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A Grand Adventure, Part 2

Click here to read Part 1!

The original plan of 23 straight days in the Canyon didn’t work out as planned, but I was still having an amazing time. After 8 days in the Canyon and a rest day playing tourist in Zion, Chris Forsyth drove me out to the Schmutz Spring Trailhead in Tuckup Canyon. I loaded up with a bunch of water and said goodbye to Chris. He was such an amazing help, not only for planning the hike beforehand, but also hiking with me, shuttling me all over the place and endlessly going over plans, backup plans, and backup plans for those backup plans. I also want to thank Rich Rudow, Chris Atwood and Jamie Compos for all their help when I was planning my trip. For the next seven days to Toroweap I’d be solo.

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Thanks Chris!

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

The next morning I started on the Tuckup Route. The descent into the Canyon was easy and I spent some time poking around the artifacts at the “Cubicle Boulder”. There was cowboy stuff, historic glass, and chips of rock from the manufacturing of stone tools.

Happy to be hiking back in!

Happy to be hiking back in!

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Tuckup Trail

Old fencelinedsc00515From the boulder, the route was cairned in the grasses toward Cottonwood Canyon. What an interesting and vast landscape in this part of the Grand Canyon, much different than what I’d previously been through. It was pretty warm and I heard a rattlesnake buzzing- it was a safe distance up the slope and just letting me know of its presence.

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Tuckup Trail on the way to Cottonwood Canyon

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

I contoured into Cottonwood Canyon and found myself a camp on a bench above. I collected some water, hoping I wouldn’t have to use much of it as it was reported to be mineralized. I’d brought quite a bit of water down from the rim with me. As night fell, I was washing my hands when I heard the unmistakable scream of a cat. It was as if someone played the “wildcat noise” sample from a sound effects board. Totally put my hair on edge and I picked up my pot lid and hiking pole and banged it while yelling “Go AWAY!” I saw some eyes reflected in the cottonwood across the creek that stayed there for a while, then they turned and went up the hill. Most likely a bobcat, but holy crap, I’ve never heard such a noise, especially when out solo! It didn’t mess with my sleep, thank goodness. I’d had enough of that this trip.

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Tuckup Trail

Fossil shell

Fossil

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Cottonwood Canyon Camp

The next day I contoured out of  Cottonwood and made my way around the arms of Rocky Point Canyon. Just as Rich Rudow had told me, the Tuckup Route comes and goes, and there’s trail construction in the drainages. Sometimes tough to find, but it’s there.

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So

The route goes in and out of a million gullies of varying depth and size

So many gullies to work in and out of

North of Dome Pocket Canyon, I found some potholes of water and set myself up with my umbrella for a siesta. It was delightful.There are few things I like better than a backcountry nap.

Shade and water are all I need for a siesta north of Dome Pocket Canyon

Siesta spot

Life finds a way

Life finds a way

I worked my way around Dome Pocket Canyon and the first arm of Fern Glen Canyon. There were some potholes marked on my map that I was shooting for. I was getting close and I went to step over a bush. My toe caught a branch and I fell, my shin and knee hitting a projecting piece of sandstone. Good thing I was wearing a knee brace, it took some of the impact and good thing it wasn’t limestone. That would have been a bloody mess. However, it did hurt as I hiked the last bit to camp. Only the morning would tell how bad it was. I had a spectacular sunset and moonrise at the potholes.

Pottery sherd from the rim of a vessel

Pottery sherd from the rim of a vessel

Gorgeous clouds over The Dome

Gorgeous clouds over The Dome

Micro Chicken finds a funky rock

Micro Chicken finds a funky rock

Took a fall about 5 minutes from camp, banged up my knee and shin

Took a fall about 5 minutes from camp, banged up my knee and shin

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Sunset and moonrise with The Dome

The next morning, the shin was sore, and my left knee wasn’t 100% happy. But I figured I’d be ok. I hiked over to the Willow arm of Fern Glen Canyon and took several of liters from Willow Spring, hoping I would find water in potholes and not have to drink it. There was a mineral crust on the walls that was way worse than Cottonwood Spring and the water was also said to cause intestinal distress.

Sunrise

Sunrise

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Walking along

Mineralized walls from the water in Willow Canyon

Mineralized walls from the water in Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon

The way from Willow Spring was tough to follow- there were several routes, some cairned more than others. Lots of cactus to avoid, especially tough when there was only a tiny bench of trail with a prickly pear growing in it. As I got closer to where some potholes were marked on the map, I realized I needed to be on the lower route so I found a rockslide to hike down to access the lower trail. The potholes I was camping at were all dry. I looked everywhere and none of them had any water. This made me nervous. I’d expected to find water in the evening, now there was none. I skipped making dinner and ate snacks that didn’t require cooking instead. It was a restless night and I woke up when it was still dark and got packed up so I could move at first light. Temps had been in the 80’s during the heat of the day.

I had seen a pothole nearby on my map that was supposed to be a good bet, but it was a bit of a bushwhack to get to. I checked there first. Nothing. I was going to have to go back to Willow Spring and get a bunch more of that mineralized water. Better than dying of thirst. I had been told that contouring along Stairway Canyon was arduous and didn’t know how long it would take me. There was no way I was going to risk going ahead with the water I had.

So I made my way back through the cairn maze to Willow Spring, collected 8 liters of water and tried to rehydrate before moving on. My pack heavy with 16 lbs of water, I hiked a third time through the cairn and cactus maze. I got some prickly pear spines in my feet through my shoes and when I stopped to take them out, realized that I’d lost my tweezers! What the heck did people do before the invention of tweezers? I tried with a needle but couldn’t get them out.

Cryptobiotic smile at the end of a tough day

Cryptobiotic smile at the end of a tough day

I stayed on the lower route into a gully along Stairway Canyon and didn’t like the looks of the exit, so I backtracked and hiked up a rockfall to the higher level. The higher level trail had clear trail construction in and out of the gullies, but now I was losing daylight. I’d spent a whole day chasing water. The route hit a saddle on a windswept ridge and I had to call it home for the night. I found a flat spot just big enough for myself that was protected from the wind but surrounded by razor sharp limestone. It was a marginal camp made even worse by the fact that I could actually see where I’d camped the night before.

Marginal camp on the ridge, surrounded by razor-sharp limestone

Marginal camp on the ridge, surrounded by razor-sharp limestone

Despite the marginal camp and the ever-growing intestinal distress, I enjoyed a spectacular full moon rise with The Dome. It was a rough night and I had to get up a bunch of times. Also, there were mosquitoes again- what?

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I had camped at the slickrock at the left side of the picture the night before but the moonrise was gorgeous!!

The next morning, I was shaky and sick from the water. Ugh. As I was getting ready to leave camp, I was taking my camera out of its case and it slipped out of my hand onto the sharp limestone. Good thing for warranties, but that wasn’t going to help me out here. At least it was only the last two days of the trip.

I hiked the high route around the bays and gullies of Stairway Canyon. It went well and I got to see some Bighorn Sheep from above. I was nearing an area with slickrock and possible potholes and found a way to the lower trail. Nothing. All dry. My stomach grumbled.

Cat

Cat

Willow Spring water got me feeling like...

Willow Spring water got me feeling like…

I was heading for potholes that were just south of Big Point all the way out on the rim. At this point I was pretty concerned and going through contingency plans if there was nothing there. Just before noon, I saw a beautiful glimmer in the distance. Water!! As I got closer, I realized why this place was said to be reliable- there was a pothole double the size of a hot tub along with about 10 other good ones. I yelled and cheered and gleefully poured out the rest of my Willow Spring water.

BIG pothole under Big Point

BIG pothole under Big Point

This is my happy water face

This is my happy water face!

I was a day behind schedule but couldn’t fathom the thought of not spending the night at this one of a kind camp. There were views downriver with a drop to rival that at Toroweap Lookout. I made the decision to just have a really long day the next day, it looked to be about 15 miles. The rest of the day was spent lounging about, enjoying the view, and cooling off and rehydrating with the sweet, sweet water. It was my last solo camp of the trip and I spent a while writing about my experiences. Camped next to a juniper and enjoyed one last bright red sunset over Vulcan’s Throne.

Spectacular view downriver of the mouth of Cove Canyon

Spectacular view downriver of the mouth of Cove Canyon

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The next morning I was up and hiking early. I had Big Cove Canyon and then Cove Canyon to work around on my way to Toroweap. There was an option to take a shortcut over the mesa but I stuck to the sweet swoopy trail. Which was sweet and swoopy until I wasn’t on the right level anymore and then had to scramble up or down to correct. Thankfully there was always a break in the cliffs nearby so I didn’t have to backtrack too much.

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Moonlight

Micro Chicken, my adventure companion

Micro Chicken, my adventure companion

Cove Canyon

Cove Canyon

I found the best artifact of the whole trip, a worked Archaic blade that was a gorgeous color. There are three main arms of Cove Canyon, but in reality it is like a fractal- arms break down into smaller and smaller arms and you have to work your way around all of them. It was a lot more routefinding than I had expected.

Archaic blade fragment

Archaic blade fragment

My friend Meg was picking me up at Tuckup Traihead and she had said she’d hike in to meet me. The last three miles are an old road and I was shooting for being on the road before I lost daylight. I really hoped I wasn’t going to have to try to navigate cairns in the dark. By this time I’d been hiking for 12 hours straight with very few breaks. I hit the road before I had to put my headlamp on- success!

Smiling because I am going to make it to the roadwalk before dark

Smiling because I am going to make it to the roadwalk before dark

Meg met me in the dark on the roadwalk, it was great to see her and we hiked the last bit under the Milky Way to the trailhead together. We were almost there when Meg stopped me in mid-sentence to look at the moonrise. It was the perfect end to the trip, a giant orange almost-full moon coming right out the side of Big Point. What a place. The next morning, we visited Toroweap Lookout with the classic view of Lava Falls 3000 feet below. It was a great end to my journey.

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Meg came all the way from Tucson to spend the night at Toroweap and take me back home- thanks Meg!

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End of the journey at Toroweap lookout

I so enjoyed the time I got to spend in the Canyon- the place is endlessly fascinating. I know that each section of my traverse of the length of the Canyon will come with its own challenges, it’s the price of admission to such a rugged and wild place. I’m already daydreaming about what section I plan on doing next.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to urge President Obama to designate the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument that would expand the protection of the Grand Canyon against development, mining and other threats to this wonder of the world. Map of the proposed monument below, learn more at www.greatergrandcanyon.org.

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GGCHNM_ValuesMap

A Grand Adventure, Part 1

The original plan: 23 days of backpacking through the Grand Canyon from the North Bass Trailhead to Whitmore Wash, October 1-23. At the beginning of the year, I had planned to hike a big chunk of the Grand Canyon in October. I am working hiking the length of the Canyon in sections, it’s a project I will be chipping away at for the next several years. I agonized over maps choosing a route and itinerary, put my permit request in four months in advance, placed food and supply caches via a friend’s river trip and trained all summer long to be in shape. So many friends helped me plan- shout out to Rich Rudow, Chris Atwood, Jamie Compos and especially Chris Forsyth for answering my endless questions.

Even before I got on the road, I ended up having to change my itinerary due to impassable roads and Chris and I getting sick and having to delay our start. The theme of this entire trip was “be flexible and enjoy whatever ends up happening”. Thankfully the illness was short-lived and the next day we were able to hike in via the Bill Hall Trail from Monument Point. Finally!

Monument Point Trailhead taking Bill Hall Trail to Thunder River

Monument Point Trailhead taking Bill Hall Trail to Thunder River

Hiking down to the Esplanade

Hiking down to the Esplanade

I was so excited to finally be at the rim of the Grand Canyon on the cusp of my big adventure, fresh scenery ahead. Chris and I had a great hike down and I was pleased to see that my leg had rehabilitated well from my calf muscle tear that had caused my helicopter evacuation from the Canyon just six months prior. There was water in the potholes on the Esplanade and then the trail descended a jumble of Supai blocks and Redwall to Surprise Valley. True to form, Surprise Valley was hot and I was glad to have my umbrella. The descent to Thunder River promised cool shade and water below and we took a much-needed break at the falls.

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Checking the potholes, often times they are the only water source on the Esplanade layer

River view and Surprise Valley

River view and Surprise Valley

Above Thunder River in Surprise Valley

Above Thunder River in Surprise Valley

Thunder River

Thunder River

We pushed on past the upper campsite, hoping we’d get the sketchy part of the descent over with before dark. We made it with plenty of time, which was good- don’t think I’d want to hike that part by headlamp as we saw some rafters do later that evening. This was the location of my first cache, which was just a mini bucket with two days of food in it and some coconut water for a treat. It started to rain and I set up my tent, The One by Gossamer Gear. The company had sent it over for me to try on my trip and it set up easily with rocks and my hiking poles. As is usually the case, it stopped raining as I got it set up. Tapeats Rapid on the Colorado River provided a great backdrop and I was happy to sleep near the roar of a rapid once again. Only I didn’t sleep. It was one of those awful nights where you have your eyes closed, but never actually rest.

Chris and me in Tapeats Creek

Chris and me in Tapeats Creek

Tapeats Creek and the muddy Colorado

Tapeats Creek and the muddy Colorado

Descent to Tapeats Creek

Descent to Tapeats Creek

Tapeats Rapid

Tapeats Rapid

The next morning, I was happy we had a short day ahead of us and had hopes of a siesta for my sleepy self. We said hi to the boaters and they took my mini-cache bucket out for me. Chris and I chose the low route that goes along the river toward Deer Creek, it was so much fun to walk where I’d only boated before. There was a short scramble down into Bonita Creek that was pea gravel over bedrock, not my favorite combo. We hiked near the Granite Narrows and the low path split into two. We took the low route that stayed just above the narrows and saw the “piano” up close. There was a great overhang for a break with some ancient walls and then we turned the corner and saw the spot that we’d read was exposed. From a distance, it looked impossibly thin with a scary drop off, but as we got up to it, there was a solid rock shelf that gave passage along the cliff’s edge.

Collared Lizard

Collared Lizard

Me with the

Me with the “piano” above the Granite Narrows, 76 feet across at river level

Chris headed for the thin spot on the low route to Deer Creek

Chris headed for the thin spot on the low route to Deer Creek

Deer Creek

Deer Creek

The route eventually climbed and met up with the other route over the Cogswell Butte saddle, then down into Deer Creek just above the Patio. We set up for an extended break and I blew up my mattress for a siesta. Later that afternoon, the river party showed up and we teased them about arriving on foot sooner than they’d floated down. The Patio is a wonderful place no matter how many times I’ve been. It was gratifying to have gotten here on a backpacking trip.

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Eventually, Chris and I descended to the main Deer Creek Falls to get water before hiking along the shore to find a camp. What a place. When we left Deer Creek, the river level was low and so we stuck to rock hopping along the shore. There were sand banks to climb and as I stepped on one of them, it gave out and I jammed my left thumb hard into the ground. Searing pain shot through my hand and by the time we got to camp, I was pretty worried. What would a messed-up thumb mean for the rest of my trip? I was supposed to be canyoneering and scrambling as part of my route. Chris was going to be hiking out the next day and I was going to do the next four days solo. I was so nervous- about my thumb, about being solo, about the enormity of the trip, about the upcoming travel which was rockhopping along the broken-up jumbled shoreline for 7 river miles to Kanab Creek. Which is probably why I once again got absolutely no sleep for the second night in a row.dsc00116

Night 2 camp downstream from Deer Creek

Night 2 camp downstream from Deer Creek

Scorpion Relocation Services

Scorpion Relocation Services

The next morning, when Chris was getting ready to leave I felt awful. Shaky, exhausted, thumb puffy and painful. I’d made a decision in the middle of the night that I was going to try to catch a boat ride with the rafters we’d seen the last two days. They were camped just downstream across the river at a camp called Pancho’s Kitchen that I’d stayed at many a time during river season. I packed up and hiked down to where they could hear me. Lucky for me, I’ve got Italian lungs and they had no problem hearing me get their attention. “Can I get a ride to Kanab?” I yelled. They came over to my side of the river and picked me up. The boatman was Guy and his friend Joe was also in the boat and they helped me get my pack strapped down and PFD on.

Getting ready to thumb a ride downriver

Getting ready to thumb a ride downriver

Success! Caught a ride with Guy and Joe

Success! Caught a ride with Guy and Joe

On a boat again...

On a boat again…

I couldn’t thank them enough! In return, I told them that they had a former river guide on board and told them stories about the river and answered their questions. I’d always worked the big motor rigs so it was a lot of fun for me to be in a small, quiet oar boat. I watched as the rough and rugged shoreline passed by. So glad to have the option to not be rockhopping, and the day was a hot one. I’ll return to do it some other time. We reached Kanab Creek at 11am and Guy and Joe waited to make sure that I could locate my cache. I am so grateful that they were able to give me a ride and wished them best of luck in the rapids ahead. They joked that they’d done good for their river karma by giving me a ride.

Joe and Guy waited to make sure I located my cache at Kanab

Joe and Guy waited to make sure I located my cache at Kanab

I got my cache bucket and found some clear water in the drainage between the creek and the river. Moved down to my own personal-sized beach downstream and set up my umbrella, sleeping pad and pillow for the rest of the day. This cache was a large one with resupply for my food, fuel and first aid and some fun stuff like special treats, coconut water and party lights for camp. It was a fantastic day catching up on my sleep. Spent a bunch of time photographing the Milky Way.dsc00134

That doesn't look good...

That doesn’t look good…

This setup provided me with shade all day long

This setup provided me with shade all day long

Some of the treats I included in my cache

Some of the treats I included in my cache

Private beach at Kanab perfect for catching up on my sleep

Private beach at Kanab perfect for catching up on my sleep

Cached some party lights for nighttime fun!

Cached some party lights for nighttime fun!

Meteor and light show

Meteor and light show

Milky Way over the Grand Canyon

Milky Way over the Grand Canyon

The next day, I had a decision to make- I was supposed to have another layover day at Kanab and then hike upcanyon to meet up with Chris and our friends Shannon and Jillian McCumber to go out Kanab onto the Esplanade and over to the 150 mile trailhead. We were coordinating the meetup via my InReach satellite messenger. I decided I didn’t need another day off so I got packed up to start hiking up Kanab Creek. As I went to put my pack on to leave camp, I wrenched my thumb again. Crap. My thumb combined with uncertainty about whether or not we could make it to 150 on the McCumber’s schedule caused me to change the itinerary to hiking out the Flipoff route, a tributary of Kanab Creek. I realized that no matter what plans I’d originally had that the Canyon had other ideas and I had to go with the flow and just be glad that I was spending time exploring my favorite place. I was much happier after letting go.

Kanab Creek

Kanab Creek

I started hiking up Kanab Creek around noon and the canyon had recently flashed, leaving deep pools and sucking mud. It was tough to gauge how deep because you couldn’t see through the water, so I relied on my poles to help. I reached an area with big, flat Muav limestone ledges and set up for a break. After a while, I thought I heard voices. Sure enough, along comes a tour group with Wildland Trekking, out for a 6-day Kanab Creek out and back from Sowats Point. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone, though I had seen the group’s muddy footprints. They were heading the same direction as me and it was nice to know that someone else was there if I needed help the next day scrambling with my hurt thumb.

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Walking the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Walking the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

I camped just inside Whispering Springs Canyon in a lovely little Muav amphitheater with the sound of trickling water lulling me to sleep. No problems with sleepless nights the rest of the trip.

Whispering Springs Falls

Whispering Springs Falls

Muav ledge camp in Whispering Springs Canyon

Muav ledge camp in Whispering Springs Canyon

The next day was challenging as there were quite a few places that required routefinding through boulder jumbles. I managed alright by myself, there were a couple of places where I lifted my pack up and climbed after it. There was a fine silt left by the receding creek that was very slippery, even with my sticky 5.10 Camp Four shoes.

I had three pairs of shoes on this trip. Yes, you heard me right- three pairs. I had planned on doing quite a bit of canyoneering and scrambling on my original route, so I had the Camp Fours. However, the Camp Fours weren’t necessary on most parts of my route and they were giving me plantar fascitis (heel pain), so I decided to bring my comfy Altra Olympus as well. And because I hate wearing shoes in general and had planned to spend quite a bit of time in camp, I had my 4oz foam camp sandals. I cut other weight where I could to make up for the extra shoes- they were worth it and I didn’t get any blisters. Even with 3 pairs of shoes, I was able to keep my weight of my pack down at about 32 pounds to start (with 2 days of food and 3 liters of water).

I ducked into Scotty’s Hollow for water and a lunch break and was thrilled to have a waterfall and pool to hang out at. This canyon was going to be our original exit route onto the Esplanade but I was glad we’d changed it- there was a lot of climbing and my thumb was not up to it.

Scotty's Hollow

Scotty’s Hollow

Flame Skimmer

Flame Skimmer

I reached Showerbath Spring in time to get a shower while it was still sunny in the canyon. What a gorgeous place, it was great to see it for myself after having seen it in so many Hayduke Trail trip reports. I settled in and waited to see if Chris was going to meet me. He was hiking in Flipoff Canyon after dropping Shannon and Jillian off to hike in via Jumpup Canyon. I wasn’t sure he’d make it that evening and was prepared to meet up with him the next day if I didn’t see him. The tour group passed by and I chatted with the guides Stefan and Isaac. After it had been dark for a while I saw a headlamp and assumed it was one of the guides coming to get more water from the spring. Only it was Chris, hiking in the dark after an epic day coming down the Flipoff route into Kanab!

All clean!

All clean!

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Tent is The One by Gossamer Gear

Tent is The One by Gossamer Gear

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It was great to see Chris again and hear his tale of routefinding into Flipoff solo and subsequent hike to get to Showerbath Spring. We listened to music and watched the outrageously good star show.

The next day we had a leisurely start, all we had to do was go up to Jumpup Canyon to rendezvous with Shannon and Jillian and then find a place to camp. The going was easier in the creek above Showerbath, though there was still water flowing, even above the source of Kanab Creek. Remnants from the receding flood. There was smoke in the air from a fire on the rim. Chris and I found water in a pothole in Rattlesnake Canyon and dropped our gear for camp nearby. We hiked up Jumpup a short distance and waited on a rock till we heard and saw the McCumbers- so fun to meet up with friends deep within the Canyon! Unfortunately, Shannon was moving slowly on an ankle she’d sprained on day one of her trip. It looked painful and sore. We hiked to our camp and settled in for the evening.dsc00306

Yay! We meet Jillian and Shannon in the depths of Jumpup Canyon

Yay! We meet Jillian and Shannon in the depths of Jumpup Canyon

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The next morning, the water had receded again and the creek above our camp was dry. We hiked up Kanab Creek and out of the National Park boundary into the Kanab Creek Wilderness and Kaibab National Forest. This is part of the area that would be protected under the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument, for more information and to sign the petition to urge President Obama to designate the monument, visit the link. Hard to believe that there are active uranium mines a short distance away on the rim. Here’s a map, click to enlarge:GGCHNM_ValuesMap

We checked out a side canyon called Crack Baby by canyoneers. The base of the last rappel was beautiful and there was a pothole with water accessible to those willing to scramble around a chockstone. Plus, Crack Baby is super fun to say and spawned it’s own theme song and story!

Crack Baby Canyon

Crack Baby Canyon

As we hiked up Kanab, the Redwall formation got shorter and shorter. We reached the Flipoff Canyon intersection and struck an appropriate pose. The canyon presented some small scrambles and soon we were at the Redwall/Supai contact. Jillian and Chris went to check out some cowboy junk and I took a step to stop and put my pack down for a break. As I did, the boulder I stepped on came loose and fell from its spot and I found myself falling and ended up with my head in Shannon’s lap. Lucky thing it was her lap and not the rock below it that my head landed upon. Scary how quickly things can go south.dsc00353dsc00356

Redwall/Supai contact in Flipoff Canyon

Redwall/Supai contact in Flipoff Canyon

We took a long break at a delightful spot with cottonwoods and running water. The weather had been clear up to this point but we could see clouds mounting. A short time after we left the cottonwoods, it started raining. Lucky for us there was a great overhang for us to wait out the worst of it. We worked our way up the Supai formation, scrambling up or around some pouroffs. Close to the top of the Supai Chris spotted some rock art that we went to investigate.

Beautiful spot for a break in Flipoff Canyon

Beautiful spot for a break in Flipoff Canyon

Waiting out the storm in an overhang

Waiting out the storm in an overhang

Supai Sandstone in Flipoff Canyon

Supai Sandstone in Flipoff Canyon

Petroglyph and pictograph panel

Petroglyph and pictograph panel

And then we were finally on top of the Supai on the Esplanade and worked our way to some fantastic potholes filled with water near an overhang that held an old cowboy camp. The sunset was one to remember and Shannon and Jillian said it was entertaining watching Chris and I be the “sunset paparazzi”, running all over the place to get the perfect shot. After the rest had gone to bed, I spent some time doing long-exposure night photography with the Flipoff.

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Out Flipoff Canyon onto the Esplanade, the top of the Supai layer where good camping and waterholes await

Flipoff Sunset Panorama

Flipoff Sunset Panorama

Stargazing and reflections

Stargazing and reflections

The next morning I found a bunch of sweet lithic chips from stone tool manufacturing in the overhang as well as some other artifacts and cowboy stuff. Then it was time to hike out the Flipoff Route. You could see the 1700 foot rock slide that covered the Kaibab, Toroweap and Hermit layers from our camp. It was going to be a tough one. There were occasional cairns and a path that had old horse poop on it. The footing got looser as we hiked up the slope. It was ok as long as I was heading uphill but traversing was uncomfortable.

Ancient stone tool fragments

Ancient stone tool fragments

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Hiking to the exit, which is the big rockslide that covers the cliffs on the left

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Gaining elevation and looking down on where we camped

Gaining elevation and looking down on where we camped

There were one or two times when I had to will myself to take the next step. We had read about a climb in the Coconino, but never found anything that required us to raise packs like in the route description. More loose and steep uphill brought us to a crack in the Kaibab that led us to the top. Whew! I can hardly believe Shannon did all that on a bad ankle. She is tough!

Loose and steep, but it gets you out of the Canyon

Loose and steep, but it gets you out of the Canyon

Quick break before resuming our scree slope sliding out

Quick break before resuming our scree slope sliding out

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

“Trailhead” by the wildlife guzzler tank far away from anywhere

Chris’ car was parked at the wildlife guzzler, a collection tank for water. I decided to go back into Kanab, Utah to plan the second part of my trip. I couldn’t go on with my original itinerary- not with my thumb the way it was. Also, I wanted to step back my mileages, what I had originally set out to do was too aggressive.

We drove back into Kanab and I decided that I’d take the next day off. Chris suggested we go do the tourist thing in Zion since I had never been. It was a surprising respite to the tough hiking I’d done so far.Look, I'm a tourist!

Chris and I got Asian Fusion for dinner and he gave me his fortune that said “Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference.” I put it in my first aid kit as a reminder. Little did I know how much I’d need that advice for the second half of my trip from Tuckup to Tuweep.

Click here to read Part 2!

URGENT! COMMENT NOW to STOP the Escalade project that threatens to build a tram into the sacred confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. Comment on this proposal by Friday: http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Legislatio…/…/0293-16.pdf

Digital comments may be e-mailed to comments@navajo-nsn.gov

Comments may be made in the form of chapter resolutions, letters, position papers, etc. Please include your name, position title, address for written comments; a valid e-mail address is required. Anonymous comments will not be included in the Legislation packet.

Please send this to all your friends around the world. Now is the time to make your voice heard! Learn more and sign the petition against the Escalade project here: www.savetheconfluence.com.

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado and Colorado River Confluence

Here’s a video about the proposed project, thanks in advance for writing to comment!

 

REI ChicagoThis week, I’m headed to Chicago for a visit with family with an added bonus- an Arizona Trail speaking tour at all four REI locations! I’m excited to return to share my tour of the trail, stories from my two hikes of the AZT and tips for planning your own adventure. Come learn why this 800-mile trail is one of the top destinations in the Southwest for hikers, bikers, runners, and equestrians.

When I was growing up in Roselle, a northwest suburb of Chicago, I never would have imagined that I’d be returning in my forties for a speaking tour about the wonderful adventures I’ve had. It’s going to be so fun to see family and friends at my presentations!

Here are the dates and registration links. All talks are from 6:30-8:30 pm. Hope to see you there!

August 23rd – REI Schaumburg:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/schaumburg/154331

August 24th – REI Oakbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/oakbrook-terrace/154351

August 25th – REI Chicago:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/chicago/154296

August 26th – REI Northbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/northbrook/154297

Tater Canyon

Tater Canyon

Throw one for me!

Santa Ritas

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Injury Update

Two months ago on April 1st, I had a partial tear in my calf muscle while backpacking in the Grand Canyon and had to be helicoptered out. I’ve gotten some messages from readers asking how my leg is doing, so here’s the lengthy update.

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Back on the Arizona Trail near the Utah border

The first two weeks were the worst: I was told by my doctor to stay off of the leg and elevate and ice it. I hardly knew what to do with myself. The leg was sore and weak and it hurt to put weight on it, so I limped around. This caused all sorts of compensatory problems in other parts of my body, not fun. I tried not to go crazy while resting my leg and staring at the mountains I was supposed to stay off of.

It’s been 10 years since my last major Fibromyalgia flare, but I was really worried that the inactivity plus the injury would throw me into one. The number one way that I have staved off the effects of my Fibro is through movement and my body was not at all happy with the change. I have a spot in my back I call my “Fibro spot” and it flares up when things are bad with the rest of my body. It flared up. Thankfully massage and stretching helped things and I never went into a full-body flare. (It feels like a really bad case of the flu- achy, no energy, and extreme sensitivity to pain.)

I managed to get out a little bit, took my nephew to Canyon Lake to go boating and to Oracle for the weekend.Mr. Boat Driver Man Chase

Canyon Lake with Weaver's Needle just right of center

Canyon Lake with Weaver’s Needle just right of center

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Stayed at this cute little cabin at Arizona Zipline Adventures

I spent some time helping out some hikers, it was a little sad to not be able to hike and instead have to sit in a chair on the trail with my leg up. I also tracked down unicyclist Jack Mahler to do an interview- he finished the entire Arizona Trail in 23 days!

Jack Mahler unicycling the AZT

I limped around Silver City, NM for the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff- what a fun event! I got to sit on a panel for a discussion about thru-hiking and the town was filled with people excited to start their journey on the CDT. Many of them said they’d be heading for the AZT for their next trail.

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CDT Thru-hikers Panel – photo by Dave “Elusive” Roberts

The day after the Silver City event, two weeks after the injury, I woke up and wasn’t limping anymore. That really helped, to be able to return to my regular stride. Definitely won’t be taking that for granted anytime soon. I was cleared for level hiking and was so happy to be able to get out in the desert. I stopped with a friend at the Wilcox Playa Wildlife Area on the way back from Silver City. I hadn’t been since I walked across the playa, a dry lakebed that made for crazy mirages, for an archaeological survey in the late 90s. It was a little disappointing to learn that walking across the playa itself is closed due to unexploded ordnance from bomb testing.

The latest in desert headwear – Photo by Jonathon Stalls

Even though my hikes were short, they were still filled with such beauty and wildlife encounters. It’s so good just to be out there! I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk take down a packrat and got this great photo.

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Red-Tailed Hawk and its prey


Then I was out on a walk in a wash near my house when I saw a Tarantula Hawk dragging a Tarantula across the desert.

Tarantula Hawk and its unfortunate victim

 

While on a short hike on the AZT near Oracle, I saw a roadrunner dart out of the brush, only to have a Cooper’s Hawk swoop in and attack it! Luckily the roadie escaped minus a couple of tail feathers.
 We took Roscoe for a short camping trip into the Tortolitas, where I found petroglyphs!

Petroglyphs and Moonrise

My friends Bonnie Slaten and Lynn Maring finished section-riding the AZT on horseback and I was so glad to be well enough to hike up the Bug Springs Trail a ways to meet up with their final miles and take photos of this historic event. Bonnie at 75 is the oldest woman to ride the AZT and Lynn is the only person to have ridden it twice! These ladies are the definition of true grit. I’ve so enjoyed being a part of their journey, we’ve spent countless hours talking trail and logistics.

Happy to be back on trail!

Lynn and Bonnie on their final miles

The desert has been full of gorgeous wildflowers and cactus blooms.

  
  

I have been gradually ramping up the difficulty and length of my hikes while doing a lot of stretching and switching up my exercise with horseback riding and dance (but not at the same time).

Carrie Miracle-Jordan riding the Santa Rita Foothills

There’s been a lot of traveling for work with a little hiking thrown in for good measure. I was fortunate to be there for the Warrior Hike completion at the Utah border. Two months ago, I hiked with veterans David and Jordan on their first days from the Mexico border. It was so wonderful to see how they had been changed by their experiences and share the joy of finishing such a momentous journey. My leg was even healed enough for me to hike up the 22 switchbacks from the Utah border to meet them.


 I made my return to the Grand Canyon- it was good to see her again, even though our last date had been cut unexpectedly short. There I met up with folks who had won a sweepstakes with Island Press to backpack with author Jason Mark, editor of Sierra Magazine, on the Arizona Trail on the Coconino Rim.  We spent the day exploring the Canyon’s rim and caught a wonderful sunset on the South Kaibab Trail. Then it was over to Grandview, chasing the almost-full moon.

South Kaibab Sunset

 

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Starry night at Grandview

During the Island Press trip, we met with Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club to discuss current threats to the Grand Canyon including the Escalade tram project at the Little Colorado River Confluence and uranium mining. I was honored to meet Renae Yellowhorse, who is running for Navajo Chapter Vice-President and is at the forefront of Save the Confluence, and hear her speak about what these sacred places mean to her and her family. Read here about the upcoming vote on the Escalade and how you can write letters and make phone calls to oppose the development.

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence

Renae Yellowhorse and me

At the Canyon, we met with the Deputy Superintendent, Brian Drapeaux. At the end of the meeting, I was talking with Emily Davis, the park’s spokeswoman about doing a talk about the Arizona Trail on the rim. “Absolutely, she said, “and how about doing one at Phantom?” I could hardly believe my ears. It was all I could do to keep it together and say yes. Me doing the Phantom Ranch Ranger Program? It’s like being asked to play Madison Square Garden or Carnegie Hall, as far as I’m concerned!

Hello Grand Canyon- it’s great to be back! Photo by Rebecca Bright

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, I got approved for an amazing backcountry permit for October, but that’s a whole blog entry in itself!

So that’s the lengthy answer to “How’s the leg?”

Grand Canyon Gems

The piece of Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon between the Boucher and South Bass Trails is known as the Gems because the side canyons are named after precious stones. It’s got a narrow window of opportunity because the side canyons only run during certain months. Wendy the Permit Whisperer had gotten 5 nights starting on March 31st at South Bass and ending at Hermit and had invited me and three others to join her. I had been looking forward to this piece for a couple of reasons: it would connect my line from Tanner to Elves Chasm, it’s one of the more remote pieces of the Tonto, and I’d get to go backpacking with two of my favorite women, Wendy and India.
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Roger’s tent trailer was a welcome shelter from the cold!

We met up with John and spent a chilly night in Roger’s tent trailer the night before, camping in the forest outside the park. It was 11 degrees when we awoke at 5am to get packed and meet our shuttle. Tim Wilson met us at the Backcountry Office to shuttle us over 30 miles of dirt road to the South Bass Trailhead. We enjoyed swapping stories on the ride as Tim deftly maneuvered through the rutted road.

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Tim loading the packs up for the ride to South Bass

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South Bass Trailhead – me, Roger, India, Wendy and John

I hadn’t been on the South Bass Trail since my Royal Arch via Point Huitzil trip in 2011 and I was so excited to see the dome of Mount Huethawali below rising up from the Esplanade. We started down the trail, stopping briefly to look at the small granary. Took a break on the Esplanade to soak in the views, get a snack and look at maps.

South Bass to Emerald (2)

Granary

Esplanade Break

Snack break on the Esplanade with Mount Huethawali – Photo by India Hesse

 The walking on the Esplanade before it drops into the Supai is delightful- flat and fancy, lined with rocks to protect the precious cryptobiotic soil on either side. There were so many flowers in bloom and the types changed as we descended in elevation.

South Bass to Emerald (3)

Fancy Flat Esplanade

South Bass to Emerald (4)

Blooming Ceanothus

 We descended and traversed through the Supai to the Redwall break and switchbacked down to the canyon floor. We met a group of Canadians taking a break and as I walked up and said hi, one of the women asked, “Are you Sirena? I read your blog!” So nice to meet readers of the blog out in the Canyon! They had a fantastic itinerary for 13 days to Bright Angel but I didn’t envy their food carry. There were blooming Redbuds in the Redwall that matched Wendy perfectly and white Cliff Fendlerbush.

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Great spot for a rest – Photo by India Hesse

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Photo by India Hesse

South Bass to Emerald (6)

Wendy matches the blooming Redbuds

 The temperatures rose as we descended to the level of the Tonto Trail. We met a group at the ledges we’d stayed at in 2011 and one of the members recognized Wendy from the Arizona Backpacking Club. He introduced himself as Frank Feagans, and I recognized his name from the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association. After I introduced myself, he said that it was nice to meet me and that he started hiking the Arizona Trail because of me. How nice to hear!!

South Bass to Emerald (7)

What a place!

South Bass to Emerald (8)

Everything was blooming!

 We dropped our packs with Roger and hiked down to Bass Tanks for some much-needed water. It was getting hot and we were happy to finally reach the waterhole. After filtering, we had a hot little hike up the hill back to our packs and the turnoff to the Tonto Trail going East. I was so excited to put my feet on fresh trail I’d never seen before, heading to connect my line to Hermit.

South Bass to Emerald (10)

Wheeler Fold

South Bass to Emerald (9)

Getting some agua

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Bass Tanks – Photo by India Hesse

We contoured along Bass Canyon and decided since it looked like the weather was turning to make camp on a point instead of pushing into Serpentine Canyon.

South Bass to Emerald (11)

Looking downstream

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Pointing out landmarks to John – Photo by India Hesse

We found a spectacular spot and as we started to set up, the winds picked up and it started to rain. We wrestled with tarps and tents and then got situated as the hardest rains fell. I enjoyed my view out of my tarp of Holy Grail Temple.

South Bass to Emerald (12)

Holy Grail Temple and my Q-Twinn Tarp

 The rain let up and we emerged for dinner. John came around with hors d’oeuvers of oysters with mustard on crackers served on a Tapeats slab. We could see dramatic clouds across the way on the North Rim, and then around sunset we were treated to a 360 degree spectacle of rainbows, orange beams of light and snow on the distant North Rim. Unfortunately my photos came out blurry, luckily my companions captured the scene.

John serves hors d'ouvres on a Tapeats slab

John serves hors d’ouvres on a Tapeats slab

Rainbow

Outrageously good rainbow action- Photo by India Hesse

South Bass to Emerald (13)

Nighttime around the party lights

 There was a chance of rain so I kept the tarp up but slept under the stars. I was awoken several times by buzzing and it took me a bit to realize they were mosquitoes! So strange- that never happens in the Canyon.

We got going around 8am toward Serpentine, Tontouring up and down the rocky slopes toward the bed of the drainage. I felt great and hiked ahead for a bit, loving the feeling of being in my favorite place on a fresh piece of trail. I thought about my plan to traverse the whole Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry and where I should spend the month of October doing a big chunk.

South Bass to Emerald (14)

Mariposa

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Photo by India Hesse

There was plenty of running water in Serpentine Canyon, but we’d heard that it can cause intestinal distress. Nevertheless, several of us filtered an emergency backup liter just in case we needed it going toward Ruby, our next water source. Temperatures were heating up and the umbrellas came out. We hiked over to Emerald Canyon, lush with greenery and wildflowers of all colors. Only one more side canyon, Quartz, to go until Ruby.

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Photo by India Hesse

After contouring out of Emerald, I was hiking on a level piece of trail when all of a sudden I felt a “pop” in my left calf followed by pain. I hoped that it was just a cramp that electrolytes or maybe some massage would fix but when I tried to put weight on it going uphill, pain shot down my leg. Me and Wendy, India and Roger sat for a bit and tried an Ace bandage and some ibuprofen to see if it would help.

I hoped that the rest and wraps and meds would help. It didn’t. When I tried to walk on it, even with a lighter pack, my leg was painful and weak on the uphills. Not a good position to be in deep in a canyon. The rim loomed ominously far above. Even if I backtracked, I’d have to hike out at some point. Frank, who I’d met the day before, was with another group and said the exact same thing had happened to him in December on the Arizona Trail. He offered some K tape and sincere condolences.

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Realizing my trip is over.

We came to a flat spot and I had to face the truth: I couldn’t go on and  was going to have to use the SOS function on my InReach satellite communicator. 8 years I’ve been carrying a satellite communicator and never had to push the button. I was so glad to be able to text the SOS dispatch and tell them the nature of the emergency, so the rescuers knew what to expect when they got there.

The dispatch texted back to say they were on their way. We didn’t know how long it would take, but had an incredible spot to wait, fluffy clouds and Canyon views all around. John, the last one in our party, had gone ahead but backtracked after waiting for us and was surprised and sad at the turn of events. Things can change so quickly- one minute all is wonderful and you’re hiking through the Canyon feeling like you’ve just won the lottery, and the next- pain and despair and the end of the trip.

Only one hour later, we heard the sound of the helicopter and we waved a shiny piece of reflectix to show them where we were. It was incredible to see the helicopter maneuver into the landing spot on the Tonto Plateau.IMG_4254

Waving down the helicopter – Photo By India Hesse

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Landing on the Tonto

Marcos came out first to assess the landing spot and check in with me to see how I was doing. We were marveling at the flying expertise required to fly and land in the Canyon when just like a movie, the pilot took off the helmet to reveal a beautiful blond woman who introduced herself as Heather.

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Heather, my awesome pilot

Medic Drew listened to my story and looked at my leg. I felt bad having to call for help, but really there was nothing I could have done to avoid the injury. I thanked all of the rescuers profusely for putting their lives at risk to come get me.

I gave good-bye hugs to my hiking companions and got suited up to go for my very first helicopter ride in the Canyon. I’ve always wanted to see the Canyon from a helicopter- but I thought it would be part of a tour. Heather lifted off and away we went, traveling over the same path that my next 4 days would have covered. As sad as I was to be injured and leaving the trip, the ride was so exciting- seeing the Colorado River rapids, side canyons and temples of the Canyon from a different perspective is always welcome, no matter what the circumstance.

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Saying Goodbye – Photo by India Hesse

 

Leaving the rest of my party on the Tonto

Leaving the rest of my party on the Tonto

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Looking downstream

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Scorpion Ridge

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Granite Rapid

The helicopter eventually gained altitude and just like that, I was above the rim and landing at the airport in Tusayan. Trip over. What a strange turn of events- just hours ago I was walking deep in the Canyon, and now I was back at the Rim with all the tourists. Ranger Scott gave me a ride to the village and I took the next shuttle to Flagstaff.

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Marcos, me in an oversized flight suit, Drew and Heather

I am so grateful for my hiking companions Wendy, India, Roger and John for being supportive and hope that they enjoyed the rest of their days hiking to Hermit. Nothing but the highest regard and appreciation for Drew Yamamoto, Marcos Escobedo, Ranger Scott and especially pilot Heather Sour for getting me out of there safely. Also thanks to Sarah for a place to stay in Flagstaff and to Li and Jerolyn for the ride to Phoenix, where Brian picked me up.

My DeLorme InReach turned what could have been a lengthy wait for help into a timely extraction. A million thanks to Leigh Anne and Dr. Denny Thrasher, who donated the InReach to me for my 2014 thru-hike.

I went to the doctor four days after it happened, nervously awaiting the diagnosis. It was just as I suspected: a partial tear of the medial gastrocnemius muscle. No hiking for 6 weeks and I will have to do some physical therapy to rehab it. I’m also wearing a very attractive compression sleeve that goes all the way up to my thigh.

I was supposed to take my brother Shawn and his girlfriend Sarah on their first backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon for a four-day trip, hiking in on April 11. Instead I had to get them ready and send them off on their own.

This hike was going to connect a line for me from the Tanner Trail to Elves Chasm, looks like it will have to wait for a return trip.

I’m not sure how it got to be almost April without a blog post, but I’m back! So much to catch up on, I’ve been traveling all over the place for work and play. For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

Looking down on the big pouroff

One of my recent adventures –  Jackass Canyon

I love taking my friends and family to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  While on a trip in Olympic National Park last year, I found out that my friend Grant had never backpacked in the Canyon before and I said I’d enjoy being the one to remedy that problem. Things lined up for me to hike into the Grand Canyon on my birthday, February 16th, for two nights in Clear Creek with a night at Bright Angel Campground on either side. We invited Ryan from Maine, who I’d met in Moab last year, and hoped for good weather.

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The route we took – map courtesy of Wilderness Vagabond

We stayed in Tusayan and got a leisurely start after catching up at breakfast with my friend Li Brannfors, who Ryan (aka Guthook) had met on the Appalachian Trail many years ago. Temperatures had been unseasonably hot, yet there was a thick coating of ice on the upper parts of the South Kaibab in the shade of the chimney. Glad to have traction for the short distance, soon the trail was on the ridge in the sun. Always great to be back on the Arizona Trail!

Mule Train on the South Kaibab

Best location I can think of for my birthday!

 We timed it just right for the hike down, many parts were in the shade and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had on the Kaibab. Perfect weather for a birthday hike. So fun to see the guys react to the enormity of it all and ever-changing beauty of each turn of the trail.  Ryan was able to see the Guthook’s Guides Arizona Trail App that he developed in the field for the first time. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s such a game-changing resource for the AZT.

Kaibab Tunnel

We got a campsite by Bright Angel Creek, the cottonwoods were just starting to sport tiny green nubs. Ryan and Grant turned in after dinner, but not me- I had plans.

The moon was getting close to full and I took my camera and did my thing, visiting the beach and the bridges. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

Black Bridge at Night

 

Nighttime at Boat Beach

After a late night roaming the canyon and a leisurely start, we headed out to Clear Creek. I had only dayhiked a part of this trail while staying at Bright Angel. New terrain makes me giddy!

The CCC built the Clear Creek Trail to an amazing standard- it’s always fun to have people along who can geek out over a beautifully built wall or switchback. The trail passed the Great Unconformity- a place where over a billion years of time are missing between the Tapeats Sandstone and Vishnu Schist rock layers. Hard to wrap your head around geologic time, even when it’s staring you in the face.

The Great Unconformity


The Clear Creek Trail has spectacular views of many of the temples and buttes of the Canyon, but one stands above the rest: Zoroaster. It is one of  my favorite landmarks and the trail takes a tour around it. I must have five million pictures of that sexy Coconino-capped peak.

After Tontouring in and out of Bradley and Demaray points, we crossed Zoroaster Canyon. Then there was a traverse above the Clear Creek drainage that had great views of Wotan’s Throne and Angel’s Gate before descending into the canyon.

Photo by Ryan Linn

 

Descent into Clear Creek

We set up near the creek and the mice were almost immediately a nuisance. I did some photography before bed, the moon was so bright that it made the long exposures look like daytime.

The forecast was for a slight chance of rain at night and a 30% chance for the following day. The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, defeating any chances of sleep. Morning came and none of us had gotten much rest. We were supposed to have a layover day of exploring Clear Creek. That didn’t sound like much fun with the crazy wind. One day I’ll come back and explore upstream to Cheyava Falls- Grand Canyon’s largest at 800ft.  (only runs sometimes), and downstream to the sideways waterfall and the Colorado River.

Clear Creek Waterfall

Visiting the Clear Creek sideways waterfall while working on a river trip

A lone runner carrying a tiny pack visited our camp, having run from Phantom that morning. He said the winds were worse on the plateau. After a bit of small talk, we found that he was from the town right near where Ryan had grown up in Maine and that they knew the same people. Big Canyon, small world.

It was raining and still very windy. Unfortunate conditions for a layover. We decided to hike out and find a camp closer to Bright Angel to shorten up our next day. The winds were outrageous!! I kept getting pushed to the side, precariously close to prickly pear cactus and sharp-tipped agave.

 The hike back went quickly and we decided to stay on some ledges beneath Zoro in Sumner Wash which were mercifully out of the wind. I had a snack and took off to explore downstream before it got dark. I followed the canyon through the Tapeats and into the schist to pools in pink Zoroaster granite. There are few things I enjoy more than a new side canyon and this was a beauty.

Goat cheese, dehydrated olive tapenade, pepperoni and bacon

 

Zoroaster Temple

 

Vishnu Schist (black) and Zoroaster Granite (pink) pouroff

Did some night photography with Zoro before sleeping on a Tapeats ledge. The moon was outrageously bright and I had to cover my eyes to get any rest.

 The next day was a short jaunt back over to Bright Angel Campground and we took our time savoring the views from the Tonto Platform before hiking down into the canyon. The river looked like chocolate milk from the runoff of the recent rains. Early arrivals of spring wildflowers dotted the landscape.

  

Micro Chicken

The rest of the day was spent lounging about at the cantina, on Boat Beach and at the picnic table under the cottonwood by the turn into Bright Angel Creek.
  The last location was fascinating- it was Friday and a constant parade of backpackers and folks staying at Phantom Ranch streamed by. Grant is the owner of Gossamer Gear and was interested to see what kind of gear people were bringing. Needless to say, most of them did not subscribe to a lightweight philosophy and generally looked miserable as they came into the campground. I can relate, I was one of those people on my first hike down here  in 2001.

After the backpacker parade, it was time for stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, a welcome treat after 4 days in the Canyon. The guys went to bed and as usual, I hiked around in the evening, then went to sleep on my preferred place in the campground, the picnic table.

 The next morning we readied for our hike out and got the usual leisurely start after I visited Ranger Della to say hi. It was so nice and cool out and the hike to Indian Gardens was pleasant. We all converged on Indian Gardens for lunch and even though I ate plenty and was drinking lots of water, I felt way more tired than I should have.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The next bit to the 3-mile house dragged on and I told Ryan to go ahead and I’d meet him up top. I took a good break with my feet up and had some Emergen-c. That was the missing piece of the puzzle and I immediately felt better. It had been so cool that I’d not been keeping up with my electrolytes, which made me tired.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The rest of the hike was great, even on a Saturday there weren’t a ton of people on the trail, probably kept away by the solid ice on the trail above the 1 1/2 mile rest house. I reached the rim in good spirits and enjoyed hearing Grant and Ryan’s experiences of the hike out the Bright Angel Trail. We went to Li’s house where we were greeted with tasty beverages and slow-cooker chili. A great end to a fantastic time in the Canyon.

Can’t I just stay here? Photo by Grant Sible

This trip didn’t get me any miles toward my goal of hiking the length of the Grand Canyon, but any time in the Canyon is well spent. My next trip from South Bass to Hermit in April will close the remaining gap for me between the Tanner Trail and Elves Chasm. And in October, I will be hiking a month-long piece of the Canyon and I’m currently trying to figure out the specifics of where I will spend my time. I look forward to each and every step, no matter how challenging.

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