Day 31: Buckskin Gulch fun, Arizona Trail sun

Sunday May 21, 25.7mi/41.4km

Start of Buckskin Gulch (492.9/5300ft) (UT) to Winter Road Trailhead (516.5/6460ft) (AZ) +2.1mi GPS correction

We keep camping in less-than-ideal spots, and therefore wake up with wet tents. We spent an hour drying our stuff, and didn’t leave until 8am!

The hike down upper Buckskin Gulch was surprisingly nice. I was afraid we would have to walk in the wash with the slippery mud, but instead we found cattle trails the entire way down the canyon.

We did have to cross the wash a couple dozen times, which was not difficult but required some care to not slip and fall in the oozy mess.

I love spring in the desert, there are wildflowers everywhere.

We hiked the upper Buckskin Gulch for almost 3 hours and it was a nice cruise-y morning. Towards the end of that section I saw a guy up on a cliff. I was a little worried for him, until later I saw that he was using a rope and being belayed by his partner. I had no idea there was sport climbing in this area!

We got to the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead at 11am and took a break in the shade of the bathrooms. It wasn’t hot, maybe 75F/24C but the sun felt intense.

The next six miles of trail requires a payment for day hiking, and we were all prepared to put our $6 per person in the deposit box. But the box was broken and clearly had not been used in a long time.

It was very strange. I don’t like not paying my fair share, but the only other option they gave was to pay using a website….Which of course was never going to work in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal. We continued on, hiking through lower Buckskin Gulch.

The scenery was dramatically different from upper Buckskin Gulch.

This lizard was hilarious. He seemed to be posing for photos, and then at one point he started doing push-ups. Ha!

Towards the end of Buckskin Gulch, the canyon became dramatically narrower.

And then it became a slot canyon!

Shadow was hiking in the lead. Since the wash had become wet last night, everything was slippery mud and difficult to walk in.

There was even some quicksand too, which made a fun added challenge.

There were a couple of day hikers that seemed to be stuck at a deep pool of water. So we went first, demonstrating how to do it and then I threw my hiking pole to the girl so she could get across.

After that point the canyon split, the main Buckskin Gulch continued straight ahead for another 20 miles, through North America’s longest slot canyon. We turned right, and went up Wire Pass. It was another narrow slot Canyon but only half a mile long.

We stopped for a lunch break in the shade of a short cliff, and then hiked the last mile to the trailhead parking lot.

There is a long dry stretch in this section of trail it’s about 20 miles between water sources. So I went through the parking lot to ask people for a liter of water, and this very generous couple offered us water, ice cold Gatorade, and even made us turkey and cheese sandwiches! Amazing!

They were super fun to talk to, they’re on a long road trip around the Southwest before they move back east to their home state of Kentucky. Thanks Sam and Kate!

We had a road walk for 30 minutes, and we left Utah and entered Arizona.

The next 65 miles of the Hayduke is on the Arizona Trail.

Both shadow and I had been here before, but we thought it would be fun to get photos at the Northern terminus monument again.

The Arizona Trail starts off with a nice 1500ft/450m climb up to a plateau.

From the top of the plateau, I could see back to the north and east where we had been all morning.

Because it’s a popular national scenic trail, the AZT is well maintained and easy to hike.

We came across our first water source for the day, and it was a complicated little water catchment system. I filled three liters so I would have enough for dinner and some of tomorrow until the next water source.

It was another 6 miles until our planned camp spot, which would make a *very* long day, but the trail was very easy and the miles flew by.

Some clouds moved in and in the distance I could hear thunder. The storm fortunately stayed in the distance but it still provided a nice rainbow.

With our late 8am start, and a super long day of 26 miles, we didn’t get to our camp spot until 8:30pm. My usual ankle was getting pretty sore, so even though the camp spot wasn’t that good, I did not want to hike any further. Shadow was already setup in his shelter, and there weren’t any other flat spots around, so I did the usual desperate strategy of camping in the trail. I’m sure no one will come by in the next 9 hours and I’m too tired to really care, haha. Tomorrow is a town day!

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