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Begins: Mar 19, 2013
Date: Sun, May 19th, 2013
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Trip Distance: 880.0
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PLANNING NOTES FOR FUTURE HIKERS
There's been a few changes here and there. Off hand, the Needles Outpost has new oweners which is great, Hite Marina is closed, there are a LOT more Hayduke hikers (although still not that many), there are a few really good websites where past hikers have detailed out some cool alternates. Skurka kind of updated his bundle, all he did is dump everyone's notes into a file and put it on his site for download. Not exactly stellar but still helpful. Li has essentially stopped providing maps at least at this time. Long story. Skurka's maps/bundle is just fine to hike the Hayduke, Li's info was just like a bonus.
I'd suggest reading Wired's recent Hayduke entry, she'll update you on all this and more:
I feel like my info really has to be outdated now. There are also a ton more hikers, it's crazy. There's also an amazing website from Jamal Green (google Across Utah) that has a million options and alternates to research. It's been like 8 years since my hike, I feel like things have changed a lot. Oh, and there's basically an accurate GPS track if you search around. I won't say the Hayduke has been ruined but a lot of the adventure I had seems to have been lost.
The following are some thoughts on planning for a Hayduke thru-hike. First off, I'm going to assume you've done several other thru-hikes. If you haven't then the Hayduke is most likely not a good place to start. Second, Skurka's "Bundle" is an excellent source of planning information and well worth the nominal fee he charges for it. It's so good that I don't really feel the need to write as much as I normally might, however I'll emphasize things I think are important or give an alternate viewpoint about what worked and didn't for me.
SHOULD I HIKE THE HAYDUKE?
I've hiked a lot of miles and the Hayduke was by far the most scenic and most amazing trail I've ever hiked. In fact, it wasn't even a close comparison it's so amazing. As far as "qualifications" go I like Skurka's discussion. The Hayduke trail will essentially be a jump in skill level for most hikers but if it feels like a leap of faith then you'll probably find yourself in some trouble out there. If you feel like you are qualified then you better go hike the Hayduke. It's freakin' incredible.
Beyond the techical scrambles and navigation 3 things really stuck out in my mind that made this trail tough. First, the penalty for failure out here is very high. You'll almost never see anyone and a simple broken ankle could easily turn into a serious problem. It's so dry and potentially hot out here that you could be in real trouble. The odds of someome coming along to help are slim to none. This can be mitigated by a hiking partner and/or a SPOT device.
Second, the food carries on the Hayduke are big. There were 4 sections where I had to carry 7 or more days of food plus sometimes a gallon of water. This is essentially half the trail with big food carries which makes everything harder.
Third is weather which I will discuss later.
WHAT ABOUT THE SCARY TECHNICAL STUFF AND NAVIGATION?
Honestly, this wasn't as scary as it seemed. I never did anything that really scared me or that I thought was totally insane. Nothing ever seemed as difficult or scary as described in the guidebook. There was some serious scrambling or ledge walking or climbs up/down pouroffs, but I never felt like there was big exposure or where I could really fall. There seemed to be a lot of places where you had to be careful not to fall or slip and injure yourself (like giant boulder hopping or down-climbs), but I never felt like I was looking death in the face trying to do something.
With a GPS, I didn't find navigation all that difficult. Keep in mind that caveat, "with a GPS". It's a whole different story without one. There are a TON of places I never would have found the exact wash or ridge or whatever without the GPS. It can obviously be done without a GPS, but you really need to be at a top level with a map and compass. I loaded the Utah and Arizona 24k topo maps from "gpsfiledepot.com" (free). I also then used Skurka's ".tpo" file included with his Bundle to import all the dots/symbols on his maps into my GPS. This was somewhat complicated, contact me offline if you would like some help doing this. The end result was that if I looked at my GPS I could see the "red dot" which corresponded to the "red dot" on the map and I knew exactly where I was. Very helpful.
SEASON TO HIKE
I think there is a pretty solid case for going Westbound in the Spring. First, the guidebook is written that way and that always helps. Second, I think it is much more likely to have spring potholes of water than in the Fall which can be very, very nice. There isn't much water out there and a random pothole of water in a dry stretch can make your day. Third, and in my opinion a big deal, is that the western third of the trail is by far the most difficult. From the nankoweep trailhead to Hack Canyon are some of the hardest miles you will ever hike and covers 2, 7+ day hauls of food (Jacob Lake to South Rim, South Rim to Colorado City). Starting out with these sections seems absolutely brutal to me and in contrast finishing with these sections then feels like you have earned the Hayduke.
However, there is one big reason for going in the Fall. Lingering snow in the Spring can be a real issue which I'll discuss later.
It's been hiked by several people in the Fall, but it seems like most go in the Spring.
Even though a short 800 miles, the Hayduke is a tough trail to squeeze in perfect weather. I left March 20 which seemed like a perfect start this year, but I still struggled with the weather. In hindsight I wouldn't have changed my date, but it just goes to show you that the weather can be tough even if I thought I had the perfect date. I essentially had 6 weeks of pretty cold weather and then 2 weeks of very hot weather. There were very, very few perfect temperature days. For the first 6 weeks easily more than half my nights dropped below freezing and at least 15 of those were in the mid-20's. The days were cool usually in the 50's or 60's but also sometimes no higher than the 40's. Add in a very strong wind and it's cold not to mention a 25 degree night doesn't exactly warm up very fast. My last night before I dropped down into the Grand Canyon was 26 degrees and then it was a blistering 100 at the bottom. It was then blistering hot for 2 weeks except for 1 day on the North Rim where it snowed an inch on me. Now some of this is just timing of a storm, but overall I was very surprised by how cold it was for the first 6 weeks. I did however have very, very little precipitation. Basically 1 day of rain and 1 day of snow. Other than a few other sprinkles, that's it.
Skurka and Pace (2012) started in Februrary which sounded brutally cold not to mention the snow issues they encountered. I also wouldn't leave much later than I did as it really heats up out here. So long story short there really is no weather window which will provide you 2 months of perfect balmy days and nights.
Also, I did have a number of potholes of water in the Spring which was really nice sometimes. I don't know about the Fall and the monsoon season, but I hiked the Arizona Trail in the Fall 2009 and it was way, way drier than a Spring hike. I don't know if that comparison carries over to the Hayduke.
This is potentially a major issue for a Spring hiker and can actually somewhat ruin a hike. There are 3 major areas that come to mind. First, the Henry Mountains. You climb 6,000' up to 11,000'+ and getting over without snowshoes can be a real issue. I had a low snow year and only postholed a little, but in a normal year this could be a problem. There are 2 lower route alternates to get around this, but going over the Henry's is a quintisential part of the Hayduke so it would suck having to go around. Getting info. on snow levels is tough. I never found anything good on the Internet. Calling a local motel or store would probably be best and asking the locals.
Second, Bryce can hold a lot of snow late in the season. Bryce is mostly on an amazing alternate and not being able to take this alternate would be a real shame. You can call the NPS for good info.
Third, the Kaibab Plateau can hold a major amount of snow requiring a boring parallel route on lower elevation dirt roads for 50+ miles. While the Kaibab Plateua isn't the most exiting part of the Hayduke I was glad to have almost all of the snow melted out and have been able to walk it. It's mostly the Arizona Trail so you get some very rare good singletrack! You can call the North rim back country office for information or better yet email Li who will be able to track down a detail report for you (Li of the infamous PNT and AZT maps).
My March 20 start date worked perfect for these snow issue areas, but it did seem like I had a low snow year in all areas.
GUIDEBOOKS AND MAPS
This is pretty easy. The guidebook written by the Hayduke creators (Mike and Joe) is fantastic and essential. The maps, however are too small for navigation and noted as such. Skurka's "Bundle" is fantastic. I was extremely impressed by it's thoroughness and how helpful it was in planning and lots of sometimes very important trail tips as I went. Additionally, the maps are formatted and ready for printing at the push of a button. His maps are essentially a trace of the guidebook route plus a good number of important alternates. I printed on 11x17 and was happy and Skittles printed on 8x10 and was happy. Personal preference I guess. Also, another hugely important resource from the Bundle is the Water Chart. He has a significant number of sources not mentioned in the guidebook as well as comments from past hikers about wet/dry which you will definitely want.
I also carried the Delorme atlas pages which I enjoyed having for a high level overview and just in case I really needed to bail.
There aren't a ton of other resources out there. There are a few journals to help get a feel for the trail. Choi and Dave/Michelle have excellent notes on their sites, but these are also 100% incorporated into Skurka's Bundle.
Lastly, as I mentioned before I would highly recommend a GPS. I totally get Skurka's dislike of GPS (see commentary in his Bundle), but not everyone is a world class orienteer and having a GPS on the Hayduke is really helpful.
I'm going to make some educated guesses here. Overall, the Hayduke feels like you are either on dirt roads or nothing at all. Of course this isn't exactly true, but....
Singletrack: The only significant singletrack (trail) on the Hayduke is when you are on the Arizona Trail for about 60 miles. Add in the Grand Canyon corridor trails, a good number of other Grand Canyon trails (Beamer, Escalante, Tonto), a few miles in Arches, the Under the Rim trail in Bryce and the final day in Zion. I'm sure I've missed some but that's seriously about it. Skittles counts some of the cow paths in the washes, but I don't know! I'd say at best we're talking about 200 miles and probably less.
Dirt roads: Of the remaining 75% that's not trail about half of that would be dirt road (just a guess). So maybe 300 miles. A lot of these were pretty old and more like trail and a lot were pretty decent, but rarely were you walking on a very high grade dirt road for endless miles. You'll be begging to walk on dirt roads at times so don't let the number of miles on dirt roads concern you.
The Rest: The remaining say 300 miles (guess) are trailess miles. However, a lot of these are spent following washes in canyons so they can be slow, but you won't be getting lost. There are pure cross country miles for sure, but these are fairly limited. You need the skill to be able to do these cross country routes, but it's not like you are walking endless miles navigating from point to point. This seems to be a common myth.
One thing I learned on the Hayduke is 2 mph terrain. You hear a lot about the 1 mph terrain. The hard stuff and you'll do lots of it. You hear a lot about the 3 mph terrain. The dirt roads where you will make up time. You never here about the 2 mph terrain where I felt like I spent the majority of my hike. The deep sand walking in washes is all 2 mph terrain. The cross country is all 2 mph terrain. The constant fording of creeks in a wash is all 2 mph terrain. I really felt like 2 mph was more common on the Hayduke than any other trail I've hiked and it really slows you down for the day.
It took me exactly 60 days. I've done other trails in average to slightly faster than average speeds. I could have done the Hayduke a bit faster, but there was no need so I took my time sometimes. Not to say I went slow, but I started slow being a little out of shape and took some good town days and never tried to push big miles. I'd say 2 months is average. People have gone a lot faster and a lot slower.
Overall, the towns sucked on the Hayduke. Not horrible, but not really very good. Generally small, poor restaurants and mediocre resupply. Motels were generally dumpy, but cost $ 70 or more. Not my favorite trail towns. I was able to resupply just fine and relax in towns, it just wasn't the greatest. My Section Notes on another journal entry usually mentions each town so look there for more info. Skurka's Bundle is pretty light on town details, but the towns are so small just walking in and figuring it out as you go worked just fine. I do mention in my Section Notes a few alternate resupply strategies so take a look there for some more tips.
Technically you will need a permit in all 6 National Parks. In reality this is impossible to do. The trail rarely gets close to a place where you can actually get a permit. Fortunately, the trail also rarely goes anywhere you will see a Ranger and get caught. I would highly encourage you to get a Grand Canyon permit way in advance and then change it over the phone once you get closer to the Grand Canyon (See my Section Notes for further tips). This is the one place you are likely to see a Ranger at least once. I didn't get any other permits and felt like I made the correct choice. Typically you are only in a National Park one or two nights. I always had an excuse ready, like I was going to night hike out of the park or there might be a place to pop out to National Forest land. It would be hard for them to prove otherwise unless they actually saw you camping. I never saw a Ranger anywhere except the Grand Canyon.
The Hayduke Trail isn't created to be hiked like the Appalachian Trail. Creating your own route is encouraged and looked upon as a good thing! First thing, the guidebook is written as though you are going to cache all your food which is ridiculous. The trail almost never gets near a town. Therefore, over time, a few alternates have been developed by past hikers to walk in and out of a town as part of the trail. Mainly Escalante (would not do again, see my Section Notes), Tropic (good), South Rim (good) and Colorado city (good). Moab and Jacob Lake are very near the Official route and Hanksville, Escalante and Kanab would be hitches. Hitching is illegal in Utah although I never had an issue.
In addition to the resupply alternates Skurka has several other alternates mapped out which have been used by past hikers. Several of these are alternates to get around snow. I fortunately did not need to take these. Lastly, I took a few alternates suggested by Li (see my Section Notes). I didn't do anything crazy or off the grid, but it would be perfectly acceptable to do that. The guidebook route, with the exception of resupply issues, is an excellent route, so don't feel the need to go crazy with alternates either.
One of the most important reasons you need expereince to hike Hayduke is water. It's really dry out there and the penalty for misjudging a water source can be very high. There are many times when sources are so far apart that if you were counting on a source and it was dry you could be in a world of trouble. The experience factor comes in to know your personal needs, speed and most importantly how to take in all the information you know about a source and the current season to determine whether water will actually be there. This is no joke. If you have ever tried walking for just a few hours when thirsty and out of water then you know what I mean. I was on an alternate that entered Dark Canyon well above where the Hayduke does. I was sure there would be water un Upper Dark Canyon and was wrong. I walked for 5 very hot and agonizing hours before reaching water. It was not very pleasant to say the least. Fortunately, I knew there was guaranteed water at the end of those 5 hours so there was no serious danger, but it was not a mistake I would ever make again on the trail.
Skurka's waterchart is extremely helpful as it has additional water sources not mentioned in the guidebook and commentary from several other hikers as to what they found. Hopefully this will be even further updated this year with more hikers info. It was still tough though. Skurka started in February so a lot of his info was sketchy for me and Choi must have had the wettest year ever since he had sources wet in July that I had dry in April. Dave/Michelle was the best indicator for me as well as Pace's trail journal (2012).
20 mile water carries were common and sometimes longer. Overall, it was better than I expected. Many times luckily I caught a long water carry on a cool day making me have to carry much less water than normal. Also, the Grand Canyon is one of the hottest stretches, but you are frequently by the Colorado River to cool off. I actually never carried more than a gallon at a time (keep in mind that some cool weather timing was lucky and I try to carry as little as possible and usually less than others). I did carry 3-4 liters many times, much more than any other trail except my Fall AZT hike. There's a good chance you will want/need to carry more water than a gallon sometimes.
Overall, I found the quality to be pretty good considering the circumstances. I do have very low standards and almost never treat my water. I treated maybe 6 sources the whole trip. Much of the area of the Hayduke is cattle fouled so depending on what you think of that will dictate how much you treat. I usually don't treat that unless they are standing there crapping in the water.
The odds of meeting another Hayduke hike on the trail to hike with are basically zero so have a partner if you want some company. The best reason to have a partner is safety. If you get injured then having someone that can go get help is a big deal. You will most likely be someowhere where literally no one else will ever come by. Alternately, having a SPOT would be a good idea. SPOT isn't something I usually recommend, but this would be a good trail to have one. Also, motels are rather pricey in most trail towns (especially for how dumpy they are) so having someone to split it with is nice. Lastly, there were a fair number of times where handing our packs down certain difficult spots was a lot easier with a partner. We only needd to use a rope to lower packs once, but if I had been on my own I would have had to use rope several other times for sure.
If you are hiking the Hayduke then surly you have your gear dialed in. Here are just a few Hayduke specific random gear thoughts:
-There are ok gear stores in Escalante, Kaibab and the South Rim. Don't expect them to necessarily have what you need, but it's possible. The South Rim was actually the best.
-I had many nights in the mid-20's. A 10 degree sleeping bag which has an approximate 22 degree comfort rating was just enough to keep me warm. Don't be bringing that 40 degree bag!
-I had a Neoair pad the whole way and never got a hole. There are less cactus out there than you might expect. Mostly prickly pair.
-Having a good shelter isn’t as important as other trails. It rarely rains and the bugs are usually not bad. You will be cowboy camping a lot if you like that. The only reason I set up my shelter the first 6 weeks was to get the extra warmth on some very cold nights.
-You will be camping on sand a ton and sand destroys zippers. Try to keep then clean and bring a few extra sliders just in case. My tent lost 3 zippers, hipbelt pocket 1 zipper and shorts 1 zipper.
-I wore trail runners which was fine. Having good tread is fairly essential. You'll do a lot of slickrock, boulder and rock walking.
-Bugs were almost non-existent. Just a couple days on the Kaibab Plateau.
-Obvioulsly sunscreen, a good hat and sunglasses are important.
-Long pants and a long sleeve shirt will be much appreciated for the bushwhacking sections. There is tons of prickley stuff out there and if you have an ultralight rain coat or pants that you are using for bushwhacking you will most likely destroy them.
-I personally didn't like my ankle gaitors, but there is a ton of deep sand so if you like keeping it out of your shoes you might want gaitors.
-The wind can be relentless on days so a windshirt or raincoat will help a lot.
-I barely had any rain so going light on the rain gear would seem like a good idea (of course you could have different weather!)
-I probably would have died without my trekking poles.
No matter what carrier you have you'll almost never have reception unless you are in a town. I had AT&T and had reception in all towns (except Hite and Jacob Lake) although it was weak in the Grand Canyon area. Apparently Verizon works best in the Grand Canyon area and works at Jacob Lake.
The Hayduke Trail is an extremely challenging, 800-mile backcountry route through some of the most rugged and breathtaking landscapes on earth. Located entirely on public land, the trail links six of the National Parks on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona with the lesser known, but equally splendid, lands in between them. Encompassed in the route are Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and numerous National Forests, BLM Districts, Primitive Areas, Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas. The Hayduke Trail is not intended to be the easiest or most direct route through this incredibly varied terrain, but is rather meant to showcase the stunning Redrock Wilderness of the American Southwest.
http://s1250.beta.photobucket.com/user/tanzmbr/library/ (click on "show albums and stories" on left hand side)
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