Friday, July 19, 2019

RIB Part 4: Torrey to Grace

Note: This post is the fourth update from a Mexico-Canada hike through Arizona, Uah, and Idaho. I'm calling it the "Route In-Between" (RIB). Links to previous installments are below:
Background and Introduction
Part 1: Mexico to Flagstaff
Part 2: Flagstaff to Kanab

Part 3: Kanab to Torrey

Utah is complete! When I planned out my route through Utah, I expected it to be beautiful. I expected it to be rewarding. But even my lofty expectations fell short. Simply put, the Utah section of the RIB is my favorite section of trail - ever. Sure, I'm almost certainly wearing rose-colored glasses, but nearly every step of the route featured something beautiful, meaningful, or challenging. I finished the high plateaus of southern and central Utah, walked the Wasatch through northern Utah, and followed the Bear River Range (the northernmost extent of the Wasatch) into southern Idaho.

Hooray, More Snow: When I got back on trail, I knew that I wasn't done with snow. Plenty had melted out, but I still expected to travel through a good amount of snowbound terrain. I wasn't wrong. My route through the central Utah followed Skyline Drive, a highly scenic dirt road that follows the crest of the Wasatch Plateau for more than a hundred miles. At least, that's the rumor. I didn't see too much of the road - just little glimpses here and there where the snow had already melted. Travel was slow, frustrating, and exceedingly beautiful. I was the only person up there. I traveled snow-covered ridges, made my way past massive cornices, and used every trick in the book to minimize the postholing. It was exhausting and exhilarating. With nobody up there and barely a trace of road to be seen, it felt like a vast, beautiful wilderness.

After six grueling days, I got to the road crossing and attempted to hitch down into town shortly before sunset. I'd been standing there for maybe fifteen minutes when a truck rolled by. And I recognized the faces! The truck slammed on the brakes and my friends Kyle and Kendra jumped out. They were headed down on a weekend foray to southern Utah and just happened to be driving by. After a brief moment of disbelief, we all piled into the truck and headed down the mountain to find a place to camp for the night. The next morning, they dropped me off in town. It really is a small world. Thank you guys!

The 2018-2019 snowpack smashed dozens of records and at least one unfortunate Jayco
Curveballs: Near Salt Lake City, I encountered more unique challenges. My route down into Spanish Fork Canyon passed through a massive, ugly burn area. The trail was completely obliterated. I did less than one mile per hour down the steep canyon, clambering over blackened fallen trees and leaping eroded stream beds. I knew this area had burned quite badly last fall, but the effects of the wildfire were so widespread that this was still the best way through, despite the misery. 

Near Ogden, the trail threw another curveball at me. I had planned to cross the Weber River and I-84 using the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a trail system that runs just above the floor of the various Wasatch Front valleys. But, in my planning process, I failed to notice that this section of the BST hasn't actually been built yet. My only option was to walk the shoulder of another freeway through a full cloverleaf interchange. With bumper-to-bumper traffic and road construction in progress, this was a non-starter. So regretfully, I ended up taking an Uber across the bridge to where I could resume walking on not-a-freeway. I hated to break the line of continuous footsteps, but it's really not worth getting turned into paste on a busy freeway! Once the BST through this section is actually built, this won't be a problem. Someday.

Oh and I've walked a bunch of very faint, almost non-existent trail, but that's expected in this brave new world of underfunded public lands. 

Seems legit.
Riding the Roller-coaster: From Ogden northward, I faced a series of very long climbs. I dropped all the way from the crest of the Wasatch down to the valley floor - a five thousand foot continuous descent. From there, I climbed right back up to the crest again, followed by another drop, another climb, etc. While I excel at climbing, at least relative to my pace on the flats and downhills, this was still a lot. Add in triple digit heat, and the last few weeks made for some very tough miles. 

On one occasion, I planned to get up at 4am to beat the heat on a huge climb starting at very low elevation. But around 1:45am, I felt something on the foot of my sleeping bag. I instinctively kicked my feet upward, and a large rat flew four feet in the air! When the undissuaded critter returned a couple minutes later, I realized that sleep was a lost cause, I packed up and started hiking in the middle of the night. Not all was lost though, as I got to the top of Ogden Peak just as the sun was rising. What an amazing sight!

What's Next: This next section largely consists of "filler" miles. I am making my way through the hot and dry lowlands of southern Idaho to the Pioneer Range on the north side of the Snake River. And I get to do all of this in record-breaking heat. The challenges just keep coming. But this is exactly what I signed up for.


  1. Hey how was that waffle in Paradise? I was thinking about you today. So I looked you up and found this feed. Glad to see you made it to Idaho. I was hoping you found the trail at Long Hollow Spring. Keep me updated and informed.

    AppleJack aka Adam

    1. It was absolute Paradise! Thank you guys so much for your hospitality - brightened my week! I ended up going up Mill Cyn via the BST to avoid the roadwalk.