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Trip report - May 2003 - Thunder River, Granite Narrows and Deer Creek

Thunder River, Granite Narrows and Deer Creek
Grand Canyon
May, 2003
By Tempestmir

"The Vacation That Tried To Kill Me..."(TM)

It all started out innocently enough...

One day I was reading LJ (as I'm wont to do) when a post by userinfocanyoncat caught my eye. Seemed he was down two hikers for his Thunder River trip and did anyone want to go?

Well, uh...yeah!

I leaned over and hollered into the livingroom to confirm with T that we would totally be up for this sort of thing and he agreed it sounded like a killer thing to do (there's a touch of irony in that statement, which you'll understand later).

So it began...

We purchased, we planned, we packed, we left, we arrived in Vegas, we met up with B and R to begin our adventure.

Some seriously good food was consumed. Some last minute preparations were seen to. Some sightseeing was done.

Colorado from lookout Distance is Relative Shadows Shadows2 expansive

Some friggin' snow decided to fall Snow?! (it snows in Arizona? No one told me that!).

Finally...we hit the trail...

(I should state for the record that I am not in the greatest of physical shape of my life right now. Those of you who have met or know me in the flesh, know there's a bit more flesh there than there was oh, say...five years ago.

I'm a desk jockey who loathes going to the gym and loves to eat...pudge happens.

T is not exactly a paramount of physical activity, either...but at least he plays basketball with some friends every Tuesday night, so he has that bit of weekly exercise going for him.)

My backpack, which easily weighed as much as a small Yugo (Editor's Note: it was about 50lbs at the start of the trip, but I didn't get an official tally, cuz the airport lady couldn't lift it onto the scale when she tagged it.), threatened to drag me off the edge of every cliff we came across...and we came across more than our share.

I would have taken perspective photos of some of the exposed trails we traversed, bu t I was too busy clinging to the wall for dear life...so you'll have to take my word for it.

The first day was a hike of about six or so miles, but it felt like three straight days. By the time we got to the Esplanade I was beside myself with exhaustion. I don't do well in extreme heat. I get sun/heatstroke (what the hell is the difference between the two anyway?) at the drop of a hat...so naturally a good idea would be to go hiking (read: extreme physical activity) in the freakin' desert (read: stupid, stupid, stupid).

Camp that night was a blessing...and the sunset from atop a big ol' rock was just plain gorgeous.

Esplanade Sunset Esplanade Sunset2 Esplanade Sunset3 Esplanade Sunset4 Esplanade Sunset5

The next day we got a later start than was a good idea, considering we had a lot of open terrain to cover before getting to Thunder River, where there was cool water and tree cover to soothe my burning body.

By the time we were nearly done with Surprise Valley Surprise Valley, I'd literally thrown a hissy fit. I tossed my pack on the ground, tossed myself next to it and refused to go another step without a pony.

(Heat stroke makes me cranky.)

B and R, who take to high elevation and arid desert climate like natives, waited for us about a quarter mile ahead. Once I'd had a rest and several gulps of water, we pushed forward and managed to reach the source of Thunder River without me dying along the way.

However, at that point it was T's turn to throw a fit.

Backpack hit the ground, then so did he and he refused to move another step...pony be damned.

Thunder River break - Tom

More rest, more water, a snack and we pressed on.

At this point, B'd had enough of our shenanigans and went ahead to drop stuff at camp. He then came back with an empty pack and took a load off our backs (literally) to help ease our way down the rest of the path.

My loathing of switchbacks (zig-zagging trails that make decending steep inclines a bit less...well, steep, but the y're hard as hell on the knees) was firmly in place that night.

Thunder River was damn cool, though. This raging waterfall just pushing itself out of a crack in the mountain...apparently it's fed by an endless underground lake. How cool would that be to swim in?!

Thunder River Thunder River2

The next day was a little easier, but still no walk in the park. Path to Colorado (a diarama)

Fortunately, there were some shady places to rest along the way, so we (T and I) took *many* breaks.

We set up camp along the Colorado River (which I'd accidentally tossed my sunglasses into earlier in the day...dammit...), fending off biting flies and encroaching darkness. First and foremost in our minds was the knowledge that the next day's hike would bring us to Deer Creek...where we would stay for two nights...huzzah!!

The trail to Deer Creek wasn't too too bad, but once we'd reached the top of the last incline a nasty wind whipped through with a vengence. Gusts would literally sneak up and nearly knock me over, what with the heavy pack hindering my normally excellent sense of balance...(*snort*...yeah, right).

The Deer Creek site was nice. We had a little spot with a log to sit in while you draped your toes in the water...it was a hop, skip and jump to "the narrows", the spot where the creek drops down several feet into this awesome gorge (I had to physically restrain myself from trying to climb down into it to check it out) before trickling off into the Colorado...and there were lizards everywhere!

Deer Creek (the narrows) bump on a log waterfall tom lizard

The next day we did a relaxing day hike along said gorge and down to the Colorado to check out this simply amazing waterfall. The thing was bloody huge...I looked so wee next to it.

We had lunch by the river...watching several river parties dock on the beach and begin to set up camp. Even scored a couple of beers from them...which was a nice change from water, water, water and more water.

This from an avid water consumer, mind you.

Three things motivated me for the last two days...bed, bathroom and a cheeseburger. Amusingly enough, those were the two days we made the best time...it's amazing what the mind can do when the body's ready to give in.

Our last night in we camped back on the Esplanade in sub-zero temperatures (Editor's Note: It was easily in the low 40's that night), which did little to help the fact we were esentially camping out on a big ol' rock. My back had had enough at this point...

Repeat the mantra: Bed, bath, cheeseburger...

The moment we climbed out of the canyon, I wanted to drop to the ground and kiss it...but I probably wouldn't have been able to get back up, so I refrained.

When we got back to Jacob Lake, our room wasn't cleaned yet, so T and I hit the diner for...you guessed it...a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a coke.

After eating like a squirrel squirrel for a week, my stomach revolted against the carbonation and grease, but I didn't care...at the time, it was the greatest damn cheeseburger I'd ever had.

We then fought over the first shower, but I acquiesed and let him have it cuz...damn...the boy stank. Seven days without proper facilities will do that to a person.

this way to the egress make your deposit here

The wilderness makes people strange you know...lunch lady Tom

In closing...

If you'd asked me on Day Two whether or not I regretted my decision to go, the answer would have been a resounding yes...followed closely by me latching onto your leg and begging you to rescue me and take me to a Hilton.

Looking back on it now, while I'm still wondering whatever possessed me to think I was physically fit enough to undertake such a venture, I'm damned proud of myself for doing what I did. It's not something most people will ever be able to say they've accomplished...

Would I do it again? Absolutely not...

For my next vacation I'm taking a friggin' cruise to Aruba, where scantily clad cabin boys will serve me rum drinks in coconuts with those little umbrellas in them.

(Editor's Final Note: I'm going to San Jose in October...but my vacation after that will be a cruise, dammit!)

Copyright © 2003, by Tempestmir, All Rights Reserved

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