August 8, 2018
At best, the Hayduke is Type II Fun. A sufferfest, if you will. No water, relentless sun, terrifying exposure, cougars and scorpions. Flash floods, deep sand, incredible remoteness. And there's no trail—just an invisible path to figure out. I could fall to the bottom of a canyon and my personal locator beacon might not ever send my distress signal. (Please help me God.)
Just kidding, Mom. I'll be fine.
OK, it might not be that bad (I'll let you know in a couple of months), but the Hayduke isn't a trail like the ones you might be used to. It's really more of a "route," meaning to get from point A to point B I can't just look down and follow an unmistakeable line of dirt someone once carefully carved out. It means I'll be taking relevant topographic maps, a compass, and my wits and powers of judgement. It means I'll be keeping my eyes open to the ground and the horizon, paying attention to landmarks and cattle trails, scouting for feasible routes in and out of boulder-choked canyons.
The Hayduke is a logistical challenge, meaning I'll not only be hitching long distances to resupply in rural towns, but I'll also be placing a few caches of food and water for Future Danielle to find and enjoy.
The Hayduke is a social challenge, meaning that because some of the lands are very remote and difficult to access, very few people hike these areas. And even fewer decide to hike the entire Hayduke. Maybe 20 or 30 each year?
The Hayduke is an exercise in bravery, offering a handful of Class 4 scrambles and a couple of chimneys to work my way up and down. There's some serious exposure in a few places, and I'll be carrying a handline to schlep my pack in and out of some of the trickier spots.
Yvon Chouinard once said, "it's not an adventure until something goes wrong." The Hayduke will be an adventure in the truest sense of the word.
And now for some basic facts and FAQs.
How long is it?
Roughly 800 miles or so. Taking alternates (a common and much celebrated practice on the Hayduke) or getting lost (!) will vary each hiker's mileage quite a bit.
Where does it go?
Essentially the Hayduke goes from Arches to Zion. Along the way, it hits all five National Parks in Utah plus traverses parts of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. And it takes a huuuuuge detour through the Grand Canyon. (Once upon a time the Hayduke existed entirely on public lands—more about that soon.) Check out a basic map of the route here.
How long does it take?
Usually two months, although I'm going to aim high and try to finish in six weeks. I hiked the PCT pretty fast (overall 25 miles per day, including zeros & rest days), but the Hayduke has considerable challenges that you just don't find on other long-distance trails. That plus the shorter days of September and October will slow me down a bit. If I can manage an average of 18 miles per day I'll be happy, 20+ and I'll be stoked.
Who created the route?
Mike Mitchell and Joe Coronella, two badass dudes who met in Salt Lake City and kicked ass in Southern Utah. They spent a few years in the 1990's wandering through the desert, looking for passage across the landscape. Mike now runs a guiding company out of Moab. Carrot Quinn has a nice post from when he shared his take on the Hayduke 20+ years later, over tacos in Moab.
Who maintains the route?
Nobody! There is no governing body or conservation organization, such as the Pacific Crest Trail Alliance or the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Hayduke is not an "official" route; it is not a National Scenic Trail nor it is maintained or marked in any way. Its route is described in a single guidebook; alternates have been shared and crowdsourced on the internet. In many ways it is a Choose Your Own Adventure. And since nobody maintains it, it's really up to us to fight for its protection, by protecting the lands through which it travels. That means keeping our public lands public.
What's up with the name?
George W. Hayduke, Vietnam Vet and geurilla environmentalist who measured his miles in six-packs of beer, was the famed character from Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang who schlepped his pack over his shoulder while driving bulldozers over cliffs in the Southern Utah canyon country.
Why are you doing this?
Mostly because I like spending long stretches of time away from civilization, but also because I really like backpacking. And, ya know, because Trump and Zinke hate the environment.
I want to know more!
Mike and Joe put together an official website, with links to some decent blogs about other folks' thru-hikes.