14.1 miles (map), 14.4 miles (GPS)
These mountains were the last to be explored in the continental US. That is most of what I know about the Henry Mountains, that and their broad, swooping sides dotted with stocky trees. They remind me of the mountains in Colorado in appearance, though the Henrys rise much more dramatically from the surrounding desert plateau. They aren’t particularly rugged mountains, but they live right in the middle of nowhere, a land of empty stretching far in every direction.
I stayed up late last night taking care of things like packing and emailing and talking with Dan (my cellphone never got service in Hanksville, neither did Erin’s and we both have Verizon, but I was able to use FaceTime over wifi and talk to him that way). I read some of the second half of Monkey Wrench Gang (I finished the first half before Hanksville and picked up the second half from my bounce bucket). I turned one way. I turned another. I fretted a bit, nighttime hour fretting about nothing and everything. Eventually I fell asleep and slept deeply. But morning sometimes feels like it comes to soon.
I packed, had breakfast at the restaurant across the street, mailed some packages, and then Erin and I strapped ourselves into our backpacks and were off down the road, looking for a hitch back south to Poison Spring Canyon and the Hayduke Trail. We staggered ourselves a bit on the road to take advantage of different business driveways and within only a few minutes had a ride in a truck with four dogs and a woman who lives in the area (she and I bonded over goat ownership, swapping stories about our Pygmy goats). A fast ride and minutes later we were back at the trail.
The route today climbed steadily up into the Henry Mountains, the red dusty desert fading out and being replaced by stiff pinyon pines and junipers. It was windy today, steady around 20 mph with gusts as high as 40 mph, and the trees provided good wind shelter. We climbed on dirt roads almost all day, gently at first but eventually the roads grew steeper, the intensity more sustained. Calves burned and lungs expanded. Sweat appeared and was whisked away by the wind.
We started the hiking day around 5000 feet and now we are camped at a little snow melt creek of sweet and delicious water at 9000 feet. Around 8000 feet in elevation, snow patches appeared and grew in size, covering the road sometimes and surrounding slopes. No cars have been up here yet this year. The only snow free place to camp is in the road bed itself, so I shoved my stakes in the hard packed dirt, threw up the tent, had some dinner (mac n cheese and tuna), and wriggled into my sleeping bag. Warm! It’s all I want. I think it will be cold tonight, here at 9000 feet. The wind is still blowing but this place is protected. I can hear it whistle the silvery aspen tops above me but it is leaving my tent walls well enough alone.
Tomorrow we go over the mountain!