With the exception of my sleeping pad leaking air, I slept pretty well last night again! We went to bed by 7:30PM and my alarm went off at 3AM to signal the beginning of the new day. You may want to know why so early. When we are in Grand Canyon, we have to maximize our travel in the daylight. So we planned to be on the trail this morning by 5AM due to the fact that we had a pretty long day ahead of us (approximately nine hiking miles).
I am not the quickest person in the morning and I prefer to have more than enough time to do everything I need to do. It takes time to make breakfast, filter water, go to the bathroom, break down the tent, pack up the sleeping bag and sleeping pad, organize everything and re-pack my bag. Organizing a backpack is extremely important for several reasons. First of all, the weight needs to be properly distributed so everything is balanced when hiking. But just as important is knowing where everything is in the pack and being able to access it when needed, Backpacking is kind of a miniature version of life. The more organized you are, the better result you will generally derive from it.
We were on the trail at 5:20AM. Twenty minutes later than we had planned. I will take the blame. I was the one that held us back. It was just getting light enough that we didn’t really need headlamps even though we started out with them on. It was a beautiful morning.
The hike out of Grapevine was fine. Definitely some uphill to get out of the canyon but nothing too difficult at all. Hiking along the western edge of Grapevine was not nearly as bad as the previous day. I never felt as though I was close enough to the edge to fall into the canyon. Maybe it was just that I was used to it by this time.
By the way, we were carrying quite a bit of water today due to the fact that there would be no water between Grapevine and Lonetree. I carried eight liters, which certainly made for a heavy pack. I am guessing today’s weight could have easily been 60 lbs. plus. I had trained with heavy weight so I felt OK!
We found a cool little place to stop and do our morning affirmation. The affirmation is a great way to start off the day. As I said before, Lew leads it and it consists of us holding hands, breathing and listening to Lew’s encouraging words. Sometimes at the end we choose to add a few of our own words. I recorded some of the affirmations and on a future day I hope to be able to share one with you.
After a few miles we were totally out of Grapevine and back on “classic” Tonto, paralleling the inner gorge. Around this point we saw Kevin. After exchanging some niceties, he passed us – not to be seen until Lonetree! A short time later Augustine breezed by us. I can’t remember if I told you about him earlier. Augustine, his wife Jackie, and her sister Jill were doing the same route that we were. Seems as though Aug went ahead of Jackie and Jill.
We circumvented a small, unnamed drainage, and then after some ups and downs and a few miles, we passed Boulder Canyon. Not much going on there. I don’t remember seeing any water at Boulder. It was getting pretty hot and we were all looking forward to getting to Lonetree.
We were still sticking to our strategy of taking frequent breaks every 45-60 minutes or so. Believe me, this really helps on a long backpack trip. Resting the muscles, eating and drinking is the best formula we have found to be able to keep it going the distance and avoiding illness or problems. Jackie and Jill passed us as we took our final rest before hitting Lonetree.
Descending into Lonetree felt great. What a beautiful canyon. Trees, rocks, water… what else did we need? We explored the area before settling on a place to pitch our tents. Yoko and I pitched ours on a soft shaded area, Landi was on some slick rock, and Lew found a pretty cool spot close to Kevin. We saw Aug, Jackie and Jill found a great spot fairly close up canyon.
We met one other guy at Lonetree who was a solo hiker from Sweden. Jens was his name. He had a long day today, traveling from Cottonwood to Lonetree. He carried a fishing rod with him and was planning to fish in Bright Angel Creek in a couple of days. Heck of a nice guy. He promised to share some fresh fish with us if we wanted!
Jens was not planning to camp at Lonetree this evening; instead he would wait out the heat for a few hours and then hike to Cremation Canyon, approximately 3 or 4 miles further west, and stop there for the night. We thought about doing the same but quickly came to our senses and settled in.
The water at Lonetree was nothing like the flowing water we experienced at Grapevine. Here there were many water pockets in the slickrock, which we could cool our feet in or filter for drinking. Interestingly enough, there were tons of tadpoles swimming in the water pockets. I guess that was a pretty good sign that the water was clean, right?
Even though it had been a hot day, we all felt pretty good from the day’s hike. Lew and Landi took a hike down canyon to explore a bit while Yoko and I rested. Upon their return, Landi said it was one of the most beautiful places she has seen in Grand Canyon. At this time we didn’t have much daylight left and besides, I was too tired to go down to check it out.
We made some dinner and did a little recon to see what we’d be in for the next morning hiking out of Lonetree. It seemed as though the hike out was not really well defined and since we decided we’d be leaving at 5 AM tomorrow with headlamps, we wanted to take a look to get an idea where the trail was going to take us!
During our recon mission, we did find a side trail that pretty much led to nowhere and Yoko appropriately named it the “poo-poo” trail. This trail turned out to be the one that we took when Mother Nature called. As a little aside, when backpacking, all human waste as well as toilet paper must be buried. So we each carry a trowel (a little plastic shovel) for that purpose. Sometimes the dry desert ground can be quite hard and it’s not necessarily an easy task doing the digging.
It was such a beautiful clear night that we were pretty certain there was no chance of rain. We decided not to use the fly on our tent and what a great decision that turned out to be! It’s tough to describe how magnificent it is laying down in a tent, staring up at the beautiful stars in the Grand Canyon sky.
Day 2 - Cottonwood Creek to Grapevine Canyon along Tonto Trail
Day 3 – Grapevine Canyon to Lonetree Canyon along Tonto Trail
Day 4 – Lonetree Canyon to Phantom Ranch along Tonto and S. Kaibab
Day 5 – Layover Day at Phantom Ranch – Hike up Utah Flats (to be posted June 17)
Day 6 – Hike out of Canyon – Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel Trailhead (to be posted July 1)