Jerry, Norm, John
May 20 to
Following is the log of our backpacking trip. The route was described by George Steck in Grand Canyon Loop Hikes 1, chapter 5, with the exception that the route down through
We had photocopies of the relevant pages of Mr. Steck's book, portions of the critical Kanab Creek Quad maps, and a copy of the waterproof, ''trails illustrated topo map". We used the
Day 0 - Flying/Driving to
Jerry and John picked Norm up (a little late) and dropped him off at the American desk before parking the truck. Each of us took a different airline, due to frequent flyer tickets, and fares. We all arrived in
Jerry drove the final leg through the National Forest. There were deer and cattle on the roads, but we missed them all. We arrived at the campground and hustled out to the rim just as the sun was setting. We assembled our tents, and ate some snacks after dark. John had the lantern working.
Day 1 - Thunder River Trail on the Esplanade
We left camp at after organizing our packs. Oatmeal. We were through the difficult vertical stuff by about . That left us on the relatively level Esplanade all day long. We joked that this was the Energizer Bunny Trail because it keeps going, and going, and going. Most of the distance is dictated by the need to skirt all of the tentacles of the Deer Creek Drainage.
We stopped many times, and drank lots of water. We asked ourselves ''what is it that we forget from year to year? How hard this is? How rugged it is in the
We finished at the edge of the Esplanade overlooking
Day 2 -
Granola. While eating breakfast we were again struck by the number, variety, and beauty of the flowers in and around the camp site. The descent to
As we descended we could really see the angle of repose of the rock in
Putting the packs back on was an unpleasant shock. We only went about 30 minutes before stopping for lunch. John realized to his horror that he had bought cans of tuna instead of chicken. The dominant labeling said Breast of Chicken, but this was the brand name for the tuna. The climb out of
As we hiked down into Deer Creek, we were met a woman rafter on the trail she said we would be to water in 20 minutes. 10 minutes another rafter said we would be to water in 30minutes. I think it was more like 40 minutes.
After the ''hairy'' portion of the trail was done, Norm broke out the Pringles for the first time. Eventually we got down to the valley about a mile above the narrows. We looked for a good camp site, but they were occupied, so we went right into the narrows to enjoy the water, and the cool shade. We waded and dipped in the Jacuzzi, and after Jerry got the sandals, we waded downstream as far as we could. We spent an hour or two and then put our packs back on and headed for the river. We talked to a party who had come down the
Jerry and John started duck walking and crawling to get their packs under some overhangs where the more typical move would have been to sidestep along a ledge. When we got to the narrowest point it was impossible to use the crawl, so after Norm went past he took off his pack, and returned to assist. Jerry and John took off their packs and eventually Norm determined that the ledge was wide enough to slide the packs on their sides. Jerry wasn't sure if Norm was just figuring out a way to do it or maybe had ''lost it'' in a tight place. (When Jerry had been through that spot on the rafting trip, the boatmen had made a human guard rail at the narrow spot.) After this moment of excitement we worked our way down to the beach.
We arrived at about . It wasn't obvious even from the higher point of overlook on the trail where the next piece of good sand might be, so we elected to camp right near the falls. As we set up for camp, the boater’s party trickled past. Eventually the woman who had said 20 minutes arrived and apologized. Norm asked the leader to hug river right in the morning, and throw us a couple beers. He laughed but then brought 2 back to our camp.
The boaters camped across the river. We ate enchiladas, Dinner #1. Tasted fine.
Day 3 - Breakfast Rock/Lunch Rock/Supper Rock
We started without breakfast to get an early start and clear out of the camp site. We were now seriously dependent on the book.
After about 30 minutes of walking we were on what we thought was
the “broad beach” referenced in the book and we stopped to have breakfast on top a large rock. We misconstrued a couple of land marks for those referenced in the book and got totally side tracked high up a talus slope which was made up of loose rocks and no good way to climb. We spent about 2 hours trying to figure out how to contour down river above some Tapeats cliffs. We found a rough trail, but it stopped dead after a few dozen yards. We couldn't figure it out, but we all knew what we were doing was not fun.
We decided to go back to the spot where we had eaten breakfast, and we talked about trying to get a ride on a raft. Jerry and John rigged a tarp to give us some shade using two of the walking sticks. We ate lunch, drank lots of water, rested, and eventually began comparing what we had seen and done to what the book described. John observed that we normally overestimate the distance we have covered. Jerry suggested that maybe the Tapeats ledges from the book really were there, and we just didn't look for them. This all started to make sense, so after a little more rest, Jerry and Norm went back down river to see if we could get through after all. They found the correct trail, followed it across the ledges, across the broad beach, and up over some of the Tapeats cliffs. They returned with good news to John. We all agreed that in the morning we would head out as planned.
John and Norm developed the phased wave game that afternoon. John would wave at passing rafts, and after everyone had stopped waving, Norm would wave, to see how many waves each would get.
The river was rising and all of our stuff had to be moved up the beach. We had stroganoff and blueberry cobbler for supper. It was good.
After super we watched some suckers swimming near shore. Jerry tried to feed them blueberries. Although John and Jerry had fishing rods, there was no fishing attempted (on this or any other occasion). It was quite cloudy at sunset. Would it rain? Norm slept about 20 yards down the beach from the snoring. The rafters across the river were entertaining with Native American drums. It was hard to get to sleep. It didn't rain, so we were able to sleep under the stars again.
Day 4- Raft ride and Kanab Creek
Granola. We set out to actually do the route described in the book. We successfully negotiated the Tapeats ledges and Jerry was sitting on the broad beach changing into his shorts as Norm and John joined him. John and Norm played the phased wave game with a couple motor raft rigs, and all of the sudden, the second one turned around and came back towards us. The boatman asked if we would like a ride to Kanab Creek and we gladly jumped on board.
If we had arrived at the beach 15 minutes earlier, we would have been up the trail, and would not even have been seen. Norm learned from the passengers, that Neil the boatman, had been brushing his teeth and had stopped and said ''This is no good. This is no good. I can't do it. I can't do it. I just can't let those backpackers walk all the way to Kanab creek". They thought something was wrong with the boat or his teeth or something. We rode in the raft for about 30 minutes and the longer we rode the more grateful be became for the ride. We agreed afterwards that it would have taken us most of 2 days to hike that stretch. Neil also gave us the valuable advice that to complete the trip in 4 days we would have to ''make our miles" each day.
After Neil dropped us off, we started up KC. We were feeling great and feeling like we were now ahead of schedule so we stopped for a cup of coffee. There was also a rafting group walking up Kanab to see the slide spring. Following all of their footprints made the route finding pretty easy. The creek bed is all cobbles or boulders so the walking is not easy, and takes quite a bit of concentration. As predicted by the book there were two long Muav ledges which made the walking easy for a few minutes at a time. We also had lunch on a narrower ledge. We had to cross the creek many times. We attempted to cross on rocks, but eventually all six of our collective feet were wet. We saw our first rattle snake today. It did not rattle, and eventually crawled off the trail. Today we became concerned about making enough miles to get out in the allotted 4.5 days. It seemed to take forever to get to the slide spring. Perhaps it was because there were no intermediate goals?
By the time we got to slide spring, all the rafters had met us on their way back to the river, so we were alone. We found a nice camp site under some Muav ledges. These provided some shelter from the drizzle and many shelves for our stuff. We heated up some soup before walking up to the spring. The walk to the spring took only 15 minutes without packs, one of the few times we met the schedule which was noted in the book. The slide spring is a very pretty sight; sweeping curved water slide, lots of maidenhair fern, clear pools. We were too cool to bath or dip.
It drizzled and rained all day. We tried rain gear once but then it let up right away. We next tried to find overhangs during the worst downpours. During one break under an overhang, Norm noticed how good the echoes were. He could count to three before the echo came back. It was at this stop that Jerry coined the now infamous ''It couldn't be too far now to _____________.'' phrase. Also while under that overhang, some rocks came loose and fell not far from us. We vacated very quickly.
Once we prepared supper, it began to rain steadily. We had our last MRE's. Rave reviews again, with beef stew and baked beans getting special mention. We played trivia until it was too dark to read. Norm kept scrunching his feet under him to keep them dry. We set up the tents between showers, but by there were stars in the sky again.
Day 5 - Scotty's real and false
Oatmeal. Today's goal: reach Scotty's castle and go beyond if possible. We awoke at 5, were on the trail by . We quickly decided that we must wade and stop trying to find places where we could cross on dry rocks. This saved some climbing, and backtracking, and improved our speed. Jerry's boots were waterproof which was great until the water came over the top, then just as it had not come in, it could not get out. He eventually switched to his Tevas. Intermixed with the gravel and wading we occasionally had to climb over massive boulders which filled the bottom of the gorge. The water in these places was forced into deep swift channels with frequent little falls, so we had to find ways over the tops of the boulders. This was time consuming and tiring. We passed our packs over a few of the worst or tightest places. Some of these stacked boulders are as big as delivery vans. Climbing over takes some effort and planning. We identified the 'false' Scotty's castle and by we were napping at Scotties grotto and looking forward to doing a few more miles. Soon after Scotty's we saw the clear prints of a horse, mule or burro. This seemed to indicate that the bolder scrambles were over at least temporarily. Following these prints was quite easy. After Scotty's we reached the hanging spring. The outcropping completely crosses the creek, and it is dripping all over the bottom of the outcropping, which is covered with ferns and flowers. We stopped here for a long rest. At this point we were just about out of the Muav and the top of the
We found a nice camp site in an open valley, and set up. We had mashed potatoes and beef gravy and peas and banana pudding tonight. It was great! Best so far. Played trivia until dark and we were set to sleep under the stars, only there weren't any. John suggested we had better set up the tents before it rained, and about then there was a thunder clap. We set them up as soon as we could. It rained for an hour or more.
Day 6 - Illness & Waterfalls
Woke about but Norm felt dizzy and nauseous. He did some elimination chores, and Jerry and John made him a cup of tea.
Jerry had folded up the tent and was working on the sleeping bag, but Norm asked him to hold off on that. After drinking the tea, Norm went back to sleep. John and Jerry went for a walk up stream while Norm slept. About the time they returned, there was a loud thunder clap, and Norm decided that he must get up to keep his sleeping bag from getting wet. He got his bag put away and one sock and boot on when the rain started. John was covering his pack with his tarp, and just opened it up for all of us to sit under. We were huddled expecting it to stop, but the longer it rained, the more spread out and comfortable be got. By the time the rain slackened, Jerry couldn't stand it under the tarp anymore so he crawled out. He pulled the tarp off of Norm and John to show them that one of the run off's in the Redwall had started a water fall. It was beautiful. As we watched it, the rain started again. This time we huddled under an overhang. We stayed quite dry but John noticed that a major chunk of rock had recently fallen from the ceiling. When the rain slackened again we crawled out. A third time the rain picked up and we jumped across the creek and found refuge under a very sturdy Redwall overhang. When the rain slackened this time, we saw a second and more spectacular waterfall start up. The flow was much stronger, and this one fell in stages, punctuated by pools at different levels. We heated water for coffee, and watched the water falls. The sun came out for real this time, and we headed up stream. This rain delay provided the necessary time for Norm to recover from his bug, which was probably caused by drinking untreated water from the dripping spring?
The creek was at least twice as high as it had been before the rain. It was also quite muddy. We saw four more water falls as we walked. We filtered water from one of these, since it seemed cleaner than the creek. Again we were able to follow the horse/mule/burro tracks. Sometime during this day Jerry finally explained the difference between Buddy (as in Hey buddy what have you got to eat?) and Pal (As in thanks for your help, Pal). Just below Jumpup Canyon Kanab Creek went dry. A11 of the water in it had been coming from one tributary. Having the creek dry made it a little easier to walk. We reached the
Slept under the stars again, even though we had the tent up just in case.
Day 7 -
On the trail (or in the creek bed) by . The walk through
put our hiking clothes back on.
As predicted by the book, we reached the next pool within a few minutes. This one was smaller and only chest deep. Norm waded across. Jerry handed the packs to John who waded a few steps and handed them to Norm who stacked them on dry ground. This only took a few minutes. Jerry had just put on his last pair of clean underwear, and to keep them dry, he took them off as he waded. As he got to the other side he tossed them over the chock stone, and unfortunately right into another small pool.
The final chockstones were enormous, but there was no pool. John found a way to climb through, and we handed the packs through the hole. This morning was marked by excellent team work with the packs and with pushing and pulling each other through tight places. We had lunch under a cottonwood tree next to a small pool from which we got water to filter. (Mr. Bucket was nominated for rookie of the year gadget. It came in handy on so many occasions in getting water, and cleaning up.)
The afternoon was beautiful working through the last of the Redwall and most of the Esplanade. The water was flowing in the creek all the way and there was lots of plant life including many full sized trees. We saw another rattle snake today. We changed our route to accommodate it. Most of the walk was right up the creek bed with some stretches of sandstone ''benches''. We had to go high once to avoid one last chockstone. One challenge of the day was to ensure we didn't get out of the Indian Hollow into one of four minor washes. This would have resulted in just turning around and wasting time and effort. John did an excellent job of using the map and compass, and reading the terrain to see that we made our left, two right, and left turns at the correct times.
Near the end of the afternoon we located several flat spots on the sandstone, and selected the best one for our camp site. We had Macaroni and Cheese with some of John's tuna and the green beans. Jerry made apple compote for desert. We all agreed this had been the best day of an excellent trip. Norm suggested his changing point of view. He had originally looked at the rests as necessary to allow the walking. Now we was thinking that the enjoyment was greatest during the rests, and that the walking was necessary to get to different rest places. Jerry suggested that the next trip be on an Out-and- Back route where things could be cached to lighten the loads, and that fewer miles be planned, to allow for more ''hanging out". Slept under the stars again. There were a few sprinkles, so Norm joined Jerry, and John under the overhang. The tree frogs were in a romantic mood and kept calling to get a date. This made it hard to sleep.
Final day - Hermit boulders, and Three Phases of Coconino
After the restless nights we arose before 5 and were on the trail by . The first section was more Esplanade and a nice gravel bed. We worked our way out of ''hamburger land'' into a more classic
We overcame the boulders and next met the Coconino. The book said this would require 45 minutes and would be done in three stages. There was a Maple glade as noted and in fact the growth was so thick we could barely get through. John found the stage 1 notch on the left. We dropped the packs at the bottom of a small water fall, which was now just a few drips. John climbed up and searched for a place where he could raise the packs with Jerry's rope. The only place which would work was right above the waterfall. This required John to climb DOWN a tree into a glade. He wound the rope around the limb of a tree, and lowered it down to Norm, who tied on each piece of the load. Whole packs were too much weight to handle in one load, so we broke the packs down a little, taking off the outside attachments. Norm pushed with a Y shaped stick as John pulled. John suggested to Jerry that a ''man's'' rope would give a better grip. When all the gear was lifted up this first stage Norm started up toward the notch. John shoved a broken limb out of his way, and Norm thought the sound was coming from the limb falling, so he vacated the area at lightning speed. Once everything was up into the glade, we still had to lift it up to the main trail where Jerry was stationed.
John moved all the stuff to the base of the tree he had climbed and Norm came up the notch sandstone ledge near the tree. Jerry threw the rope down to John. John tied each piece on, and Norm and Jerry pulled it up. Norm's job was to see that the pieces made it by the ledges and rocks. This he did with his feet and hands. It required that he slide up and down the ledge once for each piece. The ledge got slipperier each trip, and Norm got more nervous on each trip. When all loads were complete, John climbed back up near the tree.
We rejoined our stuff on the main transition trail between stages 1 and stage 2. Norm went ahead to see what stage 2 was like. He reported that we could get to stage 2 with our packs, but not up the chimney with them. (The book says that the chimney can be climbed with packs on. We'd like to see video tape of that!) We put our packs back together, and climbed past the exposure to stage 2. We had about 12 square feet to share at the bottom of the chimney. John dropped his pack and climbed first. Jerry went about half way, and they tried to develop a strategy to again raise the packs by the rope. Eventually John found a place to sit, where he could drop the rope to Jerry, who could drop it to Norm. We broke the loads down even further this time, with the water being the heaviest. We even emptied the heaviest items out of the packs and made them separate loads. It was interesting to observe how we each got comfortable in our precarious positions after a little while. John got the scare of the trip when Norm let out one of his high frequency sneezes (complete with excellent echoes). John thought Norm had fallen for sure. As Norm climbed up the chimney, he took the liberty of cleaning out all of the loose rock to be sure he had good footing. The last move at the top across the open chimney took a little care and thought.
After repacking again, we moved on to stage 3. Interesting but it did not include any exposure. We were blocked by a chockstone again. One route was up the side of the wall with a tree blocking the top. The other route was up under the chockstone, with a broken tree branch to give one a starting point. We took our packs off again, and Norm tried the tree route. He came around and down to the top of the hole where John and Jerry pushed up the packs. John then helped Jerry up through the hole. There was almost no room to stand because all of the packs were there, so Jerry kept going up two more small climbs. John came up to the packs last, and handed them up to Norm, who handed them to Jerry. Finally we were actually done with the three stages. It had taken about 3 hours to do this 45 minutes of the route. We had completed the Coconino in about 300 "map" yards. Normally this takes repeated switchbacks.
There was plenty of adrenaline pumping and we wanted to be sure we were through the Coconino for good so we did not stop for lunch until we had pushed through the brush in the Toroweap for about a half hour. Norm broke out the Pringles again. We discussed options ranging from camping ASAP to getting back to camp, and then driving to the Norm Rim Lodge area that night. We pressed on taking breaks as often as every thirty minutes. The brush was tiring. Soon after lunch, we saw cattle prints. We took this as a good sign that we were done with climbing walls, chimneys, or boulders. As we wound our way up Indian Hollow the brush thinned, and the walking became easier. At last we climbed up the side of the wash to find a trail, a familiar trail, the trail we had started on. We took it to the rim. Norm hit the sign and yelled to complete the trip. We took pictures with all but the last exposure. We enjoyed the view from the setting sun and walked slowly into the campground. Jerry drove the car, while John and Norm walked. We enjoyed the horizontal picnic table, and benches, and even the outhouse. Our left over food amounted to 2 cans of meat, one granola bar, about 3 ounces of Jerky, half a jar of Peanut butter, and 8 crackers. That’s about as close as I’d want to cut it.
North Rim Lodge and
After a cold night (John's tent had frost on it) we drove over to the North Rim Lodge. Since we were still on
On our way out of the park we walked a little way down the
Postscript - We have done this trip on two other occastions. On both occasions there was no water in the first huge pools in Indian Hollow. On both occasions Kanab creek stopped running well before Jumpup Canyon. There were still some pools containing water in mid Indian Hollow. It was not the most appealing water though. We found easier ways to negotiate the final obstacles and the trail has been traveled enough that there are now more tracks and trails to follow. Following is the log from the final day of our 2002 trip.
2002 final day - Supai in Indian Hollow to the car.We walked about an hour in the Supai before getting into the huge boulders in the Hermit Shale. The route is so much more traveled now that it was much easier walking than in 1995 when we had to do route finding and fight the tall grass. We saw no snakes this time, which was just fine. We strayed from the proven route a few times and had to pay the price by climbing over bigger, looser, sharper boulders. The route is not always obvious. There are no