From Nankoweap to South Kaibab

Short notes due to data connection challenges. Details to be filled in and pictures added! And pictures of Gabriel too!

After wandering the parklands of the Kaibab Plateau we dropped into the Grand Canyon via the Nankoweap Trail. Camped on the sandy white beach of the Colorado River below the granaries.

Breakfasted with rafters (French toast and French press coffee). Marveled at hundreds of violet green swallows in Marble Canyon. Got soaked by rain. Got flushed out of some overhanging boulders by lightning. Boulder hopped and bushwhacked to awesome Tapeats sandstone ledges to the hitching beach. Besides the lightning and cactus spines it was a super fun day! We dried out by evening.

Hitched across the Colorado River with a US Geological Survey team recreating historical photos (yay for the agency of John Wesley Powell). Crossed the turquoise waters of the sacred Little Colorado River. A sacred place currently under threat of development for an escalator tram.

Took the Beamer Trail up and into side canyons of rising Tapeats sandstone down to the Tanner Rapids. Sat on sandy beaches. Camped near a wonderful family from southern Arizona who love to explore the Canyon and have enjoyed a lifetime of doing so.

Took the super fun Escalante Route to Hance Rapids. Explored a neat narrows on 75 Mile Creek. Had some fun mellow scrambling. Then lounged on a shady beach on a hot afternoon. Cooling off in the Colorado River. Pondering the intrusions of rock in the red shale. Gabriel practiced his harmonica. I picked up trash in the camp. We are learning to linger on the Hayduke (and thanks to our permit).

Next day, climb up the to the Tonto Plateau. The Tapeats sandstone ledges are now 1500 feet above the Colorado River and Vishnu schist and super group rocks are below in Granite Gorge. Camped on a bench by Boulder Canyon. Moon light fills the sky. No headlamps needed. When I get up at night, I look for kangaroo rats in the blackbrush.

Up early to finish contouring along the east end of the Tonto Plateau. Prickly pear cactus are in bloom every where. Yellow, pink, orange, rose. Hedgehog cactus are full of purple blooms. A few apricot globemallow are bursting. And the sentry agave are blooming with stocks as high as 20 feet.

Making it to Tipoff and The Corridor, we are back in the full pulse of tourists. Seeing the bathrooms bring back fond memories of being here with Little Bug as she worked to maintain these essential “backcountry” toilets. So many visitors, the toilets are important for protecting the dry desert of the Canyon.

As we did the first time we were here (in ’13), we sit in the shade of the outhouse. Calorie up for the hike up to the rim. A woman joins us in the shade and we start chatting. She came to work in the Grand Canyon, so she could explore it. But like so many of us, you get into the work a day world and it can be hard to get out to do what you love (such as take more than one at a time for canyon explorations). But today she had found a peaceful spot away from the crowds and had lingered on a rock above the Colorado River.

She gave us each a kiwi. Juicey, sweet’n’tart fruit. Such a gift! And chatting with her was refreshed perspective of how fortunate we are to be able to have this time in the Canyon. So much time compared to most who dream of exploring the Canyon. Even if we feel our 12 days (6 now, 6 to come) isn’t enough and we are just toeing waters we want to dive into. We are grateful.

Rested. We hike up. Smelling all the clean people. Hoping the aroma of mule and horse apples and urine can mask our own smelliness. We have not showered in 8 days and our clothes are rimmed in salt, sweat, and sticky dust.

Under the rim, every night we had beautiful views of the canyon. We appreciated experiencing it from river to mid plateau to rim. We are looking forward to the next leg and coming back next spring and continue making the Canyon’s acquaintance.

Days 39-47: 122.6 miles; 691.1 miles total. HWY 89 by Jacob Lake to Bright Angel TH on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. 

GPS: not needed; people sighted: a few AZTers, generous rafters, a USGS crew, happy backpackers, and then in less than two hours and 15 minutes, 300+ people and 11+ horses on the South Kaibab Trail… woah!; roads: several miles before dropping into the park, then none.

Barrel cactus on the Nankoweap Trail.

Beach camp view along the Colorado River by Nankoweap granaries.

Second breakfast in Marble Canyon… in the rain. Before it really started to rain. First breakfast of the day was thanks to some river rafters (some from Seattle and Port Townsend) who invited us for French toast and French press coffee.

Easy schwack through the arrowweed. The mesquite was pokier. Practice for the next leg’s brush fest.

Super fun Tapeats sandstone ledges. In the following days we’d become aware of the uplift in the Canyon as this layer of sandstone will be a few thousand feet above the river, on the Tonto Plateau.

Hitching to cross the Colorado River. We got a ride from this US Geological Survey team. It was cold out, I was wearing almost all my layers to stay warm while waiting. We are also on solar time and never bothered to adjust our watches to AZ time. So we realized this morning, as we started to wait it was 5:30 in the morning AZ time. We sat aroind for three hours. Oh well, it is a very nice hitching beach. There is much to admire in the morning along the river.

Crossing the Little Colorado River. Nice warm waters!

Lounging spot at our beach camp by Hance Rapids. Looking up river.

Starting to ascend to the Tonto Plateau.

Camp on the Tonto Plateau by Boulder Canyon.