GRAND CANYON National Park - Happy Campers
As planned (day 0 was 02/18/95 and day 6 was 02/24/95, a saturday through the next friday with red-eye back late friday night returning saturday early.):
Day 0 we started later due to driving time and stopping to eat and hiked lower part of S Kaibab in dark getting to BA camp a little before 20:00. We were all dragging because of the three hour time difference making it a long long day. We were glad it was dark so no one could see us hobbling on our ski poles during the last mile and a half of the descent! We used a headlamp in combination with several handheld flashlights -- the headlamp eats batteries, but is a great thing. The first part of the descent was extremely nice, with the sun setting and good visibility, and of course unseasonably warm temperatures. And, we did manage to get in a beer at the Phantom Ranch beer hall, so we were not "totally" tired.
Day 1 We saw that the cottonwoods around Phantom were fully green and the whole area looked like April rather than February! We bought T-shirts at Phantom Ranch (as usual, they had a new one). The hike went according to plan and we reached Cottonwood Camp by about one. It seemed farther than it should have but we were tired with the late arrival the prior night and getting used to hiking full steam ahead (our packs weighed in about 60 pounds each). The one hill just before Ribbon Falls took it out of Bill. Doug and Dave crossed BA creek at Cottonwood Camp after we arrived and day hiked up Transept canyon as we had lots of daylight time and they were feeling good. We also hiked a little ways N on the Kaibab trail to kill time. A nice day with good sun although it got a little chilly at night (it was still much much warmer than expected for the time of year though). Cottonwood Camp was partially green but not like Phantom. We could see lights at the N Rim after dark from just a little ways up the trail from our campsite. The BA stream flowing through was quite full, flowing swiftly, about 2 feet deep and 8 feet wide, and very clean. There was a section of the trail just prior to the camp in which rock was falling. Dave actually got hit on the shoulder by a softball-sized piece of rock walking through. We had Cottonwood to ourselves! It is a great camp, when not crowded as it usually is during the main season. It had tables to do cooking on and really nice chemical toilets (the same as Indian Gardens) -- not at all roughing it. The ranger station was not occupied and surrounded by police tape as it was being "deleaded". This looked like one of the nice ranger stations (the other nice one being Indian Gardens with a great view but otherwise not so nice because of the nature of the people it gets being so reachable from the S Rim).
Day 2 went according to plan. Bill stopped at a rockfall in the upper Supai. Doug and Dave continued up to before the Kaibab limestone where they were stopped by deep snow. We heard a rockfall after eating back at the Cottonwood Camp and saw the dust from it (it was across BA creek just S of Cottonwood camp). We again had Cottonwood to ourselves! We really enjoyed this campsite. Several Cottonwood sites were damaged a couple weeks later in March when the BA flood wrecked portions of the Kaibab trail in the box (from north of the Clear Creek intersection to just south of Ribbon falls). This would be the second time recently that I recall Cottonwood Camp being damaged by flooding -- could be an "exciting" place to be camped!
Day 3 went according to plan but was perceived by all as a fairly hard pull. Upon reaching Indian Gardens, we talked to a ranger and changed our itinerary to go to Monument and return to Indian Gardens rather than onto Hermit camp. This meant we would have more time to fool around after reaching the top (we planned to hike across the Tonto east from Indian Gardens and out the S Kaibab). We did have enough energy to go out to Plateau Point which was impressive, one of the very best views we have seen from the Tonto level (the other good ones are just east of Monument as well as a few places on the Clear Creek trail). We were lucky in that the weather cooperated long enough for us to see Plateau at its best with some nice views of shadows on the far side of the canyon as well as nice views down the devils corkscrew part of BA trail. That night it rained cats and dogs but all of us stayed dry in our tents (even though my bivy got deluged by rain off the roof of the shelter we were under). We were pretty tired by the time this hike was done, but the first part (from Cottonwood to Phantom) was one of the favorite walks of the trip. It was a beautiful early morning, pleasantly cool temperatures, and we took lots of pictures of the plant life along the way. Both Bill and Dave took pictures of the morning sun shining through the bright green new leaves of the cottonwood trees that you see as you near Phantom. It was great to sit around Phantom that morning and rest a bit and call home, and feel superior to all the "tourists" who had muled down there for the day.
Day 4 we hiked to Salt and stopped there for lunch and decided to stay if no one showed up rather than go on to Monument (a technical violation but it was the prettiest campsite we had seen, and we did see no one else so what matters). It rained a little on the way to Salt and the day started out really drab. We did see quite a few deer on the Tonto just west of Indian Gardens. This was a great campsite! We had a kitchen area made to order partially surrounded by rocks and a generally pretty area. We hiked up the Salt canyon a ways and could see that it had flooded some time in the fairly recent past and the water had been at least 8-10 feet high compared to the trickle we saw. Dave and Doug hiked a ways out to the point west of Salt and got really good views of the inner canyon. The water in Salt was not too bad (it can be fairly brackish or even not present at all!). At Salt, we were able to look up all around behind (south of) us at 3000 feet sheer cliffs leading up to observation posts, from which we could sometimes hear the echoes of people talking. And we could look out (north) across the tonto, part of the inner canyon, and to the northern formations. It was completely pleasant that night after dinner, sitting in the smooth dirt area which was the "living room", with Dave's kerosene lantern lighting things just a bit, talking about things (don't remember what) with stars overhead.
Day 5 we hiked back to Indian Gardens. The day was sunny and nice. On the way back, we saw a lot of traffic going westbound including a mother and young son headed out to Monument (a serious trek for a child). We had time and the sun to air out our sleeping bags and wash/dry some clothes. Dave and Bill hiked part way up toward the rim on the BA trail getting just above the Supai -- we were joking about making a beer run but did not have flashlights nor walking sticks (and did not know about the ice near the top either). A couple had day hiked down and were too tired to hike out so the ranger loaned them some equipment to stay -- they looked pretty bleak that night and even worse the next morning. We talked about how luck they were it was not raining like two days earlier. The night was better than two days before except that a loud campsite made noise until the ungodly hour of 22:00 or 23:00.
Day 6 we hiked out the BA (instead of the S Kaibab as we planned in our first revise). The route was disappointing for me as it was much icier than the S Kaibab and the views were not very good. However; it was much shorter and I certainly was tired at that point. Upon reaching the top, Dave and Bill ran (and walked) back to the car at the S Kaibab trailhead -- the views on the rim trail were very good but the trail was poor in spots as well as snowy in some places. We ate lunch at the rim and then hit most of the view spots westbound out to Hermit Rest. I enjoyed seeing from the rim the tiny white speck of the toilet seat at Salt that Doug had taken a picture of Bill sitting on! We bought little trinkets at the Hermit Rest gift shop. We had a good steak diner at the Arizona Steakhouse on the rim. The ice going up the BA was a real problem for the last thousand vertical feet. Doug was making his way up the first quarter mile of the really bad part, thinking how glad he was to have two ski poles (Bill and Dave only had one each). At the dinner at the steakhouse, we had a seat right by the window which is only 20 feet or so from the south rim, and a huge thunderstorm came plowing right through the middle of the canyon. It was a great show, watching the lightning and rain falling out there in mid-air.
Pack and general gear weight/benefit comments:
Bill used his large internal frame MEI. The single main compartment made for easy loading since he uses large stuff sacks to segregate kitchen, food, clothing. The empty pack weighs in at 7.5 lbs which was blamed for the feeling of lugging around a house, but hindsight says the problem was the 60+lb load which he simply was not used to. It is really tempting to fill a big pack. Bill brought along a propane stove which we did not need at all as Doug's white gas wonder is 100% reliable. This was a 4lb+ heavy mistake.
Bill also had too much clothing (because of the warm weather) -- perhaps an extra 3-4 lbs. The detachable day pack top of the backpack is very nice. In fact, Bill is planning on attaching it to the back of my new Peak I external frame pack for other hikes in the future. The crampons were heavy and not needed for going in the S Kaibab, but were essential coming out the BA as Bill only had one staff (and that one without a metal tip). I believe that two sticks with points would have permitted leaving behind the crampons which would have saved 1 lb. Doug did just fine on sticks and the crampons were hard to keep fastened and rather painful on the feet.
Doug was glad of his rig, overall. His two-man "bivy" tent was luxurious for one person, and stayed completely dry even during the downpour we had at Indian Gardens, in which it was basically sitting in a puddle. He was pleased with his external frame pack, but it was a bit small, and he actually ripped out the floor of the main compartment trying to shove in the cookpot/stove rig. He took an absolute minimum of weight, and didn't ever really feel he lacked something important. Doug's total (full food and water) pack weight was 45lbs, even though he had a fairly hefty kitchen load in there.
Bill used a new and inexpensive bivy tent. It was smaller than Doug's and as it turned out not made as well. By the end of the trip it had pretty well started to fall apart. It is rated as ok in summer to keep bugs out, and otherwise of no use. It was not free standing and was a little bit of a pain in some spots to find places for the stakes. In fall or winter and maybe even spring it did not help shelter because the tent contacted your legs and hips. Even with the stakes well placed it tended to sag and get dew all over you and your gear. It accumulated a lot of dew which wet the sleeping bag and made it relatively uncomfortable. Bill will stick with his heavier free-standing dome tent in the future except possibly for summer).
The food we most liked was the egg/spam/green pepper/grilled onion breakfast omelette (Doug is a great cook), but the ChiliMac, Lasagne, as well as the Beef Stroganoff were also memorable. The Chili Mac and Lasagne benefited from the use of fresh cheese. Doug grilled onions the first night for the rib eye steak sandwiches which was fantastic (I admit being hungry helps). The left over grilled onions made the omelette the next morning especially good!
All meals were helped by the spice carousal -- must do this for all future trips.
Note, the spice carousal was fun, even where it did not help the food.
The Beef Stroganoff benefited especially from the squeeze margarine. Weight/taste benefit analysis commentary: although the cheese was great, Doug thinks the squeeze margarine is the best way to add fat (the ultimate goal) to these meals.
The Black Bart Beef Chili and the Mountain Chili were also very good and would have been better if we had brought more cheese.
The spaghetti with mushroom sauce and the beef stew were also good although we found the spaghetti to be somewhat un-spicy with a lack of enough tomato flavor and the beef stew was a little chewy but with great broth and good vegetables (extra water/more cooking may help). The spaghetti would be helped by bringing a little baggy of grated Parmesan cheese and perhaps some dried tomatoes plus dehydrated onions. We found near the end of the trip that any dish that had dehydrated meat in it ought to hydrate for about 50% longer than recommended on the package, otherwise there would be some definite crunchiness.
The gorp (we had 3+ lbs each or a little over 1/2 lb a day) went well and was in about the correct amount. The mix was cashew (2 lbs), peanuts (2 lbs+), Reeses cups (2 lbs), granola bars (1 lb+), Peanut M&Ms (1 lb), plus chocolate covered raisin and bridge mix (1 lb).
We used instant coffee, hot chocolate with marshmallow, and tomato soups as usual and liked all of these. Dave brought a mix of red wines and Doug had a very nice whiskey he shared. Doug also had his supply of cigars which he did not share (thank goodness!) -- but, these were clearly expensive as they smelled pretty good even to Bill. The wine was better than the whiskey, except for weight/taste benefit analysis! The beef jerky Dave brought was good -- jerky will be a staple like gorp for future trips.