MAY 19

The Grand Canyon should be on everyone's life list for backpacking.  After seeing the Escalante Route listed as Backpacker's #2 best backpacking trip, we decided we had to give it a try.  Our trip would cover four days and 31 miles starting at Lippan point and finishing at Grandview point.  We would descend to the Colorado along the Tanner Trail to Tanner beach before heading down the river to Hance Rapids and making our way up to Horseshoe Mesa and then Grandview Point.  Since we were rejected for a permit last year for the Grand Canyon, this year we made sure we applied in January, which did the trick.

Since we had two people coming from Texas (Dale and Thomas) and I was coming from LA, we did some price analysis on the best location to fly into and rent a car -- which turned out to be Vegas.  It also meant we could play some slots after our trip, which sounded like a pretty decent option.  So after the three of us landed in Vegas, we picked up the car and made the 4.5 hour drive to the South Rim.  As we neared the Grand Canyon, we were surprised when we thought we saw what looked like snow.  Sure enough, the closer we got, the more the snow picked up.  It felt we were driving around in Colorado in the winter.  Add in the lush forests and the elk, and we were uncertain exactly what we were getting ourselves into.  Our initial plan was to camp out and then get an early start but on account of the weather, we chickened out and got a hotel room.

Day One

Our plan was to be on the trail by 8:30, but bathroom breaks and random stops delayed us an hour.  At 9:30, the top of the rim was still fairly cold, hovering around the low 40s.  At least it wasn't raining.  From Lippan point, we stared off into the big ditch and knew we would be at the bottom soon enough.  After locating the trail (just east of the parking lot), we started our journey.  The trail starts slowly through a thicket of trees before starting down some serious switchbacks with amazing views.  As we descended along the steep trail, the temperature quickly warmed up.  Along the way, I was quite surprised by the amount of trees and wildflowers along the trail.  We also had the Desert View tower hovering over us, which turned out to be a great reference point later in the trip.

The steep trails flattened out about halfways down, which was a relief to my feet.  We also finally started catching glimpses of the Colorado, which gave some indications on where we were headed.  The trail continued to wind down the canyon with blue skies peering through the clouds.  While the threat of rain was ever present, it helped keep us cool and made for amazing scenery.  A short while later, we finally found ourselves at Tanner Beach.  We used the opportunity to replenish our water supplies using my new Steripen before making the three mile push down the river to Cardeneas Creek. 

The trail between Tanner and Cardeneas was fairly easy, gently dropping descending with the river.  When we arrived at Cardeneas, we had company.  A group of a dozen or so rafters had set up camp, taking up most of the available camping spots.  After scouting the area, we ended up finding a nice spot away from the group nestled in the trees.  While I was working to refill our water, I was heading back to camp when I noticed Dale and Thomas hanging out with therafters.  They both had a plate of chicken fajitas and a beer in hand.  Not exactly the back country camping we've become accustomed to!  I joined in and we hung out with our new friends for a while before retreating to the tent for some well deserved sleep.  We were now officially a mile below where we started out in the morning. 

Day Two

The constant pounding of my feet against the front of my boot while descending the previous day had taken a toll on my foot.  I wrapped my toes and other hotspots with athletic tape and tried to shake off the residual soreness.  Today's hike should be easier than yesterday since we had a 9 mile hike down river to Hance Rapids.  Should be easy right? 

We tried to top off the water when we realized the Steripen was no longer working.  To save time, we filled up our extra water with water straight from the Colorado in hopes we wouldn't have todrink it (which we did end up drinking).  There were a few moans about leaving technology at home but we packed up and hit the trail.  We immediate started to gain elevation, which I was hoping to save for the following day.  Beforewe knew it, we were standing on a cliff overlooking the river, which was about 1000 feet below us.  While the map showed we were going to hike along it, I guess it technically didn't show we would be at the same elevation. 

Somewhere around this point, the trail started feeling less and less safe... while it wasn't that steep, we found it to leave less room for error since we were hiking along a steep slope.  If you slipped and fell, you could potentially foll down the slope over rocks to a bottom that wasn't always visible.  I started hiking with a lean so if I happened to lose my balance, I would fall on the trail instead of off it.  As we progressed, we also found ourselves hiking along steep cliffs, 200 to 300 feet tall.  Again, the trail was always safe but if you tripped or tried to venture off trail, your safety would be in real jeopardy. 

One of the steep cliffs we were hiking along was 75 mile canyon, which requires hiking along the top of it until you finally get to an area where you can get into the canyon.  Once in the canyon, we were pretty amazed at both the steepness and width of it as well as the strange geological aspect of it.  The walls had fractures filled with calcite to create strange white lines, there were strange swirls along the walls and other interesting things that could have kept us there for a full day checking it all out.  We did relax in the shade of the canyon walls before pushing on.

We continued along the Colorado river, which was no easy task.  The trail was steep and undulating, always presenting some sort of challenge (both mentally and physically).  I think this was probably the hardest stretch of the trip. As we neared Cardeneas creek, we had to do a 35 foot climb with our packs, hike along steep cliffs before dropping down using crumbled rocks.  It certainly provided for a lot of adventure. 

We finally arrived at Cardeneas Creek and we were pleased with the options for camping.  We hadn't seen anyone since we left our campsite that morning and there didn't seem to be anyone around.  We picked a campsite that sat high above the river and provided for phenomenal views.  Since we had a non-functional water filter, we spent most of the time after arriving trying to get our water situation sorted.  We did have a back up hand pump that doesn't work very well, the option to boil water, and some chlorine pills.  We ended up using all of them.  So after boiling some water and making dinner, we would boild more water, pour it in a bottle then take it down to the river to cool it off before dumping it in one of our bladders.  We carried on like this for hours.  Once the bladders were full, we used chlorine pills to fill up our water bottles (and added Nuun tablets to offset the chlorine taste).  After the water ordeal and the stressful hike, we were ready to crash.

Day Three

The next day we were treated to bright blue skies and no clouds.  The sun was shining and looked to be for a beautiful day.  We jumped on the trail early and knew we had 8 miles and 2500 feet to go to camp.  On the way out, we did pass a couple of other groups that were on the opposite end of the camping area.  After some initial confusion, we finally found the correct trail and we quickly started climbing up and away from the river.  Bye bye river!

Day three had more of the same types of trails we had on day two, steep and scary.  Again, the trails were safe but left little room for error.  We spent most of the time staring down at our feet to make sure we didn't mess up.  Our bodies also ached so we fell into our death march routine where we just put one foot in front of the other and try not to think about it too much.  By noon, the clouds had rolled back in but it provided for some welcome relief to the sun beating down on us.  Temperatures were getting close to 90 and the difficult terrain just made it that much worse. 

We finally got to Paige Spring, which was the only water source between the river and the rim.  With no real filtration methods available to us, we decided we would just drink directly out of the spring.  The water flows directly out of the rocks and we figured it's been filtered for quite some time in the rocks so we should be good.  Since we had to fill up for the night and the following day, we decided we would eat an early dinner (it was about 5pm) at the spring and then head up to Horseshoe Mesa.  While we were relaxing, one of the groups we passed at Cardeneas Creek arrived at the spring.  We chatted with them for a bit, let them fill up their water bottles before they took off.  We then set off to eat dinner and then make our way up.  The other group had about a 30 minute head start on us but we thought it would be fun to try and catch them.  We made our way up the steep red wall and caught the other group as they were making their way to the campsites.  They were able to pick out their site first but Horseshoe Mesa is a huge place with lots of options.  We were able to find a nice spot with a great view far away from the other group.  If we would have known about the caves, we would have used this time to explore them but instead we just watched the sun go down and checked out some of the artifacts from the miners (old cans).  We were still feeling good from the hike so we fired up the lantern and hung out for a bit before crashing.

Day Four

The last day of our hike had a lot of elevation over a short distance, and we expected to dispatch with it fairly quickly.  We packed up and were hiking ahead of the other group.  The trails were indeed steep, but nothing overyly difficult.  We kept a nice steady pace until we started hearing the voices of the other group.  I guess that lit a fire under us and we started pushing a little harder.  After 2.5 hours of hiking, we found ourselves at rim and we were proud at how quickly we made it to the top.  There were scores of tourists at the top checking out the scenery and lost of people had questions about where we just came from.  Their gasps and expressions made us feel like heroes of the wild.  After relaxing, we quickly turned our attention to getting the car, which was parked at Lippan point.  We volunteered Thomas to retrieve it while Dale and I continued to tell our story about taming the Grand Canyon.

Here is the video montage of the trip:

Type: Hike-through
Dogs: Nope
Trailhead: Google

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