Hayduke Day 14

March 24

In the night I was visited by a smattering of rain that for a wakeful moment I thought would turn torrential, but never did. Later a brief rockslide–or was it a dream? Finally, in the deep early morning, the lonely call of an owl echoing off the canyon walls. And silence, always silence in the wilderness. By dawn the birds were chirping and alive; the western walls began to glow.Cool clear water flowed all throughout Hatch Canyon and I walked among the muddy gravelly debris left behind by deeper water. The stream had cut small caves and overhangs in the rock along its timeless course–perfect nooks for sleeping humans and animals. The morning passed in a daydream with towering walls for a backdrop. So I was caught by surprise when the time came to climb out of the canyon and I missed my turn. I had been tracking a couple pairs of footprints along the way and when they mysteriously disappeared in a narrow part of path I realized my mistake.

I was deeply disappointed then to look at the wall which served as my exit–it seemed impossible and as I climbed up and up I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be it for old Tom Mauer. Fear not! The route isn’t nearly as bad as it seems from bellow–strenuous, yes–but not all that sketchy. One simply has to make a bee line (a steep one) for where the vertical cliff meets the slope and hug that line across the shoot–the part that appeared so intimidating from below. The walking is easy from the top and even if one did fall it would be possible to self-arrest before disaster struck. Once the crux was complete it was another three to four hundred feet until the very top, but no exposure at all on that final pitch.

The climb levels out on a 4×4 jeep road, and it was possible to look back over the route I covered yesterday afternoon. I was thrilled to have an easy road to follow after the enormous effort of the previous 24 hours. The class 4 chimney; the Red Bench; a climb down Fiddlers Cove; an escape from Hatch Canyon. My afternoon plans involved a heavy dose of snacking, and grazing on the view.

The day’s final obstacle was the Dirty Devil River ford, and it was just as tricky as expected. Chilly, swift, crotch-high water with an unexpected patch of quicksand (?) right in the river’s middle. The water was a silty chocolate milk color, so it was impossible to gauge depth or obstacles, I just had to go slowly and hope for the best. Beyond the river, the 4×4 road continued on and I passed the time by turning on some music for the first time all trip. The afternoon slipped away and my eyes burned from the fierce sunlight.

Canyon walls gave way to orbs and domes and I found an interesting little hillside on which to camp and take in the sunset. Tomorrow, I’ll hitchhike into the small town of Hanksville where I believe I’ll rent a room for the evening.

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