Monday, October 18, 2010

Grand Canyon- Day One- Thunder River and Tapeats Creek

Our Grand Canyon backpacking trip was a 4 day, 3 night trip, covering 27 miles loop bringing us through some of the most beautiful areas of the Grand Canyon.  You may have read about the college student, eagle scout that died this summer in the Grand Canyon and it was this trail that he was hiking.  As we hiked along, we often wondered where did the kid go wrong and get off the trail.  Our total hike would start on the Bill Hall trail, through the lunar landscape of the esplanade, Surprise Valley, down to Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, where we could camp the first night. An "easy" 5 mile hike would bring us into Deer Creek for the second night and the third night would be dry camping on the esplanade, which is halfway out of the canyon making the trip out that much easier.    

On Friday morning, the forest roads through the golden aspens and green pines to the Bill Hall trail head were surprisingly busy. We came across groups on horseback, which required us to stop the car as to not frighten the horses, a convey of hunters causing a traffic jam and a full parking lot at the trail head.  We started on the trail at 10am and had 9 miles in front of us before getting to our camp site at Tapeats Creek.

Christina, John, Mark, Michele and Scott at the trail head ready to head down
The number of miles is almost meaningless while hiking. You could have a 5 mile hike that takes 5 hours or a 6 mile hike that takes 3 hours. It's all dependent on the terrain. I struggle with this mile concept on each hike because a 5 mile run, even with hills, is a piece of cake where a 5 mile hike in the canyon, leaves me wiped out.

Mark poses at the top
One of the first challenges we encountered was a 15 foot drop. John and Scott went down and we handed our packs to them. It wasn't too bad to maneuver down the rock.

One of the amazing things about the Grand Canyon is how the terrain changes. I've hiked the south rim a couple times now but noticed the change more on the north rim. One minute we'd be in the pine trees with brown/grey dirt, next minute the trail has prickly pear cactus, then the trail changes to red, and then green from the kaibab shale and there is even beach sand by the Colorado. 

From the Bill Hall trail we got on the Thunder River trail, I guess.  I'm not as familiar with the various trails we were on or weren't on. The Thunder River trail was originally constructed in 1876 when rumors of gold (what else would cause people to climb on edges of mountains) but the current trail was created in 1926.

On the esplanade all the rocks looked like mushroom rocks.
These rocks didn't look like mushrooms and us girls nicknamed them Boobie Rock.
We ate lunch (Luna bar, apple, dried mango and M&M's)  in the shade on the back side of boobie rock and stashed our water for when we'd return 2 days later for dry camping.  Thanks John for carrying the 4 liters of water down so that we could cook and have water for the hike out.

These pictures hardly do Thunder River any justice. The waterfall came pouring out of the side of the mountain and it was very lush and green through the valley. Thunder river is the worlds shorts and probably steepest river running only 1/2 mile from Thunder Cave to Tapeats Creek.

At this point we are almost to our camping spot in Tapeats Creek but there were still about 2 miles to go and steep downhill.  I was pretty darn tired but didn't want to be a Maggie.  Maggie was a hiker we read about in another trip report and we all vowed not to be like Maggie who curled up under a rock and refused to go further. She was ill prepared for the trip and a bit of a whiner and complainer too.  I was NOT going to be a Maggie. This stubbornness would remain with me the whole trip. It's always important to me to not hold the group back, to carry my own and be strong.   The last mile I was stumbling, my legs were shaking from fatique and I wanted nothing more than sit for a bit but there was camp to set up and water to pump.
Our tent site
The creek had lots of water and was moving fast. 

View from our site
Even though John didn't care for it, dinner of Fettuccine Alfredo was very good albeit it could have used a little more water and some more cooking time.  Dessert was dark chocolate cheesecake, which wasn't bad but certainly not fantastic either. We also had some extra dinner guests too.  At first I thought it was a mouse, but it was larger than a mouse and after some research, I'm pretty sure it was a type of shrew. Me and the shrew were always negotiating whether it could be next to our food. Although I said NO, it was of a different mind set and was continually there.  Later, to get me back, it ran over my feet in the dark.

I leave you with this picture of Michele's feet. Michele has a magic weighs practically nothing and yet she carries a ton of stuff.  She never ceased to amaze me the things she'd pull out and how prepared she was.  She did however, forget her flip flops so on the way up to the GC, we had to stop at Flagstaff, much to the dismay of Scott who wanted no dilly dallying and wanted to get up to Jacob's Lake timely. At the dollar store in Flagstaff Michele found these cute, functional flip flops. Notice she even has her Injinji toe socks...she's always prepared!


Jamoosh said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Johann said...

That is magical! Thanks for sharing this.

Ewa said...

I have never backpacked in Grand Canyon but always wanted to do so. Maybe next year. This is such a magical place. We visited it a couple of times but always with a not-moving-much family so we stayed on the rim.
And you are so right, hiking miles don't translate much to anything. Terrain rules how much time you will spend and how exhausted you will be.
Great pictures.

Emz said...

YAY for GC!

So beautiful!

Looks like it was a blast!

lindsay said...

Hiking is tough - I feel like a wimp when I "only" do like 4 miles but it's harrrd. 9-mi would take 2days!! Gorgeous pics!

ajh said...

Gorgeous pics!

The Green Girl said...

I enjoyed reading this a lot. I'm thinking of hiking (not backpacking) the Grand Canyon next year so this was particularly interesting to me.

When you talked about how you didn't want to be a Maggie, I couldn't stop laughing.

Deusarino de Melo said...

This Injinji toe sock is special to use only them, without shoes or sandals. Just a magical sensorious thing, be only in toe socks. Do the experience and answer afgter, please. You'll knoow why the brazilian indigenous and river people use and love this aituation. Very well!!! Just beasutiful!!!