Memories from November 23, 2018.
Today I finished the trail. It’s anticlimactic because I’m on a schedule and need to be back at work.
The first few miles were to get back to Hildale. I’m still not quite sure how to do this with complete confidence that no trespassing occurred but I did a little better than when I was outbound.
From Hildale, I hitched to Hurricane. A friendly, bearded young carpenter picked me up in less than 15 minutes. In Hildale, I make a sign that said, “Zion” and stood under the mileage sign to Zion. Two Polish women from Chicago picked up and dropped my by the walk-in entrance to the park.
Zion seems to require that you take a shuttle to the trailheads and the line for that shuttle as long. I hadn’t made a reservation for accommodations for the night thinking that there would be plenty of vacancy because it was late in the season and so immediately called the first local hotel I found and managed to reserve their last room. A little while later, while still standing in line, I got to talking with the family behind me who had a son who shares my name. They had actually seen my trying to hitch and a jovial game of blame started for why they hadn’t picked me up.
On the bus, I hit it off with two pairs of just-out-of-college day hikers heading for Angel’s Landing. My trail ends at the Weeping Rock but I kinda wanted to get off and hike with them instead.
The bus in Zion has a narration which plays after each stop. At one point, it actually mentioned flash floods in the Virgin River specifically and warned not to be in the river in bad weather. This made me feel a little better about my decision to turn back yesterday.
The Weeping Rock itself is at most an tenth of a mile from the trail head. I flew up the paved, graded path and got a my finishing picture taken by a guy who’s been pointing a fancy camera around and he did pretty well with my camera phone.
At this point I was done. In total I’ve skipped about 100 miles (last 10 of section 6, all 70 of section 7, and the last 20 of section 14) of the approximately 810 miles in the guidebook and so maybe it’s more accurate to say that I had a Hayduke Adventure than that I hiked the Hayduke. Either way, time is up and I started at the beginning and ended at the end.
Since things had gone so well today I decided to hike up a little to a half-way point to burn a little time but still get back to the hotel during daylight. On the way down, I wound up in a conversation with a pair of deeply sunburnt hikers about long trails. One of them had hiked the AT. After I had passed them and they complemented me on my choice of backpack, the shouted down from a switchback above asking if I were in the Hayduke. About 30 seconds later it was obvious that trying to hold a conversation across 20 odd vertical feet in a crowded path wasn’t going to be convenient for us or the passerby’s so we walked back to the bus together and then bussed back to the visitor’s center together. Having this human connection to the through hiking and outdoors community created a feeling of closure to the trip.
Soaking in the hotel hot tub while watching the shadows lengthen on the rock walls above did too.