Hayduke Day 31

April 11

After two full day off, complete with BBQ, pizza, ice cream and a couple of avocados and bananas, I was anxious to get back out again. The ankle sprain that’s been following me around appears to have improved, but still calls out from time to time and the worst of the winter storm has moved out, leaving only moderate winds and snow flurries today.

On the way out of town, I get impatient waiting for a hitchhike in the cold morning, so I take off on the road, passing cow and horse pasture and tumbleweed. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: what an odd place. I have no idea how people farm or ranch in such a barren place. From the main road, it’s a long haul down a windy jeep road but if I’ve learned to appreciate one thing on the Hayduke Trail its this: jeep road walks. What luxury.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for another time to see this next section of trail–Bryce Canyon National Park. Too much snow, too much trail closed from a fire last year. Luckily I found a route just east of the park that should bypass the worst of the snow, and still afford some excellent views of the rim of the canyon.

The Grand View Trail, as it’s called, starts at an abandoned old trailhead, complete with it’s own outhouse, which has had its door blown in. The trail is in similar condition; clearly no work has been done on it in quite some time, but it’s perfect for Haydukers! We take whatever trail we can get! As the path leads up to over 7500 feet snow begins falling and I have to slow my pace considerably to safely navigate the deep snow drifts covering the edge of the ridge I’m on. I begin the wonder if my reroute was worth it–surely whatever is up in Bryce Canyon cant be worse? As I Crest the ridge I’m afforded wonderful view of the park, tall old-growth Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs cover the valley. Deep pockets of snow have tucked themselves into the creases of Bryce Canyon, and the distinct orange-red hoodoos cling to the edge of the rim. It’s not the iconic view of Bryce, but this one belongs just to me–which of course makes it special. Who else would tramp through all this backcountry snow on steep slopes to get here? Surely there arent many of us, but the rewards we get are some of the sweetest out there, which is why I suppose we keep coming back.

Oddly, many of the streams flowing east of the canyon’s rim are dry, but theres plenty of snow to melt for water. At camp the wind pauses entirely and the tall pines stand steady and still, as if they’ve never seen a gust all. Generous flat ground stretches out and I clear a soft space free of pinecones for sleeping. Tomorrow I’ll have to come up and over another snowy ridge, but doing it first thing in the morning will give me an advantage as the snow will still be stiff and firm. The cold has settled in deeply up here, locked away from the desert, desperate to keep winter around, just a little bit longer.

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