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Trip Report - October, 2009 - Thunder River, Granite Gorge, Deer Creek loop

This was my third trip into the Thunder River and Deer Creek area and my second time leading this exact same backpacking trip. The only difference this time was I had to cut the trip short by a day so we didn't have the lay-over day at Deer Creek. That lay-over day was "sorely" missed by all of us.

I really looked forward to this trip because I thought all of us were in pretty good shape for it. I knew I was but, except for something truly extreme, I usually am. Robin had been doing lots of walking during lunch and after work and she had done the trip before so I didn't really expect any trouble for her, except for the normal foot trouble that seems to always plague her. Maggi was the only unknown and I knew that she had been doing lots of bike riding and working out at the gym so I wasn't really worried about her either.

Maggi was definitely not prepared for this type of backpacking trip though. I did a three-day with her on the corridor trails several years ago and that had been her only experience to date with Grand Canyon backpacking. I sent her links to the trip reports from other trips I had done in this area and also the park service's trail description and I tried to get it across that this was a wilderness area with trails nothing at all like the South Kaibab or Bright Angel Trails. I guess she just figured a trail was a trail and she learned that was not the case as soon as we started down the Bill Hall Trail. She didn't like the loose rocks at all and her ankles had a lot of trouble with it. I was worried about her bailing out at the end of the first day but some how she managed to find the strength to go on. The second day was a little easier on her but then day three really took its toll on all of us. That west side trail between Upper and Lower Tapeats has degraded considerably since the last time I was there. I knew it had a rough spot just below Upper Tapeats but that rough spot was now a lot worse and there were a couple of other sections that were pretty bad as well. If I had known it was going to be so bad I definitely would have tried to get to the easier trail on the east side but I just didn't expect as much trouble as we had. I am sure Maggi was ready to throw me to the lions at the end of that day. Going along the granite gorge to Deer Creek was not too bad except for the climb to the saddle at the very end and then trying to find a campsite. She was beat when we finally got there and not thrilled with the idea of going down through the narrows so she didn't get to see the waterfall at the river. She did get to play around in the water at the upper narrows and seemed to enjoy that.

The last two days were the worst and she tried to give up on me a couple of times and I leaned into her pretty hard. I think a big part of the problem was her not eating enough and just not having the energy but giving up at that point is not an option. I know I had more faith in her than she had in herself at that point. Yes, it was hard and I knew she was hurting but I also knew she could do it. I feel very bad about some of the things I said but I was really at my wits end and had no idea what else to do except push her. I am not proud of it but it worked and apart from me carrying her backpack up through the Redwall cliffs she managed to get herself and out of there under her own power.

The trip highlights...

  • Beautiful backpacking weather
  • Camping on the Esplanade
  • The stars, the Moon and the Milky Way at night
  • Getting some nice shots of Thunder River and Deer Creek Falls
  • Having Deer Creek Falls all to myself
  • One collared lizard and two rattlesnakes

The bad...

  • The west side trail between Upper and Lower Tapeats camping areas
  • The climb down along the river to Bonita Creek also has a bad spot

Larger version (2000x1815) camera Photo map

Day 1 - Bill Hall trail to Thunder River Trail to Esplanade camp #1
Day 2 - Thunder River Trail to Upper Tapeats camp
Day 3 - Tapeats Creek Trail to Lower Tapeats camp
Day 4 - Middle Grant Gorge Route to Deer Creek
Day 5 - Deer Creek Trail to Thunder River Trail to Esplanade camp #2
Day 6 - Thunder River and Bill Hall Trails back to Monument Point

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