Grand Canyon 1998
Up and out!
Hoisted the pack around 7:10 am, A&S, and Barbara had left long ago, at 6:30. I wish I knew how they can break camp so quickly. I have plenty of experience, having taken over 210 backpacking trips, but maybe it is just me in the mornings. I am never quick. Going up thru Kwagunt is lovely. Lots of sheets of rock: your feet hardly ever touch dirt. But there are lots of pour offs which require negotiation. So many I lost count, but at least a dozen. Lance quickly caught up to me, and both of us to Barbara. Most places, we could handle without taking off our packs, but there were a few that required removal and hoisting to the next level. Not a problem, but it does slow progress. Our goal was to get to the split in the canyon, and take the left fork, because that fork intersects the trail with less hiking in the canyon bottom. There was no problem with this approach. It just took a while to get out. After you get out of the narrow part of the canyon, you still have to get through the slickrock terraces. By this time, we could see Will, a few hundred meters ahead. A couple of shelves of sandstone, and a short stroll, and we hit the trail. Wonderful, beautiful trail. It was nice to get to a spot where the adventure was mostly over. We strolled along for a bit, soon getting to the clump of big cottonwoods that the Park Service describes as the place where, if you are coming from Sowats Point, you leave the trail and head down the drainage. Such will take one down the southern fork of Kwagunt, whereas we had come out the northern fork. The former keeps you in deeper canyon a little longer, the latter keeps you on trail a little longer.
I left the cottonwoods about 9:40 am, a few minutes ahead of Barbara and Lance. But Barbara, once she got to the trail, and pulled out her other walking stick, now one in each hand, and had become a hiking machine. Lordy, she really pushed hard up the trail. The trail is interesting, in that it utilizes an old gravel slope and a break in the wall, to get to the level above the white cliffs. From there, it was an easy traverse, and a final climb of about 500 feet to get to the very top. I arrived at ca. 11:45 am MDT. Andy and Sue had arrived 20 minutes earlier with the vehicles, and Will was busy snapping photos of the hikers arriving. It was a good trip, but we seemed to all be thankful that it was over, and that we had survived with no major accidents or broken bones.
If you are going to go all the way down in one day, plan for a layover at Deer Creek. It is a nice spot, and your body will need a day off. The alternative is to hike into Surprise Valley, walk over to Thunder River for water, and make it a short day to Deer Creek.
The water along the stretch from the mouth of Deer Creek to Kanab Creek is minimal at best. There is the one spring upstream of Fishtail, but don't count on a lot of good water at Fishtail. We were lucky to find the clearer pools that we did. The silt in the river water does not settle very fast, so if one is making the trip in early summer, where run-off has ceased, you might want to take a collapsible bucket for letting the silt settle.
If you want to push, one can make it from Scotty's Hollow to the mouth of Kwagunt Hollow in a full day, but that forces one to rush thru the narrows of JumpUp, which would be a mistake. They need to be savored.
The trip itself is not in the top half of my canyon trips (something like 18 or so). The Grand Canyon itself tends to be bigger than what I like, but that is ok. It was a good trip, and while I won't repeat it (like I have done with Fish & Owl, Lower Escalante, and the Bailey Range, and would do for a few other places), knowing what I know now, I am still glad we did it.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1998