Grand Canyon Northern Loop

The aim for our final week was to visit new territory to us on the northern side of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. We chose to try a loop hike, starting at the Indian Hollow trailhead and dropping down to Thunder River, before heading to the relatively popular Deer Creek and then to the Colorado River. From there we would hike along the river downstream off trail on rough bouldery terrain for about 7.5 miles to Kanab Canyon. We would then exit the Colorado and hike a long way up Kanab Creek then Jump Up Canyon, Sowats Canyon to reach the Jump Up-Nail trailhead. All that would be left then would be some jeep tracks and cross country over the wooded plateau back to Indian Hollow trailhead.

Saturday 13th October 2018 Starting from the town of Kanab, we drove towards the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park, firstly on tarmac, then a long good quality dirt road due south. There were lots of hunters camped along the way in cold and frosty sites in the high altitude and shaded ponderosa pine forest. The last 5 miles of off road driving turned a bit rougher with a few deep puddles, but with some nice autumnal aspen in the roadside forest. We were delighted to see a couple of Kaibab squirrels with their distinctive long bushy white tails and pointy ears.

Indian Hollow trailhead was still in the trees, but in a brighter open spot beside some wooden corral fencing. Leaving the car at midday with 6 days food, we looked forward to potentially the longest hike of our holiday, backed up by a reasonably positive weather forecast after the previous rainy couple of weeks. A short stroll on a trail took us to the edge of the forest and the lip of the north rim of the Grand Canyon- always an impressive sight!

We followed the clear trail down the first cliff band to the ‘Esplanade’ – a wide fairly flat terrace between cliffs- and this made for easy walking as we headed east to join with the more popular Bill Hall trail. Some cool slick rock slabs with good looking water in potholes provided an excuse for a stop to admire the scenery. Once on the Bill Hall trail we saw our first other hikers of the day but most were setting up camp and we continued on to the top of the next cliff band known as the Red Wall where we collected water from another pothole for our own dry camp tonight. Here we had our first view of the muddy brown Colorado River, still a long way below us and we descended steeply down a rubbly trail through the Red Wall into Surprise Valley.

The temperatures had been cool today and we felt that we had lucked out as this area can get oppressively hot even in the autumn! Surprise Valley itself hangs above the Colorado River and is the result of huge historic landslips. Once in the valley we headed east to set up camp just before the divide above Thunder Springs. There were rain showers passing through but we stayed dry throughout the night with our tent nestled in behind some boulders.

Sunday 14th October 2018 A great day! We take a short side trip down to the unusual feature that is Thunder Springs – a huge waterfall emerging from underground and through the middle of a cliff surrounding by lush greenery supported by this perennial water source. The views beyond were cool too with Tapeats Canyon snaking its way down to merge with the Colorado.

Picking up the camping gear we headed back on trail across the dry arid ground of Surprise Valley to cross the divide on its north side above Deer Creek, followed by another steep descent down to the creek. The low light and clear air resulted in beautifully coloured walls either side of us. There were gushing springs feeding into Deer Creek and we had a stop there under some cottonwoods. The hike down Deer Creek to the Colorado River was an absolute delight- initially through lush greenery and cactus then on rocky terraces through a steep striated and sculpted canyon. We found some hand print pictographs on the rock walls.

We exited the canyon all too soon but had the grand view of the Colorado River a few hundred feet below us now. Down at the Colorado we wondered around the stunning waterfall as Deer Creek plunges over the final cliff to the Colorado and met some other people as this is a popular spot for river rafting groups to take a break.

Thankfully the temperature was only a little warmer here as we now had an exposed bouldery, trackless walk alongside the Colorado River. We left the boating groups and started picking our way through boulders right down at river level, before using rock terraces to traverse under a ‘Tapeats’ cliff band to reach a small spit of sand. Resting here under a tamarisk we enjoyed a little breeze sweeping down the river and we debated the way ahead as we knew we needed to climb up steeply at some point to avoid being cliffed out. We noticed a few cairns just above the sand spit and climbed steeply up a scoop in the rock to reach a wide sloping terrace above which made for easier headway- and birds eye views down to the river.

We crossed a little gorge and Martina took water by scrambling down to a small pothole perched above a steep drop- one of our best water sources ever! Shortly after that we came across Siesta Spring which also had good water- and it was running. Onwards, we pass a cool jumbly conglomerate wall then drop back to the river at Cranberry Canyon. We decide to stop at the confluence of Fishtail Canyon and the Colorado River. A short stroll up Fishtail revealed some cool canyon walls and more clear water in large potholes. Also near our camp we saw some ‘scraping rocks’ which must have been used in the past to sharpen tools.

Monday 15th October 2018 The going along the river was slow, mostly through boulders with very occasional trail and some bushwhacking near the river. We make steady time though and take about 3.5 hours to cover the 4.5 miles to reach Kanab Canyon. The scenery was stunning with the shadows shifting as the sun rose through the morning and we enjoyed this cross country hike under the towering cliffs of the canyon. A few rafts pass us on the way and they helpfully ask us if we need anything or would like a lift down to Kanab Canyon! Brian was tempted but Martina resolutely wanted to keep hiking!

The water was flowing strongly out of Kanab and is a brown muddy colour- a sign that the recent storms are still having an effect. I (Brian) was concerned that we may not make it up the canyon as I had read that there are tricky deep pools to negotiate even at normal water levels. We knew we could expect the extra obstacles of high water levels, soft sand and mud and some storm debris of logs and branches.

A challenge can be good for us though(!) and we set off anyway and at a fast pace up the cobbly river banks with frequent muddy river crossings. Kanab is a beautiful canyon with unbelievably high limestone walls and constant twisting and turning. We passed under a sublime huge striated alcove with water dripping over the edge in a curtain from above. After about 2.5 hours we made it to the junction with ‘Whispering Falls’ canyon and its strong clear flow of water. This was to be our turn around point if things were too difficult, but we had no thoughts to that now and kept wading up canyon heading for a possible camp near a landmark tower at ‘Scotty’s Hollow’.

The going got tougher with a series of large dank muddy pools and car sized boulders to scrabble over and round. Each presented a test for us to work out how to get round them- wade deep pools, burrow under them through gaps or scramble up the canyon side? Surprisingly, we meet a large group of student age hikers coming down canyon- if they have made it thus far then we could relax in the knowledge that we should be able to make it up river.

Eventually we arrived at Scotty’s Hollow, a large side canyon from the west with clear running water and at a tight ‘u bend’ in the canyon overlooked by the lofty ‘Scotty’s Tower’. We found a good camp above the river (in case it floods again) but under a cave with loose looking rock unfortunately which made us a wee bit nervous lying underneath protected only by tent fabric. That was a 10 hour day of wet, silt, boulders, pebbles, scrapes and cuts but we both are feeling good if a bit tired. Interestingly for future planning, our pace up Kanab in these conditions was about the same as that boulder hopping along the Colorado River.

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Tuesday 16th October 2018 Survived the night with no rock fall! We headed up river, still wading the muddy stream and scrambling over huge boulders. Reaching another landmark that is Showerbath Spring, we admired it’s cool hanging ferns streaming with clear water. The going eased a bit from there for 2.5 hours before we hit the junction with ‘Jump Up’ canyon- our exit from Kanab Canyon and a chance for dry feet as it was bone dry! Resting here we watched some ubiquitous but always fascinating ravens soar alongside the canyon walls.

Jump Up was narrower and, with smaller canyon walls, provided quite a contrast. The limestone canyon provided lots of ammonite fossils in the pebbles as well as colourful red agates. These limestone canyons have quite a different feel to the sandstone canyons further east, such as the Escalante canyons, which have smoother sweeping walls of the Navajo and Wingate sandstones. Here the limestone is more broken, but equally colourful and full of variety as well as fossils.

As we climbed upcanyon it soon opened out and we split into another side canyon called Sowats- this had clear running water and was greener with cottonwoods now appearing.

The hiking was now mellower and we stopped to take water for overnight at the gushing ‘Mountain Sheep Spring’ and looked at some pictographs on a nearby wall. A cairned trail provided an easy exit out on the south side of the canyon and back onto the Esplanade terraces. We hunted around a bit for a good campsite away from the trail and on the sandstone slickrock before claiming a viewful spot perched on a rock ledge above a small overhanging rock.

Wednesday 17th October 2018 Great to see the return of the sun in the morning after a cloudy chilly day yesterday. We set out south on a clear path along the Esplanade to reach a clump of cottonwood trees marking our exit climb out of the Grand Canyon. It was cold as we climbed up the trail in the shade to the Jump Up Nail trailhead and we grabbed the chance to take a rest when the sun first hit us. Lots of fossils beside the path and expansive views back across the Esplanade to the other side of Kanab Canyon. At the trailhead we hit a dirt road for a few miles back on the rolling plateau and pinyon -juniper vegetation. To get back to the car we mostly cross countried southwards from here and luckily for us the going turned out to be easy and rather pleasant through open woodland crossing a few dry washes. We got hit by a couple of hail showers though which forced us to keep up a good pace to stay warm!

Back at the car, we didn’t hang around as snow started falling and we were keen to get through the initial jeep tracks before the snow started lying. It was a sprint but we made it back to the town of Kanab and the end of a fantastic mini-adventure!

More photos here

 

Hackberry Canyon-Yellow Rock-Paria River

Sunday 22nd October 2017 Arizona Humphreys Peak

We drove down to the Flagstaff area in northern Arizona and climbed the Arizona’s highest point,  Humphreys Peak (12,633ft or 3,851m) using the standard route up from the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area. It was cool to be in forest with pondarosa pine, douglas fir, then aspen up to limber pine and bristlecone pine on the highest ridges.  Above we had views around northern Arizona and to the pitted landscape of volcanic cones. Being the highest peak, there were a fair number of hikers around with an excellent trail to follow. I guess though, the peak didn’t have particularly dramatic views compared with what we have in our own sunny Scotland so we decided one day was enough for us and we would spend the last few days before we flew out back in the canyon country of southern Utah.

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On Humphreys

Tuesday 24th October 2017 Hackberry Canyon

The aim for our last couple of days in Utah was to visit the Hackberry Canyon, Paria River confluence and find somewhere nice to camp overnight. From Page Arizona we drove over the Colorado River, past Big Water then left the tarmac to head north up Cottonwood dirt road for about 12 miles to near the foot of Hackberry Canyon. The light was sharp and clear and the cottonwoods looked particularly golden and autumnal.

With Michael Kelsey’s guidebook in hand we hiked east uphill to the top of Cockscomb ridge on steep dirt road then cross country to the top of the ridge itself. The panorama was cool with great views over rippling sandstone layers and slickrock to Yellow Rock, Castle Rock and Powell Point way in the distance to the north. We then hiked north up Hackberry Canyon which we rather rushed through previously on our 2014 Hayduke hike. The twisting canyon was beautiful and a healthy stream rushed over the sand and between the curving red walls. As the canyon opened out further upstream continued up through cottonwoods to rustic Watson Cabin in a technicolour scene of gold, reds, greens under a deep blue sky.

Back at the car, we packed the camping gear and headed uphill again this time to the west to the top of the amazingly colourful slabs of ‘Yellow Rock’. We found a superb camp near to the summit on slickrock and pitched the tent just before the sun set.

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From the Cockscomb south down Cottonwood Creek
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Lower Hackberry
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Watson Cabin, Hackberry
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Camp, Yellow Rock

Wednesday 25th October 2017 Yellow Rock, Paria River

We awake early in the morning to see the sun rise and it quickly warms to tent up for breakfast. Stroll over Yellow Rock down to the natural feature ‘the red cairn’ where the rock patterns are particularly vibrant. The peak to the south provided some slabby scrambling – this whole area is cool! We then followed a faint trail west then south back down into the ‘box’ canyon of the Paria River past some lovely cactus rock gardens amidst pinyon juniper forest – very mellow!

Once down in the Paria we hike up to the old movie set (last movie filmed here was ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales’) nearby situated under some particularly colourful Chinle rock formations. The heat began to build in the afternoon and we were happy to splash back down the Paria through the box and up Cottonwood Wash back to the car to complete a great little mini trip!

 

 

 

Paria River Backpack II

Friday 30th September 2016 The next morning we were up before 7am but as we were moving around we noticed that the river had started roaring! The river had increased in height by more than a meter and had turned chocolate brown with silt. Branches were coming down with the river and the flow rate had massively increased with standing waves where we had crossed yesterday evening from the spring. It looked like a flash flood had come through and we thought ourselves lucky with our tent perched on a sand flat a few meters above the river level. The river looked impossible to cross and, as our intended route was to continue down the river itself we were a little trapped!

[Click image to see the video]
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We sat watching the roaring river and set sticks up at the waters edge to monitor the height of the flow. After an hour or so the river level went down a little which gave us hope.

The river valley looked to widen out with a trail marked on our map starting about a mile downstream . If we could bushwhack down the south bank of the river for a way to stay out of the water, we could perhaps make it to the trail and continue downstream for a while before having to cross the river. So we decided to give it a go….

After some scrambling through willow, tamarisk and under some boulders we did hit an intermittent trail of sorts and we kept hiking.

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We soon hiked onto the ‘Chinle’ rock layer which here was colourful and soft providing a welcome shelf above the river for us to walk on. We stopped at a side canyon – ‘Bush Head’- and scrambled up to find a spring with fresher water to supply us for the day.

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The heat began to build after that as we headed downstream on sandy banks high above the river which was now lined by cliffs. We halted at a boulder, the only shade around, and were interested to see it had a petroglyph- we weren’t the first to find shade here!

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Eventually we dropped down a steep sand dune back to the river at the now abandoned Wilson’s Ranch. Our guidebook suggested it might have a spring, but after lot’s of searching, we gave up trying to find water and slumped down in the shade of some cottonwoods. We needed to get to the other side of the river but it was still running too strong to cross so we pitched the tent to try again in the morning. Both of us were rather thirsty by now so Martina took the brown silt laden liquid from the river and filled our ‘platypus’ water bags with the hope that the silt would settle to the bottom overnight.

Lo and behold, the dirt and silt did settle to give us about 2/3 rds of a liter from each of the 3 water bags. After treating it with our ‘Aqua Mira’ water purifier tablets it almost tasted fine!

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The water levels had definitely dropped overnight but the first crossing was still a challenge in thigh deep forceful water- but we made it. From there we strolled on with three other crossings to good trail on the final few miles to the tarmac road near the campsite at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Now for the challenge of getting back to our vehicle, 74 miles away in Utah!

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We needn’t have worried, after hiking down the minor tarmac road a few miles towards the main highway 89A, we got a lift for the final 3-4 miles to Marble Lodge – a gas station, diner, PO and motel. Fortified by some lunch, we started hitching and got two great lifts; firstly from a Navajo family then from a Mormon family returning to Salt Lake City area. Back at the car we drove to Kanab for a welcome shower and fresh food. What a great trip down the fantastic Paria River!

More photos here…..

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Paria River backpack I

Tuesday 27th September 2016 Our first backpack of this trip was to follow the Paria River down its lower section for about 40 miles or so to it’s confluence with the Colorado River. This was supposed to be one of the most spectacular canyon hikes around and we were so looking forward to it!

After an enjoyable morning hike in Snow Canyon state park near St George Utah, we drove east over to Kanab Utah to shop for food and then carried on about 40 miles east to the small Paria Visitor Center to pick up our permits for the hike.

We were told that a recent flash flood down the canyon had made hiking difficult with more water in the river, mud, quicksand and flood debris. Also that our intended start along a super narrow canyon called Buckskin Gulch for 14 miles before joining the Paria might not be possible due to deep pools and mud! We decided to still go for it but amended our plan to avoid the Buckskin start.  However we still hoped to be able to explore a part of Buckskin from the main Paria river.

The dirt road  was also closed a  mile short of the start trailhead, as it had been washed out by the flood, so we parked our car by the closed signs and sorted our gear for the hike out on the dirt road. We then set off in lovely low light at about 5.30pm for a short evening hike and soon reached the trailhead with a register…..

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At the Paria River trailhead

We dropped down to the river in a wide basin and followed it down making many pleasant splashy ankle deep crossings. The bed was sandy and mostly easy although there were some soft patches of mud where we sunk down into its squelchy depths!

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First of many Paria River crossings in the evening

The river basin soon steepened to rocky canyon walls…..

0927-img_0857-pariaAfter an hour or so we found a petroglyph site and soon after a sandy bench to set up camp. A grand start and it was great to back in canyon country!

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Wednesday 28th September 2016 We had some rain overnight so we both dashed out to put the outer tent on for shelter- other than that there was a clear sparkly sky to enjoy. We awoke at 6.30 and after a fine muesli breakfast we both were up and keen to hike down the canyon. After a few miles the canyon walls constricted and we were in the famous ‘narrows’.

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The ‘Slide’ in the Paria above Buckskin Gulch

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The scenery was splendid with huge twisting rock walls of ‘Navajo’ sandstone with lovely alcoves, holes and towers. The river occasionally reached both sides of the canyon but was never more than knee deep. Soon we reached the confluence with Buckskin Gulch and we decided to drop our backpacks and hike up Buckskin for a while to explore.

Buckskin was beautiful with it’s own character- narrower and darker than the Paria with only a tiny flow of water but mostly an easy flat sandy bottom. In 2014 we had hiked down from the other side of Buckskin 14 miles upstream for about an hour. We need to come back and complete the full traverse – it is unique and amazing!

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A snake in Buckskin Gulch…it didn’t look bothered by us thankfully

Back at the Paria we hiked down more great canyon to ‘Big Spring’ – some lovely clear water gushing out of the canyon walls. We picked up water here and hiked on a bit to find another scenic camp on a raised sandy bench above the stream and under some cottonwoods. Today had been both successful and scenic. We both had injury fears before starting but the tremendous scenery, the warm weather in the 20’s C (but not too hot) and the variety of intermittent crossings of the river, sandy benches and occasional trail seemed to work wonders for us!

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Thursday 29th September 2016 More rain with distant thunderstorms overnight so again we scrambled out to put the outer tent on! The river level was up and flowing faster in the morning as we headed down river to an area called the ‘Goose-necks’ – a particularly winding steep walled canyon section. This was one of the most dramatic hiking locations we have ever been in! We stopped at an old 1930’s cast iron pump ‘Adams Pump’ for a break- it was intended to be used to transport water from the river up a pipe onto the plateau to provide water for cattle. It never went into operation, and looked remarkably well preserved!

[Click here or the image below for a short video clip]

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Adam’s Pump

After lunch we left our backpacks again and explored another side canyon – ‘Wrather’ which had lush vegetation, deep red walls and a stunning arch higher up- it was definitely worth the trip.

After more, deeper splashing down river, we came across another petroglyph rock art before a good dripping spring. We filled up our water bottles then waded across the river to camp across from the spring. Spanish rice, tea and biscuits for dinner with canyon wren song, bats overhead and glistening stars – another great day!

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Datura in Wrather Canyon
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Wrather Arch
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Climbing up above the cottonwood trees in Wrather Canyon

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Go to part II of our Paria river hike here…..

Autumn 2016 in the US south west

We returned to the desert and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona in September/ October 2016. Two years ago we hiked and kayaked our own version of the Hayduke Trail. Having enjoyed it so much we returned this year with a rental car to hike to some other canyons and interesting places. Whilst we wouldn’t get the full immersion of a multi month hike such as the Hayduke, we were aiming to target some of the most spectacular places in the region with some trips ranging from  1 to 5 days.

You can see an overview in the interactive map below and read our blogs listed below too…

  1. Paria river backpack I
  2. Paria river backpack II
  3. Escalante river, Death Hollow, Bowington and Boulder Mail trails
  4. Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons I
  5. Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II
  6. Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone slot canyons day trip
  7. Canyonlands National Park- Horseshoe canyon
  8. Canyonlands National Park- Salt Creek backpack
  9. Farewell to the Escalante area- Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons
  10. Video summary from our hikes (6 minutes)

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Hayduke Trail 2014

The Hayduke Trail is a 800 mile hike and scramble txUSA-google-map-390hrough the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona USA. The route links six stunning National Parks…. Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion.

The route connecting the parks stays pretty much in public lands including the wonderful Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and numerous National Forests, BLM Districts, Primitive Areas, Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas. Our blog pages are below and our website pages have info for hikers and lots of links.

Pre hike

  1. Off to the US to hike the Hayduke
  2. Hayduke Planning
  3. Hayduke training
  4. Move
  5. Getting sorted to get going
  6. First Impressions

The Walk

  1. First 3 days in Arches National Park
  2. Paddling down the Colorado River
  3. The Colorado River to Hanksville
  4. The Henry mountains and Tarantula mesa
  5. Capitol Reef National Park
  6. Into the Escalante canyons
  7. Escalante!
  8. Round Valley Draw to Hackberry Canyon
  9. Paria River
  10. Into Bryce Canyon National Park
  11. We cross over to Arizona
  12. Descent down to the Grand Canyon
  13. Hiking along the Grand Canyon
  14. Exit from the Grand Canyon
  15. Final hike to Zion National Park

Post hike

  1. Normal tourists!
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. Sangre de Cristo mountains backpack
  4. Pecos Wilderness New Mexico

Exit from the Grand Canyon

26th May Grand Canyon South Rim
We met up with Li Brannfors and friends Jen and Jasper who kindly let us stay with them in their South Rim national park lodgings. Today was a lovely relaxing day, catching up with things on the internet, eating lots and generally chilling out.
We reserved a campsite at Cottonwood Campground for our intended crossing of the Grand Canyon tomorrow to the North Rim. Well, it was almost booked out, but we got a place in the overflow mule area!

27th May Grand Canyon South Rim to Cottonwood Creek 18 miles
Alarm at 4.30 am Utah time (3.30 Arizona time!). Thanks to Li for a great stay!
Off hiking around 4.20 in the dark to reach the rim of the canyon again to start descending the Bright Angel trail into the canyon. We dropped height easily on a zigzagging path in a valley, soon heading into the shade of beautiful green cottonwoods and flowing water at Indian Creek campground.

Following good trail down easily into the inner gorge of the canyon led us into different rock types of schists and granites to the Colorado river itself. We were able to cross the river on a suspension bridge here and hiked a short distance to Phantom Ranch (this is a park lodge and campsite set in a deep side canyon near the bottom of the Grand). We made it by 8.20 am after a 10 mile easy, scenic and enjoyable descent. Both glad to have started so early though as it was already roasting (maybe 30 C) at Phantom Ranch even this early.

Picking up water, we had a look at the canteen and 1920’s style chalet buildings which all look pretty nice. But we headed on and now had the uphill part of the day ahead of us climbing towards the North Rim of the canyon on the popular North Kiabab trail. The hiking was on good trails, firstly following a stream flowing through a deep canyon made of ruptured schists and pegmatites- this rock scenery was very much like that in Scotland and was familiar to us!

The heat really cranked up though after about 1 and half hours hiking when the valley opened out and we had less shelter from the sizzling sun. A stop in the shade by the river revived us after we soaked our T-shirts in the river and wore them wet to cool us a little. It worked!

It was a relief to stop at a waterfall – ‘Ribbon Falls’ at 11 am for another cool down. We hid there from the sun for almost 6 hours under a deep mossy overhang with stalagtites; reading, dozing and chilling out under the waterfall. Some wild mint made for delicious tea and we had some frogs for company – perfect! Our thermometer recorded 36 C in the shade.

Eventually in the evening we hiked onwards, climbing up to Cottonwood campground which remained uncomfortably hot into the late evening.

The bridge over the Colorado River

 

 

 






28th May Grand Canyon Cottonwood Creek to North Rim 8 miles
It was uncomfortably hot overnight and at 3.30 am it was still 24 C and we decided to get up and hike on. Leaving at 4.20 am in the dark felt good and the trail was clear with head torches- climbing upwards towards the rim at 9,000 feet where we hoped it would be cooler!

Above Roaring Springs the light crept in and the scenery was beautiful with red rock walls and a ‘Dolomitic’ style trail traversing cliff edges. We made it to the top at the North Rim after about 3 hours and it was refreshingly chilly – it felt good to wear a fleece again. Also there was Ponderosa, White fir, Douglas fir and Aspen trees around, a great contrast to the dry inner Grand Canyon.

North Rim has a national park visitor centre, lodge, campsite and lots of tourists but is quiet compared with South Rim and we liked it. We find the laid back campers store and have a relaxed coffee and cake on the veranda- excellent!

Our dinner was a luxury mix of Idaho mash potato, black beans and salad, washed down with a bottle of Chardonnay- way hey! A campsite talk by park rangers on bats ends a wonderful relaxing day after the early start.

 

29th May North Rim rest day 4 miles
We were both happy to chill out today and take a stroll around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the views.

The evening park ranger talk is ‘Ravens’ – a specialty and love of Martina’s!

The heat of the inner Grand Canyon had been getting to us and we agree not to do the next section of the Hayduke which descends back into the canyon for a particularly tough hike where we felt that the heat would prevent us enjoying the marvelous scenery. We will need to come back earlier in spring or in autumn some day to do that!!!

Instead we decide to hike out north on the Arizona Trail tomorrow to the National Park entrance to complete a loop hike in the Grand Canyon National Park. Then to hitch back to near Zion National Park to do the final two days of the Hayduke Trail. It’s disappointing not to continue on the Hayduke but we would have been miserable hiking in these hot temperatures.

On the North Rim of Grand Canyon

 

30th May North Rim visitor centre to North park entrance on AZT 14 miles
After posting our ‘float box’ of spare supplies at the PO to Zion National Park, we hike north at around 9.40 am on the Arizona Trail. It was easy going through green forest of aspen and ponderosa in cool conditions at 9,000 feet – hoorah!

We caught up with another hiker- Shawney(?)- running the AZT, covering 30-45 miles per day. We caught him at our walking pace because he had run up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the morning and had now slowed down after that huge climb. After a fun chat we leave him and hike on and reach the north entrance of the park where we quickly hitched a lift north to Jacob Lake resort.

Hiking on the Arizona Trail through aspen
Brian at Jacobs Lake

31st May Jacob Lake to Kanab 0 miles
We took a day off today as Martina was feeling ill and we lucked out with a direct hitch to Kanab health centre (thanks!) and got taken straight away, diagnosed and antibiotics administered- our travel insurance was worth the money!

Hiking along the Grand Canyon

22nd May Little Colorado to Escalante Creek 18.5 miles 
We woke at 4.45 to get some distance in before the sizzling sun hit us again. The scenery and hiking was magnificent down here but the heat- was brutal! The trail now though was excellent, contouring up above the river on sandstone terraces (the tapeats rock layer).

The sun hit us alarmingly early, so we pushed on quickly before the heat built up too much. A stop at Lava Creek, where the trail drops about 1,000 feet to the main Colorado river, was pleasant as we arrived back into the shade.

Morning light on the Beamer Trail, Grand Canyon NP, at 7 am

From there we hiked closer to the river and saw our rafts from yesterday float by. The rafting looks fun but despite the heat, this hiking adventure is the way to go for us! We passed the Tanner Trail campsite and another three miles on to Cardenas Creek. Here the trail climbs up away from the river for a few miles but the heat was too much for us to consider doing that in the afternoon, so we stopped under some mesquite bushes next to the river for some meager shade.

A few hours were spent dipping in the river and lazing in the semi-shade. Haze came in – possibly from a nearby fire- although it didn’t cool the air much!

Riverside stop at the dry Cardenas Creek junction with the Colorado

We had dinner at 5pm and decided to hike on another 7 miles in the evening to the junction of Escalante Creek at the Colorado, which would give us a good camp with the Colorado river as a certain water source.

We set off at 6pm in deep haze with an orange globe of sun just penetrating through, but it remained sweaty and muggy. The terrain had a Mars like feel to it – exaggerated by the red haze. The character of the hiking here is unique as we climbed up the jaggy Escalante ridge with hazy views back down to the river. We walked at a flat out fast pace to make it back down to the river to camp before dark. Descending from the ridge on red soil we reached the black depths of Escalante creek which provided an enjoyable and surprisingly easy route down to the river. That was a great evening hike- we would love to do it again in clearer weather!

Hazy views from the Escalante ridge down to the Colorado

 

Hazy hiking!

 

Made it to a descent campsite just as it got dark!
23rd May Escalante Creek to Cottonwood Creek 13 miles 
Awake early again at 4.45 am feeling fatigued after some hard, hot days! It was a rough little trail bordering the rim of 75 mile canyon, which we had to deviate round then drop back down into to reach the Colorado again. The walls of this narrow canyon were a lovely smooth quartzite and there were fantastic large white datura flowers growing here (great looking flowers that give out a scent at night to attract moths).

Wow- we then came across a fresh dead bobcat lying in the base of the canyon. It looked like it might have fallen from the rim down the cliff, poor thing.

75 mile canyon

 

Bobcat

 

Datura
[We reported the Bobcat to the National Park when we reached south rim].
75 mile canyon opened out to the Colorado river again and we scrabbled along a great route following the river downstream including a steep climb at Papago canyon before a loose steep gully descent back to the river. A short trail along the river then led to Red Canyon, a lovely spot used as a campsite by rafters, where we took a rest and collected water from the Colorado.
Relaxing at the beach at Red Canyon for ‘mid morning snacks’ at 8am !

We now said farewell to the Colorado river for a while as we followed a good climbing trail (the Tonto trail) as it steadily ascended upwards on baked terraces with boulders, cactus, agave and big views. We made it to Hance creek around lunchtime with it’s small water flow amid cottonwood trees. There were campers here, our first other hikers seen in the Grand Canyon!

Next up we climbed for about 1.5 miles past Page/ Miners spring. Copper and silver were mined in the canyon in the 1890’s and there are some interesting relics around.

Climbing up to the flat area of Horseshoe Mesa was fun and we then dropped steeply back down again into Cottonwood Canyon. On discovering a tiny trickle of water under cottonwood and junipers, we declared an early camp here to rest in the shade and take on more water. It stayed cloudy in the afternoon even threatening thunder which was great for us and we could relax at camp out of the fiercest heat!

Near Page Spring

 

Typical Tonto trail scenery 1500 feet above the Colorado river but 4000 feet below the rim of the canyon

24th May Cottonwood Creek to Cremation Creek (dry) 18 miles 
A great evening in camp with some distant thunder and rain to cool things down. Both of us were tired- we went to sleep at 7! With an alarm at 4.30 am we were off hiking into the dark at 5.30 am with head torches. It was light enough at 6 am though as we left Cottonwood Creek and headed westwards in a huge arc on a plateau (the Tonto) way above the Colorado river itself.

There was a good trail on flat terrain which made for easy hiking and the most interesting sections were when we could look down from the cliff edges into the black depths of the Colorado.
Six miles in and we reached Grapevine Canyon – a potential water source. We split to look for water; Brian went down canyon on slick rock and Martina up canyon to successfully find some pools of water. Another 4 miles in and we found shade to rest in Boulder Canyon. The weather built up a bit and it didn’t heat up too much – which was a relief as this is frying territory!

From Boulder to Lonetree Canyon (our intended camp) was easy flat hiking with some bighorn sheep along the way. Arriving at  Lonetree we were delighted to find some small pools of water as this was a critical water source which we had heard dries up in early summer each year. We happily lazed around here in late afternoon watching frogs, lizards and chickadee birds at this little oasis.

We decided to walk on around 5 pm stocking up with enough water to do us overnight and tomorrow before reaching the south rim of Grand Canyon along with its shops and plentiful water!

Our trail continued on quite a burnt out, dry, desert landscape along the flattish Tonto plateau still. On reaching the dry Cremation Creek we found a pleasant camp spot and, since we aimed to reach civilization tomorrow, we splashed out by scoffing our spare energy bars with tea after our pasta dinner- luxury! Both of us are looking forward to showers and fresh food!

25th May Cremation Creek to Grand Canyon South Rim 8 miles 
Another early start to beat the heat, hiking out with head torches and adrenaline pre-dawn. This has been a tough, too hot, but fantastic hike and we push on fast along the flat to meet up with the very popular South Kaibab trail. This is the normal way for people to hike down from the Grand Canyon rim to the depths of the Colorado river some 6000 feet below.

There are other people around now as we turn south to ascend up the well worn trail for 4000 feet of climbing to the south rim, roads and town. We have light rucksacks with little food left, are now lean and fit and we charge up the trail at a fast pace, meeting trail runners, mule trains and lines of hikers of all shapes and sizes coming down in the opposite direction.
We reach the summit rim at 8.30 am to relax after a wonderful, but draining hike!

 

Being watched by ravens….

Descent down to the Grand Canyon

17th 18th 19th May Kanab -Jacob Lake to the top of Nankoweap Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
We had a rest in Kanab to let Brian’s insect bites recover aided by cortisone cream, food, coffee and beer! We liked Kanab. Firstly there is the great little outdoor shop ‘Willow Canyon Outdoor’ where you can sit in with a nice coffee and relax. Also we headed out to a pub called ‘The Dog House’ which is a vegan eatery as well. We had vegan cheeseburger pizza and listen to a live bluegrass band playing outside. Sign says ‘WAG MORE, BARK LESS’.

We had two hitches and a bit of waiting to make it out to Jacob Lake where we met another Arizona Trail hiker, Treker4(?)  Being a bit behind our permit dates for the Grand Canyon, we decided to hitch forward about thirty miles to Grand Canyon north rim vehicle entrance and hike for a two to three miles back onto the trail from there. This also gave us the chance to see a fire lookout tower that the writer and inspiration behind the Hayduke Trail,  Edward Abbey, worked at. A wonderful couple from Wisconsin gave us a lift as soon as we wandered out onto the gas station forecourt to stick out our thumbs.

The lookout tower was cool and we were able to scramble up the tower but unfortunately the cabin at the top was locked.

 

We then hiked along the Arizona Trail at around 9000 feet elevation before rejoining the jeep road of the Hayduke towards Nankoweap Trailhead. Carrying heavy loads with 7 days food and water to do us until the next afternoon made for sore feet. The hiking was easy though through ponderosa and aspen forest and we even glimpsed a couple of squirrels but were unsure if they were the famous Kiabab species.

Our first views of the Grand Canyon itself came when we reached the Nankoweap jeep track trailhead around 5 pm. It was hazy but even so it was impressive as our first ever glimpse into the Grand canyon itself! We hiked onto a ridge protruding into the canyon over a hilltop then down onto a small plateau where we set up camp under some ponderosa at a lovely spot. An evening stroll along the rim of the canyon to catch some late sun catching the cliffs of the canyon walls was a pleasure.

 

20th May Nankoweap Trail down to the Colorado River Grand Canyon 15.5 miles
This was an exciting day that we had been looking forward to- our descent of 6000 feet + down into the Grand Canyon on ‘the most difficult of the named trails in the Grand Canyon’.

It was very windy overnight with some strong gusts banging against the tent only giving us an intermittent sleep. Despite that we were up at 6 and away hiking by 7 starting with descending a tree covered ridge before we dropped off down into the canyon itself. There wass a clear trail to follow and for a while it traversed and undulated between cliff bands with tremendous views down into the canyon. Both of us were going well this morning with the shaded, rugged trail hiking and the exciting views.

Nankoweap descent

After rounding Marion Point we continued traversing before the trail descended south east more deliberately into Nankoweap Creek valley. The sun was on us now and the heat notched up into the high 20s C. The terrain wass much more arid as well with thorny shrubs and giant agave peppering the dusty ground.

Descending through some lovely colored rock layers of yellow, limestone white, green and black lava rock, the temperatures reached furnace like levels and we were super glad to reach cool shady cottonwood trees and trickling water at Nankoweap Creek for an early lunch break at 11:15.

We had heard that the Nankoweap trail would be difficult but we found it a lovely easy hike, it is the heat that could make it hard (especially if hiking in the other direction, uphill)- it looked like there has also been recent trail maintenance carried out here to ease the way- THANKS!).

We reluctantly left the shade to descend down the rocky wash towards the Colorado river. The temperature reached body melting levels and it started to fry our brains a little as we both got grumpy but stumbled on. Eventually we reached the huge Colorado river in the Grand Canyon and found a lovely beach to pitch the tent in the most amazing of settings. What a fantastic place!

First camp by the Colorado at Nankoweap
Camp cooking!

After dinner and the sun thankfully sinking below the cliffs, we had enough energy again for an evening hike 300 feet up to the wonderful Nankoweap granaries. These are believed to be food storage caves built into the cliff around 1100 AD. The situation is also a candidate for the best viewpoint along the Grand Canyon (IMHO)- tremendous! We descended back to the tent and rested with a late tea and bats swooping overhead.

The Nankoweap granaries built into the cliffs above the Colorado river

21st May Nankoweap granaries to Little Colorado river 12 miles

We were up early for a potentially interesting day on three counts:
-it would likely be in the 30’s Celsius again today,
-there was a reportedly rough section ahead following the west bank of the Colorado river downstream without trail over boulders and scrub,
-and lastly we would then have to try and get a hitch across the Colorado river from a raft or other boat going downstream (the Colorado is way to big, deep,cold and fast flowing for us to cross without a raft or boat).

Since we hadn’t seen any boat traffic on the river yesterday, the hitch might take a while!

We started at 6.15 am in the delicious morning shade with sandy animal trails winding round the deep thorny vegetation. For some of the way we managed to follow the shore, wading in the shallows of the river, but mostly we boulder hopped and bushwhacked for 9 miles through every type of spiky bush and cactus imaginable!

Torn, sweaty and disheveled we made it to a beautiful little sandy beach suitable for hitching a lift from a boat at 12:15. Wonderfully, the beach also came with an overhanging shady rock ledge to sit out from the blazing heat while we waited. We even snuck out from our protective shade for a refreshing swim in the river.

IMG_1819
Our lovely Colorado river hitching location

To be honest, it was so relaxing in our shade next to the beach in this amazing place, we were both quite happy sitting around chilling, but we have next to no spare food so we really needed a lift today at least. And lo! – a couple of hours later river rafts appeared round the corner and we leapt out and waved.

Phew! – the rafts from ‘Outdoors Unlimited’  outfitters happily agreed to take us a across!- and better, a mile or two down river to the junction of the Little Colorado and the Colorado rivers.

The rafts

 

The river raft guides were interested in our journey, and we in theirs, and we had a nice short chat before we landed at the other side of the river. We were now in a busy little spot after lot’s of time hiking alone. The rafts stopped here to let people out to hike up the Little Colorado river for a while. There were also researchers studying the ‘humpback chub’ – a fish that seems to like the mineral rich, limestone waters.

The Little Colorado is a big river in its own right, draining a large part of Northern Arizona, and it was a deep wade to get across.  A friendly researcher took us up river though to show us the best crossing point of this beautifully turquoise blue river. It was thigh deep but the water is warm, fed from hot springs upstream, making for a relatively easy crossing in the end.

We then picked up a trail again (the Beamer Trail) for some easier hiking we hoped. First though we sat out the oppressively hot sun in a shady spot and decided to camp nearby to hike on in the early morning tomorrow…

Martina crossing the Little Colorado
The confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers

We cross over to Arizona

12th May Out of Bryce south to Park Wash 20 miles

The next day we woke up to sunny snow cover and frosty conditions. Fortifying ourselves with breakfast at Best Westerns (hash browns, eggs, toast and pancakes) we were ready to take on our hike again!
We negotiated a lift back to our trail and were soon hiking on trails in the crisp post storm air at 9000 feet. Dropping down from Rainbow Point to ‘Riggs Spring’ brought us below the snow line to warmer air and lush green scenery of Ponderosa, White Fir, Douglas Fir, Manzaneta, Juniper and Pinyon.
Heading on south out of the national park we hiked on jeep tracks through more open but still pleasant country. We headed away from the jeep tracks into Bullrush Gorge which started as a dirt banked dry river but turned nicely into a steep sided gorge but this time with broken sides and trees growing from the walls. Deciduous trees here included oak and mahogany. It’s amazing how every canyon has it’s own character.
It’s always cheering to find water and Adam’s Spring didn’t disappoint- water flowed clear and healthily into an old bathtub just off the trail.
Our campsite was a mile or so south from here amidst some great sandstone tepees and we scrambled up the rock to have a splendid dinner amidst rock and ponderosa. Excellent day!
Heading south from Rainbow Point

 

Park Wash camp
13th May Park Wash to Highway 89 and hitch to Kanab 19 miles
Another cold clear frosty morning and we headed off at 7.40 with the aim of reaching the highway early enough to hitch a ride into the town of Kanab.
Hiking here was down a sandy bottomed wash to No Man’s Mesa. The wash had maybe 10 feet high dirt banks topped with sagebrush and there were lots of cows around. The views to the surrounding white vertical cliffs were great though. After a couple of hours we hit a windmill (not working) and better jeep tracks following a terrace above a wash. The valley was filled with a carpet of green grass and sage. BLM have signs marking restoration work done here which looked like it is having a positive effect.
Making good time on the jeep tracks, we meet two guys looking at artifacts from Indian settlements for BLM. They agreed to give us a lift into Kanab which we welcomed as we thought it might be a difficult and lonely hitch out here!
Kanab is a cool town but with a slightly pre-season feel to it. We checked in at the small Travelers Motel on the east side of town and it was a great place for us -sitting outside the motel munching bagels happily into the evening!
Brian striding towards town…
14th May Buckskin Gulch 16 miles
We get a ride back out along Highway 89 in the morning and are soon hiking down Buckskin Gulch in much warmer temperatures now.  The upper gulch is all beige limestone with marine fossils a-plenty.
We popped out to the dirt road of Buckskin Gulch trailhead. It was broad to start from there but with lovely red walls and swirly layers of sedimentary rock. We were back in the familiar (and favorite) red gold and orange sandstone layers of Navajo, Kayenta and Wingate. The heat was intense now in the afternoon and we lunch in the shade under a juniper. Soon we are hiking down the narrow canyon of Buckskin itself  and reach a junction where the Hayduke heads off to ‘Wire Pass’.
There are interesting sheep petroglyphs here. We drop our backpacks and head further down Buckskin Gulch ( a canyon famous for its continuous 12 mile slot and it’s beauty) for an explore. Returning back after a couple of hours of amazing canyon shifting light and reflected light on steep red walls, we vowed to return someday to do the full Buckskin and lower Paria Canyon traverse down to the Colorado river or as a long alternate loop of the Hayduke.
We set up a camp nearby after carrying water from town for today and most of tomorrow.

 

Sheep petroglyphs
Buckskin Gulch
15th May Buckskin Gulch to Arizona Trail meadow 21 miles
An alarm at 5.30 am went off this morning ready for a visit to a beautiful sandstone area called ‘The Wave’ in the early morning. We walked amongst glorious sculpted sandstone slabs and spend a relaxing hour or so wandering around the scenery. Fantastic and it was nice to enjoy it with no-one else around!
Coyote Buttes near the Arizona / Utah border

 

Coyote Buttes

 

Near The Wave
IMG_1678
From ‘The Wave’ we continued up valley on sand, slabs and rocks to reach a notch on a rocky ridge. The descent westwards down from there was a bit difficult and we had to retrace our steps on one occasion to get round a dry water pour off cliff. Lower down we find a trail and relaxed as we dropped down to a dirt road.
Descending back down from  ‘The Wave’ -Coyote Buttes
A guy in a pickup stopped to ask us if we needed water, which was very kind of him, but as it happened, we were carrying about the right amount now to get us to our next mapped water source 2-3 miles away on good trail. We didn’t want to carry any extra weight so reluctantly said no to the water.
One mile of the dirt road in hot, dusty conditions and we reached the Arizona/Utah border at the end point of another more famous trail- the Arizona Trail. There is a campsite here with shade, tables, benches and a privy(!) but no water and we had a late morning rest here in the shade.
Around 11.30 we set off south on the Arizona Trail and marvelled at the well constructed easy path we were now hiking on as a contrast to the rougher normal way on the Hayduke. An actual trail to hike on with sign posts and no bushwhacking! -walking was easy now for a while! The trail climbed and the heat picked up even more though with little shelter from the low lying desert scrub.
It was a relief to locate our next water source – a big open tank in the pic below- the black dots are mosquito larvae – mostly – which Martina deftly filtered out through her neckerchief.
Taking water to do us the rest of today and tomorrow morning to get us to the small resort of Jacob’s Lake, we gradually climbed into high desert forest of the Kaibab plateau on this good trail but with limited views. We were both going well and are hiking fast into the evening although it hurt a bit in the hot conditions on hard packed trail. Interesting to see two raven nests with chicks fairly low down near to the ground in juniper trees and to meet two new types of lizard we hadn’t seen before.
16th May Arizona Trail meadow to Jacob Lake 14 miles
Brian’s legs were covered in big welts from insect bites in the morning which were super itchy- he must have got them from being bitten in the evening at Coyote Buttes. We were up early again though and hiking by 7.15 am to catch some cool morning air.
A rare thing happened- we met another hiker at 7.30 am- he was doing the Arizona Trail but unfortunately wasn’t chatty so we pass on. Given that we have hardly met any other hikers on this trip it would have been great to exchange hiking experiences with someone else, but – oh well!
We soon enter into tall ponderosa pine forest at about 7,000 feet which provided some shade and morning air is cooler then yesterday’s hot miles so we made good time. Brian’s itching bites got worse and it seemed a bit of an allergic reaction so we resolved to put our head’s down to make it quickly to Jacob Lake.  We can then tried and hitch back into Kanab to get to a pharmacy – we also hopefully have new shoes arriving at the post office there.
We hit Highway 89A at about 11.15 and hiked the road up to Jacob Lake. Picked up a lift from a Texan couple heading to a Mormon wedding in St George, Utah who drop us off in the small town of Fredonia where we got another lift the final 7 miles to Kanab by a Mormon WiFi engineer. Thanks everyone for the lifts and we enjoyed chatting and finding out about Arizona/Utah!