Memories from November 15, 2018.
Last night there was some animal which was walking around the outside of Teddy’s Cabin in which I was sleeping. At one point it clawed softly at the door and later under a window. Great for peace of mind.
Knowing that it was going to be tough going, I procrastinated for half an hour while it was still dark instead of starting getting started at 6am. I ate my largest meal for breakfast instead of the usual pop tarts so they I wouldn’t have to pull my food bag out in the middle of the plunge pool section.
The bushwhack started half an hour after sunrise. I was wearing my puffy (a 13oz synthetic – one of those 8oz UL thing would have gotten shredded), gloves, and per the guidebook’s recommendations pants. With they much armor, the going wasn’t that bad though there weren’t any thorn bushes which were my great fear. The brush was usually easy to push through and rarely very deep. As at many points today, I thought back to Young’s Canyon, my previous hardest day on trail, and and this was easier that pushing through the reeds.
The most interesting thing I saw was a cut tree stump. I didn’t see evidence of other trail work and it wasn’t close to anything in particular so I wonder why it had been cut down.
About two hours in, I reached the impossible pour off. There were some smaller pour offs before it. In one case it was just high enough that I tried a sketchy bypass. The bypass was sketchy enough that I lowered my pack and then lowered myself as much as possible before jumping the last few feet.
I found the cairns marking the impassible pour off’s bypass route pretty quickly by backtracking. The use trail is pretty faint and I went a little too high which lead to me backtracking once when the footing got too sketchy. At some point I picked up a familiar set of footprints which I’m pretty sure belong to the last two Haydukers to sign the log book at Teddy’s Cabin.
In what was a short distance but a long time due to the extreme caution exercised (a theme for today), the top of the ridge descended under the contour I was on and I followed the top of the ridge. There were cairns but the only one which was useful was near the end of the flatish length before a drop off. Without it I would have descended the left side sooner but instead was able to continue more or less along the top. Eventually, I started dropping to the left side following footprints or what looked like use trail. Things had started well with the rocks and rivulets almost forming switchbacks and stairs.
Eventually thing started to get sketchy but I could see the skid marks from where someone had gone before. At this point, the descent was in a gully into the canyon west of where I’d started the bypass which didn’t sound like what the guidebook’s directions were but it joined the correct canyon so I wasn’t too concerned.
Eventually, I had to switch back up canyon to avoid getting cliffed out. I haven’t been in a steep sketchy gully while worrying about getting cliffed out before so it was a pretty uncomfortable. My final line to the canyon floor was one I’m sure hasn’t quite been taken before since it was through dense manzanitas with no sign of previous passage. The nice part about the dense brush a this point was the when I slipped, I almost didn’t hit the ground because the bushes held me up.
Once on the canyon floor, I hiked in the direction of the confluence with Saddle Canyon when encountered a cairn. Two in fact. Apparently you are supposed to descend into the drainage west of Saddle Canyon instead of walking the spot of land all the way to the end.
This would have been enough adventure for one day. But pretty quickly, I started running into smooth slides leading into pools of water. I’d been expecting them later and so initially I though I’d made great time. I went through one which was knee deep and then decided to bypass as many as I could. I think there were only two others I didn’t bypass. I’d been lulled into thinking they were all shallow and so wound up surprised when one was waist deep. I’d had my backpack boosted up onto one shoulder instead of over my head so I could control the descent with my other hand. On hitting the water, I pitched forward in waist deep water and got completely soaked though my head didn’t go under. In a later case, I lost a slim foothold just above the waterline on a bypass and slid into butt deep water. Plunge pools had gone from being a fun diversion to a real nuisance.
In time, I came to a plunge pool which lead to a larger plunger pool down a bigger slide which was partially out of sight. I climbed up on the flat bank of rock to see where it went and saw that it lead to another plunge pool under a pour off large enough that only a cliff diver would consider it.
Thus started the search for a bypass route to a pool I’d thought wasn’t bypassable. Apparently I wasn’t the first person to have some trouble here. The first thing I found was a ring of rocks outlining a small bivvy site in the narrow, flat lip of the pour off which was the only flat area large enough to support a person’s body. No picture because at this point my mind was on other things.
What ensued was by far the worst combination of sketchy footing and exposure I’ve experienced. The fact that it struck me as passable is only because the Hayduke has put me though so much else (and I suppose because there was obviously no alternative). On the way, I glimpsed a second large pour off below the first. This extended the sketchy scrambling and at one point I was back in a steep lose cut and about to be cliffed out. Maybe scrambling isn’t my thing.
Finally on the canyon floor again, things were rough and boulder choked but the plunge pools were over. Unfortunately, according to my compass, the canyon was still northbound. It wasn’t until 7 hours after starting that I reached the westward bend and confluence with Crazy Jug Creek. These five miles were brutal though when the fear washes out of my memory, I expect the unique sculpting of the walls along this stretch to remain.
Tapeats Creek started quite shallow and quickly disappeared. I’d poured out my extra water and kicked myself mentally while trying to walk and hop down the rough streambed. The guidebook mentions that it might be easiest to just walk down the middle of Tapeats Creek and I thought it was so nice that the stream was dry to assist the mileage I was hoping to make to stay on permit, this still being Grand Canyon National Park.
Then, from a side canyon came a thundering stream. Not Thunder River but thundering nonetheless.
At this confluence, there was a cairn across the stream with a clear trail. I followed it uphill as it started it fade and decided that this was the high water alternate the guidebook had mentioned. With about an hour until sundown and what I thought was just a mile of creek left, I doubled back and found a trail on the south side of Tapeats Creek. Shortly, however, it ended, pointing into the rushing creek where the canyon walls left no bank on either side like a wide narrows.
I didn’t like the idea of wandering down the middle of a fast moving knee to thigh deep creek with no banks on waning daylight. I went for it though and discovered that where the creek was particularly deep or fast, a bank appeared and on that brief bank, a trail.
This connecting of small bits of land with creek walks was actually quite fun. You have to try to pick a line which won’t suddenly become deep. You can’t see your footing and have to feel your way a bit. One of my poles and it’s tip broken off earlier and I would have wished for both poles but the water wasn’t forceful enough to need it.
Half an hour before sundown the stream appeared to enter another “narrows” section just after a bank with a great campsite under and overhanging ledge. I broke down and pulled out the GPS to see if my assigned campsite were “just around the river bend” or if I’d be risking a river walk at night. My phone’s GPS put me just of the edge of what I might have been able to do and so I decided not to push it.
The InReach never got a fix so my parents will have to do without an evening waypoint today. I hope the helicopter I heard just now wasn’t them calling SAR on me.