Surely not everyone is interested in sleeping under the Royal Arch high above the Elves Chasm almost to the bottom of the Colorado River canyon, but for the six of us it was extraordinary. The easy shorter access is a couple days down from the south rim at the westernmost trailhead. And that route involves the aforementioned 20′ rappel, whose only downside is carrying the extra pounds of rope and gear to make the descent safely.
Fortunately we had a younger buck trail-named Matterhorn (AT and CT Thru-hiker) who gladly shouldered the 2 pounds of line and Melissa (Trip Wrangler and Canyon Botanist) who packed in the sling and hardware.
We also slept on a sandy beach at the rivers edge, on the Tonto (a dry camp where we had to insure enough water for a couple days, including the camping), and other times up on the Esplanade, also a dry camp. The younger contingent and the old master Will slept most nights “under the stars” while Mike and I preferred to use our zPack Hexamid Duplexes.
Mid-November in the Canyon can offer temperatures and conditions across the spectrum. We had clear days with temps in the 50’s and night time temps in the high 20’s to mid 30’s. We could hike in shorts most days but had to use all the gear to sleep warm at night. When you pack ultralight that means wearing all your clothes plus silk long underwear and down booties. Not every night required the full suit of clothing but an 18- to 24-oz sleeping bag needs extra layers of insulation to help below freezing.
It’s always interesting to see how hikers are treating their water, be it with a filter pump, chemicals or UV rays. Will and I carry UV SteriPens which will kill the parasites in 40 seconds for a pint of water. Chemicals take up to 27 minutes and pumps are heavy, harder and these days “old school.” The filter of choice now is a Sawyer squeeze filter which our mates used and we had as backup. One benefit of Fall hiking in the Canyon is the cooler temps require less water consumption so we only had to treat, pump or zap 3-4 liters a day.
The Grand (as the river is called by the cognoscenti) and the Canyon is full of history and lore that’s fun to discover and hear about. Our group had several raconteurs and chroniclers, so we enjoyed stories, visited obscure sites, and saw ancient and more recent ruins. Wish I could retain all that was related over the 8 days. One thing I do recall is that I should read Grand Obsession: Harvey Butchart and the Exploration of the Grand Canyon.
Happy to show anyone all the other photos from the trip. Thanks to group for sharing photos, as many of these are courtesy of them. We probably have over 500 to choose from.
What is certain is that I’ll need a refresher course and look forward to the next trip into our local Wonder of the World. Here’s hoping we can do a reunion trip because we’ll all be “younger next year”.
Just back from the road less travelled in the Grand Canyon and I’m a bit conflicted. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent trip: great hiking companions, wonderful weather (cept’n cold nights), outstanding views, super off-trail discoveries and just a wonderfully good time.
The conflict arises between wanting to boast about taking a difficult and occasionally challenging route that few people get to experience (because it’s off the normal hiking itinerary, at the far west end of the Grand Canyon trail system, involves crossing an Indian political Fee triangle, has a 20′ rappel, descends a rabbit hole with an ancient sapling for the final down-climb, and isn’t for the exposure-phobic folks like Stanna) and seeing one-other-group-a-day traveling this self-same route like it was no big deal, just something else on their bucket list.
Granted these “other” groups appeared to be skilled, proficient and worthy of boasting they’d notched their hiking poles for this route, but geeze, we figured we were part of a different 0.01%” that was able to brag about being the only ones in that area. Evidently this Route Less Travelled attracts 90% of the 0.01% or some other statistical aberration.
The upside of my conflict is that there are just more people “out there” doing things that make them Younger Next Year, and that pleases me immensely. Not all that we saw were ultra light which would have pegged the glad-scale, but we did get impressed when a light-pack-looking bike-helmeted pair from northern California “interviewed” us all on our gear. The trick question back to them was “So let’s cut to the chase. What’s ‘your’ base weight?” To which they “weren’t sure.” Also impressive was one of a three-person group just behind us on the rappel leg, who evidently free climbed down the 20′ drop while we were putting our packs on. I’d have like to seen that.
Fortunately, in the 55+ miles of trail we only sighted those other groups on the horizon or passed them going the opposite direction. One solo hiker wasn’t very amiable when he brushed/bumped past during a fairly steep decline. Perhaps he was concerned his (reported later by other hikers) apples, cheese and stick of butter rations didn’t allow for small talk. So we did have all the trails and camps to ourselves save those brief encounters.
Details to follow…
Stanna has been more productive than me this last week. She’s almost done with another shawl. It takes at least 4 times as long to plan, warp and thread the loom as it does to weave it. Right now she’s weaving, enjoying the “dessert” of the efforts.
All I managed was a measly sun shade for the upcoming desert hike. It’s long been on a list, but the crux move was locating an ultra-light fabric. Fortunately, friend Janet had a remnant piece available and even gave me a pattern. Velcro fasteners are heavier than the fabric shade itself so it barely adds any weigh to my load.
Mike Taylor and I knocked off a couple of training hikes for the Grand Canyon adventure this last week and one mountain bike ride. A couple hours into the ride we wondered why we were on a trail we wouldn’t even enjoy walking on. Unusually heavy Fall rains had really rutted the tracks to the point of taking the fun out of the ride. Fortunately the three hikes (left traced on Google Earth) offered smoother trails and lingering Fall colors.
The big November adventure will be an 8-day hike down into the Grand Canyon following the Royal Arch and South Bass trails. If we’re lucky we could be some of the first to glimpse the results of a 96-hour flood release from Glen Canyon Dam to replace the sands and silting along the Colorado River beaches and bends. Map on the right is the GPX tracks pre-loaded on my iPhone GPS app.
This will be one of the longer ultra-light backpacking trips I have taken. Most interesting is that the weight of the food, 9.75 lbs, weighs more than my entire base weight (pack, gear and clothes) at 9.59 lbs. Biggest unknown is water sources this time of year, so we’re set to carry 4-5 liters each when necessary. My starting load is calculated to be 27.5 pounds and will decrease by 1.5 pounds of food a day, plus 2.2 pounds less for every liter of water I consume. If all goes well I should be able to climb out of the Canyon with only the 9.5 pounds plus a little water.
Food prep is always a fun part of the preparation. It takes lots of dehydrated ingredients, a kitchen scale and lots of ziplock bags. We like concocting our own meals, so we can keep the weight down, calories high and taste palatable. 8 dinners, 8 lunches and 8 breakfasts plus snacks takes a bit of work to try and achieve 3,500 calories in 1 1/2 pounds a day.
And Stanna’s still getting out with the Wednesday Women’s Group. This week they had a private tour of 3 ruins in McElmo Canyon 60 miles west of Durango. She’s been Trail Boss for the past two seasons, organizing weekly hikes when we’re home.
What a great week we’ve had. Our outhouse project made the San Juan Mountain Association centerfold. “All of your unique talents really make a difference in the quest for stewardship on our land we love so much.” Holy shit, 10 photos in the centerfold of a publication that probably has over 350 copies.
Where to begin. Finding and repairing the fuel hose leak in the power washer was a big deal at the start of the week. Sussing out the location of my nephew’s new townhome and having a great visit with him was fortuitous and indicative of the luck and fortunes in the week ahead.
We’ve been planning, researching and maneuvering to cut the cord on a number of monthly expenses related to our phones and broadband. This week we pulled it off when we moved both our iPhones to pay-as-you-go 10¢ a minute. We’ve never used anywhere close to our “contract” allotments and hated paying the high monthly to AT$T so now we expect to spend far less on our phones per year.
The real coup was “porting” our home phone number to Stanna’s cell phone. Now when you call our home phone Stanna gets it on her iPhone. Only disadvantage is this last week of the political robo calling that our hopeful and elected representatives feel is their God-given right to invade our privacy and convenience.
Sticking with the digital theme: We also changed our broadband provider from the pitiful 3 MBPS DSL service to 30 MBPS of cable joy. I don’t expect Netflix will ever buffer again. Also I managed to solve a broadband cut-out problem for friends Jack and Paula by running a “hard wire” in their home this week as well.
Another digital triumph this week was getting bluetooth in our car. We love listening to books-on-tape or podcasts when driving cross-country and had never worked that out to our satisfaction. It took finding a used car at an auction thru a local dealer, but we now have bluetooth for both books and hands-free phone usage. We took delivery of our new used car this week. Pretty special. The Avalon is history.
Of course the best part of each week is getting younger next year and getting back into the routine of exercise each day and becoming guilt-free by 8AM. I can tell in my spin class when my heart rate peaks above 160 that I’ve been slacking and getting out of shape from my Portland binge. Getting in a couple of hikes this last week has helped bring down the extra pounds gained on that ice cream orgy as well. Plus I was able to break-in a new pair of hiking tenni’s for my up- coming 8-day Grand Canyon hike.
I shouldn’t leave out a full day with my sister Donna in Silverton knocking out a double turn-over in the Highlander. We rock when working together cleaning, scrubbing, painting and repairing.
A really super week. I can’t remember a week when so many special things happened and I still have one day to go.