TRIP REPORT - NEW HANCE / TONTO / PAGE SPRINGS / GRANDVIEW
SEPTEMBER 8, 9 & 10, 1998
JOHN DRESSER & JOE CASSIDY
We decided to hike the Grand Canyon during Joe's September vacation in June. We applied for a permit on the corridor trails but were offered the above route by the BCO as our requested route was full due to our tardiness in filing for a permit. We examined the route and despite it's difficulty decided to accept the offered permit even though this was the first Grand Canyon hike for either of us.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon on Labor Day and reconnoitered the trailheads that we would begin and end our hike on. We stayed at Maswik Lodge and set out early the next morning for the hike. We got to Grandview Point to leave the van and had to wait awhile for the Harvey car and decided I should have brought my beater mountain bike to drop Joe off at the New Hance trailhead, go park the van, ride back and stash the bike in the woods for later pickup. We left the trailhead in good spirits and began the steep descent to the river. It was so exciting to be beginning this hike that we had spent most of the summer planning. The views up there were great, especially the view of Coronado Butte. The descent was extremely steep and walking sticks were required equipment with heavy full packs. (mine weighed in at 77lbs. Joe's at 65lbs.) The trail was in spots hard to follow but we never had to retrace our path the entire trip. The descent through the Redwall was actually rather easy along the Hance Fault and the landmarks to the north of the river were just fantastic! Those views disappeared as we descended into Red Canyon and it's beautiful, bright RED walls. The trail was not as steep in there but many scrambles over boulders made it as tough as the beginning of this trail. We took a break about two miles from the river and in the silence we could hear the roar of Hance Rapids which charged us up to get down there.
We arrived at Hance Rapids and were just in awe. It was running so fast and was so LOUD! It was a sweet place to camp with good sites on both sides of the Red Canyon wash. We ate like kings...New York cut steaks and pasta. The river was very full of silt and filtering water was a time consuming process. It was two days after the full moon and that night the moon was so bright we did not even need flashlights. I got up around midnight to filter from settling jugs and didn't even need a light to get down to the river bank to refill the jug for morning filtering. Joe slept outside on the ground while I slept in the tent.
About sunrise Joe was awakened by a noise and it was a pink-bellied rattler climbing across his groundcloth. He just stared at it and it stared back and then just slithered away to it's house which unbeknownst to us was right in the middle of the campsite under a rock and tree root. The snake went to sleep and Joe's heart started beating again. He showed me the snake track across his groundcloth and pointed to where "Pinky" was sleeping...had I not seen the snake and the track I would have thought Joe was making it all up. On the way home we were discussing our favorite views of the whole trip and Joe stated emphatically that the ass end of Pinky as he slithered away was by far his best view of the entire trip!
That morning we set off from Hance Rapids at the eastern terminus of the Tonto. The trail climbs right up and about a quarter mile from the rapids we turned and the view from above and downriver back to the rapids was so cool it was stunning. The trail climbed steeply up to the east side of Mineral Canyon and then started up Mineral. The views down into Granite Gorge were great, my favorite of the whole hike. We crossed Mineral and instead of heading back down the west side the trail climbs out right there toward Hance Canyon under Point 3739 and Ayer Point. Then Hance Canyon opened up before us and we started up the east side toward camp at Hance Creek. Because of the filtering difficulties we were low on water at this point. We took a rest stop under a boulder for the shade and while stopped I was looking around and saw a green tree and some brush that was green in the canyon below. That meant water! We were there and didn't even know it. Another 1000 yards and I was sitting next to Hance Creek filtering water and guzzling to my heart's content. We picked a nice campsite at the crossing. I really liked that spot. We made lots of water and Gatorade and rehydrated. We had not set up camp at that point when a thunderstorm blew around the corner above us and poured for awhile. Lightning struck not 50 yards from where I was standing and the hairs all over my body were standing at attention. It blew through and we had a peaceful evening to relax, eat and rest. About nine it started raining hard again and rained almost all night. The tent was good shelter but the flapping was so hard it felt like we were going to be flying like Dorothy to OZ.
It stopped raining about 5 am and I insisted we get going as the day ahead was a tough one. We packed up our wet equipment and just as we were starting out it started raining again. We donned our ponchos and started up toward Horseshoe Mesa via the Page Springs spur. This was one tough section of trail especially in the rain. We stopped and dried out a bit in a mine entrance and continued to Horseshoe Mesa. Between that mine and Horseshoe was the toughest part of the entire hike. Webmaster Bob cautioned against this route due to the difficulty but we decided to forge on rather than add the six miles it would take to go around Horseshoe Mesa and come up through Cottonwood Canyon, west of Horseshoe. I think it was a good decision even if I wondered if I would ever see my family again as we crossed the switch backs and had to remove our packs to do a vertical climb. We saw our first humans in two and 1/2 days when we reached Horseshoe Mesa. The rain stopped as we left Horseshoe Mesa to begin the climb up to Grandview Point.
The climb out to Grandview Point was long, hot (as the sun had come out) and tiring but uneventful. It seemed like a pleasure cruise given what we had just done. As we neared the rim the tourists looked at us like we were from another planet. Wet drowned rats was more like it! A couple of tourons (this is a word we use around here condensing "Tourist" and "Moron") in high-heels refused to yield the right of way to uphill hikers and this was very annoying at the end of this great hike. The cooler in the van was full of Heineken kept cold by dry ice and it may have been the best tasting cold one I have ever had and certainly eased our frustration at the tourons behavior.
In conclusion, if you decide to do these trails be prepared for some very difficult sections especially the hike out of Hance Canyon up to Horseshoe Mesa via Page Springs and the descent down the New Hance. The solitude offered by this area of the canyon is in my opinion well worth the added difficulty of these trails. I can not wait to get back and do an extended hike in the GRAND CANYON!