We climbed deeper up and into the canyons under blue skies while following clear flowing streams and a faintly marked pack trail. Our route brought us to the top of a beehive shaped mountain with expansive views of the wavelike stone formations that surrounded us. Climbing under the rays of mid-morning sun soaked us with sweat, when we reached the top and found the shade of a large juniper tree we stripped our wet clothes and decorated the branches of the tree with them while we ate a snack and marveled at the views. It was a gorgeous day and we felt at home again surrounded with nothing but views of the striped stones and amazing white cliffs of Zion in the distance. Those white cliffs marked the end of our journey and we were in no hurry to reach the end. Instead we focused on our immediate surroundings, took short side trips to explore streams and climb to view points. We picked our campsite early in the evening under the shelter of huge ponderosa pines and watched as the setting sun turned the sky shades of deep yellows, rich oranges and rosy reds and set the surrounding mountains aglow in the last light of the day.
We decided to finish our Hayduke hike with no set daily schedule or plan for how much time it would take us to reach the Weeping Rock in Zion which was less than forty miles away. We wanted to enjoy our final days, to extend our wandering in the desert for as long as possible. We also were considering several options for the final miles of our route. The guidebook described walking through the narrow canyons of the Virgin River in, “waterways that can send ripping flash floods with no warning” from storms that could be many miles from our location and we had been watching ominous gray clouds forming in the distance for days. Besides the possibility of dangerous flash floods we also were not excited at the prospect of walking for miles in the deep icy cold waters of the river which would be unavoidable. Very comfortable with our ability to create our own routes by this point in the journey we looked at our maps and our surroundings contemplating other possible options. Ultimately however, we realized we did not have maps that extended far enough to the east and if we were to head in our own direction we would have to do so for about ten miles without maps and the possibility of getting trapped at the base of the white cliffs was too risky. We instead decided to make early camp high above the Virgin River, build a fire, enjoy the evening and make a plan in the morning. After setting up camp we tramped around a bit more to explore the area and then settled next to a fire where we grilled salami on sticks and made cracker pizzas on hot stones. We savored every crispy, greasy bite of our dinner and fed the last of our twigs into the crackling coals late in the night.