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Grand Canyon TR 4/12

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Grand Canyon TR 4/12

Postby fourputt » Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:43 pm

Though not the mountains I'm a little surprised not to find a Grand Canyon trip mentioned here, so for off-season diversion I offer a report from my first GC backpack in April this year. It should interest any avid backpacker.

My old friend Bill and I last hiked the Circle of Solitude in 1986 before a new job took him to New Jersey. He contacted me last October wanting to try the Escalante route he found in Backpacker Magazine. I've always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon so we started to firm up plans in late November -- just in time as it turned out because 4-months-advance reservations for March and April are in high demand. We got a permit for April 1-6. My contribution was choosing a 6-day hike instead of the more rushed 5-day magazine version. I wanted to get my money's worth for a long drive from the Bay Area.

Bill flew into Phoenix. With his rental and my car we shuttled a few miles from the Grandview trailhead to Lipan Point. It was chilly but we weren't taking chances with the temperatures at the bottom and packed 5 quarts of water each for the first day's hike to the river. Here's the first big difference between the Sierra and the southwest: Perenial water sources can be scarce and they list them on GC maps and the wilderness permit.

The Tanner Trail descends steeply for the first mile. My knees weren't enjoying all that weight for the first backpack of the year. After a the slope eased we could start appreciating the incredible country -- another difference from the mountains -- inverted profile means expansive views right from the start.

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After 8 miles we arrived at Tanner Beach good and beat. The weather had warmed over the 5000' foot drop but wasn't bad. We spotted a large group by the river, a few of whom I knew. A women's Sierra Club Nat'l Backpack trip had two participants I had hiked with the previous August on a SC backpack trip in Yosemite. They had taken two days on the Tanner Trail, the leaders having cached water halfway down a day before they started -- a common GC hiking strategy.

We settled into the thin cover of a tamarisk campsite and took on board some Johnny Red before dinner ... maybe too much because we fell out hard as soon as it got dark in a disorganized state and I had to crawl under a large boulder the next morning for a bag of food a packrat had dragged off. Worse, my spoon was permanently missing. It was nice not having to worry about bears, but there's still critters. I placed a bag of garbage in some low branches at another camp only to have a Raven scatter the contents.

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The next day was an easy 3 miles to Cardenas Creek. It was either that or 10 miles to Escalante Creek with 1400' up and down. We were the first to arrive and secured a nice campsite in the tamarisks. Soon two raft and two backpack parties arrived. Starting late and finishing early, the raft outfits know how to enjoy the canyon. One of the backpack parties were Boy Scouts whose leader was extremely worried that the some of the kids weren't strong enough to ascend back up Tanner with enough water for two days. The rafters contacted the rangers on their sat phone and they arranged to cache water halfway down Tanner -- more H2O logistics.

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We puttered around that day and for dinner enjoyed the smell of the rafters' sausages and tri-tip. The next day we loaded up on water for the dry 7 miles to Escalante Creek. More stunning vistas greet you as the trail climbs. The highlight of the afternoon's hike was a mile along the rim of 75-Mile Creek slot canyon and then dropping into the bottom to get back to the river for our camp at Neville Rapids.

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The 4th day was a short hike to Hance Rapids but covered the roughest part of the Escalante Trail including a 30' class 3 scramble up a wall. Hance Rapids was the most scenic river camp of the trip. It's usually a beehive of rafters but we had it to ourselves till Ranger Betsy arrived later. We dayhiked up Red Canyon a few miles and met a father and son from Santa Fe who had hiked down it along the New Hance Trail that bottoms out in Red Canyon.

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Day 5 we left the river and climbed the Hance Creek trail. You can look straight down to the creek over 1500' at one overlook. We stopped for lunch at the crossing where partially exposed campsites often fill up. It was getting hot and we had another 1200' of climbing to our last camp at Horseshoe Plateau, the last 500' with 2 gallons each from Page Springs because the trail back to the rim is dry. We met a father with two young daughters from Ohio at the designated Horseshoe camp. My unscientific survey suggested the Grand Canyon is a popular Midwest destination. It was another windy night at Horseshoe but I continued to sleep out in my light bag. Next time I'll bring a tarp rather than a tent.

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We started up the well-engineered Grandview Trail the next morning and met more people, both backpackers and dayhikers, as we approached the rim. If you're planning a dayhike, Grandview to Horseshoe is a very scenic option for the effort. We arrived at top well before noon and had planned on lunch in a park restaurant but there was no parking at the Village let alone lunch without a long wait. Ah, back to Civilization!

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Re: Grand Canyon TR 4/12

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:13 pm

Excellent report, great pics. Thanks for posting this!
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Re: Grand Canyon TR 4/12

Postby maverick » Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:55 pm

Thanks Fourputt for taking the time to post this wonderful TR and great pictures
to one of the treasures in our national park system!
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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