As we headed north from Timp Canyon this morning we had our eyes peeled for some sort of path that would take us up to the Rim. All morning we brush-bashed through pointleaf manzanita and circumnavigated cryptobiotic soil. But we never found a trail. Near Crazy Jug Spring we found a few cairns and short stretch of path, but we couldn’t see where it went. Ascending up slope, Gabriel had the good idea to zigzag traverse about in hopes of encountering a trail. The approach worked!
I have to give credit to Gabriel this morning, he picked a fine line to weave through thickets of vegetation, duck under pines, and avoid the the cryptobiotic soil. I followed him and was distracted by flowers like larkspur and cliffrose and wondering what Harvey Butchart and company did to get around these parts and the vast expanse of Supai to the west.
Once on trail, we made good time hiking up to the Rim by early afternoon. We walked a network roads west toward the Bill Hall Trail. Up on the Rim, at times we could had views stretching north across the Arizona Strip to the Vermillion Cliffs and Zion NP. Seeing Zion, we had thoughts of Daybreaker finishing the official route, likely today. Oh it would be so nice to see him before we all wrap up the Hayduke… but the only way to do that is to keep walking… down into the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. As often happens on our long walks, sometimes we go south to go north.
To get back down into the Canyon, we took the Bill Hall Trail. The route goes from Monument Point and and steeply descends the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino formations down to the wonderland of the Supai formation and the grand benches of Esplanade sandstone. We admired the trail’s twists and turns, views, and abundant wildflowers. The slopes were brimming with flea bane, apricot globemallow, clusters of pink buckwheat cushions, and beautiful tall grasses. It’s a stunning bit of trail. And getting to experience it makes our Hayduke alternate all worth the while as it’s now my favorite trail into the Canyon.
We strolled in awe across the vast benches of red slickrock that are the Esplanade. Admiring the cactus gardens and agave groves, the red sandstone toad stools and domes of orange slickrock. Potholes shined with fresh water. This stretch of the Esplanade has Gabriel and I thinking about longer explorations in the Grand Canyon and seeing what it’s like on the west half of the Canyon. For the week plus that we’ve walked in parts of the national park from rim to river to plateaus, we’ve come to realize that we’ve barely begun to comprehend the Canyon.
A few other parties were out hiking or setting up camp as we were walking, one fellow commented that he liked our packs (yeah Hyperlites!). Two day hikers we met seemed to have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea that we didn’t take a car to get here from Moab. Given the 17 cars we saw back up at the TH parking lot, we were surprised that we observed only five or six parties in the area.
Eventually we parted with the beautiful Esplanade and descended through a break in the Redwall limestone to Surprise Valley. Heading down, we glimpsed the green ribbon that is the Colorado River. The valley floor a wide rolling bench with large boulder gardens growing blackbrush, agave, and barrel cactus.
The air is warm down here, just a thousand feet above the Colorado. We are amused to remind ourselves that two evenings ago we were camped in snow with all our layers on. Earlier this morning we were trail-less and brush-bashing, feeling our way through the Canyon. Now we’re camped close to the trail that is part of the Hayduke route. So many contrasts in such a short stretch of time.
While eating dinner, we admire the light as it changes the color of the Canyon’s walls from washed out shades of gold, red, and brown to brilliant glowing hues. Canyon light shows a blend of magic and physics. Tonight it’s back to relaxed, warm, oh-so-comfortable cowboy camping. Tucked into our sleeping bags, we watch the stars come out.
Day 52: 13.6 miles; 764.5 miles total. Esplanade north of Timp Creek to Surprise Valley.
GPS: used once; people sighted: several backpackers and day hikers along the Bill Hall Trail; roads: several miles from the Crazy Jug Spring exit to the Bill Hall TH.