10/25/19…..Hayduke Day 29…..9 miles
QB and I got back on the Hayduke today after a nearly 2 week hiatus. Let me catch you up real quick. On October 12th we started hitching to Las Vegas from Jacob Lake, AZ. In Vegas we rented a car, drove to Southern California to explore Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, and climb Mt San Jacinto. We returned the car to Las Vegas, walked up and down the strip then flew to New York to attend QB’s friend Aneesa and her now husband Kevin’s wedding. After a very brief visit to the east coast we returned to Vegas and were picked up at the airport by QB’s folks Nancy and Dave. The 4 of us did a little road trip around the southwest going to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam, Zion NP, and Bryce Canyon NP. This morning we parted ways in Bryce and started hitching south while Nancy and Dave continued on their tour of the southwest towards Moab.This morning we watched the sunrise then beat the bag out of another continental breakfast before saying our good byes with QB’s parents and putting our thumbs out. Oscar and Milo were our first ride and they brought us out of their way about a half hour to Junction, UT where we were picked up by Breck who got us another 40 miles into Kanab. In town we stopped at the PO and resupplied at the grocery store. We’re getting very familiar with this town. From Kanab we got a ride from Opie, a helicopter pilot, to Fredonia, AZ then waited awhile before getting picked up by Drew and Nate, two hunters in a tiny Suzuki Samurai. These guys got us up to the store at Jacob Lake where we had a quick sandwich then started walking back the two miles towards the trail. Braxton and Brenna who were taking their time driving from Alaska to Virginia gave us a short lift the rest of the way in their van.
Back on the Hayduke we were still on the section that coincides with the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau. The hiking up here isn’t too exciting but it’s peaceful and easy. It’s deer hunting season and we’ve been walking by lots of hunting camps. I really hope I don’t get shot. I hope QB doesn’t either. Probably should get her a matching orange hat next time we’re in town. We walked for a few hours and set up at sunset which came super early, around 5:30 Arizona time.
10/26/19…..Hayduke Day 30…..28 miles
Our first 10 miles or so today we walked through a burn(a section of forest that had previously burned in a wildfire). This apocalyptic looking area is exposed to the elements, luckily it wasn’t too windy or sunny, it’s just a little ugly. There were lots of hawks hunting, so that was cool, nothing like a bird of prey to spike my tone.
Eventually we reached a ponderosa forest and walked through that for much of the afternoon before reaching a view of the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. In April of ‘18 while we were hiking the Arizona Trail, a lot of the trail was still covered by multiple feet of snow. We decided then to walk the road that’s parallel to the trail which had minimal traffic because the north rim of the GC was closed. With no snow on the trail today a lot of the hiking was uncharted terrain of the AZT for us.
Late this afternoon we met up with just the 3rd other Hayduke thru hiker we’ve seen. We’d been in touch with Clax online and knew he was close. He did a massive day to catch us and then the 3 of us walked a couple hours together until sunset. We reached a road where the Hayduke splits from the AZT and found a couple flat spots to camp beside it.
10/27/19…..Hayduke Day 31…..7 miles
We parted ways with Clax this morning as he went right to go pick up his Grand Canyon permits at the North Rim ranger station and we followed the Hayduke to the left along forest roads for 7 miles. It was super windy this morning up on the plateau, like ridiculously uncomfortably windy, like hurricane force wind. It sucked. When we got to the edge of the canyon and the trailhead for the dastardly Nankoweap Trail we met Talitha walking uphill. We hoped that below the rim would be a lot less windy but Talitha, who was just down for a day hike, told us it was pretty miserable. The Nankoweap Trail is supposedly the most difficult trail in the Grand Canyon. It drops steeply and follows narrow ledges with huge drops off to the side. I haven’t been looking forward to it. I especially don’t want to be walking down it while also competing with massive wind gusts. Neither does QB. It was only 10 am and we weren’t going to wait around on the edge of the canyon so we asked Talitha for a ride out of there and she was super willing to help us out. She works tracking California Condors in the area(one of my favorite subjects) and drove us all the way back to Jacob Lake.
Back at the Jacob Lake restaurant/gas station/gift shop/hotel again we ran into Chris and Sanjay the 4th and 5th other Hayduke hikers we’ve met. These guys have been just behind us for awhile and we’ve been in touch with them the whole trip sharing info and finally met them in person. We talked with them for awhile about how our hikes have been going(we’ve all taken much different routes so far) and of course we had a few mutual friends. Because of the cold weather predicted for tonight the 4 of us all got cabins for Jacob Lake and elected to stay indoors. I really would have liked to be below the rim tonight but descending the Nankoweap in the wind was out of the question.
10/28/19…..Hayduke Day 32…..23 miles
It snowed overnight. Just a couple inches, but still. We met Chris and Sanjay for breakfast and then went our separate ways. Those guys are getting back on trail right by Jacob Lake whereas QB and I are trying to hitch back to where we got off yesterday.
The temperature was in the single digits when we got out to the road and put our thumbs out. The maple syrup leftover from breakfast in my beard and mustache was freezing solid.
After a mile of walking down the road, Vince and Jim picked us up. They’re from Kanab and Vince, a trail runner, knows our friend Lynn. These guys took us 25 miles down HWY 67 to where they’re gathering firewood and QB and I took a left down the dirt road toward Saddle Mountain trailhead. We thought for sure we’d get a ride back to where we hitched from yesterday but no cars ever came. Instead we walked 14 bonus miles on snow covered roads. Neither of us had expected this would happen and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I guess maybe we would have done things differently yesterday had we thought it would be so difficult to get back. At least it wasn’t windy out. By the time we got to the trailhead on the edge of the canyon we were more than ready to be done road walking.
I have been thinking about the Nankoweap Trail for about a month now and it’s been keeping me up at night. It looked really scary and parts of it were really scary. There’s trail the whole way and for the most part it was decent but at times it gets quite narrow and a false step would drop me thousands of feet to the canyon floor. It was pretty but it was scary. I’ve hiked on gnarlier terrain before but I guess I built this up in my head and it lived up to the hype. Eventually we got through the high exposure stuff and we really started to descend, something like 5500 feet in a slow going 8 miles from the rim. We got to Nankoweap Creek in the dark and set up camp. I feel very relieved to be down here in the Canyon in the relative warmth of the lower altitude and with the wild and wooly Nankoweap Trail in my rear view mirror.
10/29/19…..Hayduke Day 33…..11 miles
This trail has been dealing us a little string of bad luck lately. Let me explain. Two days ago the wind forced us to retreat back to town and not drop into the canyon. Yesterday we think the snow prevented anybody from driving out to the trailhead therefore shutting down any opportunity of hitchhiking and adding 14 miles to our day. Today we got shutout trying to hitch across the river.
This morning we walked along Nankoweap Creek for 3 miles until it reached the mighty Colorado. From the mouth of the Nankoweap for 8 miles along the river there was no trail, just a nasty bushwhack. It was scenic, sure, but it was very difficult. Occasionally there would be animal paths here and there but there was lots of bushwhacking through thorny bushes and cacti, scrambling on loose talus, and some tricky route finding. For awhile we were in 1 mph terrain. Then we still had to get across the river. Our trail continued on the far side of the Colorado at the mouth of the Little Colorado River and the only way to get across was to get a ride, but no rafts came. Maybe tomorrow.
Today wasn’t all bad though we’re in the Grand Canyon for Christ’s sake so it’s beautiful plus QB and I got in for a swim so that was fun. Oh and if you were wondering swimming across the Colorado is not an option.
10/30/19…..Hayduke Day 34…..12 miles
Finally a change of fortune today. We packed up early and waited on the beach by our campsite making sure not to miss any opportunity to get a ride across. Around 12 a party of about a dozen rafters on 4 boats floated by and were happy to be able to help us out. They brought us across the river and to the mouth of the Little Colorado River.
QB and I thanked our new friends then walked up the LCR about a quarter mile looking for a place to ford it. This river is a striking turquoise color and was moving pretty quickly. The bottom was invisible but luckily it was only chest deep. We packed all our stuff inside trash bags within our packs, held hands so we wouldn’t get swept away and crossed. It wasn’t that bad or cold. On the far side of the LCR we gained the Beamer Trail and walked that for the next 10 miles.
I won’t say that the Beamer Trail was absolutely terrifying but it had its moments. The trail follows along a bench that has a 500 foot cliff on the right hand side going straight down to the river. There was a fair amount of times where a false step would have been my last. Other than that it contoured in and out of hanging side canyons and provided absolutely magnificent views of the Canyon. In the distance we could see the Desert View Lookout Tower on the South Rim. Last week we were up there with Nancy and Dave looking way down at this trail and I guess I had mistakenly thought the trail was a lot lower. After about 6 miles the Beamer Trail drops down to river level and is much more relaxed. At some point we crossed the intersection with the Tanner Trail and picked up the Escalante Route(not technically a GC trail but felt pretty good to me). We walked a couple miles of this before finding a place to camp for the night under a tiny sliver of a moon and a gazzillion stars.
10/31/19…..Hayduke Day 35…..25 miles
The Escalante Route brought us up high over the river and had a handful of big climbs and descents. At one point it brought us along the rim of a side canyon then we turned a corner, dropped into the canyon and were in a section of narrows for a mile back to the Colorado. There wasn’t as many dicey spots as the Beamer Trail but the Escalante Route did provide a couple of b-hole puckering moments, specifically while climbing up and over Papago Slide. It was also a slow trail or at least we moved slowly. On a day we had to really boogie we couldn’t seem to make miles for the first half of our day.
After we crossed Hance Creek we were now on the Tonto Trail. This brought us up high up onto the Tonto Plateau and far away from the Colorado River. For the rest of the day we would walk the Tonto Trail on the rims of huge side canyons.
We came across Tank, the first and only eastbound Hayduke hiker we’ve seen and now the 6th other thru hiker we’ve met.
If you’re wondering what we did for Halloween, QB and I wore the only costumes we had on hand; each other’s clothes. Then we listened to Dirtbag Diaries ‘Tales of Terror’ and night hiked for an hour. I was hoping I would see some tents to trick or treat at because I’m extremely low on food but no such luck.
11/1/19…..Hayduke Day 36…..18 miles
We realized yesterday that the P.O. at the South Rim of the GC closes at 3:30 on Friday(today) and is closed for the weekend. Because the store there is super expensive we mailed a box of food and originally figured we’d be there either Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s why we walked an hour into the dark last night and then got going this morning before sunrise. We had 14 more miles of the Tonto Trail and then a 4 mile climb up to the South Rim.
Finally some consistently cruiser trail. The Tonto Trail was a breeze and even though the South Kaibab Trail climbs 3000 feet in 4 miles and stinks like mule piss we motored right up it. We even saw a condor! I spotted it perched up high on a rocky point and then as we rounded a corner we saw this majestic bird soaring in circles way up in the sky.
The main corridor of the GC consists of the South Kaibab Trail, and the Bright Angel trail on the South Rim side and the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim. These trails are steep, well manicured, and very very busy. Grand Canyon is an absolutely massive place but the overwhelming majority of people are concentrated in the main corridor. As we got onto the South Kaibab Trail we started to see lots of people all the way up to the rim. Once on the rim we caught a shuttle to the P.O., got to the backcountry office to rearrange our permits, then supplemented our food at the grocery store and ate a big meal. Tonight we’re staying at the hiker/biker site at Mather CG(I think all National Parks have these extra cheap sites for people like us) there’s laundry and showers across the street and I’m just about all the way rejuvenated. Tomorrow we’ll begin our next week of zigzagging first North and then West through the Canyon.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes