nice fellow named Brodie from Wyoming who had introduced himself before departure on account of our similar taste in trail runners wished me well on the trip. Then, I loaded up the 7 liters of water I’d taken carry-on when my bag was gate checked (the airline employee who had directed me to remove the water apologized after seeing all my bottles and bladders) and headed for the road.

I’m not to use GPS as a personal challenge (I’m sure I’ll give in eventually and have the route loaded in my phone) and I’m not great at map and compass so I had a little trouble finding the road dirt road which forms the “Klondike Alternate” start to the Hayduke. It’s primary advantage is that it starts at the airport which saved me from having to arrange transit. Eventually after some cross country meandering, I wound up cutting through an RV’s campsite since RVs need roads.

Some kind of trail marker?

Road makes walking pretty easy.

It has rained this morning before I landed and things initially smelled like salt marsh with a hint of urine. This disappeared as I led the road for a 4×4 track. The destination was a rock formation called Marching Men. Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d located it properly when I took a beating but as you get close enough to make it out, there’s no question.

Nothing else looks like men marching.

Unfortunately, I took a right when I should have taken a left and didn’t get to see them up close. When the 4×4 route was clearly heading in the wrong direction, I left it and wound up cutting through a little streambed only to run across… another 4×4 track.

This wound up taking me to the Hayduke at the point desired, just not the route desired.

After lunch, I turned down another 4×4 road (so far thing are pretty easy) and noticed a single set of footprints which appeared to have passed since this morning’s rain. A Jeep at one point informed me that their creator was about a mile ahead.

Unfortunately the identity of the person who left the footprints will have to remain a mystery. They disappeared right around a side trail which in hindsight, I should have taken as well. I’d noticed it but thought it was too early for me to be there. Instead I saw the pipeline.

From there the route was actually pretty easy, it just didn’t feel that way because I’m new at this whole cross country thing.

1) Follow the pipeline to the fence

2) Follow the fence to the “fins” which are apparently sandstone formations which don’t look particularly like fins to me.

3) Pretend you’re water and you’ll eventually wind up in Courthouse wash.

Just go with the flow.

But remember you’re human and you’re actual object is to get where water would eventually go so maybe don’t jump in there.

4) Because I don’t have an overnight permit for Arches NP, turn right instead of left (where the trail goes), climb out of the wash because you’re blocked by a hanging fence, and set up camp outside the second fence they have outside the wash.

I wound up stopping with over two hours of hikeable light left because I need to do all of Courthouse Wash in one go due to the lack of an overnight permit. I didn’t get one because you have to apply in person and time is precious so I wanted to start hiking. Instead, I got this as my bedroom tonight.

Today was a great first day in the trail. The weather was cool and initially overcast which made for great lighting. I’m probably sunburned from when that burned off. The navigation challenges didn’t cost me much and so mostly served as a gentle introduction to not worrying so much. Finally, I was forced to go to bed early which Is probably for the best since I didn’t sleep enough last night.

As with any trip, I forgot some things: a ziplock for trash, sunscreen. Fortunately I can probably get those and a jar of Nutella or peanut butter in Moab tomorrow. Doing the Hayduke westward seems to have lots of small benefits.

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