20 miles (map), 21.5 miles (GPS)
Early morning, 6:30 am, walking by white spot of headlight in waxing day, stumbling over rocks and beginning my first-thing-in-the-morning thing: climbing 1200 feet almost straight up from the bottom of Dark Canyon to the top on the Sundance trail. It was a boulder ladder all the way, ascent by one boulder at a time. It took just over an hour to hike just under a mile. A bracing way to wake up to be sure, and as I climbed the sun rose from behind the wall of the canyon and the world woke up too. From the top the view was impressive, Dark Canyon snaking away in the distance and towering cliff walls.
From the delicious top of the climb, I had 13 miles of dirt road walking across a plateau to the National Park Service station of Hite Marina on Lake Powell. The roads were fast to walk on and the scenery was lovely, of blood red cliffs and sage brush and juniper. In the distance the Henry Mountains stood beckoning–after Hanksville in a couple days, I immediately cross them, right over the top of Mt Ellen. She’s a tall, broad-faced mountain with a jaunty snow cap. It’s interesting to see where I will be in a number of days, to know its coming but not be too concerned with it because it’s not as immediate as the water tomorrow or the wind tonight.
Arriving at Hite, we found out the store is closed indefinitely and that the National Park Service is thinking about permanently closing the location. This would all be a terrible wrench in the resupply plan if the postman hadn’t left our food resupply boxes that we mailed from Moab right outside the door of the store. So relieved he did that!
We met Gavin at a picnic table outside the closed visitor center, another Hayduke Trail hiker who started a couple days before us. He was spread out, packing up food, doing laundry in a large water jug, and we immediately joined him and felt hiker camaraderie. Our combined energy (sense of purpose, perhaps) drew in a few other travelers wandering the area, a woman from Moab and two guys from an ancient Winnebago parked on a nearby dirt ride, and for a few hours in the afternoon, we named the six of us the town of Hite, since no one else was around for the job. The bathrooms and water were all on, as was a payphone (I called Dan! Highlight of the week!). The other travelers gave us extra food to eat and we laughed and talked and did laundry in bathroom sinks. It was humans engaged in human kindness, that rare random collision of different folks with similar souls meeting at a watering hole in the middle of a desert.
After leaving in the afternoon, we hiked another 6 miles to a good place to camp in a fierce wind that seemed to drive everyone out of the backcountry, since many cars were leaving on the dirt road we were walking in on. The wind stirred dust off the road and flung it into my face in vicious gusts. The walking was a little miserable, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep in such high wind. Rather than pitch my flappy little whap tent, I cralled into an alcove created by a sand ledge overhang. I hope to sleep a bit more protected in here. It’s supposed to be quite tonight.