We rose in the morning in no hurry to pack up and leave. We knew that once we did we would be within just a few hours of completing our journey, and while we were excited and partly ready to be done we also wanted to be in the desert, on this trek, for as long as possible. After our second cup of coffee we couldn't find reason to delay any longer so we packed up our home for the last time, lifted our packs now light without food or much water and began our walk across the mountaintops towards the trail system of Zion National Park.
Quickly we were in view of the park road and the visitors who were experiencing the beauty of this land through the glass of their rolled up windows. We stopped for a moment, breathing the crisp air deep into our lungs, and then we continued down the rock filled gully towards the road and the tunnel that we were to take leading us to the final trail-less stretch of our journey before we met up with a well traveled park trail. After crossing under the road we were to follow a canyon where we would intersect a trail. Quickly after entering the canyon we found ourselves at a point where we needed to hoist our packs up a steep pour off. We managed to make it up this difficult section and continued on for about an hour. When we stopped to look at our maps we were confused as to why we had yet to reach the end of the canyon where we were to find the trail. Looking closer at the map we realized we must have taken the canyon that paralleled the canyon that we should have been following. It was our last day on the Hayduke and we were still getting off route, not much of a surprise. We had to laugh at ourselves. Goose wanted to turn but I refused as our maps showed that this canyon also ended near our intended trail and I could not imagine back tracking the difficult section we had just traveled. I was sure this canyon would lead to where we needed to be, but I was unsure of what terrain we would encounter. I could not be convinced to turn around however and Goose followed along even though he did not want to continue in this direction.
Eventually the canyon began to narrow and the cliff walls began to get steeper. We scrambled up the side of a sliding scree wall to the base of a thick line of bushes. There were moments when I loosened rocks underfoot that tumbled down the steep cliff below and I held my breath knowing that one wrong move and I would be the next to tumble down. I thankfully grabbed a hold of the branches above and then pushed, pulled, tugged, scrambled and scratched my way through the bushes until we found a clearing at the top. It might not have been easier then back tracking would have been but we made it, our trail was in sight.
The rest of the walking was easy. We surprisingly had the final few miles of trail to ourselves. We were able to soak in the views as we quickly made our way over the well beaten path. Soon we stood at the top of a large set of switchbacks which led to a parking lot below. This section of trail was filled with people and cars circled the lot and roads below. We had expected a setting similar to this one, but I was still not ready for it. Within minutes we were standing on the concrete below next to a sign pointing to the Weeping Wall and the end of the Hayduke Trail. We stood around for a moment, snapped a few photos near the sign and smiled at the people who passed us as they made their way to their cars. It was an odd sensation being hurdled right back into the concrete world of road side tourists. I experienced a small feeling of accomplishment, but mainly I felt very out of place. The end of an amazing experience that was very anticlimactic. We knew this would be the case however so it was easy to push these feelings aside for a moment and focus on getting a ride into town.
One woman stopped to ask us a few questions and offered to take our photo. During our conversation we mentioned we were from Alaska and anther man who was walking by stopped when he heard this as he too was from Alaska. He was on vacation with his two young daughters and quickly offered us a ride into town. We were happy to climb into his car and be on our way.
Once in town we tried to find a friend we thought was living in Zion, but unable to find him we settled for stocking up on beer, liquor and plenty of food from the market and checking into a cheap motel room. We stayed up most of the night celebrating our journey alone together in the quiet of our room. After celebrating until the wee hours of the morning we slept late and then headed out with a plan to hitchhike 344 miles back to Arches National Park where our car was waiting.
The hitch hike was an adventure of it's own filled with plenty of rides from interesting people, but the following night just as the sun was setting we found ourselves back in Arches National Park, our journey having come complete circle. We hopped into our car and drove into the dark of the desert where we found a quiet spot under the stars to set up our tent and return to the comfort of our tiny nylon home for one last night.