SWH – Stage 4 – Tropic to Jacob’s Lake

Rock surfing in Bryce Canyon NP.

Distance:  107 miles (172.2 km)

Start:  Tropic, UT

Finish:  Jacob’s Lake, AZ

Time:  4 days (March 14-17, 2012)

Daily Average: 26.8 miles (43 km)

Total Distance:  591 miles (950.1 km)

Highlights:

  • Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre: Road accessible and very often crowded, the Amphitheatre is not the place to go if you are looking for solitude out in the wilds. That being said, it is popular for a reason. Overlooking a labyrinth-like landscape filled with thousands of pinkish rock spires and pinnacles (known as Hoodoos), the views from the rim are simply some of the best I have ever seen.
  • The Wave: A surreal, almost Dali-esque sandstone rock formation less than a mile south of the Utah/Arizona border. Not to be missed.
  • California Condor Programme: The best thing to come out of our House Valley alternative route (see below) was meeting and spending time with Chris Parish. Chris runs the California Condor Restoration project which is based out of Lee’s Ferry in Northern Arizona. Part of the Peregrine Fund, a conservation organization working to recover birds of prey, Chris and his team of field biologists release and monitor the endangered California Condor, which a mere three decades ago was on the verge of extinction with only 22 individual birds remaining. At the time of writing there are over 400 total, and 79 in Arizona and Utah alone. For current information on the programme, visit Condor Cliffs at Facebook or email Chris and the team direct at condors@peregrinefund.org.
Lowlights:
  • Under the Rim Trail: Leaving Bryce Canyon, we spent many a mile postholing in 3 ft. of snow. This experience combined with a huge storm which hit on March 17 and 18, convinced us to bypass a potential 60 miles plus of postholing on the Kaibab Plateau, in exchange for the Andy Skurka alternative route along House Rock Valley.

Notes & Musings:

  • Noteworthy Side Trips: During the Hayduke section of the SW Horseshoe, we had two primary sources of information; the original guidebook from the trail’s founders, Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella, and Andy Skurka’s mapset. Both were very good. In regards to the former, future Hayduke hikers should be aware that the author’s route bypasses some of the most spectacular places on the Colorado Plateau. Particular examples which come to mind are Devil’s Garden (Arches NP), the Needles (Canyonlands NP), Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and the Wave (Coyote Buttes). My guess is Joe and Mike wanted to avoid the crowds whenever possible. Understandable, but at the same time the reason these places became so popular in the first place is because they are incredible, not-to-be-missed locations. If you have never been to this part of the world, my advice is to make the above mentioned side trips and if you’re looking for a little more solitude, time your day so as to avoid the hordes.

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