Day 4

October 23, 2011

Solo Exploration:  Lava, Chuar, and Carbon

I got up at 6:45 and ate a leisurely breakfast, with two cups of coffee.  I packed up for a long day hike up Lava.  This time I brought some survival gear (extra fleece shirt, knife, flashlight, lighter, space blanket, and water purification tabs).  I didnít want to make the same mistake I (and most of my group) made last October.  I left camp at 8:10.  By 8:45 I had arrived at Chuar Creek.  It was a little less than a mile of easy boulder-hopping.  Chuar was bone dry.  This area is labeled "Chuar Valley" on the map.

Camp 3 and 4 at Spring in Lava Canyon. Day Hike Up Lava Canyon Day Hike Up Lava Canyon

After a short break I continued up Lava.  I had my camera strapped to my belt with Velcro, and as I stepped across the creek, it fell off into the water.  I instantly snatched it up, but it was too late.  Dead camera.  Damn! 

At 9:55 I came to a dry drainage coming in from the right (elevation 3840 ft.).  The farther up canyon I hiked, the rougher the canyon bottom became.  But there were only a couple of small obstacles to bypass.  After about 2 miles I started looking for the Anasazi ruins that I had heard about.  After about 2-1/2 miles I noticed a flat bench above the creek on the right (stream left).  It was perhaps 50 feet above the canyon bottom.  Sure enough, thatís where the ruins were.  They consisted of several low, rectangular  foundation walls. There was a circular depression that looks like it may have been a kiva.  There were also a few pottery chards scattered about.  Although the ruins were certainly nothing spectacular, I scolded myself now for being so careless with my camera.  I left the ruins around 11:00 and walked back down to the creek bed.

As I continued up-canyon it became rockier and a little steeper.  Small Cottonwoods lined the stream.  I strongly suspect that this section of the creek is perennial because of the prevalence of Cottonwoods,  small seeps lining the stream,  Maidenhair ferns growing under the lip of small pour-offs, cattails, Dippers, frogs, and of course the ruins.   It is a very pretty area, but with limited camping.  I hiked only a little ways past the drainage coming down from the saddle separating Juno Temple from Cape Final (North Rim).  This is one of the routes people take when hiking from Nankoweap to Clear Creek.  Bill Ferris did this hike solo last spring and ran into route finding problems here.  Apparently there is an impassible pouroff a little ways up this side canyon, which requires one to go farther up Lava and then hike up through a steep canyon to a break, then contour back into the main side canyon.  Iím not sure what Billís problem was, but it took him many hours more than it should have.  It was so brushy that I didnít want to hike up this way to scout it out.  Now that I think about it, I think heavy brush may have been part of Billís problem.  After lunch, around 12:30,  I turned around and headed back down to my campsite.  I was back at camp before 15:00.  I washed up in the creek and listened to a little more of Pinkerís book.

All the while I had been looking at the break in the Basalt cliffs that separate the Lava drainage from the Basalt drainage.  I have marked this route with a dashed line on the map.  It looked pretty steep and rugged.  I slowly came to the conclusion that I should not do that section of the hike because (1) It looked pretty difficult to be doing solo and I had no webbing, (2) The part of Basalt I could see from the Tanner Trail also looked difficult, (3) It is about 6 miles of rugged off-trail hiking, and I figured I might not make it down to the Colorado (the only water) until late in the day, too late to catch a ride back across, and (4) Because I had to wait 22 hours for a ride yesterday, I thought that it could possibly take that long again, or even longer.  And if I didnít get back to the rim on time, many people would be worried and it might ruin next weekís trip, especially if Bert Fingerhut, who knew my itinerary, began a search.  So I decided to do something different.  But what?

Tonight I listened to David Sedaris Ė a really funny comedian.

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