Hayduke Trail – Day 7 (19 miles)
This morning was extremely hard work.
To start off I finished off the climb that I started yesterday. It was not far or hard, and then I dropped into Young’s Canyon.
After a few minutes, I came to the first dryfall. I headed straight down the first ledge and then realised that I needed to be on the left-hand side to get down to the second. I traversed across and descended. I then looked down the third – I could not see this from the top – and could not get down the 10ft (3m) ledge.
I went back up and looked around. I could not see a way down. Frustrated, I walked back to the dryfall. On the way back I saw a slightly shallower grade at one point on a side wall. I headed there and started the climb down. I made it down, but it was harder than I expected. I am still mystified as to where I was meant to descend.
Pushing through a bit of bramble, I continued down the canyon for only a quarter mile before I turned right and started up the other side. This was fairly straightforward, but quite steep and show.
I reached the top and followed the canyon rim around until it joined with a side canyon. I had to do this as there is a dryfall that I need to get around.
When I arrived at the top of the side canyon rim I could not see a way down. Again! The whole rim has a 30ft (10m) vertical ledge that I could not get down or even find a break.
After spending quite a bit of time walking around and checking out this spot and that – and questioning my sanity – I found the decent. It was actually easy once I started, and I made my way down without incident.
For all this effort I was not in Young’s for long, and within 30 minutes, I was at its end and looking into Dark Canyon.
Dark is the largest canyon that I have seen on this hike to date, a rather narrow bottom and the sides shooting over 1,600ft (500m) into the air.
Another dryfall blocked my way. This time I headed left and down one ledge. I think I headed down early as I had to traverse quite a way to find the way down to the bottom. It was a long, loose rock scree slope. Everyone’s favourite!
I found a use trail and made my way down. I only had one minor incident when I slipped on a loose rock. Normally this would not be a problem but I slipped straight into a cactus, which is far from pleasant.
I made it to the bottom and hoped the excitement was over for the day. I had about a mile to go until water. I was getting rather thirsty.
Unfortunately, the hard times continued. The valley was overgrown with plants that I had a hard time pushing through, and the mile to water passed very slowly.
I arrived at the spring, where I tipped out my cow water and drank 2L and eat lunch. I’ve only managed to hike 6 miles in 5 hours.
With water now flowing, the trees and shrubs got thicker. For the next mile, I pushed my way through, jumping from one side of the creek to the other each time the canyon turned.
Slowly, the floor became rockier and gave me a reprieve from the thick bush. As I continued, it had changed to primarily rock, and became a game of guessing which side of the creek the ledges would last the longest. They were about 15ft (5m) above the creek so it was highly beneficial to get it right, or I had to scramble down, cross the creek and head up the other side.
After 7 miles in the canyon, I came to my end. Only one more challenge awaited me, the climb back out. It was the same height as where I entered but was easy rock hopping along a user trail.
I got to the top and ran into a school excursion. I sat down and spoke to the teachers for 20 minutes while I caught my breath. I then continued on a good trail and then a jeep road for the last hour until sunset.
Not many miles, but it was one of the most difficult days I’ve ever hiked. At one stage it had me questioning why I would be hiking this.