A beautiful sunrise, pretty scenery along Indian Creek, and an easy walk into Needles Outpost.
We got into Needles Outpost, took care of our resupply, bought extra food, got a campsite and shower tokens. Even had a delicious dinner of veggie-piled street tacos scheduled for 6 pm. We thought we were all set, save for picking up our backcountry permit. Even that got arranged easily when Tickled Pink and Last on the Bus, soon-to-be-Haydukers, dropped off their packages at the Outpost and gave us a ride to the NP visitor center.
Everything was going incredibly well on this in-and-out nero day on the edge of Canyonlands.
As I waited to pick up our permit that I’d ordered back in January, I listened to the ranger speak with much knowledge about the area to the hiker in front of me who was picking up her permit. When it was my turn, he asked several questions about our route. Then said I hope you are carrying snowshoes, because you’re likely to encounter hip deep snow on route to Dark Canyon.
Hip deep snow? Oh bother. We have dealt with SNOW on other hikes. Really in the desert? Are we cursed?
The range showed us some snow charts, recent cold temps, etc. Had us pretty convinced that we needed to bail on our plan of Salt Creek to Dark Canyon and take a lower elevation route. It all sounded reasonable and we knew that going through the heart of the Needles to Beef Basin (closer to the standard Hayduke route could be awesome as well). No big deal. Plans changed. We had the maps. Then we really looked at the maps and realized we’d be playing water roulette for 40+ miles.
And that was when we realized that the Hayduke has far more in common with chess than the average thru-hike.
After yesterday’s 8-liter carry (which by the way, we didn’t use all of the water-given the easy road walking and cool temps today), we weren’t in the mood for heavy loads of water on our backs. Which meant we were opting back to our original plan of hiking up Salt Creek to Dark Canyon, but now wondering about conditions. Still we had a plan and enough supplies, should we need to turnaround.
Cell service and wifi are spotty around Needles Outpost, so we didn’t have many information resources available to us to evaluate the ranger’s info save for what he showed us. I was able to send a few brief emails to Drop’N’Roll and Christa to find out how Daybreaker was doing. Their info gave us some peace of mind. Daybreaker was hiking along and making good time.
But it was a Hayduke lesson, that this trip often has more in common with our mountain trips back home. We need to know the technical aspects of the route, the general conditions, the weather, and likely sources of water. Unlike regular thru-hiking where we can generally slog on. The Hayduke requires one to think ahead with more strategy, be prepared for multiple scenarios, and to understand the tradeoffs.
We’ll keep studying. Tomorrow we hike through Salt Creek. By Wednesday we’ll see about this “hip deep snow”.
The highlight of the night amid this quandary was Caleb’s delicious street tacos! Piled with cilantro, avocado, kimchi, and a dash of banana ketchup on the side. We loved them! Like foodie loved them, not just starving hiker loved them. So if anyone is going to Canyonlands in the next month and a half, stop by Needles Outpost for some awesome tacos!
The current camp hosts for the Outpost are incredibly kind. Gabriel and I loved getting to know them amid their bustling day. Amber is a potter who loves to make fermented foods. Caleb is a cook and appreciates good sauces and ketchup!
Day 6: 9.1 miles, 92.3 miles total. Camp at the top of Indian Creek Road to Needles Outpost.
GPS: not used; people sighted: many, including one pack rafter with the same Hyperlight pack, OR Helium jacket, and is a fellow UW alum – Go Huskies!; roads: it was all roads.