Memories from November 6, 2018.
Today went swimmingly. It look less time to get to the Nankoweap trailhead than I thought, less time to get to the Colorado River, I made contact with a pleasant rafting party and made plans for tomorrow’s cross river hitch then made it part way to the hitch point.
The Nankoweap Trailhead is in the middle of a different trail which is wild enough in it’s own right that it’s surprising to see more than just a simple sign. Also, there were a bunch of great campsites just before the trailhead which had huge views and would have been exposed but were probably low enough below the rim to be protected from wind.
The Nankoweap trail itself somehow felt familiar somehow like hiking in the Cascades despite it clearly being very different. The level of trail maintenance wasn’t high but it was in pretty good condition. The start was a long traverse with views across many points and bluffs and ridges. The Colorado itself was out of sight the entire time save for a small glimpse before the last descent. Footing wasn’t generous but was reasonably firm when there was significant exposure. The NPS description mentioned descending cliffs using trees. In practice it’s just that the steps down are just a little too large so you have to sit on the rock above and lower yourself the last few inches with a tricep dip. Using the tree was unnecessary. There was also no exposure while doing this.
After the main traverse is a descent which is noted as being steep with loose gravel. Skurka’a map uses the phrase “ball bearing”. This is all true but my imagination had invented a much worse scenario. I did splay my feet out a few times for better traction and may have taken a side step or two but the conditions were the same as any other trail I’ve been on which was similarly steep and more a dirt and gravel slope than stone steps. Importantly, the trail was well cut and clear without much exposure when the footing was tricky. The two big descents dove through a number of different types of rock. They wound in such a way as to dodge cliff bands which had the effect of varying the view a great deal. Lots of fun.
Shortly before Nankoweap Creek met the Colorado River, I saw some hikers ambling upstream with daypacks. They were from a rafting trip and had gotten to see the river rise rapidly (“an inch up the beach per minute”) last night. We traded trip tails and the agreed to get me across the river tomorrow if I’m at the recommended ferry point.
I ate lunch where there was shade as the rafters mentioned shade being hard to come by. Just after starting back up, I ran into a bunch more of their group and did my best to be charming while dropping hints about needing a hitch across the river to tomorrow. They offered to let me leave my trash in their trash bag when I passed their camp.
There was an old woman in camp who introduced herself pleasantly and emptied my zip lock of rubbish into trash and recycling. Her husband came up just as I was about to leave and I repeated the explanation of what I’m up to for the fourth time in two hours. So much human interaction. They actually offered to let me camp with them, join them for dinner and breakfast, then ride down to the Beamer Trail with them. Wow! I declined as my permit is only good for 8 river miles in a raft but it sure was tempting.
For the last part of the day, I got a head start on the hike to the ferry point which is about 9 miles down river from where Nankoweap Creek joins the Colorado. There was an unmaintained trail which jumped around a great deal but was ultimately a great help. Apparently it ends after Kwangut Creek where I’m cowboy camping tonight so tomorrow will be a cross country race to beat the rafts to the ferry point. I lost the “dodge the cactus” game at some point but didn’t realize it until I went to figure out why my lower leg was feeling a little bruised. There was a little blood seeping through the boot zipper of my pants and the spine was still embedded. Just a prick but it made me feel like I was tough.
Also, I learned that when the dirt of a slope is packed just right, the trail can continue over it almost invisibly and at a slope which I would have thought was too steep to walk on.
What a good day. Hopefully tomorrow is another one.