Day 1

October 20, 2011

Solo Exploration:  Lava, Chuar, and Carbon



I arrived at the east entrance to Grand Canyon around 11:30, then headed directly to Lipan Point. There I met a group of six backpackers from Ohio who were eagerly arranging and sorting gear in the parking lot.  I was a little surprised when they asked if I knew where the trail was, but to be honest, it isn't obvious.  By 12:00 I was on my way while the others were still futzing with their gear. 

The Tanner Trail began as a route used by native Americans to access the river.  In 1890 the route was improved by Seth Tanner to gain better access to mining claims.  The Tanner Trail was also the southern section of the infamous Horsethief Route.  The trail begins by heading down a gully immediately east of Lipan Point. 

My goal for the afternoon was to hike the 3.5 miles from Lipan Point to a great camping spot north of Cardenas Butte where the trail turns to the east and begins a very steep descent through the Redwall.  Not only was I carrying food for 8 days, but because tonight would be a dry camp, I was also carrying 5 liters of water.  My pack felt very heavy.  I had seen a weather report earlier that showed sunny and warm for the next 9 days, so I was planning on swapping out my 2.5 pound tent for my 1 pound tarp.  But in my haste to get going, I forgot and didnít remember until I was already about an hour down the trail.  Damn!  I thought that I might just leave it with my cache at camp, and that it might be welcome on the exposed bench where I was planning to camp.   
 

75-Mile Saddle 75-Mile Canyon From the Saddle 75-Mile Canyon From the Saddle


Because of my heavy pack, and because I only planned to cover about 3-1/2 miles today, I took my time hiking down the sometimes very steep trail.  I figured the young backpackers would pass me anytime, since they were planning to go all the way to the river this afternoon.  When I got to the 75-mile saddle area,  where the trail levels out, I rested a while and looked around for a pedometer that someone on the Yahoo Grand Canyon Group had asked me to look for.  I found nothing.  About 45 minutes past 75-mile saddle, I ran into 6 women and one man hiking towards me.  Turns out the six women were all from the same family in Scotland, and one of the women was having her 70th birthday today.  The trip had been planned by her kids as a birthday gift.  The guy was a professional guide they had hired.  They were headed for 75-mile saddle for their last night.  They all were in very good spirits and were obviously having a great time.  In a little over half an hour,  I was at the point where the trail turns sharply to the right and starts itís steep descent of the Redwall.  I continued on along the bench for another couple hundred yards where I set up camp.  It was now 3:30 and still no sign of the young hikers behind me. 

I camped on this bench once before (October, 2007).  It is a large, flat area with spectacular views of the Colorado River and the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon Supergroup.  It was starting to rapidly cool off when I got there.  It is fairly high elevation, 5600 feet, and only 1700 feet below Lipan Point.  But the sky was clear and there was no wind, so I decided not to set up my tent.  I know Iíve mentioned this before, but I really hate sleeping in a tent.  It is too confining, and prevents you from seeing the stars. 
 

View from Camp 1 My Home at Camp 1 View from Camp 1


At 16:30 I noticed the young backpackers from Ohio were walking towards my campsite with their packs.  I asked them if they were planning on camping here, and they said that they were still planning to camp at the river.  The sun sets around 17:45, and it is pretty dark by 18:30.  So they only had two hours of light left.  I told them that they were going to have to go a lot faster than they had been going.  Then they asked me where the trail was.  When I told them they missed the turn a couple of hundred yards back, they didnít believe me at first.  Hard to believe they could have missed it, considering they had to step over a large wall of rocks that were obviously placed there to show that the trail didnít continue straight ahead.  Anyway, I showed them were they went wrong, and off they went.  I was doubtful that they would make it all the way that night.  And hiking in the dark on a rough Grand Canyon trail seems like a really bad idea to me, especially since there was no moon.

After getting to bed, I noticed several mosquitoes swarming around my head.  I kind of wished I had set up my tent.  I was starting to think that it might be a good idea to carry my tent for the rest of the trip, considering I'd be camping by a spring for a few nights.

I brought my iPod with me, loaded up with books and some music.  I started listening to Steven Pinkerís new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.


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