Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reid Lake Foot Travel Area

Resources – Backpacking in Michigan by Jim DuFresne University of Michigan Press
Map –
Web Site –

Reid Lake Foot Travel Area includes over 9 miles of hiking trails. Almost all the trails are wide enough for side by side hiking. There is very little deadfall over which to crawl. The trails are marked as well as any I’ve ever hiked with ample blue diamonds along the trail and full trail maps at every trail intersection, complete with a nail marking the “you are here” spot. Each intersection is numbered and the sign posts have arrows directing you to the next numbers. The camping sites were nice, with fire rings, and every approved site had a toilet nearby. The RLFTA is a convenient 4 hours from the Detroit area. We took I75 north and split off to the east on US23 to Harrisville where we turned west on M72. The trailhead is clearly marked and is right off M72 about 19 miles from Harrisville. This trailhead includes a very clean outhouse. This trip was planned with a short lead time and little to no training was required. Trip was done by Norm and two sons, Paul and Marshall. Paul had done the trip before. We all had hiking boots but Paul had done it in athletic shoes in 2008. We hiked on September 25 – 27. The trees were just beginning to change colors.

Short Half – We arrived at the trail head and were walking by 3:15. Our objective was a campsite near Little Trout Lake, approximately 3.5 miles. The segment from point 1 to 8 was closed so we took the slightly longer route past points 2 and 7. Then we proceeded to points 9 and 10. This basically took us down the East side of RLFTA. The segment from 10 to 11 was closed but we walked that way anyway. We found that the dam that forms Little Trout Lake had been washed out. The nice wooden bridge was askew in the bottom of the canyon left by the washout. Based on the water marks on the trees, the lake was down about 8 feet. There was a narrow stream leaving what is left of the lake and flowing through the canyon. Previous hikers had bridged the stream with logs, so we proceeded across and on to the campsite just beyond point 11.

We arrived at the campsite at 5:15. We dipped water just at the log bridge and filtered it for dinner and breakfast. Ate freeze dried and played trivia until Norm started to get chilled and we all climbed into our sleeping bags. We had heard “normal” owl calls during dinner but after we turned in we also heard the blood curdling screech owl calls. They sound too much like a human screaming in serious pain, and make you question the wisdom of sleeping outdoors. We also thought we heard coyote yips at one point. We had no varmints invading our food even though we didn’t hang it.

Up to Reid Lake – We had oatmeal and freeze dried eggs for breakfast at about 8:30 and were walking by about 10:00. We proceeded south around to point 12 and then north to points 4 and 3 and then down towards point 6, approximately 4.5 miles. This took about 2:20 with one short break. The first mile after leaving camp was all up hill, although not very steep. This morning’s hike seemed to have more uphill than downhill. How does that work?

We set up in a nice large campsite on the south side of Reid Lake, overlooking the lake. There was another site just to the west which was occupied but we did not even hear the couple that was camping there. There are four docks on Reid Lake and one seemed to be occupied by a couple who just walked in the mile from the highway to fish for the day. We saw a few day hikers around the lake as well. After dinner Norm watched a beaver swim along the shore. We had freeze dried dinner and played trivia again. By 7:30 we started turning in. We heard the same variety of owl calls again tonight. No varmints at this campsite either.

Back Home – We arose about 8, packed and walked back to the car via points 7 and 2. The mile walk took us only about 20 minutes. We changed into clean clothes and drove into Harrisville where we had a wonderful breakfast. We were back home in time to watch the Lions or the weekly NASCAR race.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim - Utah Flats, Phantom Creek

April 17 - 25, 1998

Note - This was our first attempt at Phantom Creek. We reached upper Phantom Creek but due to the flow rate we did not descend Phantom Creek. See Grand Canyon - Clear Creek and Phantom Creek For our descent of Phantom Creek in a subsequent trip.  In 2013 we repeated this trip including another successful descent of Phantom Creek.  The log from that trip includes more current trail conditions and better photos of the route to Utah Flats.

Friday – Getting to the Canyon - John drove. He and Jerry had time to get coffee, sweet rolls and still be early to pick Norm up. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our 9:40 flight only to learn it was delayed for one hour. Jerry checked his backpack and his travel bag so he had no glasses or book. Things were looking pretty grim. John luckily had an extra pair of reading glasses, and Jerry bought a newspaper. The flight was uneventful and included breakfast. John rented a Ford Taurus, which gave us just enough room by using half the back seat for luggage. We bought gas at a camping store in Phoenix and water and oranges at a Safeway in Flagstaff. We bought Subway sandwiches at a gas station and ate them outside (sitting on rocks; like we needed an extra meal on the rocks). As is our custom we reached the rim just as the sun set. We checked into Mather Campground, ate dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge dining room, and Norm bought a few more GC souvenirs. We slept better than we have on other trips but had to endure the motor home generator for a while and then a car alarm. We did not awake until 6 o’clock (9 by Michigan time).

Saturday – Down to the Bottom - It was COLD. Norm was happy he had gloves and all were happy to have stocking caps. We wore all the shirts and jackets we had with us. We fired up the stove for coffee and oatmeal to be sure it worked. We sorted through our stuff and repacked. We stopped by the Yavapi Cafeteria for coffee and then went to Mather Point to drink it and look over the S. Kaibab trail. We could see the trail clearly on and beyond Cedar Ridge, but we could not identify for sure how the trail got down to cedar Ridge. Did it stay high or not? We could see up the North Kaibab trail and had a good view of Utah Flats.

When we arrived at the trail head we learned that we would not be allowed to park; in fact we weren’t even supposed to drive up there. We quickly dropped Jerry and the packs off and went to find a parking place. A kind shuttle bus driver suggested a picnic ground nearby or the scenic overlooks nearby. The picnic lot was full and the scenic overlook lots looked too vulnerable so we went back to (yes, you guessed it) Yavapi Lodge to park. The shuttle bus picked us up and we were on the trail by 9:45. We did not hustle, as we were happy to be bringing up the rear to avoid a few more people. We have no history of catching up with people so it was a pretty safe approach. It was still brisk in the shade and there was ice on the puddles. The trail is wide and well prepared (for the mules). There seem to be some special cairns for (or by) the mules. They are green and aromatic. There were not as many as on the Bright Angel trail in May of 1994.

Our first OOPE (out of pack experience) was at the rest rooms on Cedar Ridge. This was quite short as there were about 100 people and 2 dozen mules. We stopped for a longer stop in the shade below O’Neil Butte. By the time we got to the Red Wall descent, we were in the full sun and the next shade was the rest room on the Tonto platform. John and Norm were not excited about the ambience but were happy to have the shade. As we ate lunch we were visited by our first ever backcountry ranger. It was Todd Van Something, who was also the Cottonwood ranger. He checked our permit and assured us we would see him again. (On six other backpacking trips we had never had a ranger check our permit.) We saw some raggedy looking squirrels. They needed to polish their begging technique if they were going to get fat and bushy like the Bright Angel Squirrels.

The trail is only on the Tonto for about 50 yards and then descends into the Tapeats. As it crossed the Tonto trail we were happy we were going down and not "across” on the Tonto trail like the group we saw. We were surprised to meet people who were coming up as we descended this lower part of the trail so late in the day. We expected this section would have been clear of people coming up by 9 or 10. We particularly noticed Mr. Sweats who had on shorts over sweat pants and was using a very slow deliberate step even in the lowest and earliest (for him) parts of the trail. The other people we felt for were a couple. The young woman had dropped her pack to go back and help the fellow. He had shorts and was carrying too much weight on himself (not in a pack). It was not at all obvious that they would make it by dark and they had no equipment to sleep on the trail. We stopped in the Schist but did not eat.

We crossed the black bridge at 3:30. 5 hours and 45 minutes to descend the 6 miles. Norm’s toes were feeling pretty jammed into his boots. After finding a site along the BA creek Jerry cooked mashed potatoes and roast beef gravy. It was from the 1996 trip but cooked up and tasted fine. After dinner Jerry made the blackberry cobbler. It was Ok at best but at least he wouldn’t have to carry it further. Jerry picked it out for the 1997 trip and Norm carried it for 7 days. After dinner we walked to and John and Norm crossed the Silver Bridge. Jerry was not interested in walking on this bridge since you can see through the grating all the way down to the river. This completed Norm’s goal of crossing the suspension bridges at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. While we were near the river we saw a Big Orange Jeep (Big Horned Sheep) high up across the river. We also looked around Phantom Ranch. After dark we played a little Trivia, getting 6 of 6 right in the first few pages, and went to sleep under the stars. It was cold enough Norm was literally shivering, and had to mummify himself.

Sunday – Up to Cottonwood – Jerry awoke feeling poorly so he went back to sleep. John and Norm walked to the ranger station to get trip tips on the Phantom Creek route. They learned that Phantom creek required wading in waist to chest deep water to cross the pools. Harvey and George hadn’t mentioned exactly that. We started to consider the Tonto route. The ranger advised that going up Phantom creek wasn’t much fun even at low water, but in the spring would be a real drag. When they got back to the campsite they found Jerry still asleep, so they read, and enjoyed the Canyon a little longer. Jerry eventually awoke and felt a little better but still couldn’t keep much food down. As Jerry packed up, Norm read Psalm 91. Jan always writes that on the GORP bags to remind us. By about 10:15 he felt good enough to leave for Cottonwood. We saw only one party going up, and eventually saw 4 parties coming down from Ribbon Falls; a total of about 22 people. The trail is quite gradual and is pretty smooth and wide. The major excuse for having this piece of trail in such great condition is that the water line is underneath it. We stopped four times in the shade of the overhang or other rocks, had lunch. John commented that Norm always seems to find a place to sit where he can lean back. We arrived at Ribbon Falls at about 3pm. We spent quite a bit of time at the falls and took some pictures that turned out very well. It is a beautiful spot. We climbed up behind the falls and watched the water hit the big mound. We then arrived at Cottonwood Camp at about 5pm. Ranger Todd recommended Site number 4, and he was right. We moved up to number 4. It was a little further from the other occupied sites, was the right size for 2 small tents, had a nice view, and was far enough from the whine of the water system that we could not hear it. Unfortunately even site number 4 had the gnats. We finished eating just as the sun set, and played Trivia by flashlight. We again got 6 out of 6 almost right away but played on anyway. We slept in tents, because it was a little cooler at the higher elevation.

Monday – On to the North Rim - We were on the trail by 7am without packs. We made good time and stopped less frequently for shorter periods than we do with the packs. Roaring Springs is spectacular. There are actually about 5 different springs gushing out along the north wall of Roaring Springs Canyon. They all cascade down hundreds of feet. This is where the water lines to both rims originate. From Roaring Springs, North, the trail is used for Mule trips but since we were there before the North Rim opened, there were no Mule cairns to avoid. It seemed pretty wide to Norm but pretty narrow to Jerry. To control erosion and run off, there are many diversion devices, of wood or stone. The mules must be very sure footed to cross all these without stumbling. The most memorable stretch (for John and Norm) is in the Muav and Redwall. It is a trail with hundreds of feet of wall on one side and hundreds of feet of fall on the other. Jerry said he just watched the corner where the wall met the trail and the feet in front of him. Norm and John greatly enjoyed the view across the canyon. Due to the snow melt above there were about 6 little waterfalls which came down near or directly on the trail. This was another day when we got to see active waterfalls where the summer crowd would just see rock. We could see them originate hundreds of feet up and cascade down through several shelves and falls. In the morning we did not get too wet even when the water fell right on the trail, but on the way down after the sun had increased the melt rate, we got quite wet a couple of times. We were happy the air was warm. We wanted to rush through to keep from getting drenched but we had to go slowly because the trail was right on the edge of the abyss and the wet rock could have been slippery.

There are some landmarks on the map that kept us apprised of our position and progress: the bridge, the tunnel… We stopped for a longer rest just after the tunnel. We soon found our first snow on the trail. It was in intermittent stretches of 10 to 100 yards but was at least 3 feet deep. There were footprints of two other people who had packed a trail, so we did not “Post Hole” too much. The snow was continuous through the Hermit Shale, and was intermittent in the Coconino at the beginning. By the top of the Coconino it was uninterrupted and stayed so all the way to the North Rim. The ranger had said that he talked to only one person who had tried for the North Rim this year and had been turned back by deep snow. We thought perhaps we would be turned back too, or perhaps we would be the first of the season to make it? We could make out tracks from two different boot treads in the mud, and they both went in both directions. These tracks made it all the way to the rim and so we followed them. There were two snowballs at the top, perhaps made by the two hikers. It felt great to be the second party of the season to make the rim, and to be on the North Rim all alone. We joked about a ranger asking us where our car was parked and telling him it was parked on the South Rim. The only ground not covered with three feet of snow was a single lane of road. We sat in the road, ate lunch and napped with our heads on our canteen pillows. We were sweating even though there was snow on the ground but after cooling down, we started to get uncomfortable when the sun was covered by clouds.

After lunch Jerry lead the way down. The snow was warmer, slipperier, and we ended up doing some post holing. We all ran out of water so filtered some just above the tunnel where we rested again. Norm used a zip lock bag to catch the water and Jerry pumped. This water lasted us down to the residence of the pumping station engineer. He has a sign inviting hikers to get water and in the summer often has lemonade. He came out and talked to us for about 15 minutes. He has been there since 1972, raised three children there and can’t image anywhere better to live. He said the park runs a helicopter shuttle weekly to supply him and the campgrounds. That station pumps only to the North rim, so he leaves in the winter and lives near the south rim. The water is carried by gravity to Indian Gardens on the South side where there is another pumping station for the South Rim. The pumping station engineer was the only person we saw all day.

We arrived back at camp at 5:30 (14 Miles). We were enjoying the out of pack day and decided to ask to stay at Cottonwood an extra day and give up a day near Phantom Creek. We had Chicken Stew, which was the best meal of the trip. As the sun was setting we watched the parade of jets and vapor trails criss-crossing the canyon. John guessed at their destinations. We talked about alternatives for our extra layover day, and decided on visiting the Transept, which Harvey recommended. It would require a crossing of Bright Angel Creek but we had crossed creeks before. We got 6 of 6 in Trivia quickly yet again but played until 8:35 which is pretty late for us.

Tuesday – Wall Creek – Ranger Todd was had not shown up around camp, so we decided to leave him a note asking permission to stay the extra night. Only three other sites were occupied and they would probably return to Bright Angel Camp again that day. We walked up and down Bright Angle Creek to find a good crossing point to get into the Transept. The flow was stronger than we really wanted to cross so we decided to go down to Wall Creek and explore there, since it was on our (the East) side of the Bright Angel Creek.

Walking up Wall creek was like walking up Shinimo in Merlin’s Abyss. There was no trail and we crossed the creek several times and walked through brush, bushes, branches, ankle biters, and avoided cactus. We stopped for snacks in several pretty places. Jerry left his T-shirt in the first one under some cottonwood trees, since the day was warming up. We were sure to see it on the way back, and we had to come back that way. We next found a beautiful 12 foot waterfall, then a quartzite alcove half bowl, then some huge cottonwood fallen trees which served as nice seats for serious lunch. Norm had smoked trout that was heavenly after canned chicken. On the way down to the mouth of Wall creek we walked back up a water shed up to a steep seep which was shaded and cool. As usual it did not seem possible to find our exact route again. Jerry lead and by hugging the north side of the water shed we made great time and found ourselves back at the North Kiabab trail. But the new efficient trail did not take us by Jerry’s shirt so back up we went to find it. Since we were not sight seeing, it did not take too long and we used the north side route to finish up quickly. It was still a mile or more back to camp and we were out of water since we had not brought the filter.

When we arrived back at Cottonwood camp we were plenty thirsty and tired. Our site was not shaded so we flopped down in one of the group sites near the water spicket. We chatted with a fellow from Wisconsin who was with his wife and son on their third or fourth trip; always down Bright Angel. He had packed in the Smokies in spring and told of sharing shelters packed shoulder to shoulder with “through” Appalachian Trail hikers. The shade was great and we were ready for a nap, but the flies made it impossible. Norm went to sleep in his hot but fly free tent, and then went down to cool off in the creek. John and Jerry joined him. We had Richmoor Lasagna. It was OK. We studied the maps and talked quite a bit about the Phantom Creek route, and although the enthusiasm was limited we decided to do it as planned, that is go up Phantom Creek. Played trivia by flashlight again but never got 6 of 6 correct. It was about here that Jane Fonda seemed like the correct answer to most movie-related questions. Jane Fonda was never correct.

Wednesday – Phantom Creek? No, Utah Flats – We hit the trail about 7:15 which was pretty early for us on this trip. We quickly noticed the difference of being back in packs again. Being down four day’s food didn’t seem to make much difference. Since we knew we would be near the creek, we did not even have full loads of water. It could have been (and soon would be) worse. When we got to Wall Creek we noticed the flow was much heavier than it had been when we came up to Cottonwood. It was so strong that the carefully selected and placed stepping stones were totally covered with water which was so clouded with sediment that we could not find the stones. Norm just waded across, and Jerry and John followed suit. We knew we would get our feet wet down at Phantom anyway. It was about there that we started to see how much higher Bright Angel Creek was, and how clouded it had become. When we got to the Ribbon Falls bridge, Norm stopped to talk about the plan. He suggested that we had some new valuable information: the warm temperatures had just about doubled the flow rate in the creeks we had come to know a little, and so the flow in Phantom would probably be double too. John quickly got consensus that we did not want to attempt the stock trail over the Tonto route to Phantom, and so we decided to go down to Bright Angel Camp, rest until near sunset and then climb up to Utah Flats. We took a long break at the mouth of Phantom Creek but no one seemed tempted to cross and hike up. The rangers had said that hiking up was a drag in low water. This would be much worse. We arrived at Phantom Ranch at about 11:30. Norm offered to buy Cokes. Jerry thought Phantom was exclusively for the Mule riders but Norm convinced him we were welcome. Norm bought Iced Teas and we browsed through old Grand Canyon books from their reading collection. When we couldn’t hang around there any longer we checked with the ranger to see if there was an opening at the camp ground. There was not but ranger Shore was in, and he gave us some advice about getting up to Utah flats and down to Phantom Creek. He said “You will wonder why you are staying high so long when you can see Phantom Creek for so long.” We found shady spots and enjoyed napping or soaking our feet in the creek.

By about 3:30 it was getting shady on the hillside even though it was 100 degrees in the sun. We started up, with full loads of water. The trail was steep but it was loose. We followed the trail up to the rounded rock Shore had pointed out. We found the trail up to the cliff that most people climb and also found the trail around to the right and up which Shore had told us about. Norm was exhilarated by the climb and the route finding through Piano Alley. There were hundreds of sandstone pianos to climb over, around, and through. After about an hour and a half we were up in the opening to Utah Flats. The Supergroup Dox Sandstone is smoothed into rounded but huge blobs that are stacked up like steps. They are so big and smooth that you can not climb up in most places. We did find a way up and onto a more soft and level shaley spot where we set up camp. There was one rock for the stove and about 25 feet away there were some rocks to sit on (the dining room). As we were unpacking our stuff the sun was over a hill, so we were in shade but the pinnacles to the east were afire with the sunset. Norm noted how blessed we were to be in such a place at such a time. Someone broke out more Pringles. There was no shelter there but there was also no wind and it was perfectly clear. Jerry cooked Mountain House Chicken a la King and corn. It was OK. Norm could not finish his and had to carry out the rest. Too many Pringles spoiled his dinner? (Six days is about when Norm gets tired of freeze dried every year.) We slept under the stars and watched for satellites and planes. There were many.

Thursday – Phantom Creek – We got going at about 8; not too far to go, so no big hurry. George Steck’s book says he could not find a trail across the flats, and neither could we. We had never seen such a dense patch of cactus as on the plateau between the exposed sandstone sections. If yesterday was Piano alley, this was cactus alley. We stayed to the right of the blister of sandstone on the slope and as we crested the slope we could see trail below us and off to the left. It came out of the first water shed we would have to contour into. Once we picked up the trail it was pretty easy to follow, although there are precious few cairns. It stayed at about the same level for quite a while. Ranger Shore said we would wonder why we were staying high so long. We did. At about 9:30, on the north side of the water shed, Jerry (as usual) found shade in the desert, in a shale alcove. It was welcome. Almost immediately after the alcove we found ourselves on a loose, steep descent to the creek.

As soon as we got to the creek we got a bucket of water and set it aside to settle. Norm was out of water and John and Jerry were low. Jerry found a nice shaded spot under a rock overhang right next to the creek. We lounged a little. We had read about the waterfall, and John had struggled to figure out where it would be on the map, so we wanted to see it. We knew from Ranger Shore it must be just down the creek from our position. We made our way down stream but got cliffed out and had to cross and recross. We found one of the sheltered camp spots on the north side of the creek. The creek was running so high we could not get to the good vantage point to see the falls from above so gave up and went back to the shady spot for lunch. We filtered some water but Jerry had to clean the silt our several times for just a canteen and a bottle. We hoped that above the confluence of Phantom and Haunted, one of them would be cleaner and so we headed upstream to find a campsite and cleaner water.

Soon we saw signs of the other party whose permit allowed them to be in the Phantom Creek use area. There was one fellow at the campsite and he directed us to some pools they had been using to filter water. They were next to the creek but were seep pools and so were not as silty. We got all the canteens and some bottles filled and then the creek level rose a few inches and flooded the pools with silty water. Norm went up stream while Jerry and John worked on the water. He found a nice sheltered campsite and lead John and Jerry to it. We explored little and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Jerry found a clear pool next to the creek for filtering water. As we relaxed the rest of the other party came by. They had been up to the source for Phantom Creek and told about a cairned trail up through the Redwall to Diva Temple. They had not taken it and seemed about as likely to as we would be (very unlikely). The wind was quite gusty that afternoon and evening. It would seem to build up steam and then pour into our “cave”. Jerry thought it was all blowing right down his sleeping bag. Norm had to get the sand out of his hair and ears and teeth in the morning. We played Trivia down by the creek and Jerry shared his Italian Salty Snacks. We played until after dark but did not get 6 of 6 this night.

Friday – Phantom Creek & Back up to Utah Flats – We had the morning to explore and sight see. We headed up the trail, up Phantom Creek. Haunted Creek comes in from the North, and above the confluence Phantom was cleaner. Jerry and John bathed and we all relaxed at a wide spot in the creek. When we got hungry for lunch we headed back to camp, ate by the creek, took a nap, and filled up all our canteens and bottles to prepare for the night’s dry camp on the Flats. We did not want to be up on the flats in the afternoon sun so we timed our departure to get us up there about the time the sun went behind the hills. Even though the packs had only 2 days food, they still felt heavy with all the necessary water. It was gusty again but as we went through the other party’s campsite it was like a wind tunnel. They were in a very narrow spot with rock walls on both sides, so it was probably worst there. They said we would be blown off the Flats. The climb up to the Tonto was not as bad as the descent. The footing is better going up than coming down. You don’t have gravity fighting you for control. Norm was relieved when the steep climb was over. We were surprised at how short the ascent seemed compared to our memory of the descent. It took us back to the shale alcove and we took another break there. The rest was basically contouring through the watersheds and it was basically up and down in small increments. We lost the trail at about the same spot we had found it. Jerry led us back to the campsite and although we stayed a little higher, it was about the same route we had taken the day before. John tried to tell us about a ledge we had to descend but Jerry and Norm were sure there was no such ledge. John said “OK, fine, see you in camp”, and then Jerry and Norm found the ledge. John always has the best trail memory. There is little point in arguing with him. We arrived in camp at about 5, and made good time with few stops. It was still a little windy but as the evening came on the wind died down. We had Chicken & Noodles which was better than the Chicken a la King. Jerry started falling asleep during Trivia so we had to wake him up to get his expertise. Tomorrow would be a tough day so we agreed that anytime after 5am, whoever woke up first should wake the others. We slept under the stars again, although it was more overcast.

Saturday – Bright Angel Camp and Back to the South Rim – Jerry was first to wake and got us up. We were walking across Utah Flats by 6. John’s great trail memory got us down to Piano Alley where we picked up the trail. It was looser going down than it had been coming up so it took great care. Norm ripped another big hole (2 actually) into another pair of old pants. We arrived at Bright Angel Camp by 7:40. We dumped our stuff in a campsite next to the wash room, changed into shorts, and used the facilities to clean up. Norm rinsed out his short sleeved shirt and then put it on wet. Before ascending the South Kaibab trail we stopped at Phantom Ranch for a second cup of coffee. A little civilization is not all bad. John let Ranger Shore know we were safe and sound and that neither Phantom Creek party had gone up or down the creek. We headed up the trail at 9, which made us about the last party to start up. The only others were hiking up from a boat party. One of the women had a huge pack which even had a life jacket strapped to the side. The overcast from the night before stuck around so it was cooler than it had been and the sun was not as oppressive. There was even a breeze. We had planned our water to have the canteens last to the Tonto plateau, the first bottle to the top of the Redwall, and the last bottle to get us to the rim. On the Tonto, we topped off our canteens and dumped out the remainder of the first bottle. We met dozens of people coming down, few with full packs. The real exceptions were three women older than we who had full packs and all three had a ski pole in each hand. John and Norm had joked about the ski pole hikers, but for these ladies we were all admiration! Several people asked if we were coming all the way up from Bright Angel. A few times we tried to explain that we started from Utah flats or at the Tonto elevation on the North side. No one understood, so we gave up and just said yes. We did get across to a few that we had been down for a week, not just overnight. A few even understood we had been all the way to the North Rim.

We did not rush the pace and we all felt the exertion but we stopped infrequently and for pretty short periods, so we made pretty good time. We had lunch after climbing up the Muav and Redwall switchbacks, on the narrow saddle that leads to the Supai. The overcast reduced the need for shade so we just sat out next to the trail. All Jerry had left to eat was some tuna. Norm had chicken but was so tired of it that he swapped with Jerry for some beef jerky. We topped off the canteens again and dumped out more of the excess. The next OOPE was at Cedar Ridge. Jerry had not liked being there among all the people on the way down, but Norm refused to go any further without a rest. At that time of day all the mules were gone and the people were pretty dispersed. Norm got strained stares from a young girl who was on a day hike with her family. He guessed 8 days below the rim must make you look pretty interesting; 8 days of beard, little washing, plenty of scrapes and scratches and clothes which have been soaked through a couple of times. (She really would have loved the pants he split!) During the final climb through the Coconino a couple observed our big packs and asked John if he would recommend it. They chuckled when he said, Yes!

We rimmed out at 2:40 which meant we had climbed out in about the same time it took us to descend. Not bad for 50 year old gents. The shuttle bus was idling so we hustled to get on. It was already full and we had to stand WITH OUR PACKS ON. No one offered a seat. Another young woman stared to ask Norm a question but when she got a good look, she stopped short and said “Never Mind”. Boy, how bad could he have looked? He’d even changed his shirt by this time. An adult fellow did engage John in a chat about our adventure.

We cleaned up at the Mather Campground Showers, ate dinner at the Sizzler in Flagstaff, and arrived in Phoenix at about 9PM.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Canyonlands, Needles District, Utah

Planned for spring 2010


  • Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau by Michael R. Kelsey, Kelsey Publishing Provo UT
  • Utah’s Incredible Backcountry Trails by David Day, Rincon Publishing Orem UT
  • Canyonlands National Park Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails by David Day, Rincon Publishing Orem UT
  • Needles District Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic
  • NPS Website -
  • NPS Map -

Following is a plan for our spring trip in 2010. If anyone has experience in this area and would like to make suggestions we would welcome them.

This will be broken into two separate loop hikes. We will move the car in between. The first part includes a loop of the Chesler Park area and then a larger loop down to the Colorado River, up the river to the Confluence with the Green, and then back to the car. Part 1 looks like four days for us. The second portion will be in upper Salt Creek. The car will be relocated to the Cathedral Butte area. We’ll hike north in the West Fork of Salt Creek, and back to the car in the main fork. Part 2 looks like 3 days. This plan omits hiking into the Big Springs, Lost Canyon and Squaw Canyon. We only have so many days.

Day 1

Drive the Car to Elephant Hill. Hike 2 miles to campsite EC1. Bring 1 extra gallon of water per person. Drop the packs. Day hike without packs down to Chesler Park via Chesler Park Loop Trail, jeep trails, and the Joint Trail. Depending on our feelings at this point, we could go down to see Druid Arch or not. Then back to EC1. Distance without packs: 7.5 to 11.1 Miles.

Day 2

Using that extra gallon of water we carried on day one, hike down to the Colorado River via Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail. Distance: 8.3 Miles.

Day 3

Hike down river without packs as desired. With packs, hike up the Colorado to the Confluence with the Green. Distance: at least 4 miles.

Day 4

Hike back to the car at Elephant Hill. Distance: 7.5 Miles. Shower. Camp at Squaw Flat.

Day 5

Drive the car to Cathedral Butte. Hike down into Salt Creek. Before reaching Kirk’s cabin, cross over to the West Fork. Hike North in the West Fork. Camp in the West Fork, near the confluence with the main fork. Get water from main fork if necessary. Distance: 8-10 Miles.

Day 6

Leave packs at junction with main fork of Salt Creek. Day hike up to Angel Arch. Come back. Pick up packs and hike down to campsite SC3. Distance: 9-11 Miles, 5 without packs.

Day 7

Hike back to the car in the main fork of Salk Creek. Distance 9 Miles. Drive back to Salt Lake City.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ozark Highlands Trail

NW Arkansas in the Ozark National Forest

Sections 7 & 8 plus the Buffalo River Trail

Resources – Ozark Highlands Trail Guide by Tim Ernst, publishers

This is perhaps the best trail guide we have ever used. The maps were so complete that we did not buy a separate map. This is the only trip for which this is true. The map has distances between significant land marks.

Web -

We flew into Springfield MO airport and drove south past Branson MO and through Harrison AR.

Shuttle was prearranged with

Buffalo River Outfitters.

Route 1, Box 56

St. Joe, Arkansas 72675

Phone:870-439-2244, 1-800-582-2244

Shuttle And Half Day Hike31 March 2006 – Breakfast at the stone bakery in Harrison. Wonderful cinnamon/pecan rolls with eggs. (Colton’s - Good steak house last night with peanut shells on the floor, etc.) Arrived at Buffalo River Outfitters about 8:45. Our shuttle driver was late so we played fetch with the dog. They had us put the car inside a fence to be safe. The shuttle driver was born and raised in the area. Her family owned property “down in that holler”. She dropped us off at Fairview Campground on Highway 7.

We were walking by noon. It rained lightly. We found the actual OHT after a few minutes of reviewing the book/map. This is a walk in the woods. We stopped on a fallen log for lunch and found our first ticks. Took a break next to a stream. Found more ticks. We saw a snake, a few squirrels but few birds today. We had done 5.5 miles by 4:30. We first stopped next to a small creek but Jerry walked on and found a nicer spot near a larger stream in Greenhaw Hollow.

We heard a 2 cycle motor vehicle, dogs and a shot was fired. Don’t know more than that but that was enough to fuel a few imagined scenarios. We ate a very good teriyaki steak with rice dinner. Jerry made a fire and we solved three 5 Minute Mysteries and answered 50 trivia questions. We wanted to sleep under the stars but we could feel the dew forming. We put our sleeping bags under or in plastic. Condensation formed and we had damp sleeping bags by morning.

To Falling Water Creek1 April 2006 – Cool when we awoke so not in much of a hurry to get going. Walking by 8:40. Today we saw wild turkey, squirrels and a family in a golf cart with three dogs. We crossed several two tracks and three roads. The afternoon was more rugged, less traveled and less well marked. The hike up from Richland Creek is steep and long. We could have trained a bit harder to get ready. We explored around the old CCC camp. There are still remains of some buildings. We saw a three foot black snake which got our attention. We then heard a strange squeak and followed it to find a frog being eaten by another snake. Survival of the fittest… The book uses the abbreviation SSS meaning Special Scenic Spot. We had our first SSS at the end of the day, a deep ravine with huge boulders. It was interesting to cross.

We ended at a river near a bridge where roads 1219 and 1205 cross Falling Water Creek. We found a nice level rock shelf jutting into the river. We made 9 miles today. Ate stroganoff for dinner but we could have eaten a bit more tonight. It rained twice during the night. Jerry joined Norm in the tent during the first rain. When it stopped he went back out. When it started again, he just put his sleeping bag and himself into a construction sized plastic bag. He had his rain jacket on already. The plastic bag on his pack blew off, so much of his stuff was damp. Having the tent on the rock turned out to be a poor idea since the water pooled around and under the tent.

Richland Creek Campground2 April 2006 - The sky cleared about 11am. The trail included several SSS. It was cloudy and misty so we didn’t get any good pictures. We reached the National Forest Campground by noon.

It had tables, a water pump and an outhouse. We planned to use the afternoon to visit the Twin Falls and/or Richland Falls. There is no trail and so we were constantly looking for the easiest walking. We crossed the creek one too many times and ended up stranded on the wrong side (the east side). We walked back to camp and cleaned up and napped. There was no other party within ear shot but we had seen a car-camping party in another part of the campground during our walk. We were visited by a skunk twice during the night. Norm shined it away with his flashlight. Slept under the stars. Got down to 50 degrees. It seemed colder.

Beyond Stack Rock Trailhead3 April 2006 – On the trail by 8:00. Cooler walking compared to yesterday. Got confused once by missing a turn off a jeep road. Recovered in about 10 minutes with only 100 yards of back tracking. This is the prettiest section so far. More boulders and little water falls. Took a climb up through the large boulders surrounding a stream. This morning we met Ed and his friend. They were doing trail maintenance. Ed had a chain saw over his shoulder looking for dead fall across the trail and his friend was nailing up metal “blazes”. Ed informed us we were entering the section where the “problem” bears are released. Great. Just what we wanted to hear. Ed’s friend said he had never seen an Arkansas bear that did anything but run away. That was more in line with what we wanted to hear.

We had been expecting dogwoods in bloom. Saw our first today. Also saw thousands of trillium just about to open up. Saw lots of May Apples. We got confused once in the afternoon. On a jeep road we got to a place where the road goes left and right. Fortunately we guessed which way to go correctly and double luckily the trail crossed our road. I believe we should have left the road onto a trail sooner. Originally we intended to stop at Stack Rock but there is no water, so we went on about a mile and found the best spot of the trip. Water down the hill to the right and the foundation and chimney to an old cabin to the left. We were done for the day at about 4:30. We could see smoke rising through the trees in the direction we would be going the next day. Not what we wanted to see. We had beef stew for dinner. It was pretty good. We solved all three of the mysteries we tried. It got down to about 40 degrees. Jerry slept out by the fire.

To the Buffalo River4 April 2006 – Cold. On the trail by 8:40. Unremarkable morning. Saw deer after lunch. We took a break by a creek. It was green on one side and burned on the other side. Our trail went right through the burned part. We proceeded with caution and wondered if we would be turned back at some point. We saw some smoldering logs so deduced the fire had been there within a day or two. A single tree was still burning and fell after we passed it. It got smoky and the smoke got thicker and thicker. Eventually we could see the edge of the burn up ahead. Fortunately, the fire was really only burning the dead leaves and so we just crossed the line of small flames and proceeded up the trail. The trail lead away from the active burn but we saw burned patches throughout the rest of the day.

We reached the last source of water for this stretch of trail much too early to stop so we decided to press on to the Buffalo River. This required five more miles of walking. It was on a jeep road, so the walking was relatively easy and level. Portions were even shady. There was a huge pasture on one side. It was a pretty pleasant walk.We made decent time but Norm ran out of water. The final event of the day was to cross Richland Creek. We reached it where it intersects with the Buffalo River, so the creek was backed up and looked deep. Perhaps we could have walked upstream a half mile but it would have been bushwhacking so we just walked straight across. Norm took a trial walk. It was about chest deep but the bottom was reasonably firm and smooth. There was little current at that point. We just carried our packs above our heads and walked across. The water temperature was refreshing but not too cold. We definitely wanted to do this in the heat of the day rather than tomorrow morning, so we camped on the far side. The shore was very soft dirt but not quite mud. It wasn’t the greatest site but it was OK. Shaved and cleaned up. Spaghetti for dinner. The Mystery stumped us tonight.

Buffalo River Trail5 April 2006 – When we crossed Richland Creek yesterday, we technically left the Ozark Highlands Trail. Continuing on the OHT would require crossing the Buffalo River somehow which would definitely require a boat. The Buffalo River Trail took us directly back towards our car at the canoe livery.

We heard thunder soon after we awoke. We hustled to get all our stuff packed so it would stay dry. The rain started before Norm could get his long johns off. Fortunately, at least, he had slept in his rain pants. We put our slickers on and covered our packs with plastic bags and ate breakfast standing in the rain. The rain stopped for about 20 minutes, just long enough to take a nature call and then we headed up the trail. I do mean up. The trail immediately heads up the side of the bluff on some wooden steps and hugs the side of the bluff for miles. It started raining again. We stopped only briefly and we didn’t even snack or take pictures. When it’s raining, the only thing left to do is just walk. There were some nice views back down to the Buffalo River. We could see large parties of canoers who were camped on the far side of the river. It rained until about noon. Some of the trail is quite beat up by horse traffic and there is quite a bit of hiking on normal roads. There is some color coding on these trail markings. We followed yellow or if both marks were in evidence we followed white. We referenced the book frequently. At one point the book and the marks clearly disagreed. We followed the marks. They lead to a small cemetery. It had stopped raining at that point, so we took our packs off and hung them on the cemetery fence and had lunch. Everything was wet so we didn’t even sit down. After lunch we found out that following the marks had given us a bit of a shortcut and then we were back in agreement with the book again. Rained again in the afternoon for about an hour. We had expected to find water in a creek at about 6 miles but that creek was dry. The next creek bed had small pools of rain water. We anticipated a dry camp so we filled all of our bottles. It stopped raining at about 3:30 and since we had not taken many breaks, we had enough miles in, but we just couldn’t find a decent camping spot. At 11+ miles we found a marginal flat spot off a side road. We were just north of Calf Creek. There was a pond nearby but the water didn’t look clean enough for us to wash up. The sun came out so we hung everything out to dry.

After dinner we tried the 5 Minute Mysteries again. First one stumped us but we got the second one. Norm got so cold he just wanted to get into his sleeping bag. Strangely, it seemed to get warmed through the night and we both took off layers of clothes. We heard owls and coyotes.

Back to the Car6 April 2006 – Due to the long day yesterday, we were not very far from the car. We were awakened by thunder. Again we hustled to get all of our stuff packed to keep it dry. This time it did not rain. The trail markers took us into some big hay fields. Then there was a fork in the trail and no marker. We backtracked but couldn’t find a marker right away. When we did find one it took us back to the road we had been on yesterday. We never figured out why any markers took us into the hay fields. After following the road for just a little ways we found the trail into Tyler Bend Recreation Area. There is a nice sign at that point. We were very early so we took some trails in the Recreation Area and visited the visitor center. At an overlook we could clearly see down into the hay fields. We laughed the the locals had put the confusing markings on the trails just so they could watch hapless out-of-state hikers wander around in those hay fields. Even though the road would have been shorter we took the trails all the way to the bridge and then walked up the highway the 1.2 miles of hill to the outfitter and our car.

Under the category of “nothing is ever easy” we found a sign on the door. “Went to St. Joe” with a phone number. No one was there and our car was locked inside the fence. We had no cell phone so Jerry walked back down the hill a hundred yards to another outfitter/store and called the number from the sign. No answer. The fellow at the store figured out what Jerry was trying to do, knew where our guy was and suggested a different phone number. Jerry got through on this number and our guy was back by the time Jerry walked back. We had lunch at Colton’s in Harrison, and got a room at Big Cedar Lodge (a Bass Pro Shop fishing theme park), about the only place to lodge between Harriosn AR and Branson, MO.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What is "Playing Trivia?"

Most of these trip logs mention "playing Trivia". Perhaps some explanation is in order. We have two books filled with questions and answers from a wide range of fields. We have torn these books into smaller sections. We take one section of each book on each trip. After dinner and before go to sleep we frequently attempt to answer some of these questions. We ration the questions so we have enough to last the whole trip. We mark the year we use each section so we don't use the same section two years in a row. Even though we have used some sections two or even three times, I don't believe we get better at the answers.

The original book required us to completely supply the answers from memory. It was published in 1991. We have to be careful now. There are cases in which the best answer today was not the best answer in 1991. Originally, we allowed ourselves to go to sleep only after we had gotten 6 out of 6 correct. We have compromised that rule over the years.


Answers on the back of each question page.

The second book we bought has multiple choice questions.


Answers on the right margin of a following page.

Gila Wilderness

Southwest New Mexico
May 15 – 20, 2005
Norm and Jerry

Visitors Travel Guide & Map – Gila Wilderness – Gila National Forest – Prepared by United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region – Includes Average Temperatures and Precipitation but by far the most valuable aspect is the excellent map.
The Gila Wilderness a Hiking Guide by John A. Murray, University of New Mexico Press

The The Gila Wilderness a Hiking Guide describes several named trails well, but I found it impossible to put together a loop until I obtained the Visitors Travel Guide & Map. The map makes it easy to see all the potential loops, variations and options. The map includes trail numbers on all trails. The narrative below will note these trail numbers although the trail numbers are not noted on any signage along the trails. Rather the signage refers to land marks. The signage was helpful and very adequate. This trip is a loop that starts and ends near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. It starts out south of the West Fork of the Gila, and runs west roughly parallel to the river. At about the midpoint, we crossed the West Fork and headed back East staying well north of the river, and finally again crossing the West Fork at the very end of the trip. There are endless options for loops in this region.

May 13, Friday Getting to New Mexico – We had a long delay in the plane. Other planes were taking off and then, when there was only one plane ahead of us in line, a violent storm with plenty of lightning blew in. We had to wait another 25 minutes. We arrived in Denver 5 minutes after our connector to Albuquerque left. All hope was lost. But wait! United had already booked us onto a Frontier flight! Wow. We arrived in Albuquerque at 10:30 (12:30 our time). The packs didn’t make the plane though. The Frontier luggage office was closed but wait, a perky Frontier girl helped us contact United and then she found the printout that indicated United would fly the packs down tomorrow on the first flight. Our reserved motel room was only 30 minutes down the freeway, so we just rented our car and went to the motel. The motel clerk was shaken up due to a fight that just happened in the motel lobby. She put us in a room with a single King bed, but wait, she moved us to a room with two doubles. We crashed.

Saturday Driving to Gila Wilderness – We had breakfast at about 8:00. Barb served us and everyone else and seemed to have a conversation going with each table. We got our LP gas and more trail snacks at Wal-Mart. The packs arrived on the carousel just as we arrived to pick them up. We notified Frontier and drove south. We stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. As soon as we left the freeway, the road began to wind. Jerry drove pretty slowly for Jerry so Norm didn’t get too car sick. We arrived at the visitor center at 4PM. They closed at 4:30. Ranger Dave helped us make our final route selection. He has a huge USGS map on the wall. Dave thought a 50 mile hike was pretty ambitious (for us). Norm called the details home to Bonnie so someone would know where we might be.

We found our trail head and then found a camping site with at table. The noodles turned out to be terrible but al least we didn’t have to carry them. We read and tried to solve 5-6 5 Minute Mysteries. We played a few pages of Trivia. We got all 6 correct once and we stopped. Went to bed about 9:30.

Sunday - Out Little Creek – It was about 40 degrees when we got up at 6:10 AM. We parked the car near the trail head (Trail 160) at Woody’s Corral. We took some trail head pictures and were walking by 7:45. Up. Up. Nice Vistas as we climbed. We took a break in the Ponderosas on top of the mesa. We saw a party of three and changed our route slightly to avoid hiking immediately behind them. This was probably not necessary. We seldom keep pace with another party. We saw another party of three breaking camp. We turned West on Trail 162 and took an unnumbered connector trail South to Trail 161 where we turned West again. When we reached this junction, at Little Creek, the trail forked and there was no sign. Both options seemed equally used. The map didn’t settle the decision either. We went left which was also lower, near the creek. The trail got quite sketchy because the creek had eroded some banks away taking the trail with it. We walked in the creek and bushwhacked through the woods. We found a nice sandy and shady spot for lunch. Norm took a nap and Jerry bushwhacked around until he found the trail again. We did not fill up with water because the map indicated we would soon reach a spring. We never found the spring. The trail got so sketchy, Norm was sure we were not on the trail. He got his Garmin Forerunner runner’s GPS out. The reading indicated we were about where we wanted to be and we soon reached a marked intersection which confirmed our location. Our only concern now was water. We were concerned that the next spring might be impossible to find like the last one, but wait, there is water in the creek again. Even though we expected the creek to keep running all the way to our camp site, we tanked up as soon as we saw water again. We were about where we thought we’d stop for the night at about 3PM, so we kept going, even with more frequent rests. We found an excellent camp site at 4:30. We shaved and had beef stew for dinner. Jerry built a fire. We hung the food. We set up the tent but slept outside under the stars.

Monday - Granite Peak Side Trip - We slept in and didn’t get started until 9:05, one of our latest starts in 14 years. We walked about a mile to the cutoff toward Granite Peak (Trail 155 Southeast & then Trail 150 up the peak) where we dropped our packs, taking only water, lunch and a few snacks. Ranger Dave said the peak is not actually granite but the view is worth the walk. The spur trail is 100% up. We made good time with 1.5 hours for 3 uphill miles. Some of the trail is sketchy due to erosion. Norm asked if this trip and the California trip were spoiling us with good trails. The worst parts of these trails became irritating but the bad sections are about equal to typical trails in the Grand Canyon. Granite Peak is over 8,700 feet above sea level and Little Creek is about 7,000 feet so the hike gains 1,700 feet. There are some trees at the top so the view is interrupted but nice. We had lunch on top. It seemed like there were billions of lady bugs on top but we didn’t see any others anywhere else on the trip. Interesting. We got back down to the packs in 1:15 hours. Napping was impossible due to the flies. We were walking (West on Trail 155) again by 3:45, intending to stop at about 5PM. At 4:45 the trail got very narrow and hugged the side of the mountain for about an hour and 45 minutes. No place to camp along there. A strap on Norm’s pack let loose but Jerry quickly found a way to just tie one end on so it did not really impact the hike very much. We got up onto a broad saddle which was sheltered by trees. According to the map we were at about 8,000 feet. We couldn’t get the rope over the limb to hang the food. It took about 15 tries. We slept in the tent. Norm wore just about everything he brought to start with. The tent was pretty warm so he stripped off some of the clothes as the night went on.

Tuesday - To White Creek Flat – Woke at 6:15 and were walking by 7:45 – Going downhill first is very nice. We got water from McKenna Spring which was running strong and clear. We followed the creek to where it comes out of the hillside. There is a large, deep hole with a nice gravel bottom. No bubbling though. We also followed it downstream until it disappeared again into a gravel stream bed. This is a beautiful spot. From the spring the trail goes up to McKenna Park then mostly flat for a few miles. It’s about 7,000 feet high with plenty of grass. This could have been a great “high summer pasture” in the old days. The trail got sketchy twice. We really lost it at a turn and once in a wash. We had lunch at another spring near Raw Meat Creek where we left Trail 155 and went West on Trail 153 and then North on Trail 302. On the map this leg looked pretty easy with gradual ups and downs and then camp in another park. It started out easy but then went down into a deep ravine. The trail on the other side seemed to just hang on the side of the mountain. Again the GPS confirmed we were where we intended to be, so we continued. When we reached the area we intended to camp, we found it had been burned by a forest fire, so we had to keep going. Norm fell down today. He just lost his balance and fell on a burned log and cut his knee. Neosporin can help anything heal. We camped just beyond the burn and just before the trail got narrow and headed down into another ravine. Not too cold. Norm slept in the tent. Jerry slept under the stars.

Wednesday - To Lilley Park Spring – Up at 6:30. Part of the stove got caught in the gas bottle when Jerry tried to take it apart and pack it. All the gas had to escape from the bottle before he could get the piece out. The gas bottle got very cold as the gas escaped so quickly. When the gas bottle was empty Jerry managed to wiggle the piece loose. Now we were potentially going to be short on LP Gas. We are pretty dependant on hot water for oat meal and freeze dried food.

We forked off onto Trail 152 and went down to White Creek. It was running quite strongly and there were no rocks on which to step across. We each found a stick to steady ourselves and then we changed from boots into rubber sandals. Being there at the water, we took the opportunity to shave and clean up. Meanwhile two deer came by for a drink of water. After the creek crossing we soon took Trail 151 going East down to the West Fork of the Gila. The trail is wide but hangs on the side of a wash. There is no signage indicating that the trail is crossing the Gila and we had to bushwhack around a little to find Trail 30 North to Lilley Park. We didn’t want to mistakenly end up on the West Fork Trail with all the required river crossings which are a bother or mean wet feet. Crossing the West Fork of the Gila was not much different from crossing White Creek as far as flow at this point. We had lunch at the crossing at about 11:15. We took on some water from the Gila.

Trail 30 gains noticeable altitude quickly as it leaves the West Fork. Norm claimed to be the Energizer Bunny. Jerry said he could do all things through Christ who strengthens him. He agreed he needed some strength on that climb. We stopped in a nice level shady spot near the top at about 7,800 feet where we enjoyed nice views. It was up only a little more and then level for a couple of miles. We found the sign for the trail we would take tomorrow (Trail 164) but we kept going on Trail 30 to Lilley Spring.

The spring is just two little trickles but they are steady. There are some pools near the actual spring. Norm did laundry and cleaned up again. Jerry filled water bottles. Norm tried to use the map to estimate the GPS locations for the water tanks (ponds) we would depend on for the final days. They are the only water available since the trail stays at this high elevation. Jerry successfully attached the flaky stove to the second (and final) LP gas bottle. He planned to just leave the stove attached to the gas bottle. Jerry made another fire.

Thursday - To Grave Canyon – Woke at 6AM. Stove worked very slowly. We were all packed before the water finally boiled. In about 15 minutes, going south on Trail 30, we reached Trail 164 where we headed East. There was an initial climb but the trail was basically level for several miles. There was intermittent shade in the Ponderosa pines. We saw 6 fellows who had 2 dogs. The dogs had packs too. The fellows all had new, modern space age equipment. We made excellent time through lunch. We thought there would be a great view of Hell’s Hole but it didn’t turn out that way. We saw two other fellows twice. They had a GPS but their map seemed to be lacking. We saw them twice because they had to backtrack.

Our midday water source was the big tank (pond) at Woodland Park. We left our packs and headed up Trail 12. The trail is sketchy but we found the tank. To be sure we would have enough water to get to the car on Friday; we filled every bottle we had which was more water than we had carried to that point on the trip. We backtracked to Trail 164. The sun was directly overhead and we walked into a patch of low scrubby Pinion Pines which gave no shade while we were walking. It was about 95 degrees. We met a man and woman riding horses and pulling a pack horse. We walked until we couldn’t walk, and then rested until we couldn’t rest (due to the flies). Repeat for 2-3 hours. Even though we had enough water, we were looking for the other tank on the map. It seemed to be about half way to the car from Lilley Spring so it was a good objective for the day. We found it approximately where Norm had calculated it would be in GPS terms. It’s off the trail and down a hill to the left. We didn’t bother to top off the bottles.

We walked another 30 minutes and back into the nice shady Ponderosa Pines at Grave Canyon. We couldn’t wait to stop. This day had been like the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon, flat, exposed to the sun and generally debilitating. Norm put the tent up without the fly. An hour with no flies (the 6 legged variety) was priceless. Played Mystery and Trivia after dinner. Never even got 5 out of 6 but went to bed anyway. It was a little warmer than the other nights so we didn’t need to wear gloves. Even Norm slept under the stars.

Friday – Cliff Dwellings and the Car – Awoke at 6AM. Stove was slow again. This is the last trip for this stove no doubt. We were walking by 7:30. We made good time on the level trail. We had moments of doubt at a trial junction. One option seemed to be blocked by a log but not definitely. There was no sign. We took the most traveled trail and it seemed to work out. At the intersection with Trail 28 we took it south towards the National Monument. We stopped to check out the views as the trail went near the edge of the canyon. There were great views of the West Fork of the Gila River. We took several pictures here. About 15 minutes down the trail Norm realized he had left his canteen hanging on a limb at the scenic spot. He dropped his pack and made the round trip in 15 minutes. We went down into the canyon of the West Fork. We met a group of three fellows who were the only people we saw until we got to the National Monument. The trail near the river is rocky and loose, more like a Grand Canyon trail. We finally got to the river, crossed and found a shady place to clean up. We had two crossings. We changed into sandals. The current is quite noticeable. Norm could use up the final battery on the GPS so he had it in the “find home” mode which kept giving distance to the starting point.

The trail ended right at the entrance to the Cliff Dwellings, so we dropped our packs and climbed up the path and stairs to the dwellings. It is very interesting. There are many, many rooms and much of it very well preserved. There was a knowledgeable guide to answer questions and take our picture.

Jerry walked down to Woody’s corral to get the car. We headed for cool refreshment at a colorful gift store just outside the park. They had a little of everything; books, gifts, food, gasoline, pop and ice cream. We drove on to Silver City and had our traditional Steak dinner with fresh salad at the Red Barn. We got a room at the Comfort Inn.

Saturday – Cat Walk and back to Albuquerque – A ranger at the National Monument had recommended that we visit the Cat Walk We enjoyed the side trip on the way back to Albuquerque. There is a stream rushing through a narrow canyon and you basically walk above it.

At you will see that “The Catwalk, a National Recreation trail along the canyon of Whitewater Creek, is a unique feature of southwestern New Mexico. Located five miles east of Glenwood (take Hwy. 180 to 174), it presents an always vibrant journey along a path reflecting the region's mining history. The canyon was used as a hideout by both Geronimo and Butch Cassidy.”.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bruce Trail

Ontario, Canada
September 3 – 6, 2007
Bonnie and Norm Kern

The Bruce Trail Reference Trail Guides and Maps – The Bruce Trail Association
The Bruce Trail by Rich & Sue Freeman – Footprint Press – Describes a hike of
the complete Bruce Trail.
Website for the Bruce Trail Conservancy -
Shuttle -

The Bruce Trail meanders for approximately 465 miles along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara Falls to Tobermory, Ontario. Various parts of the trail are within a few hours of Toronto, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York, or a half day drive from Detroit, Michigan. For our four day hike we chose some of the northern most miles on the Bruce Peninsula which extends into Lake Huron. This hike is described on maps 39 and 40 from the above noted Reference Trail Guides and Maps. Our hike started at Kilometer 136.6 and ended at Kilometer 168.4. This stretch is reputed to be the most demanding of the whole Bruce Trail.

Camping is limited to established campgrounds. For Back Country and Group sites within the National Park call (519) 596-2263. For Cyprus Lake Campground booking information and fees call 1-877-737-3783 from 7 am to 7 pm or by internet at (24 hour service).

Side trips before the hike
- We drove to Tobermory from Detroit on Friday, August 31. Tobermory is a very nice little town at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula which extends out into Lake Huron. It is a summer tourist town and since this was Labor Day weekend in the US, Tobermory was very busy. We stayed at the Blue Bay Motel which overlooks Little Tub Harbor, all the shops, pubs and restaurants. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony outside our room. Everything is within walking distance in Tobermory. We can recommend breakfast at the Princess Hotel, dinner at the Leeside and Mermaid, and deli sandwiches from the grocery store. On Saturday we walked to the National Park Headquarters. We watched the movie, and stopped to climb the observation tower which affords wonderful views of the nearby islands and the Niagara Escarpment to the east. The Burnt Point Trail gives a taste of what the Bruce Trail will be like and gives nice views of Lake Huron. On Sunday, we took a Zodiac boat out to Flower Pot Island. We were the only people on our boat and there was only one Zodiac ahead of us so we expected to have the Island pretty much to ourselves. As we landed we saw the camp sites of people who had kayaked out from Tobermory. That would be a nice adventure. Unfortunately, a large glass bottomed tour boat had stopped off shore and was transporting people to the island so we shared “our” island with several dozen other folks. We walked north towards the light house which is a very nice walk. The Flower Pots are quite amazing limestone formations from when the lake level was higher. The light house keeper’s house was interesting and included many historic pictures. We had a nice lunch and snooze at the water’s edge. The squirrels were very used to humans and were fearless in their quest for food from our backpack when we left it on the ground for a moment.

To High Dump – The Thorncrest shuttle met us at 9 AM above Little Cove, as arranged, and drove us to our starting point, at the end of Crane Lake Road. The trail seemed to be a logging road and now perhaps a snowmobile trail. The exposed rocks had many scratches or gouges that seemed to be caused by metal. This stretch of trail is a nice shaded walk in the woods. We met a party for each car that was parked at the end of the road. Once we accounted for all of the cars we expected to be alone. The first person we met was a fellow who was running with a pack on his pack and a smaller pack on his chest. He had run from High Dump, our destination. (Dump, in Canadian logging country, is a place where logs were slid down the cliff into Lake Huron, where they were gathered into rafts and transported. Dump does not mean a place for trash as it does in the US.) This stretch of trail is gently rolling but more down than up. The final pitch down to the camp site was quite steep. A rope had been installed to make the climbs down and up a bit easier. We started walking at 9:45 AM and were at camp by 2:30. 8 Kilometers.

At the bottom of the pitch there was a sign but no map of the campground. We just wandered around until we found site number 8 for which we had the reservation. All the sites have large wooden platforms. This is good, because there is little smooth, level ground. The limestone is exposed everywhere. We had the whole campground to ourselves. We enjoyed the “beach” which has NO sand. It is made up of limestone rocks from 3 inches to 30 feet in diameter. We waded and rinsed and then read our books in the sun, enjoying the sound of the waves in the background. Norm went back to the tent to get a snack and found squirrels attacking our packs. We kept the food with us down on the beach. We filtered water out of Lake Huron.

We enjoyed Backpacker’s Panty (blue pouch) Hawaiian Chicken, which has no freeze dried taste. After dinner we hung the food on a bear pole which was provided by the park. It has a nice pulley system. This avoids the hassle of finding that perfect tree with the limb that is low enough, yet high enough, and long enough to keep the food safe from the bears or other varmints. We fell asleep about 9PM but then woke up later and took a walk down to the beach to see the stars. It was very clear so the star viewing was excellent, with the Milky Way, a satellite but no falling stars. We then went to the outhouse by flashlight. We hadn’t memorized the route so finding it in the dark was a humorous challenge.

On to Storm Haven – We enjoyed a pretty sun rise but then nothing but cloudy skies. We were walking by 8:30. The Bruce Trail from High Dump all the way to Little Cove is very rugged. The lime stone is exposed everywhere and is rough. It demands a great deal of attention to choose your footing. There are endless short descents and ascents, many of which are steep. This trail is more rugged than any hikes Norm had done outside of the Grand Canyon, including trails in Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and along the Pacific in California. Bonnie first cracked her hiking stick and then broke it at the worst possible instant (of course). Fortunately, she didn’t injure herself when it broke, but it was supporting much of her weight at the time. We learned that once a stick is weakened it should be replaced immediately. We found another stick right away. We saw only 2 backpackers but we saw several day hikers from Cyprus Lake Campground. There are many overlooks where you can see the limestone cliffs both to the east and west. We always like the pictures which show “We came all this way.” We wondered at the trees which grow out of seemingly solid rock and at many strange angles with bends for seemingly no reasons. A sign at Halfway Dump indicated only 2 km to go. We thought it meant 2 km to Storm Haven, but now I believe it was 2 km to the trail head. It was actually over 4 km to Storm Haven. The misunderstanding that we were “almost there” made it seem even further. With about 2 real km left, it started to rain. We put on our slickers and put plastic bags on our packs and then, of course, it stopped. In total this day was 11.4 Km or about 7 miles.

The pitch down to Storm Haven is made easier by some nice wooden stairs. The bear lines and the out house are at the top of the stairs. All the rocks at Storm Haven are flat. Everything is horizontal. At High Dump everything was basically round. One wonders what forces cause these differences. We found our reserved platform and set the tent up immediately. It then started to rain again so we tossed the packs into the tent and climbed in behind them. It felt good to be done for the day and to be off our feet. It stopped raining long enough for us to have Stroganoff for dinner, hang the food on a bear line, and visit the outhouse. We saw a single fellow at another site and a couple frolicking in the lake with their air mattresses. We went back to the tent and read and fell asleep. During one of Norm’s nocturnal walks, he saw some familiar items from his “snacks for today” bag, which he had forgotten to put in the bag on the bear line. Some local varmint must have enjoyed his snacks including the last of the chocolate.

Short walk to Cyprus Lake – Camping on the Bruce Trail is only allowed in official camp grounds, and we were lead to believe that penalties were heavy for infractions. There are few camp sites in this stretch of trail so we had to make a compromise. From Storm Haven to Little Cove is 17 km (over 10 miles) and we didn’t want to have any day that was quite that long. A campground at about 162 km would have been nice. The compromise we selected was to have a very short third day. We hiked only about 4 km (2.5 Mi) into Cypress Lake campground.

We awoke to continued rain complete with thunder. We rolled over and went back to sleep. Norm eventually went up the stairs to retrieve the food from the bear lines. It had stopped raining and there was some blue sky. We had a leisurely breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. As we reached to the top of the stairs, it started to rain one last time. We ducked into the out house and waited it out. We put the plastic on the packs again, just in case, and started walking about 10 AM. The tree roots, which are exposed on the trail, were quite slippery and even the limestone was more slippery than when dry. We had to watch our steps even more carefully than on the previous days. The trail took us down to beaches twice. It is tough walking on all the loose limestone rocks, since they tend to act like big ball bearings when they move. On the beach there are no trees, so the trail blazes are painted onto boulders or are on short posts. All of the Bruce Trail that we walked is very well marked with 2 inch by 4 inch white blazes that are otherwise on trees. There is almost always at least one blaze in sight. Even where there is not a blaze, there is little doubt about where the trail goes. There are few side trails and the forest is so dense there is little temptation to leave the trail. Again the trail includes many ups and downs. We started to ask ourselves, “Is this descent really necessary?” The day brightened and eventually we could see our shadows.

On the third beach section we were pleasantly surprised to find a sign for the Horse Lake Trail which took us to the Cyprus Lake Campground. We were even more pleasantly surprised that this trail is smooth, level and soft. What luxury. Once in the campground we found no signs or maps directing us to our reserved camp site. We had to impose on another camper, who had a map, to find our way. We were close to our site and had not walked far out of our way. We hung out all of our wet stuff including clothes and the tent. As soon as Norm hung out an empty food bag to dry there was a squirrel sniffing around it. Again we took our food with us everywhere we went. We were visited by a beautiful butterfly that hung around for several minutes and a few pictures. We split a tuna salad for lunch, and found evidence that varmints had gotten into the food that was on the bear line back at Storm Haven. (Actually there were not actual poles at Storm Haven. There was a line stretched between two trees and separate pulleys down from this line. Perhaps the varmint crawled across the horizontal line to our food? Perhaps we should not have pulled the food all the way up to the horizontal line? Good thing we brought enough food to share.) We cleaned up in the nice bathrooms and then went for a dip in Cyprus Lake which has real sand. We enjoyed freeze dried chicken breasts for dinner. How amazing are those things? At first they feel like graham crackers, but after 10 minutes in a little boiling water they become real chicken again! We tied the food up in a tree over a neighboring campsite. We found some fire wood and enjoyed a little fire. We never saw a camp ranger.

Long Walk to Little Cove – No intruders in the food this time. Walking by 8:40. Marr Lake Trail is more rugged than Horse Lake Trail. We were plagued by flies. They definitely didn’t care that we had Skin So Soft on. We had to put our long pants on and keep long sleeves rolled down. There is some private land in this stretch and we crossed a road for the first time in the trip. There were some lakes on the map so we could better judge our location and progress today. We had lunch at the halfway point. The middle of the day included a stretch where the walking was much easier. There is an especially pleasant part that runs through a limestone gap. We saw a large hole that would allow someone to climb down into a limestone grotto overlooking the lake. The climb looked pretty tricky so we just looked. Next to the hole there was a post with a number 8 on it. Attached to it was a special punch. There was a card with several punches in it. Close examination indicated that you could possibly win various things if you could get various numbers of punches, from presumably multiple locations. We laughed when we saw that second prize was 4 tons of, guess what, limestone! Anyone who has walked the Bruce Trail has seen enough limestone for a life time.

We took the side trail to the sink hole. It is about 60 feet deep and over 100 feet across. We took a short nap on the ground cloth. We only saw day hikers today. We saw three loons pretty close up near Loon Lake. We were stopped when we saw a huge poodle come bounding out of the woods. It looked out of place with its traditional hair shaping. It was followed by a party of four. We met a mother and son who hike on the Bruce Trail every year. As the day wore on Bonnie started to suggest that they need to build bridges across more of the down and up places. She even threatened to wait until a bridge was built before she would cross one such place. The closer to Little Cove we got, the happier we got. There were a few people there on the beach when we arrived. One took the traditional “We did it” picture and we walked up to the waiting car. This day was 14 Km or almost 9 miles.

We arrived back at our hotel and found a very different Tobermory. The crowds were gone and already some businesses were closed for the winter. We celebrated our hike with a wonderful whitefish dinner at the Princess Hotel. We gave each other foot massages, watched Peyton Manning play football and fell asleep.