My buddy "Westy" had been planning a backcountry backpacking adventure for a while. When he landed the permits for the Tapeats Creek area and invited me I knew I HAD to say "In" despite not knowing anything about the area.
(A friend once taught me that if anyone ever offers you what sounds like a great trip you either say IN or OUT and don't worry about the details. If you say IN you will do whatever it takes to make it happen no matter the difficulties.)
This area is fairly remote even by North Rim of the Grand Canyon standards. We'd be cutting it close since the day we were planning to leave the North Rim was only 1 day before the roads are officially closed for Winter. (Of course I know the back-roads and side roads you can still legally drive although it's inadvisable due to snow)
We spent a couple weeks gearing up. We both had a fair amount of gear, but we borrowed some of the more expensive and specialized gear like water filtration systems (I still generally just carried Iodine, but this trip would require many refills of stream water so it's nice to have clean tasting water), backpacking packs and even a 2 person tent. (I have an ultralight 1 person for moto trips only). We did several 8, 10 and 14 mile hikes in preparation, but nothing could prepare us for carrying 45 to 65 lbs on our backs on one of the roughest and sketchiest trails I've been on.
We drove from Phoenix after work, stopped in Flagstaff for dinner and on to Marble Canyon lodge for our last warm indoor bed for 5 days.
We decided to treat ourselves to one last non-dehydrated meal at Cliff Dwellers lodge.
Mmm Coffee and Bacon.
We started seeing and driving on snow as we hit dirt and approached the trail head about an hour from pavement.
Hmmm, this could be a cold trip.
The trailhead at Monument Point. I'd been here a couple times before to truck camp, but it's fun to finally see how far the rabbit hole really goes.
First up, you descend off the rim. This section has switchbacks that gobbled up elevation. Tough on our toes and tough on your thoughts of hiking our later in the week.
Looking down to level two, the Esplanade. This is where you stash some water for you ascent back up.
After what seemed like quite a long time we made it to the Esplanade and stashed our water.
I picked up what would be my hiking stick for this trip right here and we enjoyed a little break before descending the next steep level.
I called these rocks... well, let's just call them a nice pair.
A chance to get your boots and socks off is always welcomed. Dry socks = happy feet. (we were using Darn Tough merino wool socks so they did a good job of staying dry and keeping the blisters to a minimum, but air dry is still nice)
Looking down from the Espalande to the next level. You can't see down into the canyon where we'll be staying, but the red dot is about where we're headed. The blue dot is the Colorado River which we'd head to on a later day of the trip.
The switchbacks! These were really steep and unrelenting. I can see why we might need water on the way back up!
We made it down that level and were finally feeling like we were down IN the canyon. The only issue, we were starting to loose sun!
After what seemed like a long time of walking to the next "edge" where we would descend the final level, we made it. We were almost able to see where we'd end up to camp.
The roaring noise we'd been hearing for the last half mile of hiking was finally in view as well. Thunder River. The shortest river in North America. It came cascading out of the mountain side and flowed violently for less than a half mile right into a confluence with Tapeats Creek (and our campsite).
We were losing light so there is a better pic of the great Thunder River falls on the way out.
A fair amount of this last descent was done in the dark. We passed another small group of hikers who were a bit freaked out with the 12 inch wide, loose soil trail. We were too, but we wanted to move safely, quickly and efficiently OFF of this as soon as possible! Thank goodness for bright head lamps! We made it into camp, setup our tent, gorged on food and enjoyed a bit of celebratory Bourbon to settle the nerves. Almost a couple hours later everyone made it to camp and I was SO glad we got off that mountain sooner than later. We were SPENT.
Not a bad view to wake up to...
We spent this day relaxing and exploring our new home.
Plenty of fish and they would bite at anything! We threw all sorts of different fly's at them and had luck with everything.
A little hike around the neighborhood.
This was a great little creek to fish. Tapeats Creek.
Great food and a great day with great people.
The canyon would light up red in both the mornings and the evenings. It was spectacular.
Day Three in the canyon began with some nice warm coffee and oatmeal. We decided that the dehydrated breakfast meals were worthless and sticking to good old instant oatmeal was better. Today we were going to hike and fish our way to the Colorado River.
The trail to the Colorado River ascended and descended the canyon many times along the short 3 mile jaunt. Of course it couldn't just follow the creek. Haha. The trail of cottonwoods clearly define the creeks path.
Seems like a good spot to refill on water and cast a line in.
The trail ahead.
Along the shelf.
We made it! Just have to descend some switchbacks before jumping in!
Okay, maybe just wade in. After all, the water was cold and the air temps were only in the low 70's.
We spent a couple hours watching rafters go past, fishing and eating a nice big lunch of Salami, cheese and crackers.
Staring at contrails.
About time to head back. :-(
Heading up the switchbacks!
Up and along Tapeats creek we went.
It's so hard to capture the different layers and levels of the canyon since each has such a drastic change in light. The camera tends to pick one to fit into the given exposure.
Some of these shelf trails have rocks sticking out. Be sure to not let a rock hit your pack and throw your balance off!
Back at camp we enjoyed some more fishing.
Sadly, it was time to start our big hike out! Over a mile of elevation to gain today.
Lots of shelf trails like this.
The sheer noise of Thunder River is impressive, not to mention the view.
Climbing up and up for many hours.
Taking a break at the Esplanade and retrieving our water.
The temps would decrease with each level we ascended.
Often times people camp at the Esplanade and finish the hike out the following day. The thought of cold beer and warm real food inspired us to knock out the last part in the same day!
This 15 foot drop is best navigated with your pack off.
Almost to the top. After over 10 hours of hiking getting a glimpse of the trucks was a welcome site. We paused to take in the last few views or the canyon before ascending the last several steep switch backs.
That was a good trip.
Sitting on the tailgate of the truck in time to watch the sunset, eating salt and vinegar chips, cookies and drinking a beer. This was heaven.
Let's go back, now.
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