April 30, 2000 - Grand Canyon - 9 Days
Tanner, Escalante to 75 Mile
Day 0 (Saturday) - Nice flight from Providence to Phoenix. Stopped at Busters in Flagstaff for our traditional mushroom Swiss cheeseburger and mesquite steak sandwich, picked up our fuel and some supplies, and then proceeded to Cameron. We usually stay at the Yavapai Lodge at South Rim, but this year decided to try the hotel at the Cameron Trading Post on the Navajo reservation. The hotel at Cameron was very nice, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Day 1 (Sunday) - The weather reports had forecast a low of 16 degrees, and our destination for the day was only as far as the view campsites above the Redwall, so we were in no rush to get an early start. Had a nice breakfast of pork cutlets and eggs at the motel restaurant, and left for the trailhead at 8AM. Reached Lipan Point and were on the Tanner Trail by 9, with clear skies and mild temperatures. Enjoyed an early lunch at 75 Mile Saddle, and hung around there until 12:30. It took about 2 hours to contour Escalante and Cardenas Buttes, and we reached our camping area at 2:30. We stashed 6 liters of water just above the Redwall break for a dry camp on the way out, set up our tent, and explored the area. Higher up on Cardenas Butte was a sun circle someone had fashioned out of stones. Saw two men setting up camp at the base of the Redwall. There are excellent sites both above and below the Redwall on this trail. The sun set over Vishnu Temple at 7PM.
Day 2 (Monday) - The night had been cool but comfortable. We were up at 5, boiled some eggs for breakfast, and started toward the Redwall at 7:45. We find the Redwall section of the Tanner Trail to be relatively easy, and we were soon nearing the bottom after about 20-25 minutes. As I approached the two campers we had spotted the night before, I was really surprised when one of them said "Jim Lyons, I presume?". It was John Eyles, who I had messaged to a few times on the Grand Canyon Egroups message board but had never met, and his friend Tony Stiglitz. I had previously told John that Kathy and I would be hiking down that day, and he was expecting me. We chatted for a while, and then started down through the Muav. With a couple of breaks to Moleskin our toes and have some gorp, we reached Tanner Beach at 11:35, soaked our feet, and rested a bit. Around 2, we had lunch of pilot crackers with peanut butter and a couple of wheels of cheddar cheese. It was hot, so we spent the afternoon in the shade of a small tree. At 3:30, we set out for the Cardenas Creek area, and set up camp on a dune just before the drainage. Headed down to the river, got wet to cool down, and chilled a couple of Buds in the cool water of the Colorado River. It was too hot for dinner so we just snacked on jerky and gorp, and were in bed by 7:30.
Day 3 (Tuesday) - Our original plan was to move our camp to the Unkar Overlook this day to get a jump on our hike over to 75 Mile Beach. Because of the heat, however, we decided to stay put for another night, and hang out by the river. We had a breakfast of fried eggs and hash browns with peppers and bacon bits. The temperature, in the shade by the river, was 100F and we had not expected this kind of heat so early in May. There is a section of ledges by the river in this area that has excellent shade until mid afternoon, and a nice adjacent sandy beach area. When the sun finally hit us, we headed back up to our camp, set up a tarp for shade, and had a late lunch of noodles, corn and tortillas. The sun set behind Vishnu at 6:30, and we had dinner of turkey with gravy, potato and peas, and M&M's for dessert. We boiled our last two eggs for the morning, and organized our equipment for the Escalante Route hike the following day.
Day 4 (Wednesday) - Up at 3:40, we started over the Escalante Route at 4:40, hiking in the dark using our headlamps to beat the heat of the sun. We were on the Unkar Overlook at 5:15, and at the first drainage at 6:30 where we stopped for a breakfast of boiled eggs, tortillas and jerky. Started hiking again at 7, still in the shade, and reached Escalante Creek at 9:25 and the beach at 10:40. We had elected to not try going over Butchart's Notch, and stuck to the longer contour trail. Escalante Canyon is a bit deceiving. A couple of times we thought we were almost at the river, but still had quite a ways to go. There are about 4 distinct drainages, and we had to keep climbing from one to the other toward the west to avoid pouroffs blocking the way. On this route from east to west, the first 70-80% of the hike is uphill, and the last 20-30% is downhill, with a total elevation rise of about 1000 feet. The route is not challenging, but it is about 9 miles long. There is a nice, partially shaded campsite near the river on Escalante Beach where we set up our tent in the sand, and had a lunch of PB and crackers, cheese and oatmeal bars. We set up a tarp on the beach for shade, and hung around by the river. Around 4:55, the same time as the sun went behind Solomon Temple, we had to take down the tarp because of the rising water level. We finished off our two remaining Buds, and had dinner of macaroni and cheese. The water, previously green and clear, started turning brown from the stirred up silt, but not thick brown like when the Little Colorado River is running muddy. This was a warm night for sleeping, and I woke up hourly to check that the still rising water was not threatening our tent.
Day 5 (Thursday) - The water had risen during the night to about 3+ vertical feet higher than it had been the day before. There was a constant procession of floating branches and logs coming by that had floated off the shoreline upriver. We got up at 5:45, had some oatmeal, and started a day hike to 75 Mile Beach at 6:55, arriving at 7:45. We took a shortcut to the creek bed down the jumbled side of a cliff about 60-80 feet high, and that short rock climb probably saved half a mile of hiking. The site at 75 Mile where we had camped the year before was partially flooded, and the beautiful crescent beach was under water. We were glad that we had decided to camp at Escalante and day hike to 75 Mile instead of backpacking over. On the way back, Kathy found a weathered quarter at the base of the rock climb. Hard to imagine anyone actually carrying change into the canyon, but Kathy put it into her pocket and carried it out. We watched a motorized raft go through Nevill's Rapids from a high vantage point on the trail, and continued on back to Escalante where we found a shady spot up in the canyon for the afternoon. As we were making our lunch of turkey salad tortillas, two hikers entered the drainage from the west. This was Bob and Paige from Oregon, who we would run into several times more on our trip. Bob's Pur filter had broken, so I pumped some water with my Sweetwater, filled up his containers, and gave him a couple of packets of Emergen-C to recharge his electrolytes. Our planned dinner of chicken and gravy over rice with stuffing turned into chicken and rice soup with stuffing, but it was still very good. Just after dark, Kathy started walking to the river. As she stepped over what she thought was a stick, she was startled when it hissed, rattled and coiled. The young rattlesnake resumed its hunt when Kathy jumped back, and it was quite agreeable to having its picture taken. This was our second rattlesnake encounter in the Canyon, the first being at the Little Colorado River a couple of years earlier. Today had been another cloudless and hot day.
Day 6 (Friday) - Up at 3:40, we were packed and on the trail at 4:20, again using headlamps in the dark. We reached the exit point out of Escalante Creek at 5:42 and stopped at 8 for a breakfast of Muslix with milk and coffee. We found the trail back much easier, getting all of the climbing out of the way at the beginning, and having a gradual decline for the balance of the trip back to Cardenas Creek. We stopped at the river trip campsites at Cardenas to cool off, and found several rafts marked GCMRC (Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center) beached there, with some scientists studying birds in the area. Having a preference for the beach sites which were already taken by the boating group, we continued on the the other side of the drainage and found a great, out of the way, site down by the river that appeared to have not been used in years. Some clouds moved in, the temperature dropped to 85 and the wind started blowing sand. It seems that we always have one sandstorm on each of our trips to the canyon. The fine sand goes right through the screens of the tent, and gets into everything. When it is over, we simply lift one side of the tent and empty the sand out. After a dinner of beef and gravy, potato and corn, the wind died down, and we had a nice cool night for sleeping.
Day 7 (Saturday) - This was a rest day before our hike out. Up at 6:30, the temperature was a pleasant 68 degrees, and rose to 75 degrees by 8:30 with clouds partially blocking the sun. We washed our clothes and ourselves, and used our 6 liter platypus bag as a shower with sun warmed water. Up to this point, we had seen only a couple of rafting trips each day. This afternoon, however, 5 trips came through between 4 and 5 o'clock. With most of the beaches flooded out by the high water, we wondered where they would camp for the night. We never left the campsite all day, just hanging around watching the river go by. Dinner consisted of chicken and gravy, potato and peas, with oatmeal bars for dessert.
Day 8 (Sunday) - Up at 3:30, we were packed and on the trail by 4:15. It took just about an hour to reach Tanner Beach. The water was still high, and came up into the Tanner drainage about 10-15 feet, flooding one campsite under the big rock on the upriver side of the drainage. Stopping along the way for oatmeal and coffee, we reached the 75 Mile Saddle at noon where we set up camp. Along the way, we saw Bob and Paige at the top of the Redwall, and again at 75 Mile Saddle, where they also camped a short distance away. The wind was gusting quite strongly out of 75 Mile Canyon, but our Clip Flashlight tent handles the wind very well, and it posed no problem. Finishing our dinner of macaroni and tomato sauce, Kathy and I watched the sun set over Escalante Butte on our last night in the canyon.
Day 9 (Monday) - After an oatmeal breakfast, we were on the trail at 8:00. The weather was cool, Tanner Canyon still shaded, and just a perfect day for hiking. We reached Lipan Point in two hours, went to our car, and cleaned up with our remaining water. We met up with Bob and Paige for the last time, said our goodbyes, and then we headed to Cameron for lunch, and then on to our motel in Flagstaff. With this trip, we had completed our last remaining un-hiked section between the Little Colorado River and Horseshoe Mesa. We will probably not hike the Tanner again, but start working our way from Horseshoe Mesa toward the west, or possibly do the South/North Kaibab rim-to-rim as our next hike.
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