May 17, 1998 - Grand Canyon - 9 Days
Tanner, Beamer, Little Colorado River and Escalante Route
Hike day (Sunday) started with a 3:30 AM wakeup call at the Yavapai Lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Kathy and I had purchased some boiled eggs at Babbit's general Store the night before, and we had these for breakfast in our room. We were checked out at 4:20 and at the Tanner Trailhead at Lipan Point starting our hike at 5:05 AM. The elevation at the rim is 7400 feet and the river is around 2600 feet. It can be unmercifully hot in the canyon in May, and we wanted to get a few miles in before the sun started beating on us. It took only a couple of hours to reach the 75 Mile Saddle, 1700 feet below the rim, where we took a break, had a snack and admired the nice view down 75 Mile Canyon.
Contouring around Escalante and Cardenas buttes is an easy but long walk. We stashed 6 liters of water at Cardenas for the return trip. Just above the redwall, there is one of the nicest view campsites we have yet seen in the canyon. From that overlook, we had a panoramic view of the Colorado River from Unkar to the Little Colorado Confluence, our goals for later that week.
We continued on and made camp just below the redwall shortly after noon. It was really getting hot by this time, so we just lounged around under the shade of some bushes. Around 3:30, we checked our food bags and found, to our delight, that the beer we had brought was still cold. At 5 pounds a six pack, we thought it our duty and obligation to lighten our loads by a couple of pounds.....
Day 2 (Monday) - Waking up at 5, we broke camp and hit the trail by 6:20. Along the way we stopped, boiled up some eggs, and made coffee. We were at the Colorado River by 8:40 where we gave our sore toes a brief rest before continuing on to Comanche Creek where we pumped water and had lunch. It was hot, so we rested in the shade by the river for a few hours. Around 3:30, we took advantage of some spotty clouds blocking the sun and headed out for Palisades Creek. We spent the evening watching bats and the stars, and had a late dinner by flashlight.
Day 3 (Tuesday) was a rest day, and we explored the immediate area. There is an old mine and the remnants of a miner's cabin not far from our campsite, and Palisades Creek Canyon provided a nice easy hike on gravel. Returning to camp for lunch, we found that our egg holder had opened and 2 of our 4 remaining eggs had smashed from banging around in the current of the Colorado River. (The Colorado River is very cold and makes a good refrigerator.) We ate the remaining two eggs for lunch, and hung around the campsite for the remainder of the hot afternoon. Before going to sleep for the night, we loaded our day packs for the 12 mile round trip hike to the Little Colorado River the next day. We had attempted this trip the previous September but were not successful because we were unable to hike any great distance in the 105 degree weather.
Day 4 (Wednesday) found us on the trail at 6:15 heading out for the confluence of the Little Colorado River. The trail immediately goes high and stays about 500 feet above the river the entire way. There was a river trip with two large motorized rafts across the river at Carbon Creek. We were looking down at their camp as we hiked by. We made the Little Colorado at 10:45, and found that the river was running brown. When there is rain or runoff in the desert, the mud and silt washes down the Little Colorado and dumps into the green Colorado River. The water from the two rivers does not mix together for the first mile or so, and makes an interesting sight with one side of the river green and clear, and the other side brown and cloudy. When the desert is dry and there is no runoff, the Little Colorado River runs a beautiful azure blue from the calcium carbonate laden springs that feed it.
While walking along the shore at the Little Colorado, I almost backed up into a rattlesnake. It was rattling like crazy, but I thought it was an insect making the noise. It calmed down when I gave it some space, and we both went on our separate ways without a conflict. We also ran into a young woman who had been hiking alone for the past month. She had started at Elves Chasm at river mile 116 and was now at the Little Colorado at river mile 61. She was trying to hitch a ride across the Colorado River on one of the rafting trips to continue her hike on to the Nankoweap trail at river mile 52.
The hike back was into strong winds and some on and off drizzly rain. Not the best conditions for contouring along the side of a cliff for 6 miles. There are a couple of exposed areas where we found ourselves right on the edge of a 500 foot drop with a trail slightly wider than our boots. If we were to do that trail again, we would search for a higher route away from the cliffs. We were back at camp at 6:30 and had a rainy evening. The skies cleared at midnight, and the good weather returned.
Day 5 (Thursday) started leisurely with another exploration of the miner's cabin and the mine area. We broke camp and started out for the Tanner delta at 10:15. Arriving at noon, we had lunch and spent the hot afternoon keeping out of the sun and fighting off the attack squirrels trying to get into our packs. In the cooler late afternoon, we headed out for the Cardenas area, reaching the Cardenas Creek area around 5:45. We searched for quite a while to locate a suitable camping area, and finally found a good site with the sun already setting over the rim. We ended up camping on the top of a dune about 40-50 feet above the river, with a great 360 degree view of the canyon.
Day 6 (Friday) - We hung around camp and by the ledges at the river for most of the day. Shortly after 11:00, two small motorized National Park Service rafts came around the bend in the river. They were almost by us when they spotted our tent, and pulled over just below our camp. Two park rangers walked up the hill and inspected our camp and our permit very carefully. Everything was in order, and they continued on their way after chatting with us for a short time. Around 4 o'clock, we hiked up to the overlook around 500 feet above Unkar rapids. Three kayaks came through the rapids as we were looking over the cliff. They looked like toys going through the white water and waves that towered over them. A quarter mile or so off the trail we found an Anasazi Indian ruin made of stones and mud. The Anasazi disappeared from the canyon around the year 1300, so this ruin was at least 700 years old, but still in excellent condition. Things deteriorate very slowly in the arid desert conditions of the inner canyon. Across the Unkar rapids was a delta with evidence of more Anasazi ruins that we could see from the overlook.
Day 7 (Saturday) - The morning was spent at the river washing clothes and ourselves. It was very relaxing in the shade under the ledges by the river. We could easily spend a week or so in this one spot. At 1 o'clock we went back to camp, had lunch, and packed up for the start of our hike out. We left at 3:00 and stopped at Tanner rapids to pump water and cool off before heading up the Tanner trail. As the sun was going down, we set up camp along the trail at 4200 feet elevation, had dinner, and went to sleep.
Day 8 (Sunday) we slept late, and continued our hike at 8:10, making the base of the redwall at 10:00. We reached the top of the redwall at 10:45, and ran into two day hikers on their way down. We cautioned them on going too much further, knowing how hot is was at river level and being concerned that they could not complete the 20+ mile round trip from rim to river to rim in one day. They ignored us, of course, and continued on their way. The river looks so close at that point, but it is very deceiving. We hung out a few hours at Cardenas Butte and picked up our stash of water. We continued on and set up camp at the 75 Mile Saddle around 4:00, giving what was left of our feet a well deserved rest. At 6:50, the two day hikers came trudging by trying to make the rim before darkness set in. They looked very tired, and I reminded them that they had only two miles and 1700 vertical feet to go.
Day 9 (Monday) was our last day in the canyon. We were up at 6, ate breakfast, but were in no great rush to leave. At 8:45, we started out on the last 2 miles of our trip and reached the rim at 10:50. We drove to Tusayan and had two 8 ounce sirloin burgers at the Tusayan Steak House before heading out to Flagstaff for a hot shower and a real bed.
View of Humphreys Peak on the road to Flagstaff.
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