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Archive for the ‘Grand Canyon’ Category

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

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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!

 

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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.

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Fancy Flat Esplanade

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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

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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!!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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It’s that time of year again for a retrospective of my travels, let’s see where I wandered in 2015! If you’re a regular reader of the blog, don’t worry, I’ve added a lot of new pics from hikes that didn’t get a write up. Click on the links to open the post in a new tab.

January

I started the year out with a snowy hike on the Arizona Trail up to the High Jinks Ranch in Oracle.

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Explored some peaks and ridges near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground:

Great spot for a break

Great spot for a break

Met with other Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors for some dayhiking near Moab. Loved the slickrock and big views and the company was wonderful!

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Tinajas

Tinajas

Bagged a Cat in the Tucson Mountains:

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Spine of Cat Mountain

In addition, I went on a speaking tour about my Arizona Trail Trek that took me to outdoor stores, hiking clubs and community groups across Arizona. I did 10 talks in under 6 weeks!

February

Took a backpacking trip in the foothills north of Catalina State Park on the Baby Jesus Trail and some unnamed routes.

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Love those Arizona sunsets!

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Backpacking in the Catalina Foothills

Spent my birthday hiking the Sweetwater Preserve with Brian.

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Sweetwater Preserve

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Brian out on the trail

Backpacked a  loop in the Tortolita Mountains and got to experience the awesome Ridgeline Trail.

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

March

Chased Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail from Pickepost to Kelvin, one of my favorite pieces of all. Did some trail maintenance to my passage in the process.

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides near Dale’s Butte

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

Hiked the Arizona Trail from Mexico to Patagonia with Warrior Hike, a nonprofit that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails for therapeutic purposes.

Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

Warrior Hike- Arizona Trail/Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

April

The end of March and beginning of April were tough. In 10 days I lost both my father-in-law and my old dog Bailey.

Bailey and Zeus

Bailey and Zeus- both gone but the great memories will live in my heart forever.

My 18-year old nephew Chase visited Arizona from Michigan and I got to take him to the Grand Canyon for his first hike. He’s hooked and can’t wait to come back.DSC02278

And then there was the time I stepped on a rattlesnake and lived to tell the tale (thank goodness it was a cold snake!):

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

My buddy Bill and his dog Bella and I did the Wilderness of Rocks Loop in the Catalinas. That was one happy water-soaked Lab!

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Love the Wilderness of Rock! Photo by Bill Bens

May

I joined Warrior Hike in the Grand Canyon and enjoyed showing my favorite place to the veterans in the program.

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day.

A perfect day.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

The International Trails Symposium was held in Portland and I was part of a presentation about outdoor therapies for veterans. I took some time to explore the area and backpacked from Eagle Creek to Whatum Lake and down to Cascade Locks on the Pacific Crest Trail. A gorgeous loop filled with waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite part was carrying a mere half-liter of water, what a concept for a desert rat!

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Presenting at the International Trails Symposium about my work with Warrior Hike

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

June

Time once again for river season with Arizona River Runners– I decided that this would be my last summer guiding. I will forever cherish the time I got to take people hiking and boating and teach people about the Canyon.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I got a fun little hike in to O’Neill Crater near the ARR warehouse, complete with a small cliff dwelling and tons of rooms and pottery.

Walls on the summit

Walls on the summit

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My friend Carrie was nice enough to teach me how to ride a horse and we took her Arabians out on the Arizona Trail.

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop above Oak Tree Canyon

At the end of the month, little Stu joined our family. It sure was empty without any animals in the house!DSC00038.JPG

July

More river trips and horseback riding. I got to ride on the Las Colinas passage of the AZT, a piece I had helped build. Such a different perspective riding high on a horse!

Riding Las Colinas

Riding Las Colinas

August

I had my last trip of the season on the river, bittersweet to leave. I will miss living in the Grand Canyon, sleeping on the beaches of the Colorado River. I plan on devoting time to exploring more on foot.

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I put a GIF together (sorry it’s a little choppy) from a bunch of pictures that were taken from the other boat of me driving Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs – watch the 35-foot boat disappear into the massive waves!

Hermit Rapid 22,000 cfs

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Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river!

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

At the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum, I participated in a well-attended presentation about trails and communities. It’s so great for me to see how the idea of trails as an economic driver for small towns has really become popular in Arizona. It’s a big part of my Gateway Community Program that I’ve developed since 2011 for the Arizona Trail. I got to paddle the Verde River near Clarkdale and had a wonderful time on the water.

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Summer is the time to head for the high country and I did a hike on the Aspen Draw in the Catalinas with my friends Silver and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey Jasmine.

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Jasmine, Leigh Anne and Silver on the Aspen Draw Trail

August 15th, the hottest day of the year- it hit 110 in Tucson but I stayed  cool canyoneering the 7 Cataracts of Willow Canyon. Russ and I took our time and spent the whole day rappelling, scrambling and swimming. So glad I finally got to see this beautiful canyon.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon- photo by Russ Newberg

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Russ on the 3rd rappel in Willow Canyon

Took a hike on the Arizona Trail down Oracle Ridge, which was covered in wildflowers from the abundant rains.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge/AZT

September

I went to Chicago for a visit with family and paddled the Kishwaukee River- we saw a bald eagle fly downstream right overhead!

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Paddling the Kishwaukee River

We had a very successful Arizona Trail Day weekend in Flagstaff and had the Arizona premiere of the movie Unbranded. I highly recommend it, the story of 4 men and 16 mustangs who ride from Mexico to Canada. They used the Arizona Trail for part of their journey and the cinematography is incredible.Unbranded Grand Canyon

Back to Portland for the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West 20th Annual Gathering, but first I joined Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear and friends for a 4-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. We hit fall colors on the High Divide Loop- a tour of alpine lakes and rainforest.

Mount Carrie

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our side trip to Cat Peak

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

The ALDHA-West Gathering was so inspirational, I got to see a presentation by Trauma and Pepper about their PCT winter traverse and many others.

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Gave my Arizona Trail talk, there was a lot of interest in the room and I hope we’ll see many of those folks on the AZT in the future. Also got to see Anish days after she set the Appalachian Trail speed record, what fun to be a part of such a dynamic group.

ALDHA West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering

October

My friends got married at the Nordic Center in Flagstaff and Brian and I hit the Aspen Loop/AZT for some fall color.

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

I did a canyoneering loop down the East Fork of Lemmon Canyon- a wonderland of giant granite boulders and waterfalls. The final rappel was into the “punchbowl” of Lemmon Pools.

Russ in a granite cave

Russ in a granite cave

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Giant granite boulders in East Fork Lemmon Canyon

Lemmon Pools

Lemmon Pools

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock- photo by Russ Newberg

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

My favorite part of October was finding little Roscoe at Pima Animal Care Center. He was 3 months old with the most adorable little brown face and gigantic paws. Can’t wait till he’s big enough to be my backpacking buddy!

Roscoe

Roscoe- 3 months old

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Roscoe and his buddy Stu

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First hike in the Tortolitas

November

Oh Grand Canyon…how I’ve missed you!  Spent six days solo backpacking from Tanner to Grandview along the Escalante Route and Tonto Trails. Only saw one other person the first five days, it felt like I had the whole Canyon to myself.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

On Thanksgiving I hiked to the south side of Sombrero Peak, Peak 3263- a fun little bushwhack.

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Hiking up to Peak 3263

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Micro Chicken’s Thanksgiving dinner

Took a hike on the always-attractive Baby Jesus Trail to round out the month.DSC02781

December

Fall comes late to Southern Arizona and I did a Sabino Canyon -Bear Canyon loop to catch the color.

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Sabino Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

Went for a fall hike in Cienega Creek. Ash trees were the best in the drainage, with some cottonwoods and sycamores still hanging on.

Cienega Creek

Cienega Creek

Tried a new loop near Catalina State Park- a route that connects Alamo Canyon and Buster Mountain was a fun puzzle to follow.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

Witnessed my friends Kathy and Ras Vaughan complete the first known Yo-yo (up and back) of the Arizona Trail– what an accomplishment!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Planned on Christmas and end of the year hikes but got sick with the flu instead. Oh well.

2015 was a year of change and transitions. Some years are tougher than others and this one didn’t come easy- I am looking forward to 2016.

Now for the big news…I decided that I am going to section-hike the length of the Grand Canyon over the next couple of years. I will be connecting a line- some on the south side, some on the north- from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. The total mileage is somewhere around 600, depending on what routes are taken and there is no trail for most of it. To date, only 27 people have walked through the canyon and of those, only three women. Most of the route I will be taking will be tough bushwhacking and scrambling through one of the most remote, wild and extreme places on the planet.

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Redwall Heart over Nankoweap Rapid.JPG

Redwall heart over Nankoweap Rapid

To date, I’ve hiked from Tanner to Elves Chasm, minus the Gems, for which I have a permit in the spring. The most exciting news is that I am taking the month of October off to hike a big chunk of the Canyon! I am currently figuring out what section I will be doing and who will be joining me.  As much as I enjoy my solo time, safety comes first and I’ll feel more comfortable with someone else there. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I first heard about the Arizona Trail.

It’s eight years since I started blogging for my first hike of the Arizona Trail and six on this site- thanks for reading and giving me someone to share my stories with. I wish for good fortune and exciting adventures for all in the new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 1-6th

I had three events to work for the Arizona Trail Asociation- two in Tusayan, just south of the Grand Canyon and one in Page. Six days in between and I was determined to spend every second of it in the Grand Canyon. Late Sunday morning, we had a beautiful ceremony for the placement of a memorial bench dedicated to the Father of the Arizona Trail, Dale Shewalter and then I was off to finish writing up the event and last-minute packing. I parked at Grandview and looked for a ride. I didn’t have to look long, parked right next to me was a fellow Grand Canyon enthusiast who had just finished a trip.

Dale Shewalter Memorial Bench in Tusayan

Dale Shewalter Memorial Bench in Tusayan- thanks Dale for having the vision to create this amazing trail across Arizona!

Day 1

I didn’t get hiking until 3:30 pm on the Tanner Trail, but I wasn’t planning on going very far. A mile and a half away is 75-mile saddle with good camping spots. The trail was steep, dropping 1700 feet and rocky through the Kaibab, Toroweap and Coconino. My pack was heavy with six days of food and 5 liters of water- enough to dry camp and have plenty for the descent to the river the next day.

View from Tanner Trail- I am headed for the saddle at the edge of the shadow

View from Tanner Trail- I am headed for the saddle at the edge of the shadow

So happy to be back in the Grand Canyon!

So happy to be back in the Grand Canyon!

It was a warm and windless night, even up at 5600 ft. and I found the perfect spot overlooking 75-Mile Canyon. I could see O’Neill Butte and Horseshoe Mesa and Desert View Watchtower loomed above. Camped under the stars, happy to be back in my beloved Grand Canyon again.

75-Mile Canyon- in a couple of days I'd be camping where this canyon comes out at the Colorado River

75-Mile Canyon- in a couple of days I’d be camping where this canyon comes out at the Colorado River

Day 2

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

The next morning, I had a bit of level trail in the Supai to start my day, contouring under Cardenas and Escalante Buttes. At the Redwall break, there is a short spur trail that goes up to one of the most fantastic views of the Palisades of the Desert, Comanche Point and the Grand Canyon Supergroup area upstream of Tanner. I spent almost two hours looking at the different landmarks and taking pictures.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

It was so hard to leave, but the day was heating up and the river was still a long way away. I made quick work of the Redwall and the Muav, happy to have my umbrella for shade. The Dox Sandstone is soft and the trail is mushed into the side of the hill, making the left leg higher than the right. I reached Tanner Beach at 2pm and got in the chilly water to cool off.

Tanner Trail through the Dox Sandstone

Tanner Trail through the Dox Sandstone

The river was running brown from the last round of storms in an unbelievably wet year. It didn’t look too silty (whitecaps instead of browncap waves), so I tried it through my Platypus gravity filter. That thing rocks. Filtered with no problems and is a cinch to backflush. Plus I can set up and eat, watch boats go through the rapids and my water is done.

Tanner Rapid

Tanner Rapid

Silt from backflushing my gravity filter. This was with no settling and it worked great.

Silt from backflushing my gravity filter. This was without settling first and it worked great.

I was getting ready to leave a couple of hours later to start the Escalante Route and hike to Cardenas Beach for the night when a man appeared and said he’d be hiking to the Hermit Trail for the next 11 days. I ran into him a couple of times, and was the only person I saw for the first five days. I had a couple miles to Cardenas, small ups and downs through various ravines. Hit the beach just as I was losing daylight. This is also part of the Hayduke Trail, an 800-mile circuitous route that goes from Arches to Zion.

Hiking to Cardenas

Hiking to Cardenas

For the last four summers I have worked as a river guide in the Grand Canyon with Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater. I’ve run the river over 20 times and hiked pieces of the route I’d be traversing, but it was totally different experience to be here solo. Cardenas is always one of my favorite camps, how blissful to have it all to myself on a warm autumn night (and to not have to get up at 4:30 am to make coffee for 30 people). I did some long-exposure photography and set my bed up on the beach.

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Cardenas Beach

The winds kicked up in the middle of the night and I was glad I’d borrowed a tent from a friend. Sleeping under the stars, as much as I love it, was not going to work for most of the trip because of the incoming storm.

Day 3

The next morning the skies were blue above, but as I made the climb to the Hilltop Ruin, I could see dark clouds downstream. Decided to skip the Unkar Overlook spur and keep moving because the rains had started. I put on my rain jacket and my trash-compactor bag rainskirt.

Weather coming in west of Hilltop Ruin

Weather coming in west of Hilltop Ruin

As I hiked along the Unkar Wall, I looked back and saw one of the most amazing rainbows I’ve ever seen! Dropped the pack and scrambled to get my camera, trying to take shots without getting the camera soaked before the rainbow disappeared. My heart soared- this is why I hike, for the privilege of seeing exquisite moments like this.

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

I moved on, hiking in the intermittent rain toward Escalante Creek. The trail winds and climbs toward a high saddle and I got another rainbow, a little less intense than the first, but still gorgeous. In Escalante Creek, I found running water and took several liters so I wouldn’t have to settle the increasingly silty Colorado. I took a break at Escalante Beach before my last climb up to access 75-mile Canyon. The route climbs and then turns to give a great view of the slot canyon below. I contoured back to the access point and scrambled down into the canyon. It made me uneasy to break the rule of not being in a slot canyon while it’s raining.

Looking down on 75-Mile Canyon Narrows

Looking down on 75-Mile Canyon Narrows

Rocking the trash-compactor bag rain skirt

Rocking the trash-compactor bag rain skirt

75-Mile Canyon Narrows

75-Mile Canyon Narrows

The cream-colored Shinumo Quartzite slot canyon is a gorgeous place to be. I remembered back to a river trip where I visited not once, but twice in one evening on a full moon. The canyon opened up near the river and I camped at Nevills Beach. Soon after my dinner, it started raining and I got in the tent and fell asleep early.

Day 4

I woke at 4:30 in the morning after plenty of sleep. It was warmer and had stopped raining. Spent some time taking long-exposure pictures and writing in my journal. Yet another thing I love about solo hiking. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and am never bored.

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon)

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon)

There are two routes to the Papago Wall, a low and a high route and I stayed low on the slabs above the water. There is a 30 foot scramble up the wall and then the route climbs to a rubble-choked gully called the Papago Slide. I didn’t have any problems with the wall, but I took my pack off to hoist it up for one part and it would have been easier to keep it on. At the top of the wall, I saw the backpacker I’d met at Tanner below and he climbed up to join me.

Low route to the Papago Wall

Low route to the Papago Wall

Papago Pouroff

Papago Pouroff

Papago Wall

Papago Wall

Micro Chicken on top of the Papago Wall

Micro Chicken on top of the Papago Wall

Having a blast!

Having a blast!

The Papago Slide is a loose and nasty descent filled with every size of rock and I led the way, keeping plenty of room between me and him to avoid rockfall. There is a good route through it and it just takes being thoughtful with your movements. We got to Hance Rapid just as some boaters pulled in to scout from the opposite bank. It was super-fun to watch them go through. I hiked on to spend some quality alone time with Hance.

Papago Slide- loose and steep

Papago Slide- loose and steep

Hance Rapid is the first “10” on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The powerful waves churn through many rocks and holes and it is one of the most technical rapids on the river. To stand beside it on the rocks was incredible and I spent a long time thinking about my summers working as a river guide. I had decided at the end of this season that I will not be returning next summer- a bittersweet decision, but I am glad for all the things I learned, people I met and the opportunity to teach people about this amazing place. I’ve got some things in the works- a new website and lots of writing to do and part of that plan is to spend more time in the Grand Canyon on foot.

Mighty Hance Rapid

Mighty Hance Rapid

The rain was coming in again, so I put my trash compactor rainskirt on and got going. Red Canyon marks the beginning of the Tonto Trail, following the Tonto Platform as it began to rise from the river. The trail climbed and I got a good view of the historic Hance Asbestos Mine and the Granite Gorge. It rained on and off and when the clouds lifted there was a dusting of snow on the upper reaches of the Canyon.

The rising Tonto Platform

The rising Tonto Platform

Trail Antics

Trail Antics

Historic Hance Asbestos Mine

Historic Hance Asbestos Mine

Hello Granite Gorge!

Hello Granite Gorge!

I was trying to get to Hance Creek, my next water source, but all the time spent at the rapids was starting to catch up with me. I was probably going to have to roll into camp by headlamp. The trail contoured through Mineral Canyon and at the dry creek crossing, I heard the most wonderful sound- running water! Up a side ravine from the crossing was an ephemeral waterfall and I made my way over to it. This water meant that I didn’t have to push to Hance Creek and that I could do a dry camp on the Tonto Platform, one of my favorite types of GC camps.

Ephemeral Waterfall in Mineral Canyon

Ephemeral Waterfall in Mineral Canyon

Even as I filtered water, the waterfall went dry. Right place at the right time, I guess. I Tontoured out of Mineral Canyon, looking for a place to camp and found the perfect spot complete with a little wall for a windbreak and nice sitting rocks. The views were outrageously good of Vishnu Temple, Wotans Throne and Angels Gate. It was the coldest night yet and very windy.

Day 5

The next morning, I was treated to an incredible sunrise and I spent hours writing, taking pictures and looking at maps for an upcoming adventure.

Morning on the Tonto

Morning on the Tonto

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Chilly but happy!

Chilly but happy!

I got going around noon and hiked to Hance Creek. Upstream from the creek crossing are some lovely Tapeats ledges and I settled in for a day of not doing a whole lot. More writing, a short exploration up and downstream, and a nice chat with the other folks that were camped in the area. It was great to have a day to relax.

A beautiful day for hiking on the Tonto

A beautiful day for hiking on the Tonto

Dates, goat cheese and bacon

Dates, goat cheese and bacon

Hance Creek

Hance Creek

Day 6

I’d made a habit of listening to Miles Davis Kind of Blue in the morning while I got packed up and got hiking around 9:30 toward Page Springs. In most seasons this shady, fern-lined place would be a welcome place for a break but today it was so chilly I had to put several layers on while filtering.

Page Spring

Page Spring

I enjoyed the historic trail construction in the Redwall ascent, especially the portion that has a giant quartz vein going through the trailbed. Got to Horseshoe Mesa and took a long break.

Quartz Trail

Quartz Trail

As I hiked up off the mesa I could see the area I’d traversed the last six days and downstream toward Zoroaster and Brahma Temples. Made it through the Supai and it was cold enough to need a fleece and hat while hiking uphill. I love the trail construction in the Coconino- riprap cobblestone and log cribbing to keep the trail on the hillside.

Horseshoe Mesa

Horseshoe Mesa

Trail Construction in the Coconino

Trail Construction in the Coconino

Looking back on my route

Looking back on my route

Coconino Log Cribbing

Coconino Log Cribbing

Patches of ice and snow appeared in the Toroweap and Kaibab, but not enough for me to put my traction on- if I’d been going downhill I’d have put them on for sure. I reached the parking lot feeling a lot better than I’d anticipated and made it over to Desert View Watchtower to see the sun set on my latest adventure.

Snow and ice on the upper Grandview Trail

Snow and ice on the upper Grandview Trail

Sunset at Desert View

Sunset at Desert View

It is hard to express how good this trip was for me. I’ve had a lot of great backpacking opportunities this year, but I haven’t gotten as much solo time as usual. To move through the Canyon for days on foot with time to contemplate life, feeling like I have the whole place to myself- there is nothing better.

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This is my fourth summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for Arizona River Runners. My first trip launched on June 9th and I was pretty concerned that I hadn’t adjusted to the heat yet. My trip to Portland and trying to get things squared away with my Arizona Trail job meant that I hadn’t quite acclimated yet. Little did I know, I needn’t have worried- there was a tropical storm that came in that made it unseasonably cool and rainy!

On June 8th, I arrived at the warehouse in Flagstaff to pack up the boats and put them in the water at Lee’s Ferry. The crew was Joe as trip leader, Brie as second boatman, me as the swamper and Brie’s friend Nick as our work-your-way. The morning of June 9th was cool and overcast as the passengers arrived and loaded onto the boats. It’s always a flurry of activity, with lots of questions about the adventures to come. We headed downstream and I was excited to have returned to the Grand Canyon for the summer.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee's Ferry

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee’s Ferry

I was on Joe’s boat and did most of the interp- telling stories about the people, plants, animals, and geology of the place as Joe drove. It stayed overcast and got so chilly that I had to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! Never before seen- we started calling it Junuary.

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

At North Canyon, we pulled in and made camp and folks got settled in to their tents. We made salmon, broccoli, rice and salad for dinner and most went to sleep early. I went for a little hike up North Canyon and listened to music and played with my headlamp and camera. The crew sleeps on the boats, and I had been looking forward to sleeping under the stars, but the strange weather meant I put up a tent. The rain started in the middle of the night, big drops and intense at times.

North Canyon

North Canyon

The next morning, I was trying to cook breakfast when it started raining again. We put up a canopy and went about our business. We had to go through the Roaring Twenties, a series of rapids that are one after the other and people got cold. Joe made the decision to stop at Redwall Cavern after the Twenties were done and make hot soup. It was a real crowd-pleaser and morale booster- amazing what a little hot soup can do for the soul. Of course there was the fact that it was June 10th- a day that historically would have had us running into Redwall Cavern for shade- crazy! Joe and I must have said “Crazy” to each other a hundred times that trip because of the weather. Didn’t get a pic of the soup stop, but here’s one from another trip of Redwall Cavern.

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Mist and low clouds

Mist and low clouds

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

After our soup stop, the mist and clouds began to clear and the sun came out. We stopped at the Little Colorado River for a hike and swim. The LCR was a milky whitish blue from the storms. Camp was at Crash Canyon, a short distance downstream.

Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River

Set up the tent and it rained again that night with a second morning of cooking breakfast under the canopy. The clouds cleared again and it warmed up, which was good because on the third day we were going to run the Gorge, the biggest concentration of large rapids on the whole river. Joe and Brie maneuvered through the rapids with skill and we had an amazing day. There is no rapid on the river more fun than Hermit and we hit it just perfect for the optimal ride! Here’s a video taken by one of my coworkers a couple of years ago of a run through Hermit:

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

We stopped at Shinumo Creek to check out the waterfall, I was interested to see what it looked like, it is a side stream that flash-flooded several times recently. The waterfall is very different and the swimming pool at the base has been graveled in, but it’s still a great place for a stop. Camp was at 110- I could see my camp spot from my 2010 Royal Arch Loop.

Shinumo Waterfall

Shinumo Waterfall

And there's our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and North Bass Beach

October 2010- And there’s our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and Bass Camp. 110 is the beach to the far left of the picture

The next day we commonly call Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day like that? We started with the sublime Elves Chasm- a two-tiered waterfall with a perfect cave to climb up and jump off! This place exemplifies the differences between rafting and backpacking in the Canyon. When I visited on foot, it took three days of a rugged route and 20′ rappel to get there. Rafting, we pull up and it’s 1/4 mile from the boats. It’s great to give a wide range of folks the opportunity to see these amazing places.

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

After Joe and Brie had great runs through the technical Bedrock and Deubendorff Rapids, we stopped at Stone Creek. The warm, clear waterfall was welcome after days of the icy and silty river.

Deubendorff Rapid

Deubendorff Rapid

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Then it was on to the main event: Deer Creek Falls and the hike up to The Patio. Deer Creek is a 174-ft. cascade just minutes from the boat and is a destination in and of itself. My favorite part of the day is the hike up to the Deer Creek Narrows and the Patio. It’s usually pretty warm for the hike up the hill, but once on the Tapeats Sandstone, you get wonderful views up and downstream. The trail turns into the canyon above the waterfall, a slot canyon with the sound of the water rushing below. The trail narrows in a couple places that make it very challenging for the acrophobic. I have ushered countless people across this piece of trail and love helping people overcome their fears to get through the journey. The destination is certainly worth it- the Patio is a wonderland of cottonwoods and waterfalls. It is a place sacred to the Paiute Indians and there are small hand outlines where the ancients used reeds to blow paint over their hands along the trail to the Patio.

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Love this place.

Love this place.

Handprint in Deer Creek

Handprint in Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

We spent some time at the Patio and then hiked down to enjoy the big waterfall for a while before making camp across the river. It was Fajita Night for dinner, a crowd favorite.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

In the morning we went through the narrow Muav Gorge and visited Havasu Creek, a tricky place to park and tie up the boats, because we park in a rapid. It’s often called the Swamper Olympics because there are numerous extra lines that have to be tied to make sure the boats are secure. Everyone enjoyed a swim in the blue-green waters of the refreshing creek.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon

After Havasu, we had a couple of hours before the grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls. The river falls 37 feet over the span of several hundred yards and it can often be quite a ride. Other times, you hit it a certain way and it doesn’t feel like much. On this day we had a giant full-boat soaking wave cover every inch of the 35-foot rig- it was fantastic!!

Lava Falls

Lava Falls

We pulled up at Angel Camp for our last night and cooked up a steak dinner and celebrated one of the passenger’s birthday with a dutch-oven cake. Afterward, everyone sat and shared their reflections of the trip. It’s always fun to see what parts of the journey stand out to each person.

I snuck away, because I had a surprise for the passengers. If the group is right, the camp is right and I’m not too tired from working all day I put on a short bellydance performance on the beach. This beach was perfect, there was a spit of flat sand that extended along the shoreline. After the group was done, I invited them down and surprised them with a show, complete with music from a portable speaker. It was quite the venue- as I danced I could see the walls of the Canyon and the sky scintillating with stars. Everyone agreed it was a great way to end the night.

The next morning we only had a short distance to go to the Whitmore helipad, mile 187, where the six-day journey ended for our group. The river brings people together and there were many hugs given and promises to keep in touch. We waved as the helicopters took the folks to the Bar 10 Ranch.

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

I feel so fortunate to be able to call the Canyon my home- it is the place that inspires me like no other. I enjoy seeing people from all over the world come to experience the Canyon at a deeper level than just peering over the rim for a day. Seeing people get that sparkle in their eye when I point out something beautiful or interesting or the look of satisfaction that comes from a great hike. What an infinitely fascinating place.

To find out more about the different river trips offered, visit www.raftarizona.com.

In Wildlife Rehab news, we got a Crested Caracara that was hit by a car down by Kitt Peak. The Caracara is a Falcon that acts more like a vulture and is only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida. What a treat to see one up close! To donate to help feed and house the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, use the link below.
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Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

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