Day 55, 27.5 miles, hack canyon
I think I got kissed by a frog last night. Something wet landed on my face and then jumped off. Yuck! Otherwise the camp site was lovely.
The walking is a bit easier this morning and it’s so pretty. The creek runs dry a little ways in and it’s such a weird eerie sight. Same canyon but super dry, it feels like a boulder graveyard. Sounds echo and are not drowned out by rushing water.
To my surprise it’s starts running again a few miles later. Wet feet once again. I have lunch next to the stream and it’s lovely. Brenna and Nicole haven’t caught up and I don’t see them again.
Now there are some horse trails to follow which makes the going a lot faster and I’m at the Hack Canyon turn off before I know it. There is some sort of trail through most of it. And there is a spring as well. Only thing is, my notes say it’s radio active so I better not drink that water. I wonder about the cows around here though. They are obviously drinking it, how does that affect them? And what does it do their milk or meat? Mmmm…
Eventually I make it to a dirt road and a register. Cheetah is now a day ahead, he’s moving fast again. I push on so I’ll be close to my water cache at Hack reservoir and hopefully will make it to Colorado city before I’m out of food. Rations are getting pretty low.
I find a bit of gravel to sleep on in the dark, and interesting place to sleep but it’ll do.
Day 54, 14 miles, shower bath springs
I start hiking around 5:30 am to hopefully beat the harsh sun getting over the ‘most tedious boulder field ever’ as it’s labeled on the map. The hiking is indeed slow over boulders but at least it’s not nerve wrecking. I actually expected worse after that description and the one in the guidebook.
There is definitely something blooming in the canyon that I’m reacting to. I’m congested again like I was earlier in the canyon. I take some anti congestion medicine and it seems to be working. At least I seem to be breathing a little easier.
While I’m careful not to trip and twist my ankle on the rocks I completely miss the snake who is curled up asleep on my path. I see him when I’m stepping over him. Eep!
Brenna and Nicole catch up with less than a half mile of bouldering to go and we have lunch at the Kanab Rapids. It’ll be our last break at the Colorado River so I soak up the view.
There is a big motor raft beached but nobody is around. I keep hoping for Pringles (I’ve heard it’s a rafting staple) but no such luck. Perhaps if we had waited ten more minutes for the boat man to return from his swimming hole we could have had some. He seemed really nice and asked us if we needed anything but by that time we were already in Kanab Canyon. Haha.
Kanab Canyon is a beauty but it’s also slow going. We criss cross the creek many times and have to find our way around giant boulders. The water is warmer than the Colorado River and we go swimming. I’m finally hiking with others who like swimming! Woohooo!! It’s been cloudy all morning which has been great for our time along the Colorado but now it’s getting hotter so the swim is nice and refreshing. It’s so good that I do another quick dunk a while later.
All the hiking today has been tough going but so beautiful! We end up at Showerbath Springs which is flowing well. The water is coming down from a giant overhang and ferns are abundant. It’s gorgeous.
To get there there is one last obstacle. Brenna offers to get my pack so I can climb it. Without my pack I instead elect to wade around. The water is a little deeper than I anticipated however and I end up full on swimming around the giant boulder. Wheeee!!! A little chilly at the end of the day.
Since I’m soaked already I pose for a picture underneath the shower bath springs. After the sun goes down the frogs go crazy and I’m currently listening to a very loud choir of frog songs. Yowza!
Day 53, 19.5 Miles, fishtail rapids
It’s sooo cold in the morning! It must have been around freezing again.
We continue the road walk and soon lose the snow. I thought there would be water at a mapped water tank but the cows are gone and there is no water. Luckily we all have some left from last night’s puddle.
The last road we’re on is all cleaned up and driveable and we see one car drive by and a few parked at and several overlooks. At the first overlook we chat with the people there. They have a nice setup to sleep in their car and their view is amazing. We snap some photos and ask if they have some water to spare. Luckily they do and now we enough to get us to Deer springs close to the bottom of the canyon. We don’t know how hot is going to be so we’re happy with the extra.
We arrive at the Bill Hall trail which is the trail we’ll be taking down. There is a sign which has photos and descriptions of two missing hikers. I heard that they were swept away at Tapeats creek. It gives me the chills. Those poor people.
We continue to a nice viewpoint and have a snack. It’s weird to go down to the Canyon again. Yesterday I was pretty sure I was going to roadwalk all the way to Colorado City but this morning I was feeling good and ready to take the trail again. It’s funny what some easier hiking, food and good company can do.
The Bill Hall trail turns out to be a really cool trail. It has a long section of slick rock and we even see a condor. It’s flies very close to us. So cool!
We find a nice shady overhang for lunch which is great since it is getting hot again. The wildflowers are abundant. Pinks, orange, yellow.
When we get to Deer springs I’m impressed. It looks like a giant water fall flowing straight out of the rock. Very powerful flow.
We’ve seen some hikers today and there are a bunch camping down here. It’s a beautiful spot and it gets even better when we walk on. There are narrows with the creek flowing through to the Colorado River. We walk along on ledges and peer down to the water below. At some point it’s so deep down and narrow that I can’t even see the water anymore.
Back at the Colorado we have to find our way on game trails to Fishtail Rapids. Once we find the trail it’s not that challenging but getting there has us go on a steep gravel slope and I’m terrified of slipping. I hope there is actually an easier way to get up there but for now I’m glad we survived.
I did have a run in with a cactus. Ouch!
We get to a little beach at Fishtail Rapids just before dark and I’m pooped. That was a long day of hiking!
Day 52, 23 miles
We’re hiking on and off in snow today. In the morning it’s easier to walk on since we don’t sink in at all. Later it gets a bit softer but we don’t have any serious postholing. There are numerous fallen trees over the road which we have to scramble over or crawl under. It doesn’t make for the fastest road walking ever. Springs are gushing and flooding the road, it’s pretty impressive.
At one point Brenna spots another bison, I see a big brown mass moving and Nicole misses it altogether. I also see three big birds soaring up in the sky.
I walk by myself in the morning and check out a lookout tower but unfortunately the cabin is locked and there isn’t too much of a view from the stairs.
I catch up to Brenna and Nicole at their lunch break and we walk together the rest of the day. They’re great company.
Nicole wishes for a fire ring at camp and we actually find one right around the time we want to stop hiking. Perfect!
Brenna builds a small fire and we enjoy the warmth while having dinner. How sweet!
Day 51, 18 miles, at viewpoint over the canyon
I start hiking at 4 am to make sure that I will make it through the closed trail section before 8 am. I only have to cover about 5 miles but I’m not sure how steep the climb is and how slow I’ll be. As it turns out I could have slept another hour but then I would have been worried.
The trail goes by roaring springs and the waterfalls across the valley are indeed roaring. So much water!
When I get closer to the north rim there is a helicopter below. I’m impressed with the ability to fly and land in such a narrow canyon. The work crew is walking down past me now and there is another crew doing trail work about 1/3 mile from the rim. I thank them for their work.
Finally done climbing I lay out my pad in a sunny spot and rest and snack some. There is quite a bit of snow around but the road is dry. Cheetah shows up and then Brenna and Nicole. Cheetah takes off before we do and I hike with Brenna and Nicole on and off for the rest of the day. They’re great company.
We follow a tiny bit of Arizona Trail to the Point Sublime road and walk in patchy snow. It’s beautiful up here with big ponderosa pines and some aspen. Melt water is streaming all around. Our feet are getting pretty wet but at least we don’t have to worry about running out of water.
We are chatting away and wondering if the big footprints in the snow are from cows which wouldn’t make sense since we’re still within national park boundaries. Then we see them. A small herd of bison! About a dozen of them are grazing right in front of us! So cool! They’re not as tame as the ones I’ve seen in Yellowstone as they run off as we get closer.
We continue our roadwalk and find an excellent place to set up camp. We have a great view across the canyon towards the south rim and mountains in the distance. Dinner is on some cool rock formations while we soak up the views. Good times!
Day 50, 15 miles, Cottonwood campground
I have some coffee with Ben or ‘Cheetah’ a fellow Hayduker. He sets off down the canyon while I take care of my resupply. I’m pretty sure I’m buying too much food but it all looks so good.
When I’m in my tent organizing my food bag, the Hungarian hiker I met yesterday stops by and says he couldn’t get any permits until Friday. I invite him to come with me to Cottonwood since I have a permit for two people still (I was hoping someone would join me for this stretch). He looks pretty fit and I ask him if he thinks he can do the mileage. He thinks so and we make a plan to meet in about an hour and then head down the canyon.
I make some phone calls, pack up and we’re at the south Kaibab trailhead around 12:30pm. It’s a nice temperature at the rim with a sweet breeze and the down hill hike isn’t too bad. My backpack is very heavy again because of all the food but this stretch might take 8 days. Who knows?
Loads of tourists are hiking down and up. The up does not look pleasant. Some mule trains pass us going up as well.
The views are obviously awesome again and Jan (I’m shortening my Hungarian friend’s name here because I don’t know the actual spelling) gets to see the Colorado River for the first time. We snap a few pictures and continue on. He wants to hike a section of the PCT this spring and we talk about what it’s like. Yes, the trail will be easier than this trail. Haha.
We make it to Bright Angel Campground around 3:30 and do a late lunch in the shade. I love this place!
The Bright Angel creek is rushing, I haven’t seen it this wild before. All the snowmelt from the north rim must be feeding it.
We both enjoy the last seven miles in the shady canyon towards Cottonwood camp and to my surprise Cheetah is there. I thought he would have hiked on to the north rim already. And there’s more! I’ve finally caught up to Brenna and Nicole! I’ve been seeing their footsteps since day 1. It’s so fun to meet them and exchange experiences. They had a rough one at it in the Bull Valley Gorge as well. It even started raining on them. And the day I stayed in my tent all day they were getting snowed on in Bryce. Ugh.
We all talk about the stretch coming up and are worried about Tapeats Creek. Two of my phone calls this morning were with my friend Sirena and her friend. Both very knowledgeable about the Grand Canyon. The confirm my concern about hiking Tapeats creek and Saddle canyon. Saddle canyon might be doable but both will have lots of water and might not be safe. Sirena suggests a road walk around and that sounds like a good idea to me. I
tell the other Haydukers about my plan to road walk around the dangerous section and they had been thinking along similar lines.
It’s too bad I have to cut the chatting short since I have to get up really early tomorrow morning. There is a work crew out on the north Kaibab trail during the day and the trail will be closed during that time. We can pass through if we make it to Supai tunnel before 8am. That means getting up before daylight. Sigh.