Monday, July 28, 2008

California - Lost Coast

California Coast - Lost Coast Trail

Jerry and Norm

May 1 – 6, 2004

Resources

The Hiker’s Guide to the Humboldt Coast, Bob Lorentzen, Bored Feet Press

The Hiker’s Guide to the Mendocino Coast, Bob Lorentzen, Bored Feet Press

Both books include maps.

High & Low Tides, Lost Coast Trail Transport Service, Roxanne@saber.net or http://gofishingforum.net/tide.pl?location=Shelter%20Cove%2c%20California&state=CA&lat=40.0333&lon=124.0667– Note, there are points where passage is much more difficult or impossible at high tide, so tides must be included in your planning.

Trails of the Lost Coast (map), Winderness Press

Other Lost Coast information including information on bear cans, shuttles, permits, trails, camping, etc. at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata/kingrange/index.html

We arranged to be picked up by the shuttle at the Usal Creek in the Sinkyone State Park. We flew to San Francisco, rented a car, and drove north about four hours to Leggett where we left 101 and went towards the coast on Highway 1. We enjoyed the giant redwoods including the Chandelier Tree which is so large that a car can drive through it.

Day 1 Shuttle, Mattole River to Randall Creek – Roxanne picked us up at the Usal Creek as scheduled at 7am. We put the car in a shady spot at the foot of the trail. Roxanne drove the winding roads up to the Mattole River. She stopped at the DNR where we got our permit and borrowed our Bear Cans to protect half of the food. She agreed to drop off the other half of our food and pick up the Bear Cans in a few days at the store above Shelter Cove. What service! Roxanne told us about life in Shelter Cove with her three sons and life as a shuttle driver. Driving in the coastal mountains on the winding roads requires new brake pads and shoes every 3,000 miles. This cuts into the shuttle profits. Due to the mountains and the curving roads, the trip was over four hours.

We were walking by 11:45. We took a slight sort cut and so we did not head directly for the beach. When we got to the beach we saw signs of sea life immediately in the form of a sting ray on the beach. We had lunch before we reached the light house and enjoyed the first of many sea lions frolicking in the surf.

We walked in black sand all day. Along the way we saw mammoth stumps which we assume must be redwoods based on the size. We stopped at 6:30. We walked beyond the tide issues at Sea Lion Gulch and actually further than we had planned. The camp sites at Cooksie creek, where we intended to stop, were occupied so we kept going to Randall Creek which made it a 8.7 mile day. The good site at Randall Creek was also taken but we found a workable site back up the creek a little way. After we set up our tent we found out there would have been nice spots up on the bluff, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we didn’t just find a spot on the beach.

Day 2 – to Big Flat and Shipman Creek -Soon after leaving Randall Creek the trail left the beach and went up. This well packed soil was easier walking than the sand. In the morning there was picturesque fog floating above the ocean. The meadows we crossed were filled with bright yellow California Poppies which were beautiful. Later we saw hundreds of white morning glories. There are huge piles of driftwood including many large logs and stumps. People have used the driftwood to make camping shelters right above the beach. The trail comes pretty close to the shoreline and you can see the waves crashing onto this drift wood. Beautiful. We crossed several creeks either by stepping stones, climbing over dead trees or just wading. The most surprising things of the day occurred at Big Flats, where the trail leads up to an actual landing strip. We know it is actual because we had to get off the strip when we saw a plane coming down right at us! As we left the Big Flats area we passed a couple of nude sun bathers. Bottoms Up! There were several other people there, properly clad, and there is a large house at Big Flats.

We found a nice campsite among the old logs at Shipman Creek, making the day about 10 miles. We made a small fire from driftwood and saw whales swimming by. Again we were between tide issues as planned.

Day 3 – On to Shelter Cove and UP to the Hidden Valley Trail - We awoke to a cool and wet world due to heavy fog. We walked all the way to Shelter Cove on the black sand beach. We saw hundreds of seals floating in the water, star fish on the shore and whales passing by. We took pause (or would it be paws) when we saw clear bear tracks in the sand. They seemed to be about six inches across and about eighteen inches apart. I guess the bear cans were worth the trouble. There were a few more creek crossings. The final stretch is open to vehicle traffic so there were tire tracks. We saw only one vehicle. We also saw a dedicated young surfer who was carrying a surfboard and a back pack evidently bound for Big Flats which is reputed to have some good waves. That’s about a 10 mile walk.

We reached the first Shelter Cove parking area at lunch time so we ate and napped on the beach before starting the climb through civilization. We then walked up the road, and at the first intersection we hitched a ride “to the store”. To our horror, the truck took us downhill not uphill. He took us to the only store he knew of. When we asked about our food at the store, all we got was very blank stares. Wrong Store! We started walking back uphill again. There wasn’t much conversation. Luckily we hitched another ride in another pickup and this time we made sure we would get dropped off at the right store. This store had the door on the left as described by Roxanne and our food was waiting for us. We left the bear cans so Roxanne could return them for us. What service! We had some cool snacks and drinks and started uphill again. That is one long hill especially in the heat of the afternoon, exposed to the sun. We failed to hitch a ride on this leg. The road is quite steep so it discourages drivers from stopping. We were relieved to get to the shade of Chemise Mountain Road which led us to the Hidden Valley Trailhead which is clearly marked. After another few miles we settled on a campsite on the saddle of a ridge. It turned out to be windy as the evening unfolded. We didn’t find the site until 7:30. That is one long day; probably 13+ miles.

Day 4 – To Bear Harbor - Being away from the shore, we awoke to a dry tent which was nicer and lighter. We were on the trail by 8:30. We began the pattern of giving up and then working to regain elevation; down, down, down. There are breathtaking views from the high elevations of the shoreline going south. We passed a home site that had only been started, with steel beams, a roof and floor but no walls. Things like that always cause us to ponder the story of the place and the people. About lunch time we approached Whale Gulch and passed a huge beam. It made us wonder about the story of the beam and how it could have been transported to that location. It didn’t seem possible to get there with any sort of vehicle. We met a Boy Scout troop going north. We lunched in the shade near the creek in Whale Gulch. We walked through our first big redwood grove. A short walk brought us to the Needle Rock overlook and Park where we napped on a picnic table, and then walked down a gravel road to the visitor center. There we were welcomed by the resident volunteers who gave us iced tea, advice on ticks and information on abalone. One can volunteer to live at the visitor center for a week or two. It is a quaint cabin on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. What a spot!

We walked on down the road to Bear Harbor Campground which can also be reached by car. We set up camp and walked down to the harbor. There are huge (Cluster Cone) rocks where the waves explode. We climbed on the rocks for a couple of hours enchanted by the sights and sounds. We learned that the next day would be very special due to an extremely low tide that would allow easier access to the abalone which live below the water line on these rocks.

Back at camp we saw elk hanging around the out house. There were beautiful calla lilies growing in the stream. We made another driftwood camp fire.

Day 5 – Wheeler and the Jack Ass Creeks - We hung around to see the abalone harvest and hundreds of starfish, which were exposed by the low tide. We couldn’t see either of these sights in Michigan or in the Grand Canyon.

On the trail by 8:30. The plants along the trail were very wet and so were our pants within moments. Don’t you hate that? The trail stays away from the shore and deep in the woods where we saw many very large redwoods including those in Schoolmarm Grove just as we reached Jackass Creek and Wheeler. Wheeler looks like a town which could happen but in fact it is a town that already happened. It is abandoned. You can see where the streets and individual home sites were. We had lunch by the creek and napped on a picnic table. The rest of the Lost Coast Trail has the pattern of a steep and long climb, some relatively level travel, and steep a descent to a point where you can access the ocean followed by another steep and long climb, then repeat. Our final descent was steep and down to Little Jackass Creek which we reached at about 3:30. 9 plus miles for the day.

We occupied a nice site on the beach with some benches and an outhouse near by. We saw whales jumping and breaching. Eventually two fellows set up a camp on the black sand beach (our beach). We chatted with them. One fellow seemed to have a superiority complex somehow related to his knowledge of the ocean from sailing and from being a California resident. I talked about the tides and the tide schedule. Even with all his knowledge he didn’t have a tide table or seem to know why he might need one on this hike. Score one for the bumpkins from Michigan. We found our first ticks tonight.

Day 6 – Back to the Car - As we left camp we saw a deer near the outhouse. Not sure where they came from but two fellows took our camp site before we were even over the first hill. We saw many slugs but even from the high points we saw no more whales. The trail is up and down including descents into Northport, Anderson and Dark Gulch. We started to say we “must be about an hour from the car” much too early. That really makes the day long. At Dark Gulch we wanted to take a break but did not find any trail to the beach or any camp sites. After Dark Gulch we had a rest stop on a high point and were joined by Kevin who was hiking North by himself. He had been on hikes for some months now. His only food was porridge so he was happy to take some of our extra food off our hands including steak bites, M&Ms and Gorp. He was marginally equipped. He had been to college and was married but seemed to be out trying to “find himself”. This part of the trail has its own wild flowers. We saw Foxglove plants taller than we were. Eventually the trail started a winding descent to the Usal Creek area and right back to our car. We cleaned up in Usal Creek and drove to Leggit for iced tea and ice cream, and then on to Willits for a motel and our traditional steak dinner at the Purple Thistle. Due to some long days we finished a day early. On day 7 we drove back to San Francisco and visited Pier 39, had fresh sourdough bread and rode the cable car to China Town. We have done four total hikes outside the Grand Canyon and this is our favorite of the four.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Grand Canyon - Nankoweap Trail

Jerry, Jim (first GC backpacking trip), John, Norm

May 25 - June 2, 1997


Research for this trip included the Sierra Club Hiking the Grand Canyon, a description provided by the National Park Service with our permit and the on-line trip report written by Bob Ribokas. The basic plan was to hike to the river in 2 days, explore down there for a couple days and hike out in 2 days. As noted below, younger hikers could probably cover this ground in less time.

Getting There

Everyone flew TWA through St. Louis except Norm who had a frequent flyer with Southwest. He arrived later, but this gave the other fellows time to rent the van and eat lunch. We headed out of Las Vegas immediately, and stopped at KMart in St. George, Utah to get LP Gas and water. We needed 3 gallons per person. One for before and after the trip and 1 for the first day and a half of hiking down, and one to cache for the final day out. We couldn't figure out how we would carry the extra gallon, but decided to strap on an extra stuff sack on the outside of our packs and carry small bottles in there.

As usual, we arrived at the rim just as the sun set. We were again awed by the Canyon. Jerry assured Jim it would be fun. We then got back into the van and backtracked to find a camp site. All of them at the rim were taken. At about dark we found an excellent site with good smooth tent sites. Our levels of hunger varied so we did not cook a regular meal. Jerry and Norm were not tired so they went for a walk up the road. It was so dark they could hardly find the camp sites on the way back. It was probably about freezing based on how we felt in the morning but none of the water was frozen. We all had to sort through our stuff to organize and minimize. We left all the year old, and heavy 4 person meals in the van.

Down to Tilted Mesa

As we parked at the trail head, two men struck up a conversation. They had hiked down the Nankoweap trail. We were organizing our extra water and the fellows told us the dripping spring was running. We promptly each removed a liter bottle or just dumped out a liter from a canteen. We were feeling the weight of the full packs and the extra water.

There is no road to the official Nankoweap trail head. You must hike down National Forest trail 57 which was well marked, complete with a check in box. It was quite up and down, and more demanding than the trail guides indicated. The trip definitely starts right at the car; not at the Nankoweap trail head. Trail 57 goes up to a point which is higher than the car, and then down. It climbs up onto limestone, and descends through the Coconino and Hermits, although they are pretty well covered with the pine forest. There are some excellent views to the Northeast. You could probably see all the way to the Vermillion Cliffs and Page on a clear day. There is an alternative and starting at the north end of NF trail 57 is more demanding, but it provides easier and quicker access to the North Rim stores, and restaurants. This trail is demanding enough that we took our first long Out of Pack Experience (OOPE) before even reaching the Nankoweap trailhead. We ended up under a large pine tree with some sort of sign. It was perched next the edge of the rim, with nice sloping hill toward the canyon.

At the Nankoweap trailhead we ran into a lone hiker who had split up from his partner. They had been bushwhacking and he decided it was too hard so they split up. He was pretty well bushed, and could not seem to find and stay on trail 57 back to the rim. John had to lead him a little way to get him started. The trail through the Esplanade was a quick descent (seemed quick going down anyway). Jim seemed to enjoy it at this point but asked if we had done anything like this on the other trails. It is much like the other trails in the steep cliffy layers. (Much later we learned this pretty much “pegged his adventure meter” and he wondered what he had gotten himself into.) Once we were into the red layers of the Supai, the trail basically stayed at the same elevation, not to be confused with the trail actually being level of course. This part of the trail contours around following the Supai. It contours and contours, and contours for about 7 hours. After rounding Marion Point we found the dripping spring. It was dripping at a rate that might have given enough water for a couple people if they wanted to take a long, long rest there. We didn't have the time required to wait for a liter for each of us. It was truly just dripping.

Soon after leaving this disappointment, a new water plan became clear. We would not be able to cache 2 liters per person at Tilted Mesa, rather we would have to use all we had to get down to Nankoweap creek and we would have to carry that much back up for the two days it would take us to get out. Oh, well, at least most of the food would be eaten by then. The whole 7 hours was "near the edge''. Norm looked for those few spots which were shaded, not near the edge and also wide enough so Jerry would be comfortable. Fortunately, there were enough of these spots. Norm started to read the trail description at the rest stops but it sounded more alarming than informative so he just put it away and did not read any more that day.

We all remembered that the ''scary spot'' was up ahead somewhere after Marion point. We didn't discuss it. Then, we saw it. It does drop off to the right. The trail does hug completely up to the cliff wall on the left. Fortunately, the cliff wall is not strictly vertical, and there is room to lean away from the abyss, and there are some rocks to touch on the left. The exposure is only about 15 feet long. Norm did not stop until we were well past it. We all relaxed a little knowing the worst was finally behind us. Norm recounted what he had read about the horse thieves bringing horses up this trail and the crazy notion of the Park Service herding deer from the North to South rims on this trail. We all got a good laugh on both counts.

We had planned to stop at Tilted Mesa to camp and knew when we got to the two little cliffs with the trees we would be almost there. At the first one, we removed our packs to make it simple to get down. With four of us it was simple to station a person at each level and just hand them down.

No rope required in for this trip. Soon after the first cliff, we found an excellent, large, flat camp site with about 300 degrees of panoramic view. We lost the trail here, took off our packs to make it easier to explore. By the time we found the trail we had all concluded this was too good a camp site to pass up. Altitude wise we were just above the south rim and could still see the Navaho reservation land. Norm looked for the Horse Thief Trail, hoping we could take it to or from Kwagunt Creek on our “rest” day. It was not obvious where it would be, but it was obvious that it would be very demanding, and very exposed to the sun. That option didn’t seem very attractive. Jerry made lasagna and corn. We played about 5 pages of trivia. Jim and John set up a tent, and Norm and Jerry slept under the stars. It was cool so they wore about all of their clothes and wore scarves on their heads. We all slept well after the strenuous day.

Tilted Mesa to the Creek and to the River


Norm and Jerry awoke to a beautiful, red sun rise. We hit the trail at 7:15 expecting to get to the second cliff quickly. By the time we were into the Red Wall, we started to think Nankoweap the trail must have been changed since Bob Ribokas's trip. We did not encounter a second cliff with or without a tree. The descent started off in the shade which made it more pleasant.

This stretch is about 97% DOWN. The trail seems much better than the 1992 National Park Service description. Indeed there have been trail improvements. No scree slopes. There was clear evidence of steps being cut into the shale, and stone steps being placed into some steep places.

We wish to give a huge THANK YOU to the park service or the volunteers for this work. The constant DOWN was hard on Jim's knee so Jerry and John took some of his load. Jim took it slow and steady and we enjoyed the morning. Jim lamented that he had hoped it would be possible to shuffle down the trail, but it was too steep and too rugged for shuffling. As we came through the Muav, we could see the trail on the edge of the drop offs in the Bright Angel Shale. Eventually we could see and then hear the water in the creek. We were not empty but were getting pretty low on water in our bottles. As we neared the creek, John counted eight people going up the creek past were we would meet it. River runners we assumed.

We reached the creek and John immediately started pumping right after he took off his boots and soaked his feet. Norm changed into sandals and went for a wade. Jim and Jerry also enjoyed the creek. We sat under the shade of a huge cottonwood tree and had a leisurely lunch, then napped, shared weight loss theories, and bathed. It was an Oasis in the desert. Norm predicted that Jerry would become bored within an hour or so, but we stayed for about two and a half hours. We even considered eating dinner there before going for the river.

Two more people walked up the creek and we learned they were college students ''suffering for science", studying geology. They had two motorized rafts and a cook. The tied up at various points along the river to study. The young ladies in the group did not seem to appreciate the ''king'' on the expedition, based on the comments we overheard.

We eventually started down for the river. Norm and Jerry waded in the creek in their Tevas. John and Jim stuck to the trial in their boots. Norm learned that hiking in sand is fine in boots. Hiking in the river is fine in Tevas or boots, but hiking in the desert in Tevas is the pits. The sand gets under the straps and is like sand paper on the skin. After making it about two thirds of the way, Norm and Jerry put their boots back on and we stuck to the trail. The walk to the river is very pleasant, and late in the afternoon we had plenty of shade. Much of the trip is through the Muav layer with its nice horizontal layers and ledges. (We had already been through the Muav on the

North side of the creek but there seems to be a fault where the creek is since the same layer is lower on the South side of the creek. We could see the wall of the main canyon ahead where Nankoweap creek empties into the Colorado. We could not tell how far away it was. Several of the geologists caught up with us as we neared the river. We asked one pair how far it was to the river. One said, "farther than it looks. The other said ''not too far, you came down the Nankoweap trail, right". Sort of half empty, half full. They were both right. The young lady geologists told John and Jim that we were an inspiration. It was exactly what a young woman had told us in 1995 at Deer Creek, so John thought is was a gag Jerry had set up, but it wasn't.

Instead of just following the creek to the river, we got out when we saw a clear cairn. The trail led us over the desert, through the tammies and to a large, flat, campsite right next to the creek.

There were benches made of drift wood and flat rocks for cooking. Getting from the cottonwood to the river took a couple of hours with a couple of long OOPES. John and Jim had Spicy Chicken which increased their desire to hydrate. Jerry and Norm had pasta primavera which was excellent except for the noodles which remained crunchy. Freeze Dried Recipe - The water must boil, and the stuff must be thoroughly stirred. We had enjoyed the rest at the cottonwood so long that there was little light by the time dinner was done. The sounds of the creek and the river muffled the snoring.

Little Nankoweap, the Green Tarp, the Granaries

We awoke in the shade of the eastern wall. Jim and Norm did some laundry in the river, where they could use soap. Jim was amazed at how cold the water is. It hurts. Jim, Jerry, and Norm took a side hike up Little Nankoweap canyon. It is narrower and has several spots where it is blocked with chock stones. They had fun climbing over these spots. Jim felt he was straining his knee so found a nice notch in the rocks with shade where he could just relax. Norm and Jerry went a couple chock stones further. As always we could not quite figure out how we had gotten up a couple places and had to find new routes down. In hind sight, it would have been a good idea for all four of us to plan to spend the day up there. It is narrow and windy enough that it would be easy to find shade all day if one is willing to move now and then. As we ran out of water we arrived back at camp, which was now totally exposed to the sun, and the temperature seemed to be at new highs. John had rigged the green tarp in a tree so it gave enough shade for all four of us if we worked at it. We lunched and read and napped. When the sun had moved enough, John flipped the tarp within the tree and we had shade for another hour or more. When we decided that the granaries and the trail up to them was mostly in shade we hiked off to see them. Jim stopped at the bottom and waited in the shade of a boulder. There were no boating parties climbing, so we had the trail to ourselves. As we climbed we saw a motor rig near our camp site. It seemed to be sitting in an eddy waiting for something. It would move slowly down stream and then pause. We learned later they were fishing. This boat beached a quarter mile down river from the main Nankoweap beach. The granaries trail is steep, and worn, but we made it. John and Jerry did not like the exposure right at the top so they stopped short. Norm went all the way up. As we walked back to our camp, we begged some water from the geologist's cook.

Day at the beach, and in the sun in Nankoweap canyon.

During breakfast John prepared Norm a surprise birthday party. He made a ''cake'' by stacking two granola bars and inserting a candle. He then blew up a balloon. As he walked and sang happy birthday, the cake fractured, the candle fell over and popped the balloon. We laughed a long time over that. Norm really appreciated the thought and John carrying that stuff all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon! As planned we hung around camp until the sun reached us. We did not want to squander the precious shade. We read, and pondered the river. When the sun reached us we walked over to the nice sandy beach and bathed. It felt good to get cool (boy that is an understatement), and clean. We then climbed under the shade of the tammies for a nap. Before heading back to camp we took one more dip. We watched several boat loads of river runners climb up to the granaries. It was nice we had the trail to ourselves the prior day.

We hiked back to camp, picked up our packs and headed up Nankoweap creek, headed for cottonwood camp again. We were in the heat of the day this time, and later we learned that it was probably about 100 degrees although we didn't even consult the thermometer John was carrying.

We went slowly and enjoyed every bit of shade we could find. There was precious little of it. At the first spot under a boulder, we had lunch. John gave Norm his birthday present which was a can of spray Cheez Whiz. Boy, did it taste good on Jerry's bread sticks. Norm shared it, of course. We left this spot and were back into the sun. After about an hour we finally reached the second shady spot, which was between two leaning boulders. Jerry is normally nervous about being under boulders but he did not argue about this bit of shade. At one point Jerry and Norm stayed in the creek bed while John and Jim followed the trail. They found the grapes referred to in the write ups. Eventually we got back up to the target area. Just before we reached the cottonwood camp, we spotted a larger and flatter camp site we had totally missed on the way down to the river. It was shady and welcome, with a large dammed up bathing pool. We grabbed the spot, and John filtered water into every single bottle (8 Gallons). We read and napped and recovered from the hike in the heat. Norm hiked around a little to see if he could find the foot of the horse thief trail. No Luck. Jerry gave Norm his second birthday gift; a gourmet salted cracker and pretzel snack mix. It tasted good with the Cheez Whiz. Jerry kept what was left. Both John and Jerry had packages of beef stroganoff. Jerry still had not made up the Raspberry cobbler so Norm was going to get to carry it back up to Tilted Mesa. We ran into the geologists again and learned they were moving down to Kwagut Creek the next day. Suffering for Science – Right? After dinner and in the cooler evening shade we took a walk up the creek. John chatted with a couple of young fellows were going to find and take the Horse Thief Trail over to Kwagut the next day. They had come all the way to the creek from the rim that day, so perhaps they could do the Horse Thief Trail. We played trivia by flash light.

As we played we noticed something darting around. Norm eventually caught it in the flash light. It was a mouse. It seemed pretty used to people since it was not intimidated by us or our flash light. Jerry and Norm hung their packs on tree branches, and John and Jim hung their food in stuff sacks. We could only get 5 out of 6 trivia questions correct, so we settled for that and went to sleep. The clouds cleared so we were confident it would not rain, and we would not need the tent.

Satisfying Climb to Tilted Mesa

Jerry awoke first and as per agreement did not delay in getting us going. We wanted to get as far in the cool of the morning as possible. Norm found the mouse inside his pack when he unzipped it. Even when exposed, the mouse did not seem too alarmed, and hung around for several seconds. There was a small new hole in the Granola bag but nothing else seemed bothered. We filled every bottle again, and were off by 6:30, about 45 minutes early for us.

The trail was UP immediately and pretty constant, except for the short level parts in the Bright Angel Shale; pretty much as we had remembered it from the trip down, except maybe steeper. We again appreciated the trail improvement work. Norm said Thank you on every step in the most improved sections. There were few points where we had to give up any elevation or progress toward Tilted Mesa. After a short time we were in the sun again. We took advantage of many seemingly small spots of shade under tiny trees and overhangs. Both Norm and Jerry called for OOPEs to clear their heads. We were not scrimping on the water, because we knew we needed it to be healthy. As we neared the top of the Red Wall we looked for the trees, then the branches, and then finally the leaves on the branches. Because of the way the layers are eroded we ended up going through the process three times before we were finally up on Tilted Mesa. It took only 4 hours. The 120+ training trips up the big hill in Michigan had helped after all. As we entered the Supai, Jerry spotted a wonderful shady spot, so we stopped there. We knew the Tilted Mesa camp site was very exposed to the sun, so we were happy to find this spot. It was probably the one we had intended to reach for camping on the way down, but had stopped above at the larger, more level site. We ate lunch, drank plenty, napped, and read. We shared the last orange any of us had, and finished the Pringles and the cheese. Norm got out the map and compass and tried to identify all the major landmarks he could see. We were in the over flight zone, and while we could hear the planes they were not too bothersome. John recounted his conversation with the young fellows at cottonwood camp. When he told them our goal was only to reach Tiled Mesa, they asked what we would do the rest of the day. John told them we would rest, and so we did. We stayed there about 4 hours, and then slipped one by one up to the camp site. When Norm arrived, John and Jerry had already erected the tarp for shade and Jerry was enjoying Norm's birthday present again. Norm climbed up about 3 layers of the Supai to get a clear view to the river, down Little Nankoweap canyon. He realized that we could not see Marion point from the river, but did find the formation we had spotted. He could pick out the formations in the Red Wall which were directly across from the river camp site.

We were greeted and surprised by two women who were camped a little ways above us right at the first cliff with a tree. They only remained for a moment seeming to honor our solitude and treasure their own. We could neither see nor hear each other. We split a 2 man beef stew three ways, had corn and finally had the raspberry cobbler. (Jerry, the water really has to be boiling.) The beef was pretty chewy, but the corn was as good as frozen corn is. We were hungry later. We played trivia for a long time by flashlight but there was plenty of juice in Norm's solar flashlight. We again had to settle for 5 of 6. Norm promised to throw this third of the book away. As we enjoyed the stars there seemed to be airplanes everywhere, even 4 at once. We could also see lights moving on the Navajo reservation.

Contouring, contouring, NFS Trail 57

We awoke to another pretty sunrise on Tilted Mesa, and were on the trail early again. We seemed to surprise and perhaps awoke the young women who had their tents set up right on the trail above the cliff with the tree. We climbed up with our packs on which probably had much to do with being at the start of the hike instead of the end. Because of the early start almost the entire hike to Marion point was in the shade. We stopped a few times but made good time. We did not even see the ''dripping'' spring this time. (Maybe we should have'?) Norm kept quoting Bob Ribokas ''and in many places the trail is only one food print wide". Jerry and John voted 2 to 1 that he should stop. We marveled at the person(s) who had done this trail in the mud. They had gone both up and down, based on the foot prints. Anyway, their foot prints surely made our walk more secure because of the great, stable stepping points they left. Norm got off the trail a few times, but remembered what Bob Ribokas had said about the trail going right through the bushes at times. Long pants are a must on this section. We gave up trying to look far ahead and find the trail. The trail will lead you to the trail, and there is little use of looking for it until you get there.

After Marion Point we were anxious to get past the scary part but we did not discuss it. Going ''up'' the scary part comes immediately after rounding a point, so you can not see it until you are crossing it. This seems better, as you don't build up extra anxiety.

After hours of contouring, we finally started back up through the Esplanade.

It had seemed so short going down, but seemed so long going up. Norm thought the spot with the rocks on the logs was near the top, but there was plenty of UP left even at that point. When we got to the NFS trail 57 we had a small celebration of Norm hooting and banging the trail head sign, but we knew we had plenty of ''trip'' left to get to the van. We stopped under the same shady tree to have lunch. We spread our mats and attempted naps but the flies drove us nuts, so off we went again. We were clearly low on water now. Norm innocently commented on the water he had washed with on Tilted Mesa thinking about how it would be nice to have those extra swallows in the canteen. John took mercy and shared an extra swallow from his bottle. The trail could easily go around the large hill but it goes directly OVER it, which took us over the limestone, and then back down to the van. Norm stopped to remove our card from the sign in box but it was already gone. He wondered what value these cards might have.

When we reached the van John had only a cup of water left, and Norm, Jim and Jerry were completely out. Jerry fumbled for the key in his pack. Norm was worried! Jerry eventually found it and we drank vast quantities of water from the van. John moved the van so we had a good view and we just luxuriated in the air conditioning and the soft seats and drank water for a while.

We got to the store/filling station near the North Kaibab Lodge, and bought some cold iced tea. We went into the National Park Campground for our showers. Norm had a whole roll of quarters for the showers so we all cleaned up and shaved. Jim made dinner reservations at the lodge. We had plenty of time before the reservation so we browsed, rocked in the rocking chairs and gazed at the canyon. We had steaks and prime rib, which we enjoyed immensely. We found no spots in the regular camp ground so headed back to the open camping in the National Forest. We followed a shorter road and ended up on the rim at a different spot. Darkness was falling as we pulled in. We guessed that the lights we could see from there were probably from Page. The mosquitoes were terrible, but we were not sleepy so we played trivia in the van. After turning in and about an hour of sleep, two trucks with radios blaring did a couple of laps through the campground. Jerry (and consequently Norm) did not sleep well after that. Jerry eventually left to sleep in the van. They both slept better from that point on.

Breakfast Buffet and Las Vegas

As per Bob Ribokas's recommendation we had breakfast at the Kaibab lodge. It was very handy and the food was fine. We all probably kept eating after we were no longer hungry. Its tough to turn down bacon after backpacking food for a week. Jerry and John took turns driving and we all took turns sleeping. We arrived at the Four Queens Hotel in Las Vegas at about noon but could not get into our rooms until 1PM. We had some pizza for lunch and Jerry dropped a lot of quarters into the slot machines. For supper, we had Chinese, which was very good. Norm made $30 last about 45 minutes at the roulette table, and the other 3 played video poker at several casinos on the strip. Jerry learned the value of doubling (value for the casinos, that is). We arose before 5 to get to the airport.

Backpacking Resources

Books

Hiking the Grand Canyon, A Sierra Club Totebook by John Annerino

Grand Canyon Loop Hikes I and II, by George Steck, Chockstone Press

Grand Canyon Treks by Harvey Butchart, La Siesta Press

Maps

Grand Canyon National Park Trails Illustrated Topo Maps (waterproof, shows use areas and popular trails)

Related Reading

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Broadway Books – Misadventures of two middle aged men who think they’d like to walk the whole Appalachian Trail. You are likely to meet yourself or someone you know in this book.

River Runners of the Grand Canyon by David Lavender, University of Arizona Press

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grand Canyon - North Bass Trail and Merlin’s Abyss

North Bass Trail and Merlin’s Abyss
May 1996

Flying and driving

Jerry and John arrived at Norm's EARLY. Norm wasn't prepared for this shock. Trina had coffee for the drive to the airport and muffins for the trip on Southwest Airlines. Southwest couldn't find Jerry and Norm in the reservation computers so the agent had to make them exceptions and then they boarded. That was the first moment of nail biting for the day. We had one stop and then a second to change planes. As we flew over the Grand Canyon the pilot notified us to look to the left and then mentioned the 3 passengers who would be climbing down into it. As we landed, the stewardess sang a song to the tune of She'll Be Coming ‘round the Mountain When She Comes." It's fun to fly Southwest. As we left the plane the copilot grilled us about where we had hiked and where we were going. He seemed to wish he could go with us.

Our bags came off quickly and we picked up the car. Norm was a co-driver this year since he made it a point to bring his driver's license. We grabbed a McDonalds on the way out of Las Vegas and only stopped in St. George long enough to buy LP gas, water and one bottle of peach water for Jerry at K-Mart. In Fredonia, we bought gas for the car, one more gallon of water, oranges, and a Bic lighter (which seemed to only get used once before it ended up “somewhere in the bottom" of Jerry's pack.) We were stopped on the highway by the National Forest Service to warn us about the fire danger restrictions. We had to stop at the Forest Service office to get a special permit to drive on their back roads. We had to promise we would not camp in the National Forest. The woman kept asking "Now you're not going to camp on us?" She insisted that she see our National Park back country permit. She didn't have her glasses and we didn't give her too close a look since the permit did not include the current date. This was the final moment of nail biting for the day. (Omit here the long story about how Jerry forgot two of his daughters were graduating from college this spring, and we had to reschedule the trip to dates not covered by our permit.)

Norm drove about 30 miles of National Forest dirt roads. Every time we turned onto a different road, it was worse than the last. When we passed through the gate into the National Park on Swamp Point road the tire tracks got very deep and the crown very high. Norm went slowly to assure the middle of the car was not over the crown. Norm even stopped once to verify he could miss a collection of embedded rocks. Jerry ended up behind the wheel and progress picked up. Jerry feels that greater velocity makes it possible to be airborne over the rocks.

At Swamp Point there but there was no swamp but were three cars but there were no people. We camped near the car. We had our first MREs of the year to avoid carrying the weight. We arrived well before sunset this year so we got our good view of the Canyon.

Top of North Bass Trail

We arose, had breakfast and finished packing. John had left many decisions until that morning. Being on the rim about to put the pack on for 7 days helped him decide to leave much in the car. We were on the trail by 7:30. The trail reminded us of the Hermit and the New Hance Trails. Our internet information and George Steck's friend reported exposure in the Coconino. We found none. Perhaps you find it if you go over to the spring. We had no need since we had bought all the water we could carry, and had used almost none of it. We did find some brief exposure while crossing open slopes of Hermit Shale were the ''trail'' was exactly one foot print wide. There was more brush here than we had experienced on any other trails. (We hadn't seen anything yet.) Norm enjoyed tracking progress by noting the changes in the rock formations. There was water in White Creek even above the Red Wall drop off. At the drop off we left the creek and followed the trail to the right, over three saddles just as the Sierra Club Trail Guide described. The Redwall scree is very sharp, and so were the bushes on these saddles. (We hadn't seen anything yet.)

After the second descent, we stopped for lunch. I think our legs told us it was time for a long break more than our stomachs told us it was time to eat. We all napped. We all tightened up during the long rest, so the next climb which was immediate was even worse. John followed the trail along the base of a cliff and then down endless, loose, steep switch backs down to the valley floor, and to the Muav. John commented that he would never have guessed the trail went across the bottom of the wall. Harvey Butchert calls that part of the trail ''unlikely".

Norm had provided John and Jerry with photocopies of pages from the Sierra Club Trail Guide, George Steck’s Loop Hikes II, Harvey Butchert's Grand Canyon Treks, some correspondence from the Internet and correspondence directly from George Steck including photographs of the point where we should exit. On this first day we referenced the pages on the North Bass from the SC TG. John had been able to find 7.5 minute topo maps in Phoenix, even though the National Geological Survey Office is out of them. He used his copy dozens of times to make sure we were where we wanted to be.

In the valley floor we met a lone hiker, who turned out to be out in front of the other four in his group. We met two of them near and two of them at the Muav pools. There were several pools, of all sizes and shapes. Some just about bath tub size. Jerry said he was looking for the hot bathes. The other guys laughed. It was only about 3 PM but we were about half way to Bass's camp which was our destination for tomorrow, so we stopped for the day. We waded and washed, and made coffee, and lounged, took our boots off, and made super (mashed potatoes and beef gravy), filtered a couple gallons of water with John's new filter, and generally enjoyed the beautiful spot. Life was good. Norm wasn't anxious to sleep on the ledges thinking about what it would be like if there were a flash flood. We moved up to a small sandy spot just big enough for the two tents right next to each other. Jerry slept under the stars (clouds actually). He and Norm slept fitfully. It sprinkled a little and the wind was up and down. They both woke early and went for walks until John awoke.

Kolb picture spot, wading, and Bass's camp.

We were on the trail again at 7:30. Jerry wasn't feeling too well but didn't complain. We started out going away from the creek to get around water falls in the Muav. There was a little exposure to get Jerry's juices flowing. Our thighs were plenty sore from the first day, and we were doing a little of the "old man shuffle". Eventually we rejoined the creek but there was no water. That made for easy walking. We rested where the creek bed descended into a deep chasm in the Tapeats. The trail led to where the chasm opened up below. We dropped the packs and spent about 30 minutes enjoying the beauty, and the coolness of the spot. We took the same picture the Kolbs had taken 80 years before with the bolder stuck in the top of the chasm. It took us two frames to get our picture. Strangely the water seemed to now go around the chasm. It was almost entirely dry but below that spot the creek had plenty of water in it. At some point we missed the fork in the trail. The other route leaves the creek bed. We were happy that we had stayed in the creek bed to reach this spot.

From the Tapeats we descended down into the Schist. By early afternoon we reached the Shinumo creek confluence. The joint flow made it much harder to stay dry when crossings and just as last year we finally gave up and just waded. We were so close to our destination, it would have been nice to make it with dry feet. We expected to reach Bass's camp just after the confluence, but we had to cross the creek 4 or 5 times and we stopped for one more long break. By studying the maps and book pages we understood that we had not missed it but were just not there yet. We crossed once more, went about 100 yards on nice ledges and entered Bass's camp. People had gathered lots of tools, cook ware, nails, etc and placed them on a few boards for viewing. It was sort of a crude museum. We waded and washed a little in the creek. About a dozen river runners came up to see Bass's camp. The river guide knew quite a bit about Bass. (Later John bought a pamphlet about the Bass trails which had most of what the guide said and much more, and contradicted the guide a little.) They only stayed about 15 minutes. We had MREs again and coffee. At Bass's camp and on at least two boulders we saw the following carved. WL Vaughn, Connor Texas, 5-17-1912. We don't know who WL Vaughn was, but 1912 is about when Bass sold out to the railroad and left the Grand Canyon. It was quite overcast again so we put up the tents. We slept right around Bass's camp.

A Day at the Beach

We awoke to find several nibbles at the packs. Jerry had a new hole in his pack. Norm had nibbles in a couple of zip lock bags. As planned, we found a place to hide our packs and just carried snacks and water and a few other necessities down to the beach. Actually it was up and down to the beach. The trail climbs about 600 feet before it descends to the river. This is required. Following the creek leads to a water fall with a very challenging climb. Without the packs it wasn't too bad. The footing in the quartzite was fine but the trail was almost indistinguishable since the quartzite doesn't wear down.

It was overcast and only occasionally sunny and warm. It rained for a few minutes 3 or 4 times, once for about 10 minutes. A boat pulled in to the beach. We were fearful that we would have to share the beach with a boat party. The oarsman asked if there was a waterfall near by. We waved him on down river. He left with few words and no smile. Jerry had brought sausage, crackers, and cheese dip to share. It hit the spot. Norm climbed around on the Schist for fun. John bathed quickly as one must in the frigid Colorado River. We shared the beach with the finches and squirrels. Norm laid down a cracker crumb trail to bring the boldest one quite close. Norm and John played trivia which put Jerry to sleep.

We could see where the recent man-made "flood" had built up additional silt on the beach. The tamarisk at the water's edge were clearly covered about a foot deep and the water marks were well up the beach on others. We could see silt trapped in the schist several feet above the current water level.

About 2 PM Jerry got so bored that he talked Norm and John into returning to camp. He said we would explore the creek route. On the way back to break the monotony, Norm drew the parallels between the series of projects Bass had in the Canyon and the number of Car Washes Jerry has. Norm told the whole Bass story and then some. After having a cup of coffee at our new camp just below the pack hiding spot, we ended up just lounging around.

Jerry went off to clean up again but found there was no good way to get down to the creek from this camp. We were about 40 vertical feet above it. Norm updated the journal. Norm and John made a Lemon pie with graham cracker crust. We could see the weather coming across the Canyon, and so we had everything covered and the tarps ready to cover us. It rained for only about 10 minutes. We had Lasagna for dinner. This site was away from the Bass artifacts and seemed more private. Due to the rain we put up the tents one more time. This was the only dessert we ate. We also did not eat any of the soups in the large meals for four. Next time we should probably just get entrees for four.

Up Shinumo Creek (Leaving the marked trails)

We had more nibbles on our packs and bags. Norm had tied most of his food up in a tree but something had knocked the bag down and gotten into it a little. John sacrificed a package of crackers which were pretty well beaten up into crumbs anyway. Through some unexplained accident we were on the trail by 6:45. John picked up some cactus needles as we passed through Bass's camp. They were not the last we would pick up. We reached the Shinumo/White confluence in good time without a crossing. By this point the trail was bushy, brushy and bothersome; lots of bushes, bayonet plants, cactus, trees, and dead limbs. We battled the brush and crossed back and forth. Occasionally we'd find a trail to go over a rock outcropping. Once we were off on such a trail, and it kept getting more and more difficult to follow and more steeply uphill. We'd follow it then lose it and then see another cairn and follow it and lose it again. It was steep and loose, and we finally go so high it didn't look like it was really going anywhere we wanted to go. We took a picture of King Arthur's castle from a point few people have probably reached. We wondered if the cairns were laid down as someone got lost and then used to get back down? At the creek we crossed and the going was fine but brushy. (We still hadn't seen anything yet.) We crossed many times getting wet up to our knees. George Steck's friend said they switched to Tevas but we wanted to keep the protection for our feet. Everyone's boots held up just fine, even though they were soaked 4 different days. It was pleasant to be near the water, in the shade of the cottonwood trees. We all found our way into cactus at one point or another. Norm had to take his pants off to get some out from inside. Jerry got a needle in his tongue by biting needles out of his hand. We took a long rest on some Schist ledges where there were some gentle water falls and pools. John used one to soak his cactus filled arm.

By lunch time we had reached the confluence of the Flint and the Shinumo creeks. George Steck recommended the log on the rope trick to get by the chockstone. On this day the flow was very very heavy and the log would have just floated back over the falls rather than catching on any rocks. The pool below the chock stone was probably chest deep, but we didn't try it. We lunched and napped in the shade next to the falls and the pool. After lunch we set out to climb the "nose" between the two creeks. We did not spend much time looking for a route. We started up a route on the south side of the nose. After doing it Norm was not so sure it was THE route. He said the climb "pegged his adventure meter". Some serious fingers and toes were required, and it was belly to the wall. John came back down without his pack to talk Norm up the last few yards. It helped. At the top of the nose we found the real route back down to the creek easily.

The rest of the day was brushy, bushy, and bothersome. As we hugged a Tapeats cliff on the left we found an Indian ruin. It was a semicircular structure build right onto the cliff face. What was left was about waist high.

We were striving to reach the Tapeats ledges which George Steck had recommended. We were expecting something like Deer Creek. By 6PM we were not there and we were beat and we found the only sort of flat, sort of clear spot we had seen for hours so we stopped. There was definitely no room for a tent so we each found our own flat spot. Our pants, socked and boots were all soaked so we all erected make shift clothes lines from plants, sticks or John's was a proper one made of line. Jerry cooked stroganoff which tasted great. No one was interested in Blue Berry Cobbler. Too bad; it's heavy. John did not have a sleeping bag. He had expected our normal hot nights and all he had was a poncho liner. It was cooler than expected but he wrapped up in part of his tent to break the breeze. Jerry and Norm were under a sizeable Tapeats overhang. We never did see any Tapeats ledges worth mentioning.

Merlin's Abyss and on around the elbow

We were on the trail by 7:00. Al1 slept just fine, but Norm had a dream about being responsible for some project in New York City politics. Probably a result of too much trivia before bed. About mid morning we found a beautiful 10 foot water fall. Jerry shared an orange. Fruit is a treasure in the canyon. When we passed the Morded Abyss junction we saw a flow of water, but it didn't seem to make much difference in Shinumo Creek. It was still knee deep.

Almost the whole day was again brushy, bushy and bothersome. We began knocking down dead sticks with our walking sticks. It made the walking a bit easier and let us get rid of some aggression on the brush. Norm leaned onto a bayonet plant which really drew blood. His pants were wet so the blood flow really looked bad. A few seconds of direct pressure fixed everything. We tried leaving the creek and going up into the dessert to avoid the brush, but the brush extended well up the sides of the Abyss and the footing was too steep to be enjoyable. Besides it was hot out in the sun. Back to the creek. This mirrored George Steck's experience. We tried hugging the cliff which had worked yesterday but we ended up going up higher than we needed and then getting pinched out anyway. The best option turned out to be hugging the creek edged and just wading when it became difficult.

About mid-afternoon we had reached the Muav and rested on some nice level Muav ledges. We filtered some water because we were running low in our canteens. Jerry only filled Mr. Bucket up half way because he didn't want to carry any more water weight than we had too. Soon after that we were challenged by a series of huge chockstones. We found ways over and around them, but above them there was no water in the creek. This was a surprise based on what we had read. Without water in the creek we made excellent time. We might have stopped along there somewhere if we had water enough for supper, but... Eventually just about at the junction with the Northwest trending fault we found a trickle of water again. Soon after that while scrambling up a slope of rocks we climbed up into the perfect camping spot under a huge Redwall overhang. Again we were soaked so we found places to hang our clothes and dry our boots. We knew water would be scarcer ahead so we all cleaned up to one degree or another.

Norm was bending over to arrange his sleeping pad and bag and his pants split right down the back seam. He didn't try to mend them assuming the stresses would just break his mending. Jerry remarked that he still had some clean underwear or socks and Norm remarked that he had some washed. John asked if this was a Can You Top This contests so Norm just congratulated Jerry on his fine planning. We had Turkey Supreme. Played Trivia by flash light.

Redwall Chockstone, Supai Cliffs

On this day we studied George Steck's notes and those of his friend. We hoped to get all the way up the NW trending fault and to the spring in the Ponderosas by evening. Norm said he hoped there were some markings on this part of the route. He was to be disappointed.

The first part was wonderful. No water in the bed; just routine bolder hopping. Eventually we reached the Redwall chockstone described by George Steck. We quickly found the hole between the rocks we had to "chimney" through. The hole was about 8 feet from the ground with poor holds on the wall. Jerry bent over and Norm stepped on his back, twisting his heavily cleated boots into Jerry's flesh. Norm found his way up quickly and easily with Jerry's help. John climbed it without assistance, with Jerry only spotting. Jerry tied the packs onto the rope and John and Norm pulled them up. John and Norm then put a loop in the rope and lowered it through the hole to Jerry. He used the rope to get to the Chimney move and came on through.

Above the chockstone we found the little waterfall George Steck had mentioned. It was flowing pretty well, and we filtered water to top off our bottles. We rested there for a while. The remainder of the Redwall was uneventful bolder hopping because it was quite a gradual incline. The Supai was quite a different story. We couldn't tell from George Steck's narrative or map exactly where we were supposed to leave the water shed. When we saw a few possible exit routes, staying in the water shed always seemed better so we staying in all the way up to the beginning of the Hermit Shale. George had described 10 foot cliffs which were hard. We were finding cliffs which were hard, but they were much more than 10 feet. At the first one, there was no route on the right, but with a boost it looked like a route on the left.

We found a dead log and propped it up on the left. Norm went up first and kept going to make sure we could get over the other obstacles above. He was gone a long long time. He had climbed up to the next huge obstacle. He worked his way to the right looking for a route out of the water shed. When that option pinched out, he worked his way back to the left and found himself above the huge obstacle. To see that this would not be the end of the line he went even higher. It looked like the Promised Land with a clear route to the top of the Supai. He went back down to tell John and Jerry. He kept getting cliffed out. He couldn't figure out how he had gotten up.

John and Jerry got the packs up without Norm. They were waiting at the bottom of the huge obstacle for Norm. He explained he couldn't find his way down so they tried to throw the rope up to him. It was so high they couldn't get the rope up there. Norm just had to find a way down. Jerry and John could see a way about half way up and Norm could get half way down, so they talked him the rest of the way. It was not the way he had gone up but it worked.

Norm lead Jerry back up with the rope. They lifted the packs as John tied them on. It required about 80 of the 100 feet of rope. After all the packs were up, Norm went part way down to lead John up the unobvious route. They were able to climb up the next few levels with the packs on, but eventually came to one more point where the packs had to be lifted. John climbed up to see that it was not a dead end, and after 4 tries Norm threw the rope up, and then climbed up to help lift. John teased Jerry that there was a nice underwear puddle up there where Jerry could soak his last pair of clean shorts just like last year.

After this last lift they reached the end of the Supai and left the watershed, and entered the real brush. (Now they encountered real BRUSH. Over your head BRUSH. Sleeping Beauty Do Not Enter BRUSH. Br'er Rabbit Briar Patch BRUSH. It grabs your pack and doesn't let go BRUSH.) They climbed, crawled, clawed through this for about an hour trying to get to the top of the Hermit's Shale to find some ledges which could be followed around to a break in the Coconino. They finally reached the ledges but they were not level and were not long enough to follow anywhere. It was getting dark, and the only spot in sight where they could sleep was an exposed saddle in the shale. They beat through more brush to reach the saddle just a little before dark. Jerry amazingly chose to sleep right on the spine of the saddle where rolling the wrong way would take him down a steep 40 foot hill. Norm slept across the spine with his feet a little lower than his head but his waist higher than both, and propped against a rock to keep from slipping down. John found a cozy patch amongst the bushes. We had little water so ate canned meat instead of a freeze dried meal. Norm was not in the mood for trivia even though Jerry thought we should do at least one page. We were not sure we were on or could find George Steck's route any more. We were not sure we could find the Ponderosa Spring, we had little water, and did not see the breaks in the Coconino or the limestone necessary to get out to the rim. Life did not seem good. The moon was out and we were completely exposed to it. The breeze came and went. We did not sleep very well that night.

Ponderosa Spring, Breaks in the Cliffs, Back to the Road

In the morning we had a little coffee, one of Norm's oranges and life looked better. During the night Norm had split the seat of his pants horizontally, so Jerry applied a generous portion of gray tape.

We could see a nice stand of Ponderosa about where George Steck had said it would be, so we set off down the hill to get water and then think about how to get out. We wore our gloves today, and wondered what was wrong with us yesterday for leaving them in our packs.

It required more bushwhacking but we reached the Ponderosa and the spring was running nicely. We made coffee and had a second breakfast. We cleaned up a little and did a page of Trivia. We got all six on the first try and put the book away. We could refer to George Steck's narrative. Life looked good once again.

We headed toward the place where the Coconino break was supposed to be looking for the Easter Island head George Steck referenced. In the Grand Canyon you can find lots of Easter Island heads if you are looking for one. Eventually we found a likely break complete with a nice Easter Island head, so we climbed toward it. The shale was loose and steep and the BRUSH was as bad as described above, so progress was slow and painful.

On one break we applied gray tape to our pants legs to afford further protection. Norm tried to lead again but the brush tied him up so badly his claustrophobia kicked in. Jerry told him to take a break when he was on the verge of hyperventilating. Norm followed the rest of the day. Working our way up and over we crossed two more flows of water. They made it possible for grass to grow on the slopes which looked like excellent climbing, but

the water made the brush even looser and more slippery.

When we neared the Coconino we were looking forward to a nice break on some horizontal, flat, firm ledges. Norm stopped on one that John and Jerry found too slanted and too narrow for relaxation so we only stayed a few minutes. Unfortunately the Coconino afforded no level spots and so we just scrambled through it and back into the brush in the limestone scree. The footing improved in the limestone and we saw a few hints of tracks. They lead us to a wonderful level, firm spot on top of a limestone cliff, where there was a great view and plenty of shade for lunch and for a good long nap.

Then back to the brush. John was referencing George Steck's notes and maps and was working us toward the east. We saw some nice breaks in the Kaibab cliffs and worked towards them, then John noticed that the sun was shining on a cliff face just above us where it seems unlikely and he used this insight to locate a slot in the Kaibab. This exit worked just fine, and saved us over an hour in the brush. Praise God. Norm said "John you're my hero." We reached the rim and were so exhausted; we didn’t take any of the normal “end of the trip” photos or last looks. We just kept walking.

The walk back to the road was supposed to be three quarters of a mile but it seemed to take forever. The way was clear because the big pine trees had pretty much shaded out all the brush. When we finally reached the road John volunteered to get the car. Norm worked on the journals and Jerry nursed his blistered feet. We really wanted to get some ''normal'' food and clean up so we drove to the North Rim lodge area. We ate in the snack shop just before it closed, and then found an uninhabited camp site in the camp ground.

Breakfast, Peggy Sue's, Showers

We awoke before most of the operation was going. The showers required $1.50 in quarters and we didn't have enough for even one shower. The store wasn't open yet so we couldn't get change. We cleaned up a little in the sink, and went to breakfast at the North Rim Lodge. After breakfast we shopped just a little, called home and decided we were clean enough to get on the road. We stopped at the National Forest headquarters store and bought some posters. Then we went to St. George K-Mart to replace our damaged clothes and to Peggy Sue's for lunch. We arrived in Las Vegas about mid afternoon and enjoyed the shower immensely. Norm lost the coin flip and had to sleep in the hide-a-bed so he got the first shower. After losing a little at Keno, Video Poker and Roulette we had dinner at Denny's and retired.

Postscript

This trip beat us up more physically than all others combined. We had scratches all over our arms and legs. The scars on John’s legs led to friends to wonder if he had knee surgery. After this trip Norm made Jerry and John promise that if he ever suggested another trip that was not in the Sierra Club Trail Guide they would "just say no." George Steck warned us about brush but we totally underestimated what he meant by brush.