FKT: Willie Thacker - Jordan Trail (Jordan) - 2022-01-24

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Standard point-to-point
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16d 1h 0m 0s
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I hiked the Jordan Trail from 1/8/22 to 1/24/22 for a total time of 16 days and 1 hour. To the best of my knowledge, this is the fastest known time anyone has hiked this trail in a self-supported style. I sent a message to the Jordan Trail Association asking as much but they never got back to me. Though this record is by no means particularly impressive, I figure it's still worth throwing up on this site to get the ball rolling and because I wanted to write this trip report anyway (though boy was it a long time in the making as I got swamped with school this last semester.) You can also find the posts I made at the time on my Instagram @wamoth.


Day 1- 15.5 miles, Umm Qais to Ziglab


I started hiking at 10:52 am on January 8th and pretty immediately got lost. The Jordan Trail is waymarked for the northernmost third, but that couldn’t stop me. There are two drainages right next to each other at the start and I started to drop down the wrong one. Fortunately, some very kind shepherds pointed me in the right direction and I started my hike in earnest. I made it around an hour down a valley before I ran into some brothers who were taking a break from working and invited me over for tea. This would hardly be the last time this happened. I took a little break with them and learned that I really had trouble understanding the local dialect having only really studied MSA. Still managed to get a little conversation going however. It felt really cool to use Arabic while thru hiking, especially because this was really the first opportunity I’ve had to utilize Arabic outside of an academic setting. I had originally planned to hike this trail in the same way I did the Pinhoti and push myself really hard to set a stout FKT. I opted not to go with that plan and instead hike at a more sustainable pace. I wanted to have time to chat with people and have a more culturally engaging trip than would be possible while pushing 45+ miles daily and never stopping or taking my backpack off. I was also worried about flash floods waylaying me and the social acceptability of hiking in the dark which I would need to do with how little daylight there is in January.


After around 30 minutes of chitter chatter and fielding questions about my marital status, religious beliefs, and political opinions (the ol’ trifecta), I started walking again. Most of the next 10 miles or so passed fairly pleasantly. Lots of really nice views of farms and Wadi Arab Dam is beautiful. While descending the valley towards Waqqas, I was once again invited to tea, this time by some kids who were probably between 6 and 12. After chilling for a bit, I walked with them to Waqqas, where they lived. Along the way, more kids joined our little procession which was a cool moment. One of them brought me over to his parents house and I had some tea with them too and a bunch of the parents' friends. I wanted to get a bit further that night however, to an ecolodge over a small ridge so I tried to keep moving before the sun went down. I was unsuccessful, and finished the hike out of Waqqas to Ziglab in the dark. Ziglab was great! I paid like 5 JD to camp there, took a shower, and charged my devices. A groundskeeper also came over and chatted with me for a while and brought me dinner. I went to bed around 9 which ended up being way later than the routine I would eventually settle in.

Day 2- 24.7 miles, Ziglab to a bit past Rassoun


I was a bit slow leaving that morning, getting up around 6 and starting to hike around 7. Lots of climbing in the morning and saw some cool ruins at Pella. I worked my way through Beit Idis, though I didn’t really stop there much except for some water and a bit of tea with some grandmothers right before leaving. A little ways out from town, I happened upon a group of guys hanging out right by the trail and cooking up some kebabs. They insisted that I join them and I chatted for a while with them over a really nice lunch. After taking off from there, it started to drizzle on me a bit but nothing too bad. I saw a ton of campsites throughout this section and figured there probably would be similar opportunities around the next village, Rassoun. In a COVID-free world, I would have just planned on staying in a homestay there, but I decided ahead of time I was going to avoid those so as to mitigate my exposure. I made my way through Rassoun much more quickly than I had through Waqqas since I was worried about finding a place to sleep and the coming rain. I ended up not really finding a great place to camp, but I did find a spot without any nearby houses, fences, evidence of tilling, or dogs which seemed good enough to tuck away for the night.

Day 3- 29.3 miles, past Rassoun to King Talal Dam


I got up the next day at 5 and started walking much more quickly than I had previously. I choked down some dry pitas and packaged hummus while walking and realized that my current food situation was not great. I had enough calories but a lot of it was coming from wafers and chips. I was worried about getting enough protein or just not totally empty calories since my original plan for that (hummus) was becoming really unappetizing. I still had some nuts though which helped.


The walking on this day was really quite easy, lots of rolling hills and there didn’t happen to be as many people interested in chitter chattering with me as some days. I found a bunch of puppies on the side of a road I was walking on after Aljoun and after they got out some pretty fierce barks they warmed up to me and I pet them for a bit. This turned out to be a mistake because then they started following me for a while. I really didn’t want them to get too attached so I started running away which only emboldened them further. Really cute image, but ended up running around half a mile before I could shake them. The descent down into King Talal Dam was very pleasant though I planned on getting water from the lake there which was a really terrible plan because it's full of trash. I didn’t have any other options though so I just filtered out the big stuff with my bandana, squirted in some bleach, and resigned myself to the fact that my body’s already chock full of micro plastics in all likelihood. I found a really nice ledge overlooking the dam to camp on with a tree and everything. I was all set up for bed in my little quilt and silnylon bivy sack when this guy walked down from the dirt road on top of the ridge and stopped by. We talked for a bit and he gave me a juice box. Neat! Went to bed around 7:30 or so, which was becoming my standard.

Day 4- 24.1 miles, King Talal Dam to campsite past As-Salt


I was inordinately worried about resupplying here. As-Salt was a really big city and big cities scare me (in other news, I’m actually doing surprisingly well in my study abroad program in Amman considering that). I acutely remember thinking how much easier this was in the US when I knew exactly how to navigate a resupply and I could just pull up to a dollar general and charge my phone and do a reset dry while chilling out front and stuffing my face. Well, I ended up doing basically exactly that at a suuq a slight ways out from As-Salt. The guy working there was super friendly and was totally cool with me charging my electronics and spreading my quilt out to dry. A lot of the issues that I would run into on this trail where from me building it up too much in mind and being too nervous about being in a foreign country. At the end of the day, this trail is really not all *that* different from the American trails that I’ve logged thousands of miles on and much of that skill set translates better than my Arabic does to actual conversation.


As-Salt itself actually kinda stunk though. Really crowded streets with everyone honking and just not super pleasant to walk in. It is a very beautiful city but I was not in the right headspace to appreciate that. After a mile or two walking through the city, this group of around 8 guys called out to me and invited me into a little courtyard area for some tea. It initially seemed a lot like most other times I’ve shared tea with folks which is to say nice. After a bit though it got more and more weird. They were super into Saddam Hussein (which a bunch of people are in Jordan actually) and kept asking me why the US killed him. They also didn’t really understand wild camping and kept asking/telling me to spend the night there, with them. They wanted me to go drive out with them too and make kebabs and I tried explaining that I wasn’t interested but they didn’t really get it. They also kept asking me how much money I had and that I should pay for their dinner/cigarettes. By that point, I was just looking to extricate myself from the situation which I eventually did. Ended up also having some tea with some other folks on the outskirts of As-Salt though that were much more friendly and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. The vast majority of my interactions were pleasant, that one just wasn’t. I pushed on a couple miles outside of As-Salt until I got to a decent campsite and enjoyed a dinner of cold-soaked ramen and sardines in oil that really needed some salt (ironic considering the city I had bought them in.) I mention my dinner both because I had hoped that sardines would be the cure to my wholesome food woes and because it comes up later.

Day 5- 24.2 miles, Past As-Salt to Jibaal Nebo/Madaba


That’s right, I woke up and pretty immediately threw up all of those sardines. Suffice to say, they were not it. This heralded my oncoming GI struggles. I figured there was nothing to do but walk though so I started trucking though I felt weak and lacked motivation the whole day. I eventually dragged myself up the climb to Jibaal Nebo around 4 and planned on finding a spot to camp after dropping down on the other side. I was really tired at this point though and my achilles were both pretty swollen so I ended up deciding to just head into Madaba and stayed in a hotel there. This ended up being a solid idea since there weren’t really any spots to camp for a little ways after.

Day 6- 20.9 miles, Jibaal Nebo to Wadi Zarqa Ma’in


I ended up getting back to the trail around 9. The trail was no longer waymarked and often didn’t really follow clear features. It would randomly leave or join drainages, ridges, and dirt roads, that sort of thing. I had to check Guthook a lot! The beginning of the day had a big climb followed by mostly flat terrain. I walked by three very friendly Bedouin camps who gave me tea, oranges, and bread towards the end of the day. I had to hike over one more pass to get to Wadi Zarqa Ma’in and my campsite and ended up not making it before sunset. Though I knew rain was coming, and this wadi has a risk of flash flooding, I felt okay where I ended up camping because the canyon was very wide where I was and I was up from the river a ways. My stomach hurt and kept me from falling fully asleep for a while. At around midnight, I pooped myself reasonably badly. I managed to get out of my sleep system without any of the poop leaving my undies which I was honestly pretty proud of. This was definitely a low point of the trip. It had started to lightly rain that night too, and so I was just squatting outside my tarp in the rain, trying my best to deal with a whole bunch of very liquid shit, and feeling quite alone. I’ve dealt with comparable situations in the past, but never in Jordan. I brainstormed ways to deal with this, including getting to a road and going to a doctor the following morning but even to do that I would need to hike out a ways and then negotiate all of those logistical doo daas in Arabic without any support system to speak of in the country. I never saw any other people thru or even section hiking the trail while I was out there (to be fair, January is pretty unpopular month to do so). This was pretty different from my American hikes where I always felt a part of a larger trail community. I ended up getting a few hours of sleep after dealing with everything.

Day 7- 20.3 miles, Wadi Zarqa Ma’in to Wadi Musjib


I felt somewhat better in the morning, though my stool was certainly closer to the chocolate milk end of the chocolate milk-snickers poop spectrum. Once I started walking, I decided against getting off trail and figured that I could just push through this, honestly mostly just because getting off trail seemed logistically tricky and I didn’t have the bandwidth at that point which is kinda silly, obviously, but hey. This day, unsurprisingly, was also really difficult. Climbing out of Zarqa Ma’in in the morning was extraordinarily windy and exposed, and when I topped out I was just on a big plateau where I was just as exposed. I had some chiller road walking where the weather got a bit better and through the descent to Wadi Hidan I only encountered light mistings as far as the rain went. Leaving Hidan, however, the dirt road I was walking on got saturated enough that I started picking up a ton of mud on my shoes. The climb soon left the dirt road and instead started going straight up an untrailed ridge. I’d heard from others that this climb was often really difficult because it could be really hot and there weren’t a ton of water sources. Fortunately, I did not have to worry about that! Wind and rain pelted me the whole time while across the Dead Sea, the sun parted the clouds very majestically and it made sense to me where Moses got that whole promised land thing from. Once again, I topped out to a big plateau, this one even colder and windier than the last. It was also basically just a big mud pit which made for frustrating walking. The descent into Wadi Musjib is somewhat technical and I blew the line on some of it which resulted in me downclimbing here and there- really never a good look, but especially not on exposed, wet sandstone. I should have made more of an effort to find better lines, but I was not making great decisions at that point and sort of wallowing in self pity as probably comes through in how I recounted all of this :P I didn’t do anything too crazy of course, just played a bit fast and loose. Once the descent started to mellow out, I remember thinking man, this day better have been the crux of this trail because I don’t know if I can handle anything much tricker!

Day 8- 26.7 miles, Wadi Musjib to Karak


Spoiler: It was! It was still soggy in the morning but my GI issues were improving. The climb out of Wadi Musjib was not super techy and I powered it out early. After that, it was pretty much just flat road walking to Karak. The weather got nicer as the day went on, and I ended up cruising upwards of 3.5-4 mph for a bunch of it. I stopped for some Immodium, apple juice, and orange soda in the morning in Rabba for both my stomach and general happiness and otherwise just sort put my head down and got to Karak around 3 or 4. I had a nice meal in town at the Adel Halabi Restaurant and then head over to the Cairyan hotel for what I originally planned to be for one night. Though this day was fairly easy, I was still feeling down from the last stretch. I talked to my family and a friend while in my hotel bed and settled on taking the next day off, which I really didn’t consider as an option because I get so stuck in my habits when hiking. For reference, I only took one zero the CDT, and that was in Leadville where I had a bunch of connections and had planned to do so before I started the traill. I’ve got to say, taking a bit of time off because you are down bad really can work. I went to bed that night listening to the rain and feeling much better about my plans for the rest of the trail.

Day 9- 0 miles, took a zero in Karak


It rained hard most of the day which made my hotel room all the cozier. I know Karak is a very scenic place, but I barely left my warm bed except to stuff my face with shawarma and get groceries for the next stretch. I grew excited for the next stretch instead of being resigned to it. I knew the south was supposed to be nicer and most of the bad weather seemed to be behind me.

Day 10- 22.6 miles, Karak to past Wadi Al-Hasa


Leaving Karak was still a bit drizzly and overcast but not too cold. It was very cool to walk by the castle in that environment and the subsequent dirt road walking next to deep valleys made for very pleasant strolling, especially as the sun came out. Picked up nightwater at Wadi Al-Hasa and it was very warm which was a bit distressing. Clearly agricultural run off, yet my stool remained fairly firm from here on out so I guess the bleach took care of it. Had a bit of elevation change leaving the Wadi at the end of the day and temperature started dropping quick. I found some neat caves which would have sheltered me but they were very close to a Bedouin camp so I kept moving. The Bedouins were, as always, incredibly friendly and I passed a soccer ball around for a bit with some kids before moving as the sun was going down and I wanted to find a decent spot. I passed an old mine pit which would also have acted as a windblock (I was not concerned about rain) but kept pushing a bit longer, rather foolishly. I ended up on a fairly exposed ridge and had my coldest night. Really pretty stars though, as often accompany cold, cloudless nights.

Day 11- 37.3 miles, Wadi Al-Hasa to just past Feynan ecolodge


I really started to hit my stride here. It’s silly, but I always feel better about myself when I’m doing decent miles. Of course, this could run the other way ie I do decent miles because I feel good. I think it's something of a positive feedback loop for me, and certainly one that begin to pay dividends from here to basically the end of the trail. Got up a bit before my 4:45 alarm due to the cold and started walking immediately to warm up. Very glad I brought mittens. Lots of frost in morning too which was rare on the trail. Made it to Ais and loaded up for the next stretch until Wadi Rum village, the longest carry of the trail (around 150 miles.) Despite the weight, I kept moving well throughout the day and arrived at the canyon before Dana in great time. As was often the case on this trail, I blew the line a bit climbing down into the slot canyon and had to do a couple sketchy boot scoot maneuvers but it all ended well. The climb out took awhile but eventually made it to Dana and oh boy is it pretty there. Also there was some pretty great single track, something otherwise nonexistent on this trail. I got in around 4, having hiked 30 miles and had to decide if I wanted to keep pushing or stay in a hotel in the village. The hotels there went for around 20 JD/night. I had heard great things about the Feynan ecolodge which was around 7 miles down the canyon. I (very foolishly) figured it would be around the same price, and thus pushed on. Hiking down the canyon while the sunset was one of the nicest things I saw the whole trail. My pace dropped way down in the dark, but I still managed to get to the ecolodge around 6:30, very tired. The cheapest room they had to offer, however, was 120JD (like $170!) which was well outside my budget, ballpark what I had spent up to that point on the whole trail. Thus, I left. I did end up staying there later as part of a program sponsored trip from the study abroad program I was on and it was in fact quite lovely but still. I walked a little further, past a Bedouin camp and crashed under a tree.

Day 12- 24.2 miles, Feynan to past rock camp


I woke up the next morning and finished walking out of Dana valley. It widens a lot in the end and has this very cool moonscape feel though the tread is pretty rocky and not great. The trail then shoots up a narrow little canyon and comes up through this absolutely stunning mountainous region. There’s this awesome ridge walk that lasts miles and was my favorite part of the entire trail. It felt very alpine. There are a fair number of days on this trail which were interspersed with good sights but had some slog in between. This was not one of them, just really nice views the whole way and the weather cooperated for the most part. I had seen that I could rent a tent in a place called rock camp a little way up the trail. I saw something online that said they were 3JD and you could access electricity/get water there as well which appealed to me. I knew it was gonna snow, and my poncho tarp is decidedly suboptimal in that condition, so I pushed past the last campsite and got there. Turns out it was bubble tents so prolly would have been expensive to begin with, and more to the point it was closed. I did not research this trail very much. There were some lights on though for guards, and I needed water, so I went in and asked them for some. They were super duper nice and fed me dinner as well. They wanted me to stay in their hut with them but unfortunately that was not allowed by their boss who they called. So I kept walking and ended up just finding a random spot to throw up my tent and was lulled to sleep by the barking of a dog on a nearby farm.

Day 13- 23.4 Rock camp to a valley whose name I don’t know


The poncho tarp ended up working out fine in the snow- once again, I tend to get in my head about what will and won’t work. Woke up very excited that morning though because I was going to see Petra! Little Petra was very cool leading into it, though the whole journey ended up somewhat disjointed because of the rather silly system in place for getting a ticket for Petra. You can only buy a ticket from an office in Wadi Musa, which is not on the trail at all. So when I got to the entrance of Petra from the back, I had to hitch a ride into the village just to buy a ticket and then I took a taxi from there back. Really inconvenient, I have no idea why you can’t just buy a ticket online or at the other entrance. Regardless, it all worked out and I made my through the back route which is really, really neat. I ended up being the only tourist in the Monastery which I think few people get to experience. It was snowing then which I think played into, plus it was fairly early (around 10) so most other folks hadn’t finished the hike up there yet. I saw lots of people on the way down. Petra as a whole is just wonderful, very, very beautiful and generally kinda nuts. Great bathroom too. People asked to see my ticket all the time, including when I was pretty much at the border of the sight and leaving, a guy on a little donkey pulled up and asked to see it. He also asked if I knew where I was going as the trail kinda veered off into nowhere a bit. The hike out of Petra in all of the canyons is potentially even cooler than Petra itself. I kept a good pace throughout the whole day, but there was just so much stopping and starting  that I didn’t end up going very far. Eventually found a sheltered spot under some trees and went to sleep. 

Day 14- 35.6 miles from one valley to another one


Sorry that the names are not very descriptive here, as far as I know these canyons are all unnamed. Regardless, I felt awesome hiking through them, I really like canyon walking. Made a good pace through the whole day, and frankly kept being surprised at how quick the miles passed me by. The next few days were the fastest I went the whole trip and also felt like the easiest ones. Around noon, I came out of a canyon and walked by another camp. They were a bit off the trail so I wasn’t planning on stopping but this little boy ran out and insisted that I have some tea, so stop I did. This was the only camp I came to where the women would talk to me, which was quite good as there weren’t any men around and it would have been weird sitting in silence. They gave me some corn kernels which tasted like popcorn but weren’t popped and then made some tea. This one woman asked me if I was married (which is very par for the course in Jordan so I didn’t think anything of it) and then sorta went in the back with her buddy to get the tea. When they came back, her friend asked me why I was in Jordan (to walk/tourism and then to study) and then if I was looking to get married and if I was in Jordan looking for love or a Jordanian wife. I laughed it off and then right before I left the original woman told me I was very beautiful- still got it. Continued to make good time after that and passed a spring around 4:30. Picked up some water and then kept hiking till dark when I found a decent cowboy spot under some bushes.

Day 15- 31.8 miles valley to just outside Shakriya


This day started out with some very cool canyon weavings and I eventually got spat out onto a plateau near a small Bedouin camp. It was early enough that only a few folks where up taking care of little doodaas, so I skirted a bit wide and waved to them as I moved on. I reached some paved roads and at this point it started to look like I was getting into Wadi Rum type territory- wide open desert with the occasional rock mound breaking up the scenery here and there. After leaving the roads, the “trail” turned into basically sighting some rock really far away and walking cross country right towards it. Fortunately, this was very easy walking for the most part as the sand tended o be packed down pretty well. Considering this, I deviated slightly from the mythical Guthook redline and walked straight into/out of Humeina rather than t-boning the road to the south and trying to hitch there and back. It added a miniscule amount of distance but was more seamless on the whole, I felt. I resupplied a bit there and enjoyed a feast of the finest Saran-wrapped stale baked goods they had to offer. I only needed to carry till Wadi Rum Village, which I knew I would reach the following morning. It made for a nice mixerup from the burden of the previous carry. After full on hiker sprawling at the market in town for a bit (including the sprawled out drying quilt as it had picked up a bit of condensation) I kept on walking. I passed by this cool arch and was consistently surprised by how quick I was able to walk in the desert. The miles just melted by. I think that, for once, hiking this trail in the winter was really starting to pay off. As I am writing this now, I am still in Jordan (in Aqaba doing a divemaster internship) and I’ve got to say it is much, much hotter and less pleasant to be here in the south in the summer. I finished up my miles for the day on the earlier side but didn’t want to keep pushing as I was about to enter Shakriya (ie no place to camp.) I found a convenient little overhanging rock to keep the wind off me for the night and went to bed.

Day 16- 32.3 miles, past Shakriya to camp past Titen


I got up early, as usual, and got to enjoy walking through Shakriya before anyone else was up and about. I always love these little sorts of moments on thru hikes. Obviously, a big part of the reason I opted for this hike was to chitter chat with folks but the stillness of towns right before the dawn always evokes really neat feelings of impermanence in me, like I was a phantom or specter. Anyway, I made it through there, passed into Wadi Rum, and resupplied for the final time in a minimart there. I packed out a liter of orange soda to go with a whole bunch of water as I knew this next stretch would be dry. Though I had been in places similar to Wadi Rum for a day or so by then, actually entering into the main valley is really quite stunning. The scales just a bit bigger than what I had seen previously, though it was of the same basic components. What I said before about the sand making for decent tred stopped being the case here and I got pretty frustrated at times with how my feet kept sinking in. Right before I left the sandy desert behind me to start the climb over to Titen, I ran into some Bedouins having lunch and they invited me over. I was in a very low point before that, thinking too much about my expectations of pace and such. Slowing down to eat a bit with them and drink some of the ever present tea was a very nice reset and allowed me to not only get through the rest of the day but also enjoy it. They also gave me some water which was nice so I didn’t have to go into Titen later.

Day 17- 16.5 miles, past Titen to Aqaba/southern terminus


These final passes were actually quite nice and I really enjoyed my last day here. I got up early with the goal to finish before noon and I was successful to that end, reaching the terminus at 11:51 am per the timestamp of a photo I took. Once I came down the last pass though, the trail kinda sucked though. It goes right by an industrial warehouse/shipping center and then crosses over some sewage runoff. I tried to find a decent way to cross unscathed but alas ended up dunking a foot in the drink :( After  that it kinda just weaves around highways and follows a flood drainage until the beach. All in all, not a great last note to the trail but the upshot for those doing this trail nobo is it gets a lot better a lot faster. Once I was on the beach I got this older fellow who was hanging out there to take some completion photos of me, went for a dip, and then caught a ride into town.