Saturday, May 14, 2011

Where to go next?

If any of you have done 5-7 day backpacking trips, I would be interested in where and when. We are always looking for a new place to hike.
1. Trip should be about 55-65 miles long with little to no road walking.
2. Weather needs to be dry 5 out of 7 days (on average)
3. We take our trip in April, May or June every year. Evenings need to be above 45 degrees.
4. We've done the Ozark Highlands Trail and 3 connecting trails in Georgia. We enjoyed both trips, but to be honest, about all we saw was trees. We enjoy some vistas or rock formations or something different and interesting.
5. If you can also get to the camp grounds or vistas by car, its not what we're looking for.
6. It needs to be in the United States.
7. Currently considering a trip here in Michigan along the North Country Trail and through the Pictured Rocks National Park.
We'd appreciate any suggestions you may have.

Ballad of Norm and Jerry

Sung to the tune of the Ballad of Jesse James
Norm and Jerry sought adventure
They were looking for a trip
Jerry said “Hey le-t’s backpack.”
They asked “Where shall we go?”
“Let’s walk down to the Colorado”
And the Grand Canyon tradition was born.

Norm makes the plans, Jerry cooks without a pan.
Every year we eat freeze dried stroganoff.
Every trip is seven days and somewhere there’s a maze.
Come home safe and sound every time!

We train to 16 hills
Then we leave out all the frills
Do we really need the tent this year?
To the airport we go early
Air travel is so squirrely
Took 3 different planes one year.

We were stuck at Papago pitch
It was quite a fix.
We couldn’t find a way to climb.
We waited for a boat (pause)
Then we planned to float.
Said “screw it” and we climbed it anyway.

It was our second trip
The first day was blue chip
Hermit, Boucher, Ton-to to Slate.
The trail down Slate was steep
Made for mountain sheep
We said No and headed back again.

Two couples came to raft
We rode inflatable craft
Sturgis told u-s tall tales.
We slept on the ground
Privacy could not be found
Jan and Trina were great sports anyway.

Horn Creek had a massive wave
Norm’s raft could not be saved,
Lost glasses, hat and had a cold swim.
Lava Falls we had swimmers
But we all felt like winners.
George made it with on-ly one oar.

We had been to Tanner twice
The routine was so nice
But we forgot the T-SA
When it ca-me time to cook
For matches we did look
Making sparks was the best that we could do.

The feds were making catches,
Luckily they gave us matches.
Yes, they sav-ed our trip.
And if it was our first
You might understand the thirst
But we did Beamer 4 ye-ars before.

The guide book mentioned brush
How could it be so lush?
Merlin - more than we had bargained for
Cactus needles in our hands
No trails across these lands
Ponderosa spring must be here somewhere.

The route Jim found amazing
At the river, his knee was blazing,
Jimmie got a helicopter ride.
We kept half his tent
And we kept half his clothes.
He had to make do with the Lost and Found.

Preseason if you please,
With snow above our knees
We post holed to the North Rim
Over Utah Flats we cruised
And swam through Phantom pools
Rim to rim to ri-m is so cool.

On Kanab number two,
Johnny had the flu (pause)
We didn’t mind that boat ride anyway.
We, on number three, refrained
until the ankle sprained
That’s the only thing we tried but could not do.

Grand Canyon we love most,
Second place is the Lost Coast
Northern California is the place.
On the beach we walked
Giant elk we stalked
W-e loved the low tide wild life.

We crossed the Gila River
At night we had to shiver
The trail brought us to the Indian Ruin.
The stove was barely working
Starvation surely lurking
Jerry found a way to nurse it to the end.

On the Ozark Highlands Trail
We climbed o’r hill and dale
Ev’ry night we check-ed for ticks.
At first we smelled the smoke
Then thick enough to choke
We finally stepped right through the open flame.

On the Georgia Loop (pause)
We met quite a troupe
A fellow with a day pack and a dog.
We got so sick of rain
It was such a pain
We left our packs and hitch hiked in a truck.

At pictographs we looked
Where Anasa-zi cooked
How did Kirk get that buckboard to his ranch?
We bushwacked to the Green
It became an ugly scene
No matter where we looked there was no trail.

Norm hikes every spring
Bonnie can live with that thing,
as long as he takes her now and then.
At the North Rim we began
Walked across the silver span.
Bonnie hiked across the Grand Can-yon.

Nanc’ and Amy were so sad
They wanted to hike with dad
Nan-c’ said I ha-ve vacation days.
The permit said Clear Creek
Jerry said “It is too bleak.”
Piano Alley to the Promised Land.

Bonnie’s poles we employed.
Cool weather we enjoyed.
Lawrence gave us inspiration
Tonto Trail is on the edge
This Jerry would allege
Down Tanner he would rather skateboard.

Started at Point Reyes
Best camp sites of our days
Strangers in Sky 10
Redwoods and waterfalls
Big Basin has them all
and there we shared a spoon.

This year Jerry will go light
Every ounce he’ll fight
at Big Ag-nes he will draw the line.
If we take the UV light
Giardia will be a fright.
His pack will wei-gh 50 pounds again.

This song may have no end
Every year a verse is penned
We wonder when we’ll stop
Norm just keeps finding places
We tighten up our laces
And climb those 16 hills again.

Every verse of this song
Has its own story long
We can’t tell the details with tune
If you have a while
We’ll tell each with a smile
Stories let us live it all again.

Norm makes the plans, Jerry cooks without a pan.
Every year we eat freeze dried stroganoff.
Every trip is seven days and somewhere there’s a maze.
Come home safe and sound every time!

Tanner, Escalante, Tonto, Grand View Trails

April/May 2011
Photos available at

Down Tanner – We awoke at the Red Feather Inn, Tusayan AZ, at 5:00. Had McDonalds for breakfast. Norm dropped Jerry and the packs at Lipan Point at 7:15. Norm was hitch hiking with his Lipan Point sign from Grand View by 7:30. Had a chance to maybe talk a fellow into giving him a ride almost immediately but did not try. Norm practiced the appeal he should have used as he walked about two miles. He eventually waited near the first place a car could pull off the road. A pickup came from the opposite direction and turned around in the side road. The driver invited Norm to climb in. He had just dropped his wife off for a trip down New Hance Trail. He knew from the Lipan Point sign that Norm was a backpacker. He came back specifically to give Norm a ride and apologized that he hadn’t picked him up on the first pass but his truck was full at that point. He had been a river boatman for a couple decades. He is 71 years old and had spent over 10% of his life below the rim. He had done more than 180 trips, including one with an Arizona governor.

The rim temperatures were forecast to be below freezing and we had sweatshirts but it was very pleasant that morning so we left our sweatshirts on the rim. We started down the Tanner Trail at 8:50. The trail has many switchbacks and is full of rocks, large and small, to climb over or slide down. We took two breaks before the saddle. We stopped for lunch under a shady tree on the traverse around Escalante Butte. Norm didn’t like the looks of the mayo he mixed with his tuna so he ate beef jerky instead. After finishing the traverse around Cardenas Butte we went down the Redwall break. It is not as steep or loose as Norm remembered it. (He didn’t have a stick the first time.) (The first section of Tanner, through the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino down to the saddle, may be the most difficult portion.) Once you start down the Redwall the trail remains reasonably steep through the Muav too. Met two parties of two fellows coming up. One was going to camp just above the Redwall. Temperatures were pretty cool and did not exceed 85 dry degrees.

We camped on a nice flat spot overlooking the trail about 200 vertical feet above the start of the Dox. We stopped for the day at 4:20. There was one camp site between our site and the Dox, where there are no flat spots. We dropped our packs and walked down the trail into the shade and rested until the shade reached our site. We had reached the river on day one on two other trips, but were satisfied to stop when we did. Had stroganoff for dinner and played trivia until 7:30. It was already dark. Great stars tonight and all nights on this trip. Norm saw shooting stars every night. Temperature was cool so we basically wore just about everything we had with us. Socks, two shirts, long pants, stocking caps, and rain jackets. This was true for all subsequent nights. Maybe it would have been worth the weight to have those sweatshirts?

To the River and on to Cardenas Creek Beach – We awoke at 5:15 and were walking by 6:30. Much of this walk was in the shade, because of the time of day, which was nice. We arrived at Tanner Rapids at 8:00. We rinsed clothes, shaved, and filtered some water. Found a shady spot with a view of the rapids, and read for a while. Had lunch and started for Cardenas beach about noon. We arrived at the beach at about 1:30. Bathed and rinsed clothes again. About 3:00 a private boat party asked if they could share the beach. They offered beverages, dinner, and to take our trash. We agreed. Almost all were nice folks, but somehow boat parties always seem to feel they are rescuing backpackers. The question this year was “So, were we your last hope for a hot meal?” Answer, “No, we would have had something freeze dried, but it’s tough to get freeze dried lettuce salad.” They also had some beverages we weren’t carrying. They were mostly from the same family with a few friends and three hired boatmen. Most of the equipment was rented. They had originally requested a permit for a private boat trip 17 years ago, and it finally came through.

Around Escalante Butte – We awoke at 5:15 again and were walking by 6:15. Boat party offered coffee but we had already eaten breakfast and were on our way out of camp. It was windier than we had ever experienced in the Grand Canyon. On occasion it would blow us off the trail or force us to halt until the wind subsided again. Norm was thinking about traversing the Butte in wind like this. It seemed dangerous. (Our first trip had been very windy. We had to tie our hats to our packs because they continually blew off.) We again missed the trail to the Indian ruin, even though the river guide had told us it was a “must see”. We were pretty distracted by the wind. This may explain why we were so shocked to find ourselves within about 5 feet of the real edge overlooking Unker rapids. This is a huge drop and we knew the trail worked its way over from prior trips. It was still a shock when we realized how close we were. As usual, Jerry moved over about 20 feet.

We took a break in a sheltered water course, and from that point until we reached the western end of Escalante Butte, wind was thankfully not an issue. The Butte seemed to shelter us. The walk up to the eastern end of the Butte is pretty easy but once you arrive, there are moments of notable exposure. The most memorable example involves the three triangular stone steps of trail jutting out of the cliff wall between which there is only open space. Most of the rest of the Butte involves narrow sloping trails with Dox sandstone sloping above and below. The sheer drop off, if there is one, is below the Dox. There is a bit of boulder hopping in the middle as you cross some rock slides. There is more to hold onto here. The final portion of the Butte trail is sloping Dox again. The trail stays somewhat low and does not reach the end of the Butte until you are well beyond the end of the Tapeats that is perched on the top of the Butte. Norm thought we were almost done twice before we actually reached the nose of the Butte. The trail runs right down the nose for about 30 yards. There are breathtaking views upstream and downstream from there. On the backside of the Butte, the wind was strong again, but it was blowing us “into” the side of the Butte so we did not feel vulnerable. The trail seems to be taking you down right into the creek bed but it goes back up again after crossing the creek. There is a nice shady niche just past the creek crossing. We have had lunch there on all four trips. The trail eventually does go right down into the creek bed and is a fun walk down this slight slot canyon. It jumps out to the left to avoid a long pour off. The trail is steep again until it reaches the creek bed at the bottom. We arrived at the river at 12:15. It turned out that 6 hours was about our preferred work for the day for this and subsequent days. We could go as fast as we used to but not for as long each day.

There was a party of 4 who were resting at the river before they set out again in the direction we had come from. Somehow they didn’t know the trail went up the creek so they walked upstream down the beach into the scratchy, bushy stuff. After maybe an hour they came back and Jerry pointed them up the creek. We put out a cairn in the creek to help others in the future.

We read, washed, bathed, and shaved. We took a short walk down river but barely made it to 75 Mile Canyon before going back to camp. We took our books back up Escalante creek to find shade until the sun set. We had Hawaiian Chicken for dinner. Package asked for much too much water. We slept among the tammies. The beautiful beach was all washed away, again. Jerry personally encountered 5 mice.

75 Mile Canyon and Popago Pitch – Walking by 6:40. No hurry. Not many miles today but thrills and chills were anticipated. We reached the “go down” point in 75 Mile Canyon by 7:30. We decided to go up 75 Mile Canyon further. We walked about a half hour until we were blocked by a pour off. It wasn’t very high but the bottom receded and we couldn’t get a foot “hold”. Jerry tried piling stones and Norm tried to jam a log but neither approach worked. It looked like someone may have climbed a vertical route on the right, but it didn’t look like fun. By 8:30 we were back at our packs at the “go down” point. For perhaps the first time in our Grand Canyon experience we chose a spot in the sun to rest. It was too cold in the shade. We enjoyed a slow walk down to the river. 75 Mile Canyon is Jerry’s favorite spot in the Canyon.

We took the beach route towards Papago Pitch. It goes high at the end but that’s how it always seems to go in the Canyon. We were at the Pitch by 10:00. We decided to hang out there for a while to break up the day. We walked down river to see if the beach beyond the eddy was far or near, as it had been in 1991. It was far. There is no way we would consider swimming against the eddy current now. Norm climbed the pitch without a pack while Jerry took pictures for this blog. We read, napped, and ate lunch. Jerry finished his book, so Norm cut his book in half, giving Jerry the first half so Jerry would have something to read while Norm could still finish the book.

We climbed the pitch about noon. Norm showed Jerry how to take the easy route to the left at the top but Jerry thought it had too much exposure, so he, again, went up the center, even at the top. There are no hand holds, so he lunged and Norm pulled him up by his pack. We worked our way up and to the right but Norm couldn’t get up through the crack in the bolder. Jerry showed it could be done and Norm made it on his second try. Jerry started down the scree slope before we noticed there was a party coming up. They took cover and waited for us to come down. The route is pretty well worn now but is no more fun than it was in 1991. Norm put his telescoping pole on his pack for most of this descent. We settled our pulses at the bottom in a wonderful shady spot before climbing through the tammies over to Hance Rapids. Even though this was our fourth time over these obstacles, they got our hearts pumping and the adrenaline flowing.

We were alone at the north end of the beach at Hance Rapids and eventually camped there. There is a nice “kitchen” with a bench and plenty of “tables” for the stove, etc. There are about 400 square yards of nice soft sand to sleep on. We walked down to see the rapids. There is a whole lot of turbulence going on, and it goes on for about a half mile. Looks like no matter what side you start on, you have to cross the river to avoid something very bad. We saw what looked like an approaching cloud and started to get our stuff ready for rain but it didn’t move toward us and eventually dissipated completely. At the end it looked more like smoke from the North Rim, which corresponds to a controlled burn plan. We ate Mesquite Chicken. It was very tasty. Bed by 8:00. Coldest night yet. No mice encountered. Clear skies again.

From Hance Rapids to Hance Creek – We awoke at 5:30. Ravens were hanging around to see if they could rob our packs of something. Walking by 6:45. We found monument sized cairns at the north end of the beach. Yes, the trail goes up right away. The first hour is quite rugged with boulder fields and steep gullies to cross. The incline of the climbing decreases and the trail gets less rugged through Hakatai shale. We met a younger fellow whose companion had cancelled at the last moment. He was doing our trip in the opposite direction.

He made a big deal about our retro Jansport packs. We had to admit we were not early adopters of new technology. We stuck with good old fashioned canteens with shoulder straps until 2007, when we switched to camelbacks. We never adopted Nalgene bottles at all. Used wooden sticks until this year when it would have cost an extra $70.00 to get them on the planes, so we brought Norm’s wife’s collapsible aluminum sticks. Jerry talks about buying a UV light water filter but Norm basically refuses to trust it. Jerry tried an internal frame pack on two trips but without the 5 extra zippered pouches on the outside he could never find anything. He found a “retro” Jansport on EBay this spring. We used big, heavy LP gas stoves until 2006 when we got our first Jetboil Zip stove.

Eventually the trail passes through the Tapeats sandstone and then is perched near the edge of the abyss of Hance Creek for another hour plus. The trail is on Bright Angel Shale about 4 sloping feet from the edge but it seemed to be “right on the edge” to Jerry who doesn’t like heights. We arrived at Hance Creek at 12:30. We rested on some shady Tapeats ledges and then chose a camp site amongst the other parties who were already set up. I don’t think any of us could see the others from our respective sites. Norm finished reading the last page of his book just as Jerry finished the “first half”. Norm then started Jerry’s book. What a team.

After dinner, Lawrence came over from his site. He was hearing a noise he couldn’t identify and thought it was coming from our direction. Jerry heard it too. We never figured it out but agreed it was coming from the creek. Lawrence was 69 and doing the Grand View, Escalante, Tanner trip by himself. He had a SPOT emergency alert device in case he had a true emergency. We talked about the misuse of these devices. He hopes to keep backpacking for another 4 years in order to “beat” his regular companion who is older and who had retired from backpacking. We discussed Nankoweap, which we had all done.

Norm had an Outsak wire food bag which is basically pest proof. He hung it very near Jerry’s sleeping spot. Jerry thought he heard some gnawing but there was no visual evidence of any intrusion in the morning. When Norm got home, he washed out his gorp zip lock and found many “pin” holes, probably from that same evening.

We played trivia again. We were not very successful with American Presidents as we had been unsuccessful with artists and authors on previous nights. This was the coolest night yet. Norm wore two pairs of socks on this feet with his pants tucked into his socks and another pair of socks on his hands. It’s hard to turn pages in a book with socks on your hands.

Hance Creek to Grand View Overlook – Up at 5:20. Walking by 6:37. First part of the hike is perched on the edge of the abyss again, then the trail turns left and works its way up towards Page Spring. The Tonto Trail continues to the right on around Horseshoe Mesa. We had planned to add water at the spring but we deciced we had enough. The trail to the spring is “right on the edge”, so Jerry didn’t mind that change of plan. The trail up to Horseshoe Mesa was not as difficult as Norm remembered it. He had clear visions of huge step-ups that went on for an hour. There were only a few such huge steps. He had forgotten the narrowness of certain bits of the trail. There are a few Redwall switchbacks that are very narrow and thus exposed. It would not be a trivial “walk in the park” to go down from the Mesa to get water at Page Spring. We were on the Mesa by 9:00 and left the at 9:30. The trail to the rim was more difficult than we remembered but last time, we started from the Mesa, not from Hance Creek. It is more “on the edge” than we remembered. Jerry said he would rather go down Tanner on a skateboard than climb out Grand View again. Norm felt just the opposite. We had lunch with us but Norm was motivated by the thought of a salad at the Desert View snack bar, so we just pressed on. We arrived at the rim at 1:00 PM. We had that salad and then viewed much of our trip from the Tower overlook. We then got another room at the Red Feather Inn, and had our traditional steak dinner with plenty of side dishes at the steak house in Tusayan.

Dripping Springs Day Hike – After having breakfast, and taking the shuttles, we started down the Hermit Trail at 8:40. The temperature was cool and going down was wonderful. We eventually zipped off the bottoms of our trousers. We encountered a few parties starting or finishing multi-day hikes. We followed the signs to Dripping Springs. At the first fork the other trail is the Hermit Trail which goes down to Hermit Camp and the river. After the split there were about 30 minutes of the trail being “right on the edge”, and this time there were no 4 feet of sloping shale. This trail is truly right on the edge in the Hermit Shale. Eventually the trail leaves the edge and goes back up to the spring, which drips out of an overhang in the Coconino Sandstone. (Another trail continues on the edge over to Boucher Creek.) The overhang provides plenty of shade at mid day. We arrived at 10:50. We had lunch in the shade. Jerry filtered water from the spring for our walk back out.

We started back at 11:40. The hike up seems to be about 80% Coconino Sandstone and only about 20% limestone. It seemed like we’d never got out of the sandstone. We encountered many day hikers going down and passed a few going up. We were happy that we had done most of our hiking early. There was a couple who were hiking up in jeans. Norm said under those circumstances, he would be tempted to hike in his underwear to get out of jeans. We were motivated by thoughts of cool Coke at the Hermit’s Rest snack bar this time. We arrived at the rim at 2:08, an elapsed time of 2:28 which we thought compared pretty favorably to the 2:10 it took to go down. We had our Coke, took the shuttle back to the car and drove down to Phoenix, with a stop in Flagstaff for a salad bar at the Sizzler.