SICK IN KANAB CREEK WILDERNESS
April 22 thru April 28, 2021
Although this trip report is included on my website, it will be of limited interest to other backpackers. It was written mainly for my own records.
It had been a year since I had done a backpacking trip, and that trip was easy and short. I wanted to do something this spring, but I was woefully out of shape (and not getting any younger). I had been watching the weather in Fredonia for months, and was dismayed at how little rain they had gotten. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the usual amount. My friend Ben wanted to do something too. We planned a trip from Toroweap to Tuckup on the Esplanade, but we knew it would only work if we got some rain. Ben wanted to wait until after his daughterís baby was born, so the trip would have to be at the end of April. I finally applied for a permit, but nothing was available. So we started looking at alternatives.
Ben decided not to go because he couldnít be sure when his daughter would give birth. So I asked an old high school friend, Rich Magill, to join me. We have done several Grand Canyon trips over the years, and many trips into the Sierra and Sespe during high school and college. But not only was Rich out of shape too, but he had serious issues with his eyes. He was almost bind in one eye due to a detached retina. He had very poor depth perception -- not good for Grand Canyon. So we planned something extremely easy. We both like just being in the canyon, so even a short trip would be fun.
We decided on a 7-day trip, starting at the Jumpup-Nail trailhead near Sowats Point. Rich would fly to Page from Santa Barbara and I would drive to Page from Taos. Both of us would arrive in late afternoon.
We spent that night at a motel in Page, and the next day we drove to the trailhead. Our first day would be only 2.0 miles, to a campsite on the Esplanade near the water in Kwagunt Hollow. Because the weather forecast was for dry and warm conditions, I decided to leave my rain gear and tent behind. But our info was almost two days old.
Our overall plan was to hike down Kwagunt to Jumpup, hike the Redwall rim into Indian Hollow, then up Indian Hollow and out onto the Esplanade near Indian Hollow Spring. Then hike back to Kwagunt and up the trail to my car. Total distance would be only about 17 miles. Normally one would do this loop in 3 days. It could be done in one long day-hike by a young, strong hiker. We allocated 7 days, so we were expecting a lot of down-time in camp. This would allow Rich to go as slowly as necessary.
It was overcast when we arrived at the trailhead. We started hiking around 12:30 PM. By the time we got to the Wilderness boundary, it began to rain Ė lightly, but enough to get wet without rain gear. We decided to shelter under a Pinyon in the canyon bottom and wait out the rain. After about an hour the rain let up and we started down again. Iím not sure when we got to the water in Kwagunt below the Cottonwoods, but it was probably about 4 PM. There is a flat, private, and sheltered campsite only a couple hundred yards from the water. By sundown the sky was mostly clear.
We got a leisurely start the next day, hiking down Kwagunt. We planned to camp between the two large pouroffs, about a half mile from Jumpup. Itís a nice camp, large enough for 3-4 people. There is one tricky spot in Kwagunt that I have not mentioned in other reports. Several hundred yards before getting to our campsite, there is a smaller pouroff that, at first glance, seems daunting. As you approach the top edge of the pouroff, it looks like a vertical drop of 20 to 30 feet. But when you get right up to the edge, a lower ledge becomes visible, allowing one to downclimb the pouroff. It has just enough exposure that many may want to lower packs.
We arrived mid-day, ate lunch and took a nap in the scarce shade. So far everything was going smoothly. We had cocktails before dinner, and we talked until dark. I had an old freeze-dried meal from Backpackerís Pantry (Chicken Vindaloo). It was pretty spicy, and a little more than I wanted for dinner. But I ate it all anyway. A few hours after dinner I experienced a little bit of nausea. Then around 2 PM it had turned into diarrhea. Then serious diarrhea. It was as unpleasant as it gets. I thought it must have been food poisoning from the Chicken Vindaloo. But I wasnít sure how you could get food poisoning from freeze-dried food, even if the package seal was broken. It didnít quite make sense. Rich was feeling fine.
By morning the diarrhea had let up a bit, but I was still feeling very sick. By noon I realized that I wasnít going to hike anywhere that day.
The next day I was feeling much better, but still weak. We decided to hike the rest of the way down Kwagunt to Jumpup, then take the Redwall route into Indian Hollow. It turned out to be a hot, sunny day. Once we reached some shade in Indian Hollow, we ate lunch and tried to come up with a new plan. We could hike out relatively quickly (two days) by heading up Ojojojo Canyon, which was only few hundred yards farther up Indian Hollow. That would allow for a layover day hike to some rock art I had heard about in Sowats Canyon. We set up camp at the mouth of Ojojojo. It is a fairly nice camp, and water is located a few hundred yards up Ojojojo (at the base of the large pouroff).
The rest of the day and that evening was great Ė good campsite with water, beautiful canyon, and I was feeling relatively good.
The next morning, I learned that Rich had gotten sick. Same thing Ė vomiting and diarrhea. Not quite as bad as me, but still bad. We decided to spend another night there. But by mid-afternoon, Rich was feeling better and wanted to get a jump start by hiking to somewhere above the large pouroff. Once we got above the pouroff, the weather changed again Ė cold and cloudy. We felt a few drops and decided to look for an overhang. We found a marginal overhang that provided protection from the rain, but the surface was uneven and not the best for sleeping. There was no place for Rich to set up his tent, so he decided to sleep under the overhang. Within minutes of getting set up, it began to rain. And it continued to rain (on and off) for the rest of the night. We both managed to stay dry and sleep well.
The weather the next morning was still threatening. As we continued hiking up Ojojojo Canyon, it began to drizzle. I cut a hole in the middle of my Tyvek ground sheet to use as a poncho. It worked OK in the light rain. By the time we got to the top of Ojojojo, the weather had greatly improved. We got back to our first camp on the Esplanade at the top of Kwagunt by early afternoon.
The next day we hiked out to my car at the trailhead. It is 1700 feet of elevation gain in about two miles. I was hiking VERY slowly. It took 3 hours to reach my car.
We drove back to Kanab and ate dinner at Escobarís Mexican restaurant. I know a lot of folks like Escobarís, but Rich and I had grown up eating Mexican food in Santa Paula. The food at Escobarís is eatable, but not very good. Massive quantities with little taste. From there we drove to Page, where Rich had a motel reservation for that night, and a plane reservation for the next morning. I continued on to Farmington, where I spent the night at a motel. I continued the drive home the next day.