An early start with the intent of avoiding the crowds. We crossed the sagebrush meadows of upper Cable Mountain and took the Echo Canyon Trail down the East Rim Trail to the Weeping Rock.
We kept the going slow to admire the details of these last miles while still in trail mindset. Appreciating the phlox, the gardens of prickly pear growing on thin cryptobiotic soils amid manzanita. Paintbrush emerging from tiny crevices and seams in the Navajo sandstone. Evoking memories hundreds of miles back to spots in the Waterpocket Fold and Hackberry Canyon. (Oh slickrock country of the Colorado Plateau you have a hold of my mind and heart.)
A cool, calm morning. We had a brief delay as we watched more than 15 bighorn sheep bound down a ridge, cross the trail, and climb up another slope. Fine balance and precise steps, such grace. We watched them watching us. We also watched how two strong power hikers were hustling up the trail, not seeming to look around, and completely miss the the cluster of bighorn sheep above them. It got me to thinking, what marvelous sights and events have we missed when our minds are elsewhere while hiking or we hike too fast?
Down the Echo Canyon narrows to the cement paved stretch of trail with expansive views of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River. Down past many a hiker. Down, down, down.
Down some more to the Weeping Wall – the guidebook finish to the Hayduke. A short paved path with marvelous interpretive signs for many of the common plant species in this part of Zion!!! Interpretive swoon. I was eager to reach the finish, but couldn’t resist the signs; appreciating how park naturalists phrase information to connect visitors to this remarkable place.
The Weeping Wall’s grotto of maidenhair ferns, monkey flowers, and golden columbines hanging from a wall with a misty drippy seep was a lovely finish to the Hayduke. Just as nice as any other arbitrary trail terminus, be it an international boundary, a trailhead, a view point, a gate, parking lot or what have you. Wherever a trail ends after a long walk, it feels satisfying. We snapped a few pictures and then realized we needed to get back to the trailhead to meet our friends.
Going down the trail we could hear Daybreaker’s excited whoops! He was running up to us. I was running down to him. Smack into a huge hug pile! So happy! So much love!
Laura was brilliant and thought to get a picture of us. Thank you a million times over Laura.
Much hopping, hugs, and giddiness ensued. Trail family seeing one another on trail is a very special thing. Later there was texting of pictures to other trail family and many emojis exchanged.
I must note, Daybreaker and Laura are experts at guiding hikers through a trail finish. They brought us celebratory kombucha! (Thank you friends for our favorite beverage!) They whisked us off to the shuttle bus. They gave us the interpretive tour as we rode down and they caught us up on their recent adventures. They expertly navigated us off the bus and detoured around the hundreds of people in line to catch shuttles into the park (more than hour long waits and 9 am). We washed our hands, admired a crafty fat rock squirrel in the parking lot. And then we were in the car, stopping in Springdale for veggie treats at the awesome natural food store, and on the road to Vegas.
Yes, this morning we woke up on the edge of Zion’s wilderness and watched bighorn sheep bound down canyon walls. Tonight we are in Vegas a block off the strip in what is a very affordable motel with a Liquor World upfront. Oh the contrasts of trail life.
Getting to hangout with Daybreaker and Laura, talk trail, travel experiences has been a fabulous, happy finish. We are incredibly grateful to both of them for making this reunion and exit to Vegas’ amenities workout. Tomorrow we go with them to the airport (they fly out to Seattle and St. Paul) and we pick up our rental car bound for Moab. We’ll be cache gathering and poking around places in southern Utah for the next week.
The walking part of our Hayduke journey is completed. But we are not finished yet, we have planned a slow Ent-like transition back home to the Pacific Northwest.
Day 59: 4.3 miles; 884.9 miles total. Stave Springs Trailhead in Zion National Park to the Weeping Wall Trailhead.
GPS: not needed; people sighted: many, best of all Daybreaker and Laura!!!; roads: one to Vegas.
Gabriel amid the wondrous gamble oak.
Looking beyond Zion Canyon to the West Rim. The Hayduke is a wondrous land of Navajo sandstone to the very end.
Bouquets of rough paintbrush.
Hiker hug pile!
Laura and Daybreaker present us with celebratory finish kombucha!!! Thank you so much!!!
Many thanks to Laura for driving from Zion to Vegas. Patient with three hikers in full-fledged trail talk mode. And Laura is an excellent driver. Calm and never scary. There were no imaginary breaks pushed or passenger door handles squeezed. Quite an accomplishment given the three of us passengers are not accustomed to going more than 3 miles per hour. Okay, with Daybreaker, 4 miles per hour.
And now we are in Vegas. In order to cross the street and get to a restaurant we had to walk through a casino. Surreal.