Note: Following is a log written during our 1991 trip. This was our first backpacking trip. We do not recommend this route for a first trip. You will see that we were not sufficiently conditioned for this route. We learned that lesson and have trained rigorously for all subsequent trips. You may still learn from our mistakes. It always looks so much easier on the map. We descended the Tanner trail, went over to the Little Colorado on the Beamer Trail and climbed out on the New Hance trail on two other occasions. You can find one of those logs in this Blog. This is the only trip that used the Grand View Trail for the climb out.
Arriving at the Canyon
We stopped for Jerry's first look at the canyon. His reaction, like Norm's, 27 years earlier, was awe; the colors, the size, the formations. We got our camp site, and drove up the west rim drive.
When they reopened, we got our permits from the Back Country ranger. She readily approved our plan to have Johnny and Matt meet us. We then bought and sent post cards and visited Babbits to pick up one last something. We drove the east rim drive to see where we could leave the car at Grand View, and find the trail heads of Tanner and New Hance. When we returned to camp it was getting dark quickly.
We set up Jerry’s brand new tent only to find it was about 5 by 5 not the necessary 6 by 6 for grown men. Jerry fixed macaroni and cheese with which he was not very pleased, but it filled the empty spot. We then attempted to go to sleep with out knees bent inside the mini-tent. After about an hour Norm woke up and feeling a bit claustrophobic, sat up. He decided that sleeping outside would be better than sleeping doubled up. Jerry suggested that we just open the door and put our feet out. This solved the short term problem and Jerry agreed we would go back to Babbits to get an adult tent for the canyon.
We awoke with the sun rise as we would do on almost each succeeding day. As Jerry warmed water for coffee he saw a mule deer. It eventually came within about 8 feet when offered some cheese and crackers (which we later wished we had below the rim). We packed and went to the cafeteria for breakfast, then to Babbits to rent a better tent.
Norm dropped Jerry off at the Tanner trail head and parked the car at Grand View on the rim drive. Norm displayed his Lipan Point sign and was picked up by the first or second vehicle. It was a small camper pickup truck with a retired couple from
Norm arrived at the Tanner trail head at about 10. Jerry had assembled a collection of potential hiking sticks. Norm did not like any of them, too short or too thick. Jerry had already selected one to which he became quite attached almost immediately and which he kept through the trip and took home to
The trail constantly switch backed down through the lime stone, sandstone, and the Supai group. We quickly learned to look for the rock
After lunch we met our first person, a young woman packing alone. She had camped at the river the previous night. We now know she must have started very early to be at that point at . The trail soon climbed out of the wash up onto the saddle as the map had shown. We had our first spectacular Kodak moment. Over the side of the saddle, we could see most of the length of Seventy Five Mile creek and Escalante Butte, as well as most of the Canyon we would cross. In a few days we would experience the other end of 75 Mile Creek as we walked down inside the ravine near the river. We could also see Desert View tower. It is so situated that we saw it from almost every point we hiked, except right down on the river.
After the saddle, we began our transversal of Escalante and Cardenas buttes. We saw a section which seemed to have been burned some time ago. This section was relatively flat but was unshaded and hot, and seemed to go on forever. The trail skirts washes to avoid descending and climbing. Reality down in the canyon is much larger than the map or even how things look from the rim. A lesson we would need later. We met our second person, a young lady with a day pack. She said she had only been to the red wall.
Somewhere in this stretch we learned the futility of trying to help someone see things in the
The meat was a little chewy but it tasted fine and was easier to cook than the macaroni and cheese. Based on the pain in our thighs we decided to use the next day as a rest day and to forget about the hike up to the Little Colorado. About that time we noticed a much better tent site about 40 feet up the trail, but oh well. We saw the lights from Desert View and went to bed about dusk.
Rest Day on the
We ate our first breakfast of instant oatmeal. It tasted fine but wore off in about an hour. The ''going down'' muscles in our thighs were still quite sore even after a night's rest. We were more sure than ever we needed a rest day. We walked like Tim Conway's little old man with very short steps. The trail quickly met the Dox Sandstone, which was broken into dark brown fine gravel. It was a little loose but gave pretty good footing. It did not lend itself to very wide trails though. We soon met a fellow coming up from the river. He recommended a fine camp site with an overhang and situated to keep us out of the wind. He confirmed that the trip up to the Little Colorado should not be taken lightly. A few minutes later his companion met us. He told us about the difficulty of the New Hance trail, really being just a series of rocks to climb down rather than a trail. We wondered how Johnny and Matt would fair and wished they would have a rest day like we planned. The Dox hill side was covered with blooming flowers and beaver tail cactus. We laughed at the Sierra Club Guide which said we would feel like we were flying down the Dox. We felt more like we were crawling.
We finally arrived at the beach area and quickly found the recommended camp site. We dropped our packs and went to find some beach to take a dip and clean up. The river was quite cold, in fact even the wet sand was cold. Brave Jerry dipped twice, once to lather and once to rinse. Norm could only bring himself to splash locally. We felt and smelled a little better. Very near the bath site we found a nice tent site in some shade, very near the water so we brought the packs back down there. Norm had his eye out for a stick like Jerry's and found one. He grew equally attached and eventually brought this stick home too. He had to improve it a little with his knife and some local sandstone. We set up the tent and filtered our first batch of river water. It tasted and looked fine. We then took a long nap. For lunch we ate our first cans of Chicken/Tuna which seemed like filet minor. We also made some instant iced tea. We tried to cool it in the river but the greenhouse effect on the top of the bottle seemed to overpower the cooling effect of the river on the bottom of the bottle so we gave up on that.
The site we selected for our camp had many previous residents: many lizards and at least one squirrel. The lizards minded their own business but liked the branch we hung our canteen on. They had an interesting trait of doing a few push ups every time they moved to a new position.
After lunch we started a walk up river in the Little Colorado direction. The Dox Sandstone climb quickly sapped any enthusiasm we had for that idea. We walked a little way in the sand dunes over the ground we would cover the next day. Norm thought about the old ''mad dogs and Englishmen'' in the heat of the day saying.
After the walk we spread out the tarp in the shade by the river and talked for a while. It was probably during this time that Norm asked why he was carrying this gigantic tarp anyway. The entire trip was to leave this question unanswered. We saw one of the powered gigantic rafts go through Tanner rapids. Jerry said with rafts like that this would be a great family raft trip. Norm suggested that the big rapids were further down river. We later saw some oar powered rafts. The wind started to come up and distribute fine sand throughout everything. That other camp site looked good after all, but we stayed. To recover from this by the river we took another nap.
Supper was chicken noodle something. It was the best dinner we had. After dinner we sat on the beach, and Norm bathed again to get all of the afternoon sand off. We saw lights up the beach but they stayed in one place and were too far away to hail. Meanwhile the local squirrel gnawed a hole in Jerry's brand new pack to get at some of Norm's
Tanner Beach to Escalante Creek
We awoke at dawn again. Upon unwrapping the packs we found the local squirrel has burrowed under the packs and gnawed a hole in the tarp, but had given up since there were no new holes in the packs. We had our instant Granola and Blue Berries. The Blue Berries were amazingly real. This stayed with us better than the oatmeal had. We were packed and walking by 7.
We soon passed the point where we had seen the light. It was occupied by a couple of fellows who barely spoke. They had not seen us approach so we sort of felt like intruders. The trail climbed away from the river up through the Dox for about an hour and a half. While having our first out of pack experience of the day next to a large wash, a party of 7 came walking up it. They were from the state of
The trail climbed the heights above Unker Rapids the trail was about 20 feet from the edge. Jerry walked about 200 feet from the edge. The wind increased during this stretch. We tied our hats onto our packs so we wouldn't have to chase them when (not if) they blew of. Norm found that Jerry was only interested in stopping at points with broad flat spots away from edges with drop offs. This was to remain the pattern for all sections with heights and drop offs on this and every other trip. This may have been the beginning of the sweat stains in Jerry's pink hat.
After the view of Unker Rapids according to the Sierra Club Trail Guide we were supposed to look for a route down the wash and were supposed to be able to follow the beach unless the water was flowing at 30,000 cfs. Norm had checked and the flow was supposed to max out at 14,000 cfs. The beach would have been welcome but a look through the binoculars did not reveal a beach route and a closer look would have involved a long steep decent. We opted to take the high route. It followed the wash up hill until we could cross it. At that flat spot we stopped for a lunch of smoked cheese and sausage. Jerry had been right; it stayed fresh enough to eat. Too bad we didn't have more crackers. We then noted the rate of GORP consumption versus the store Norm had prepared. It looked like we would take some home unless we could find some one to help eat it.
After lunch the trail crossed a long stretch of Dox talus. We were high above the river and the trail was none too wide. The wind picked up as we reached the end of the butte. As we stopped to rest there at the end, Norm looked around the other side and found no
The trail climbed quickly out of the wash into a sort of deep bowl. The wind was even stronger than before and the trail was narrow and higher than we liked, so we decided to call it a day. At least with backpacks you can declare where ever you happen to be is far enough. We went back into the wash to cook dinner. Jerry placed the big cooking pot under the little water fall and got plenty of water to filter for the canteens and for dinner. We had freeze dried Chili soup that night. We had nothing to actually measure water with, but the directions always gave some number of cups. We were not great at estimating and this time there was too much water, but the soup tasted good and one can't get too much liquid.
We decided not to camp in the wash in case there was rain up above, so we went back up into the bowl. Norm found a tent site which had been previously used but it was too close to the edge for Jerry's taste. He found one a little higher but definitely on a slant.
The wind blew the tent for a few hours but it could not keep us awake. Jerry related a story he had read about two climbers who bivouacked on a big rock face. One woke to find that he was alone. His companion had been blown off the mountain. With this Jerry went to sleep leaving Norm to listen to the wind… Having been across Escalante Butte we now knew why the seven from
Escalante Creek to
We woke at dawn again happy to find that the wind had died completely. Oat meal again. We were looking forward to the easy day completely along the beach according to the Sierra Club trail guide. We knew we were only a couple river miles from meeting Johnny and Matt. We expected to arrive ahead of them and perhaps go up
We made our way out of the bowl and down to a beautiful beach in less than an hour. Norm splashed a little to clean up and Jerry read the Sierra Club trail guide. We filtered another gallon of water to carry us through this easy day. To our surprise the trail went up very high immediately. We met a young couple going in the opposite direction. He noted a few difficult points on the day's route to our disappointment, specifically a talus slope we would have to descend. He suggested that we lower the packs with some rope. They mentioned that they had floated their packs on the river to avoid this slope. He said he had strained his knee on this slope on an earlier trip. The girl was from
Walking inside the ravine was great. Erosion on the sides was both interesting and pretty. The walls got higher and higher as we neared the river. Much of the bottom was gravel and was easy soft walking. It was nice, shady and cool. There was no water except a couple of pools in the rock which were full of tadpoles. When we reached the river we used the binoculars to make sure we could stay on the beach the rest of the way. It looked just fine as far as we could see if the trail could get us over a few rock outcroppings just down river. The trail did this nicely and we stayed on beaches or near the river for about another mile. We ate more cheese and sausage on the beach. Sure wish we had had more crackers.
We were in great spirits with only a mile of beach left in order to finish off the day. Within 100 yards we crossed the Papago Creek wash and the
After dropping our packs, Norm climbed almost to the top. He was not sure he could climb down the last part if he once went over the top, nor was he sure that Jerry's discomfort with heights would allow him to make the climb unassisted. There were not enough hand holds to lift the packs up in stages either. Norm climbed back down.
Since the water route and climbing route both looked impractical we waited to see if a raft would give us a short ride to the next beach. Norm considered suggesting walking all the way back up 75 Mile Creek to the uphill trail which they had not taken. In retrospect, it is most likely that it would have brought them back to the same location. Jerry meanwhile worked on more elaborate raft designs and different use of the currents. Several drift wood experiments were conducted but they discouraged the use of these new improved ideas. We surely didn’t want to go through Hance rapids on a driftwood raft. For some reason, there were no rafts that afternoon.
During the raft design phase Jerry tied together all of the bits rope we had and suggested that perhaps he could climb up the wall first and pull the packs up from the top. This approach worked, and in fact Jerry climbed the wall with his pack on. He claimed his success was due to finding finger holds but he is not sure exactly where they were. Norm couldn't find them and Jerry had to pull him over the top. The next 200 yards were a steep climb with occasions for hands and knees postures, rock overhangs and the works. Jerry asked if Norm would grade the rock wall he had been inspecting so carefully. At the top of the pitch Norm found himself at a seeming dead end. Looking to his left he saw that they must crawl through a crack in a rock to get to the very top and flat ground. This was a squeeze and then there was a short rest. The
Once down the rock slide we had a euphoric stroll down the beach to
After dinner Jerry fired up the propane lanterns for the first and only time on the trip. We stayed up until 9, which was quite late for us, playing ''my trail was tougher than yours.” That night Jerry and Norm awakened at the same time and decided to answer a nature call. Unfortunately, the zippers on the tent were stuck. Norm had to take few breaths to overcome some claustrophobia.
Jerry managed to force one zipper open enough for Norm to slip out and get his knife. The zippers were caught on the rain lip. Norm cut the rain lip enough to free one zipper. A new rule went into effect: Never zip both zippers below the rain lip again, ever.
The next morning Norm discovered that he had lost the maps and the permits. Fortunately Johnny had an even better map for the remainder of the trip so it was not a serious problem. Now there were four of us. We soon got into a workable order. At first Matt lead and his youth and strength left us in the dust. Johnny asked him to follow Norm so we returned to the slower ''al1 day'' pace punctuated with “2 seconders'' and a few out of pack experiences in the shade of enormous boulders. We observed a mine on the face of the cliff across the river, probably Hance’s asbestos mine. A shelf had been cleared to make an access trail and there were some tailings beneath it. The trail climbed immediately for an hour or two until we finally achieved the Tonto platform.
As predicted, the Tonto follows the major washes and is quite level. It follows the edges a little too closely for Jerry's taste. The views into the Hance Creek Vishnu Schist are spectacular and a little unnerving. Matt enjoyed the view close enough to the edge to make Jerry quite nervous. The Tonto seemed to be a series of detours around the arms of the various washes. There is no shade but on the level we covered ground quickly. By about
The trail left the creek bed almost immediately and was uphill from there. We had to look carefully for the cut off trail to the left or we would have been on the Tonto trail for an additional 3 miles. During our climb we met a large, strung out party who were going to camp at Hance creek. They were from 20 to 70 years of age and many did not look like they would be great climbers on the return trip. They seemed to be lead by an older gent who sported a Tee shirt which said something like Bob Johnson's Hiking Tours. I guess he was Bob Johnson. Up the trail from meeting Bob we found an abandoned fully loaded pack. It was probably left by one of Bob's folks in mutiny? The trail continued steeply up and finally into the trees where we found the fork to Miner's spring. We took off our packs and got all of our canteens and bottles out. We walked the 50 yards over to the spring. It was a steady dripping from the ceiling of a small cave into a shallow bowl cut out of the rock by the miners.
Johnny and Matt had been told by two sources that it could be drunk without treatment so we drank our fill and filled all of the containers. We needed enough to finish the day, cook supper, cook breakfast, and get to the rim the next day. We probably added 8 to 12 pounds to each pack. Doing so in the middle of the day was quite noticeable. Until that time we had just lightened our water load all day by drinking.
We shortly began the scramble up the Red Wall. We could see there were trees on the top. It was basically up a rock fall and was the steepest climb between the river and the rim. It was the longest steep climb of the trip, and required hands and knees on 3 or 4 occasions. We wondered as we climbed how Bob Johnson's folks would do on this stretch. We were happy to know that we would end the day on Horseshoe Mesa and save the rest of the climb to the rim for the next day. Somewhere past half way up the Red Wall, we reached the copper mine. We went in a hundred yards or so. We took a long out of pack experience there to get ready to finish the Red Wall.
The climb seemed too steep for the mules which carried the ore up from the mile. From the mine we could see individual trees on the rim. Eventually, we could see individual limbs on the trees and we knew we were almost done.
After reaching the top, Johnny found a camp site. We met several packers from other parties. Norm got some admiration for doing the ''Escalante trail". He also heard about going through the Notch on Cardenas Butte. No Thanks, he thought. The fellow who had done it said he would never do it again. Jerry cooked our last freeze dried entree plus our au gratin potatoes. We gave Johnny and Matt our macaroni and cheese and some potato soup. Jerry would never have cooked them, no matter how long we had been below the rim. We cut up the last sausage and mixed it in with the macaroni and cheese and the potatoes.
Matt was the first to experience the only touch of civilization on the
After dinner we discussed the New Hance trail with two guys who planned to climb it. Their guide book mentioned water but Johnny had not seen any on his descent. Jerry invited Johnny into our tent for a chat and promptly fell asleep and even he even snored.
Matt and Johnny had to get back to
After awhile we fell back into the successful Norm and Matt pair and the Jerry and Johnny pair. The climb was certainly steady but not as steep as the Red Wall. The trail had been ''improved'' with rounded stones almost paving the trail. They seemed to be laid on their sides by a stone mason, but there was no cement. The Butcher book seems to indicate that this was done in the mine or Grand View Hotel era. The stones caused us to walk on our toes or to place our feet sideways. Either approach worked untrained muscles and introduced new sources of pain. Matt and Norm discussed muscle types and athletic abilities. Matt has strong sprinting muscles, Norm's are better suited for endurance.
Grand View is a popular day tripping trail, down to Horseshoe Mesa and back. We met a steady stream of clean people with combed hair and clean socks. Norm laughed out loud realizing how we looked and how used we had become to unkempt backpackers; red bandanas, uncombed and unwashed hair, a little dirty. People going down always try to be nice to people going up especially when they have packs. We must have answered 100 people we were ''doing just fine, and you?" As we neared the top and could finally see specific limbs on the on specific trees Norm got more interested in finishing than in resting so he and Matt did the finished the final 30 minutes with only a few two seconders (real seconds) of rest here and there. Norm gave the
rafter's yell as he hit the trail head sign with his stick. He and Matt gladly dropped their packs at Johnny's car. Matt stayed with the packs as Norm went back down the trail to encourage Johnny and Jerry. They were only about 10 minutes behind. Norm kept telling Jerry ''It is achievable.” He gave another yell and hit the trail head sign once for Jerry, too.
Johnny broke out the ice cooled OJ, pop, and fruit from the cooler in his car. After enjoying these strange treats and a few group pictures Johnny gave Norm a ride to the other car out on the main road. Jerry and Norm couldn't bear to leave the sticks behind (even though some one had done so with Jerry's sticky at the head of Tanner trail). They loaded the sticks and packs into the car, and spent the next couple of hours at the east rim drive overlooks taking pictures of where they had been and marveling at the accomplishments. They had lunch at Desert View at a real table with a real chair. They soon checked in to the Moqui Inn and took the best showers of their lives. In some ways it was OK to be back.