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May 1999

A New Utah Adventure

Never heard of Utah's George Washington Hayduke Route, have you? That's because it's brand new.

Day 41, April 29

Granite Creek: The sunrise was so sweet, watching the sun peek out behind the La Sal Mountains. And I finally could see where we’d be going into waterpocket fold.

Day 42, April 30

Mt. Ellen: Two days of earning joyful turns on Mt. Ellen’s north and south summits in corn snow. How strange to look away from the snow, down on the huge desert scene spread out all around us.

Day 47, May 5

Lower Muley Twist Canyon: We made it halfway through our trip! Tonight we celebrated with a double meal of chili plus chili cheese tostadas. The beauty, the desolation, the absolute grandeur of the desert, the critters and flowers-most would’ve been missed traveling any other way.

Day 54, May 12

Escalante River: I never had any idea how many birds are in the desert. While we ate dinner, we watched a young bald eagle soar around the canyon, then get harassed by ravens and some smaller birds. A mockingbird serenaded us all night.

Day 56, May 14

Coyote Gulch (left): Rattlesnakes, scorpions, poison ivy, quicksand, thorny scrubs, deep water. We fought tooth and nail for 27 miles through the Escalante River valley. The reward: Coyote Gulch, a desert oasis with its clear running stream, lush vegetation, and cool shadows. So many times today I needed reminding that this is still the desert.

Day 60, May 18

Fiftymile Mountain: We’re at the edge of Kaiparowits Plateau, the most unknown terrain of the entire trip. We have an idea where we’re going. That’s part of the appeal, part of the excitement.

Day 62, May 20

Monday Canyon: In the first two months of travel, we’ve found: $1.47 in change, seven tent stakes, two pairs of glasses, two hats, two bandannas, three license plates, more beer cans than I’d care to count, and lots of cowboy garbage.

Day 65, May 23

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: I threw up this morning and had diarrhea. The water we got at Navajo Canyon must have been poisoned. I hope this doesn’t get any worse!

Day 69, May 27

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: The National Monument sign, which is pretty new, has already been shot, torched, and otherwise defaced. These people had better get used to the idea that the days of treating public land like it’s their own are over.

Day 70, May 28

Kodachrome State Park: Quite a few folks stopped to ask if we were okay or to offer water. One fellow asked if we needed any LSD. We didn’t. Our usual response: We needed a cold beer, which we never did get.

Day 73, May 31

Paria Canyon: I feel better, but the diarrhea’s worse. If it doesn’t get better soon, we’re going to have to bail.

Day 77, June 4

Bryce Canyon National Park: Being here makes it easy to forget we’re in the desert. The ponderosa forest, the crisp, cool air-it seems more like the Sierra until you see the gorgeous pink cliffs. Unmistakable Utah.

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