From the Across Utah 2009 Trip Report
Day 47 – Slow Climb
Thursday, June 11th
Awoke to a cold, cloudy day. Too cold for the jacuzzi bath. Boo — guess I will have to stay dirty.
No food to eat, so without breakfast I make my way out the rest of the very pretty Kane Spring Canyon to the highway. It’s a surreal experience to step out of the wilderness onto pavement and in a matter of seconds have big-rigs, RVs and more whizzing past me at 55+ mph.
I come out near a rest stop where I go in to use the facilities, dump trash and get water. They have vending machines — soda only. I figure some calories and caffeine would be good so I try a can of Vault soda. It’s a Mountain Dew clone and it was really good.
I set out up the highway. I need to go up about a mile before getting to my side canyon. Soon I find a full 20oz bottle of Vault on the side of the road and it’s still factory sealed. Wow — I’ve never heard of this stuff and now it’s everywhere. Should I try a hot one? As I contemplate… I soon realize the bottle is NOT factory sealed and what is inside… well, I don’t think’s Vault soda! Moving on.
I get to the side canyon and climb up to my cache. Perfect 9 for 9 — all caches were undisturbed. I eat some food right there and then pack up and head out.
Private land forces me to take a long way around the next section, but soon I am climbing the slopes up towards the La Sal Mountains.
Not sure how I didn’t get rained on today. Seems like I was in the eye of the storm all day with huge thunderheads all around dumping rain. Unless it clears up it’s going to be miserable high in the peaks tomorrow and a summit attempt won’t be possible.
I camp just below the 8000 foot mark. Not as high as I wanted, but I was tired and the evening air was already getting cold. The view back down to Moab and Canyonlands is already impressive. Beef Stew for dinner.
It’s hard to believe I’m just a day and a half from finishing my journey. If all goes as planned I will walk over the mountains and down to the state line and meet my parents Saturday afternoon. I want to thank both my parents for all they have done to help me on my adventure. They have helped with the shuttle, meeting me with two re-supplies, serving as webmaster for this blog, babysitting my cats Jasper and Kona, and so much more. Without them this trek would have be 10x harder to pull off. Thanks Mom and Dad!
June 12, 2009 at 2:56 pm
Thanks for the blog, reading all the familiar location names brought back lotsa memories, and helped to lessen my red rock canyon withdrawal symptoms. Only 3 months to go now until I get to go back there. Yay!
June 12, 2009 at 10:30 pm
I’m curious about that Vault soda…I hope he brings some back to LA for me…
June 12, 2009 at 10:34 pm
I want to know what your first meal was after re-entering civilization. When you get back man, I’m taking you out to dinner – anywhere you want.
uncle davo said,
June 13, 2009 at 6:53 am
Yes, Smart thinking on avoiding the “Valut Soda Trucker Bombs”.
It has been so neat reading the daily blogs. I can’t wait to see the pics and hear more stories and maybe attending the movie premiere. Love you all, all you guys are so cool, always have been! Davo
Day 48 – The Peak
Woke up to a sunny day for my last full day on the trail. While still in my tent a little after 7 in the morning I heard coyotes howling nearby. Not sure if I have ever heard coyotes howl with the sun fully up. Not long after there was a swooshing sound right outside my tent every few minutes. Evidently there was a fairly large bird repeatedly swooping in to check out my tent. I had the rain-fly on so unfortunately I could not see what type it was. Then a bit later, the distinct sound of a Rufus hummingbird right outside my tent. He was buzzing all around what must have been inches away. I stuck out my hand and he took off. Strange behavior all around. Are the animals coming to say goodbye?!
I make my way down to Pack Creek and then continue up the mountain via a steep Jeep route. Most of the way I am walled in by a tall pine and aspen forest. Eventually the Jeep trail comes to an end and I pick up an official trail which is even steeper. It follows high above the stream as I climb above the 9000 foot level. Finally the trail crossed the stream and swings to the N as it nears the 10,000 foot mark. At this point I decide to try a cross-country route in order to take a more direct route to the pass and saddle of the mountain. I make my way across a meadow and then pick up an un-official trail- evidently others have had the same idea. The trail loses focus after a bit, but by this point it’s not hard to spot where I need to go and I just continue up the steep slopes. Soon I pick up another Jeep trail which will take me to the La Sal Pass while passing numerous patches of snow along the way.
At approximately 10,300 feet La Sal pass is surrounded by the higher peaks, but doesn’t really offer much of a view down into the surrounding area as it is still fairly forested. Though the day has turned somewhat stormy, I decided to leave my gear and make a push for higher elevation. I knew it was too late in the day to make an attempt at the the summits, but I was hoping to make it up the the summit ridge which saddles the two highest peaks.
I head out at first on a well-used trail. This soon gives way to numerous scattered paths and then it’s just a matter of picking my own way up the sparsely tree-covered slopes. The way is incredibly steep. I literally can only put one foot in front of another, heel-to-toe, heel-to-toe, and slowly make my way up. It’s a slow go as it’s so steep, the air so thin and my body so depleted from 48 days of adventure. But, slowly, I see the ridge come into view and then get closer and closer as the pass below gets smaller and smaller.
Finally -– I stand atop the summit ridge. It is incredible. The other side is unlike the steep slope I walked up. Instead it falls away in a near-sheer, rocky cliff with many huge snow-filled gullies. To my left is the steep, pyramid peak of Mount Tuk (pronounced “Took” and short for Tukuhnikivatz). To my right is the massif of Mount Peale– the highest peak in all of southern Utah. The views in the distance are amazing in all directions. To the west you can see from where I have come: Canyonlands sprawls like a web of red-rock canyons and even the Henry Mountains can been seen on the far horizon. To the east I can see the snow-capped summits of the San Juan Mountains and the peaks near Telluride. Closer in the foreground I see the canyon system which straddles the Utah/Colorado border and is my ultimate destination.
The summit of Tuk calls to me… but it’s not meant to be on this day. I am already 15 minutes late on my self-imposed turn-around time. Also, the route up the remaining 500′ looks sketchy on an incredibly steep talus slope with much of the route covered in snow. But, the real deal-breaker was that a huge thunderhead was quickly moving in and hanging over the peak and the summit ridge– quickly cooling down the already cool day. I however notice that I am at 11,960 feet, so I move up the ridge to attain that special 12K foot mark. Then, with an un-stoppable smile, I turn around and save the summit for another day. I’m not disappointed in the least– quite the contrary. Even without standing on the summit, it’s an incredible place and I’m filled with such a great feeling– I couldn’t think of a better way to end my great journey across the state. Just as I begin to make my way down the steep slope, the sun pops up illuminating the entire summit ridge in a golden hue. Then… it starts to snow. Little flakes fill the air landing on my face in the sunlight. Mr. Shadow was there– first time he has ever seen snow! Though it didn’t last more than 3 minutes, it was such an incredible experience and one that I will keep forever with me. Though I still had to get down off the mountain and have a half a day of hiking to get to the state line— that was the finale. That was my peak experience.
I make my way down the steep slopes. What took almost 2 hrs going up, took less than 45 minutes going down. I hiked by a few alpine lakes, then a few more miles and made my last camp in a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers. My final dinner: Macaroni and Cheese, Apple Sauce, Jell-o fruit-cup and a Coconut-Cream Pie Larabar -– all my favorites. It was a good day.
June 15, 2009 at 3:13 pm
Jamal, we are excited to hear about you wonderful trip. That is really cool that the hummingbird was outside your tent “checking on you” Love from MO
June 16, 2009 at 9:17 am
Congratulations man! What a way to go out. It’s early in the morning in Utah and undoubtedly you are now making your way to the finish. When you get there, a newspaper woman wants to hear your story.
Day 49 – The Final Day+
On my final day I awoke to a coooold morning at camp. It was only 44 degrees after it warmed up considerably and I finally got up. The mountain meadow where I had camped was beautiful in the morning sunlight. I packed up and moved down the mountain. Before too long I was out of the forest and then after just a little longer I was at the highway. From there is was just a few hours of pounding the pavement to the Utah/Colorado state line.
As I made my way around the final bend I could see a distinct change in the color of the pavement ahead– I knew that was my goal: the state line. Within a few minutes I was there; the culmination of about 4 months of planning and 49 days of hiking. Mr. Shadow was there– in fact he was slightly ahead of me and looked kinda short in the 3pm sunlight. He also looked a bit skinnier than normal. Also at the state line was my car shuttle– aka my parents! Hugs all around and my journey was officially over. I was elated to have accomplished my goal. To tell the truth, I really only gave myself a 50/50 chance of making it as I thought there was just so much that could have gone awry during the trek. But, alas here I was standing in Colorado having achieved my goal with very little change to the original plan. I was happy. And though I had an extremely incredible time over the last 49 days, I was ready to stop. I am ready to return to my life in LA and enjoy the urban lifestyle for a bit: a bed, a shower, email, news, video games, fun with friends, real food and much, much more.
Southern Utah is a great place. You don’t have to walk across the state to relish in its beauty. If you haven’t been there, take a trip to Zion, Escalante, Canyonlands or one of the many other great places in between. Take your family, take a friend, or take your own Mr. or Ms. Shadow and wander for a bit. You will be happy.
Next up? I’m in my initial planning stages for my AcrossKS adventure– my long-time plan to trek across Kansas. Just kidding– that one is not on the list and actually I think I’m going to take some time off from the long distance stuff. We will see how I’m feeling next spring and what adventure itches I need to scratch. Until then… happy trails to all!
14.0 Miles to N. 38.327601 W 109.059964
Later that day…
The miles have been counted and the final tally is 725.8 miles!!! That means that TJ Fanning of Sibley, MO is the winner of the Guess the Miles contest. His incredibly accurate guess of 725 just edged out Celia Cho of Santa Monica, CA. Congrats TJ -– look for your prize headed your way soon!
This evening I went to the Moab Microbrewery for my first restaurant meal in 50 days. I had a great burger, fries and a draft Cutthroat brew. Also, a brownie sundae for dessert. Yum. It was great!
My body is pretty thrashed. The bottoms of my feet are like leather and seem more sore now than ever. My eye no longer hurts from the injury in the second week, but it’s hard to tell if there was permanent damage so I will check with an eye doctor when I get back to LA. The biggest change though, I was shocked to weigh in and learn that I had lost 38 pounds since the time I left for the hike. I knew my body was depleated and knew I’d lost a considerable amount of weight, but I never imagined it was that much. I’d packed on some extra weight before I left, but that’s more than I ever thought I’d lose. I weigh less now than I did in High School! In fact, I know the loss is an unhealthy amount so I’m eager to fully re-hydrate and get some mega meals in me over the next week. I’m sure I’ll gain 10-15lbs back right away. Of course when I shave this patchy, scruffy beast growing on my face and neck I will probably lose another pound or two! 🙂
Check back soon for my post-hike thoughts, final route data and many more pictures. I also shot about 4 hours of HD video along the way, so hopefully I can focus on a video when I get back to LA.
Thanks so much to everyone who has followed me on my journey. I really appreciate your support. Even though I couldn’t see the comments along the way, my parents passed along as many as they could. It meant a lot. I look forward to communicating more and actually seeing many of you in the very near future. THANKS AGAIN!
Signing off to sleep on a bed for the first time in 50 nights!
June 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm
Jamal, we are thankful you are home safe and look forward to seeing your DVD. What a wonderful adventure and memories you have. Good job 🙂
June 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm
I can only imagine how incredible that meal tasted, and how that real bed felt, and how the shower must have made you feel like you were being born all over again!
June 17, 2009 at 7:33 am
Hike across Kansas? It is bad enough to ride our Harleys across Kansas.
Cool trip Jamal, 725 miles you hiked! That is amazing! TJ
June 17, 2009 at 7:43 am
Jamal, Congratulations on your tremendous accomplishment. I looked forward to the daily postings and enjoyed the pictures.
Tara Wiles said,
June 17, 2009 at 11:36 am
Wow…what a journey. Congrats on finishing!! I look forward to seeing more pics and watching the video.