Wouldn’t you know it, almost a month in and I finally meet another Hayduker on trail. I’d just turned north into the Paria River, whose waters I would spend the rest of the day walking through, when I man hollered out from beyond some bushes.
“Hayduke?!” I called out, and when he answered out a loud “Yes,” so that he could be heard above the din of the river, I waded through the water so that I could greet this new companion. A rare find indeed, to meet another of our kind.
One-Gallon is his name, and he might be the most accomplished thru-hiker of all time. He’s hiked both the AT and CDT four times, and the PCT three. After he finishes the Hayduke he’s flying to California to hike the PCT northbound, which will make him the only quadruple triplecrowner. Each of the three major trails, four times over. With a partner like that our conversation was lively all day so when he stopped a little after five to make camp, I was tempted to set up along side him. But no, I prefer hiking later into the evening and camping alone as much as possible, so I pushed on to the confluence of the Paria River and Sheep Creek. Our schedules are very similar, so we’re bound to cross paths again, sooner rather than later.
Truth be told, I was so engaged with the novelty of having a person around to speak with I didnt pay much attention to the scenery today. Long walks–and today’s was over 20 miles–through a river that braids it’s way across its banks makes for easy, mindless walking. And as I’ve perhaps mentioned earlier, I’ve found the now 100 or so miles from Escalante to be some of my least favorite of any long trail I’ve ever been on. Yes, I feel a little guilty saying that, but I’ve kept a positive attitude and remained appreciative, regardless. It’s such a rare priviledge to spend long periods of time in such wilderness, and that alone is a gift to be cherished.
So even though I may have crossed the Paria River a few dozen times today and by the time I made camp my shoes were as heavy as wet cement, there’s reason to rejoice. We have life, and more frogs to sing us to sleep, and giant walls of rock which turn red as the day grows long, and a sliver of moon that sits on a ridge beyond the hills, like a glass of water tipping uneasily on a table. I reach for it–this glass–to arrest its fall, but it’s beyond my grasp. No need, no need–the night has worked its magic and suspended it in place. I pull my arm back, close to me and the warmth of my body, and feel a tug of shame. Perhaps I was foolish to have thought I could save the moon.