We left our cache in the morning and headed up Tarantula Mesa for eight miles of dirt road before we scrambled down the steep cliffs of the mesa into twisting canyons that we would follow to our next cache about a day and a half away. After reaching our next cache, where we stayed for the night, we headed out again for a planned seven day stretch, none of which was on a trail. This section took us deep into the canyons where the Escalante River twisted through; a beautiful wet, abundant ecosystem in the middle of an otherwise dry, seemingly desolate expansive of land.
During this week in the deep backcountry we encountered some of the most difficult terrain, the most beautiful surroundings and the most serene wildlife sightings. We climbed up steep slopes covered in slipping scree, massive boulders, rolling rocks, fragile soils and soft sands. We slid down hillsides of crumbling gravel, thorny bushes, steep rocks, and shoe filling dirt. We encountered slick mud, sticky mud, sucking mud and crackly mud. We waded through soft sand, deep sand, quick sand and slow sand. We pushed through tall soft trees, short stabbing bushes, grabbing, snagging, ripping, tearing, gear stealing branches. We rock hopped across streams, jumped across puddles, sloshed through thigh high rivers and swam through a couple of deep pools of ice cold water. We pushed, pulled, climbed, scrambled, crawled, roped, clawed, jumped, jogged, slipped, tumbled, stumbled and occasionally hiked through this stretch of difficult terrain.
We were rewarded with the utter silence of the wild. The colors of fall that painted the mountainsides. The final blooms of the season that burst in brightness. The rich aromas of the pungent herbs and plants baking in the sun. The quick glimpse of a badger running for cover. The large high circles of a golden eagle at the peak of the canyon. The yips of coyotes in the night surrounding our camp. The screech of a hawk soaring low over the river. Large groups of deer grazing the hillsides. Chirps of birds in the morning and the caw of the crows echoing on the stone walls during the days. Star filled skies as we closed our eyes at the end of the day and the rich colors of sunrise the following morning.
The rewards of the wild far outweigh the challenges...this is why I continue to hike.