The sound of the perky Coyote Gulch stream drifted in and out of my sleep all night. I was more aware of it than I might be of another creek on another hike, partly because the sound of running water in camp is rare on the Hayduke Trail. We see in negative space (an art term used to reference the empty space around an object as a way to define the object; see, there is that empty space again), so the stream is more well-defined for me because it’s been absent so long. The human mind is a funny mind.
The rest of the walk up Coyote was lovely, and I rather enjoyed slipping past all the tents of others (maybe a dozen all told), warm and lumpy sleeping things in the brisk morning air. My shoes were still wet from the night before. No matter. I donned the previous day’s wet and sandy socks and the heavy wet shoes and went right back into the water for the last three or so miles of the gulch. On the way out, we all stopped to talk to anybody awake to ask about rides. We were coming out to Hole-In-The-Rock Road later in the afternoon, a thirty mile dirt road where we needed to hitchhike a ride to Escalante. Normally that would strike terror into a hiker’s heart, the thought of a thirty mile hitch on a dirt road. But the evidence in Coyote Gulch suggested it wouldn’t be too hard. People were everywhere and many said that if we were still there when they passed us on their way out, they would be happy to pick us up. Soothed by the knowledge of a more certain ride to town, the rest of the hike to the road was smooth and quick. After Coyote Gulch, there was a five mile sandy-bottomed wash, and though the sand is hard on the ankles and knees, it was nice to be out of a riparian environment where poison ivy grows big and strong. No poisonous plants in the sandy wash. Just sand. Lots of sand.
I was moving a bit slower this morning, being tender with an ankle that was hit by a falling rock yesterday in Stevens Canyon. My ankle was feeling stiff and painful, and Erin and Gavin went on ahead. I arrived at the road shortly after them, and shortly after me came a couple we had talked to earlier down in the gulch who offered to give us a ride. Not more than ten minutes waiting for a ride there makes for a very successful hitch attempt. We were in the town of Escalante before noon.
The poison ivy fiasco. So, it seems clear we almost certainly got into some poison ivy, all three of us. It was practically impossible to avoid the lustrous growth in Stevens Canyon, and with another day and a half of hiking afterward, time in which to rub grubby hands all over every piece of gear and body, it would be difficult indeed to avoid further contamination. Midday today I noticed some itchy spots on my lower legs and wrists, likely places for contact. But are they simply patches of dry skin? Bug bites? Actually poison ivy? Inconclusive. Later Gavin had spots break out on his hand, and Erin has a questionable bump on her foot. So most of the day today was spent bathing clothes and gear in Technu (an expensive mineral oil product for removing urushiol oil), double laundering hiking clothes, and tiptoeing through the minefield of a motel room strewn with possibly poisonous gear. Sigh sigh sigh. It’s quite difficult to remove poison ivy oil from something like a backpack, and I’m trying to be both thorough and reasonable. Or at least strike a balance between the two. Not sure if it’s possible to do both.
The stores open tomorrow. Most were closed today because of Sunday and Mormon-affiliation. I’ll shop and pack and eat more and pick up a pair of replacement shoes at the Post Office, and maybe, if I’m very clever or very lucky or both, I’ll actually be able to get everything done and get out of town tomorrow.