Ahhhhhh yeah…..do you feel the anticipation building!?…..Let the countdown begin! Heeerrreeee comes the HAYDUKE TRAIL! I know I’ve been a little MIA on the blog this fall and winter, but I enjoy my hibernation period between hikes and I need that time to recharge (pun intended). If you haven’t followed my Walking With Wired Facebook and Instagram pages, those are where I tend to post more things from time to time during the off season. I am now just six short weeks away from setting off on another season of backpacking and it starts off with a doozey of a trail, the Hayduke Trail.
I know that very few people reading this have heard of the Hayduke Trail (HDT) before, so I wanted to give it the proper introduction that it is rightfully due. This entry will be a little long, so I will break it into two posts, but I think you all will appreciate taking this journey even more if you know how hiking the Hayduke came to be for me. It’s important to me that blog readers feel that they are really walking with me on these trails. In order for that to best happen, I want you all to feel and experience it from the beginning when I first learned of the Hayduke Trail…
Two and a half years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant with fellow thru hiker, Drop-N-Roll. There were framed photos of the Southwestern US on the walls. Those iconic pictures we have all seen of unimaginable landforms like sandstone arches and surreal slot canyons that seem otherworldly. Being born and raised in Illinois and having no experience in the Southwest, I’ve always looked at those types of photos from a very removed and unaffected place. Those scenes are so incomprehensible and foreign to what I know and understand that they don’t seem real to me somehow. Drop-N-Roll had been to the Southwest and it has her heart. She talked about it with such wanderlust and adventure in her eyes…she mentioned the Hayduke Trail…I had no idea what it was, but I knew it intimidated me. I remember saying it was something I’d never do…little did I know that a seed was planted that night that would slowly grow over the next two years…
I completely forgot about the HDT and went on to hike Continental Divide Trail in 2013. When I finished the CDT, I found myself less intimidated and more invigorated by the idea of lesser traveled trails or routes. I knew I wanted to return to the Continental Divide after the Appalachian Trail to continue north into Canada on the more remote Great Divide Trail. I had overlapped with a Canadian named Mtn Rat on the CDT and he too was researching the GDT, so we kept in touch. I knew the GDT was a two month trail to be done the second half of the summer, so I searched for a trail to hike the first half of the summer. The most obvious choice would be the Pacific Northwest Trail, which runs along the border of the US and Canada from the Pacific Ocean to Waterton Park, the start of the GDT (and also the Northern terminus of the CDT).It seemed like the ideal trip. I read a 2013 PNT journal from a woman named Katherine and, although a great journal, it made me think twice about squeezing in both the PNT and GDT when they have such a small fair weather window. Regardless, I still emailed Katherine to thank her for the blog as I had admiration for her being the first woman to solo hike the PNT and I liked her writing.
Just as I was questioning the enjoyment of a PNT/GDT combo, I randomly landed on a website from Nicolas Barth, a New Zealander who had just hiked much of the Hayduke Trail in the fall of 2013. I think someone posted it on my fb page or something. I hadn’t even thought of the Hayduke in well over a year and here it was, for the first time, in its full glory right in front of me! It was a real thing and it was AMAZING! Take a moment right now to click on the link to Nic’s site and look at those photos! Seriously, go! I immediately did two things after viewing that website. I sent Nic a thank you email for inspiring me to want to do the Hayduke…and I sent his website to a few thru hiking friends to see who I could recruit to hike with me since there was no way I’d be going solo! Sadly, none of them could take the bait in 2015.
I tabled thoughts of the Hayduke. I knew that if and when I was able to find a partner for the HDT, I’d have to go for it since so few hike that trail, and there was no way I’d ever do it solo. A month later, I got a random email from Mtn Rat that said simply this, “Have you thought about the Hayduke? I have been looking at it for a few years?” I was shocked! Was this really possibly happening? Had I found someone to hike the Hayduke with!? As I communicated more with Mtn Rat about the HDT, it became even more real in my mind that I could hike that route. It was intimidating, but I knew I wanted to do it regardless. I also realized that it was a perfect fit for a trail to do before the GDT. I was sold! Over the next few months, Mtn Rat realized 2015 would not work out for him to hike a long trail. I knew that was a possibility and my mind was still set on going on the Hayduke.
I had four months and 2,185mi along the Appalachian Trail to envision myself hiking the HDT. I even listened to audiobooks that were the inspiration for the Hayduke Trail. Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitare” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” They only fueled my drive more to hike the HDT. I will go into detail on these books in Part 2 of this post. By the time I got off the well paved AT highway, I was jonesing for a more remote and challenging experience. The Hayduke and Great Divide Trail were happening! I posted my plans for 2015, and shortly thereafter, I got an email from Katherine (who had written the PNT blog a year earlier!) that she was going to also do the HDT solo and she presented the idea of us starting together. What a wonderful world! That is how the HDT came to be for me. Now Katherine (she has an HDT blog too) and I are just six weeks away from starting the trail. I still don’t think it’s fully hit me. I realize I’ve yet to still detail the Hayduke and that is intentional as it will be in Part 2 of this post, which will soon be posted. GET PUMPED EVERYBODY!!!!