Esplanade Rock Art Search

October 24 thru October 28, 2018



Because one of my primary objectives of this backpacking trip was to look for rock art, I cannot reveal the exact location of my wanderings.  I would love to show everyone the rock art I found and their locations, but in order to protect and preserve these magnificent sites, I cannot do so with a clear conscience.  This will make for a very brief trip report.

The Esplanade is a wide bench that is prominent in the western part of Grand Canyon National Park.  It is approximately 1/3 of the way down to the Colorado River from the top rim (e.g., about 1600 feet below the rim).  I chose to do this trip solo, starting and ending at the Schmutz Trailhead, located near the head of Tuckup Canyon.  The dirt road to access this trailhead starts about 8 miles west of Fredonia, Arizona.   It is almost 50 miles of dirt road, and all but the last few miles were in great shape. 

The Esplanade is notoriously dry, and cannot be safely hiked during hot or dry conditions.  There are very few reliable springs.  Usually water must be gotten from potholes in the Esplanade sandstone.  For a month or so before this trip, I closely watched the weather in Fredonia, Arizona (the closest weather station), to determine a good time to go.  I was all packed up and ready to go for a few weeks before.  There had been some rain during the prior week, so I decided to give it a go.

I spent the night of October 23 in a motel in Kanab, Utah.  Because of the short days this time of year, I wanted to get an early start.  But I still didn't begin hiking until 10:30.  And this was after one horrible glitch.  Usually I pack everything in my pack while at home, checking off every item from my list as I put it in the pack.  This time I just put my gear in a large plastic bin, figuring I would load my pack at the trailhead.  What I thought was my sleeping bag in a stuff sack in the bin turned out to be a down jacket.  Yikes!  What was I gong to do?  I thought I could drive back to Kanab and buy another sleeping bag there, but this would cost me one day and a lot of money for a sleeping bag I didn't need.  Or I could just head back home and save this trip for another time.  But having already invested 9 hours driving to the trailhead, this was not an attractive option either.  So I decided to continue with my plans sans sleeping bag.  I decided to bring my tent (which I hadn't yet decided whether or not to bring it).  And I would also bring two down jackets.  I figured the temperatures would be around freezing at night, but I figured I could manage.

So off I went down the trail.  I had been here twice before while doing George Steck's Jumpup/Stairway Loop.  It is a good trail all the way down to the Esplanade.  Once on the Esplanade I began looking for water.  I could have gone to Schmutz spring, but it was a ways off the trail, and I had heard that it wasn't much more than a wet spot with a few drips.  So I hiked down into the uppermost narrows of Jumpup Canyon where I found plenty of water.  I set up camp near there. 

For the next 3 days I explored the Esplanade looking for rock art.  I found several spectacular sites, one of which is well known.  I spent my 4th and last night at the same location. 

The first night was really cold.  In the morning there was frost on my tent.  I managed to stay warm, but just barely.  I had my tent set up,  but didn't put on the rain fly.  I should have -- I think it would have helped keep me warmer.  The next 3 nights I emptied out my pack and put my feet in it, pulling it up almost to my thighs.  This actually helped a lot. 

The following photos show some of the scenery, but none of the rock art. 


Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park


The Beginning of the Hike Down into Tuckup Canyon


A Bit Farther Down the Trail.


Near the Bottom of the Trail.  The Esplanade Here is Covered with Debris (not the usual sandstone).


Water in Upper Narrows of Tuckup Canyon.


First and Fourth (last) Campsite.


Looking for Rock Art in One of Hundreds of Side Canyons.


Water in One of the Side Canyons.


Not Sure, But I Think Schmutz Spring is in the Small Drainage in Center of Photo.


Fossils in Kaibab Limestone.

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