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Trip Report - April, 2013 - Deer Creek & Thunder River

The last trip to Deer Creek and Thunder River two years ago was so wonderful that I decided to repeat it again this year. Actually I wanted to repeat it last year but I couldn't snag a permit. This year I got one.

The plan for last year had been to take Pam, a gal I had been doing some hiking with in New Hampshire's White Mountains, on her first ever backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. I couldn't get the Deer Creek and Thunder River permit for that though and my backup plan was for a Nankoweap trip---a somewhat more sporty adventure. I knew that Nankoweap was a tough trip, especially since the way I had planned it a lot of it would be off trail, but I also knew Pam was tough woman. She did amazingly well on that trip and bagging a permit for Deer Creek and Thunder River was to be her reward. The Deer Creek and Thunder River trip was planned at a much slower pace and would be a walk in the park for her.

Originally the permit for this trip had been for six people as I was hoping that my cousin John (who was also on the last Deer Creek and Thunder River trip) would be able to get a few of his hiking buddies to go on it. They were originally supposed to go on the last trip but things didn't work out for that. And they didn't work out for this one again. John still wanted to go himself but I had three open spots to fill.

I had another friend, Max. who I had done a two-night trip down to Bright Angel campground and Phantom ranch with back in December of 2005. On a few occasions after that trip he had expressed interest in seeing more of the Canyon so I decided to invite him along. He had not done a lot of hiking and as far as I know the two-night trip in 2005 was his complete repertoire of backpacking experience but he was in good shape and was very interested. He bought the necessary gear and we did a couple of hikes in New Hampshire as warm ups for him. Both of these hikes were more mileage and more elevation gain than any single day on the Grand Canyon trip would be and he did fine of these so I was not really too worried about him. The only big question would be how he would handle the weight of a full backpack for a six day trip.

So I was down to two open spots and was getting very frustrated at not being able to fill them. I could always change the permit and get a credit for them but I really wanted to fill them and give the experience of this trip to someone else. Then I was hiking Mounts Adams and Madison in New Hampshire's White Mountains around the middle of March---working on my winter 4000-footer list. I met this gal on the trail and we ended up playing cat and mouse, passing each other several times, on the way up to the summit of Mount Adams. I finally decided to break the ice and talk to her since we reached the summit around the same time and were the only solo hikers up there. Her name was Alysia. We took each other's photos on the summit, seemed to hit it off fairly well, and ended up doing Mount Madison together and then also hiking back to the parking area together. In talking with her I discovered that she had done a lot more hiking in the White Mountains and many other mountains in New England than I had. She had already done the NH 4000-footer list once, was close to completing it a second time and was also working on them as winter peaks. She had also completed the New England Hundred Highest list doing many of the bushwhacks on that list as solo hikes. She was a true adventurer. I told her about my hiking adventures and of course could not leave out my Grand Canyon exploits. Then she pipes up with "I've always wanted to hike in the Grand Canyon" and I had a flashback to when I met Pam as I heard the same words out of her mouth the first time we hiked together. Those are words I love to hear. So I told Alysia about the upcoming trip, told her I had a free spot and she seemed interested. When we got back to our cars I gave her my e-mail address and links to my (this) website and just waited. I didn't have to wait long and two days later I received an e-mail saying she was still interested. Two days after that she had her flights booked.

Now I was down to one open spot. I thought I had someone lined up for that during another hiking trip the following weekend but it didn't work out. At that point I just decided to give up and go with five. I had my cousin John, my friend Max, my best hiking buddy Pam... and a Grand Canyon newbie. Pam would have another gal on this trip for company and wouldn't be spending a week with three guys like the Nankoweap trip. I knew that Alysia was perfectly capable of handing this trip and the level of excitement that she exhibited over the upcoming weeks as the start date got closer was fun to watch. It was looking to be a wonderful trip as far as people went and the only real question mark would be the weather.

Snow on the Kaibab Plateau came and went a couple of times over the next month or so but finally it all melted away and it looked like there would be no problems with the forest roads. The trip a couple of years ago was during a cold snap with temperatures about 10 degrees colder than normal but this year seemed to be warming up nicely and reports from others said spring had come early to the Grand Canyon. There is always still the chance of rain but even that seemed to be staying out of the picture.

Larger version (1998x1459) camera Photo map

Day 1 - Grand Canyon south rim
Day 2 - Bill Hall Trail to Thunder River Trail to Esplande camp #1
Day 3 - Thunder River Trail to Deer Creek Trail to Deer Creek
Day 4 - Lay over day at Deer Creek
Day 5 - Across Surprise Valley to Thunder River
Day 6 - Thunder River Trail to Esplanade camp #2
Day 7 - Thunder River and Bill Hall trails back to Monument Point

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