Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Arizona Strip

From Arizona Strip:
HT Section: 132m

I had easy miles throughout the day amid massive, startling views of the Arizona Strip. Colors surrounded me in swirly contrasts: golden hues of grasses, dark greens of the juniper and cedars, the blue of the sky, and the blacks, grays and whites of enormous cumulonimbus clouds. From the west, puffy, island-shaped stratus clouds hovered on in and collided in a logjam to form the nimbus thunderheads. All around me clouds shapeshifted and loomed my head with premonitions of a hard rain. I felt exposed walking along the open plains. The wind howled and the sand gritted up a belchy noise beneath my shoes; I was vulnerable to precipitation and it felt exhilarating. Any moment I could get slammed with a wall of water, for all around me, especially in the higher reaches of dark mountains, the virga, or curtains of rain, spilled, tumbling down unto the land. Fortunately, the route I walked, the clouds averted any besodden path.

I made 32m before settling down in spectacular Hack Canyon. From the plains above, Hack Canyon started as a lazy, wide cut in the earth before plunging into a chasm, then exploded into huge views of red and pink canyon walls about 1,000ft above me. I knew then I was really heading down toward the mighty Colorado.

I haven't spoken of the head cold I developed since I mentioned the sore throat in my previous entry. It is full blown now and the whole day I walked towards Hack Canyon my ears rang, I felt clouded underwater in a plugged state. It was no different as I met the canyons of Hack and Kanab. I continued on blowing yellow snot and green mucous out of my nose, hocking lougies from my throat. I worked harder figuring exertion would sweat it out, but no, it didn't. Kanab Creek held astounding views from within its inner reaches. I was amazed. Tall, sheer walls shot straight up from the creek bottom. Purples, and reds, and blacks penetrated my visual senses causing my headstrong cold hold to taper off from my thought of actually having one. The walking was easy at first, then progressively, the river wildly meandered in s-turns signifying elevation drop and the slowing of current, if there was water present in the position I was in. House-sized boulders clogged up the canyon and eliminated the easy walking. I now had to clamber over the boulders to make any headway. Crystal clear water flooded the floor and when big boulders met water a cascade of thunderous water echoed within the narrow walls.

I saw a band of bighorns who precariously leapt up spiny ridges and polished walls to keep their distance from me. I walked until evening came and suddenly I heard voices echoing all around me within the canyon. I met Skittles and Buck-30, who were heading westbound on the HT hike. Meeting them was a giant relief as they filled me in on details of the section. I was definitely in for a challenge, but knowing what was ahead of me set my mind somewhat at ease. We spoke of trails and I felt privileged to be among some very experienced thru-hikers.

That night I stared up into the pocket of black sky above. Lightning was glittering somewhere as flashes of light would periodically flicker from the top of the canyon shelves. I thought about how faraway I was settled there deep in a hole in the Earth.

Up early, I walked about 3m before being utterly speechless. The powerful Colorado River roared at the mouth of Kanab Creek. The monstrous, green river moved swiftly within even more enormous canyon walls I had experienced before. Literally thousands of feet above me the walls sprang up, a sheer, metropolitan skyline booming upward with physical beauty in sound and rock and water.

The route put me on a boulderfield, some 8m long. The sun became sweltering and combined with my head cold it soon became oppressive. Triple digits became the norm and shade became absent. My head swooned in a fiery fever and I became exhausted. The boulderfield was extremely tedious. It was hard to concentrate with the sun, my head cold, and the rocks. But I needed to focus. One mis-step and I was screwed. I moved on, reaching for my guts, all my will power. There was no turning back; I was so far away from any resources. I plodded along sharp, craggy rocks, tip-toeing over razor edges. I placed my hands carefully on rocks or else they would shred them. I guzzled water, droves of liters, but I couldn't get enough. I was moving at about a mile every 45 minutes.

After hours of slowly walking, within my focused head, the sun bubbling my brain, and my cold-stuffed nasal passages, I finally made the spectacular waterfall of Deer Creek. I stumbled over to a sandstone polished chute and nestled within its crook. I laid back and looked up at the falls. Heaps of water plunged exceedingly powerful. I laid my head back. Suddenly, I heard voices. Old people! I kind of was shocked after feeling so utterly alone, especially within my head. They hunkered up in the shade with me. The old men quickly took off their shirts and went into the plunge pool. They began swatting, punching, and yelling at the wind wall of water hitting them. They screamed like teenage boys at the fearsome falls. The old gals looked kind of like teenage girls would look at teenage boys showing too much bravado. I thought, "Is this what old farts do when no one is around!?" A smirk showed on my face and I soon laughed aloud.

One of the old gals gave me an apple too. A great start to the next leg. But climbing up onto the patio of the falls a couple hundred of feet up I realized I was probably heat-exposed. I slowly crept along knowing I now had to manage my bodily systems ever the more scrutinizing. Whenever I found shade I sat down and closed my eyes. My head was feverish, my body ached, and I still had about 2,000ft to climb.

I took my time over a period of a couple hours and finally made Deer Spring. I now had trail to follow which made for easier navigating but the climb up depleted my energy. In Surprise Valley, while coma-walking, I encountered a 4 young adults. I plopped down among them feeling pooped. They perked up my spirits and I ventured to a saddle, with amazing views of Tapeats Canyon. Then the trail zig-zagged down, plummeting some 1,500ft. The Thunder River exploded out of the side canyon wall. Massive amounts of water flooded out of cracks and holes in the facades of rock. The loud water cascaded down the drainage sharply.

At the confluence of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek, I left trail and forded the two. The currents held immense power, like a Sierran snowmelt stream but even tougher in some crossings. The water was cold but I kept at it. After 2m and 2 hours of exerting tremendous amounts of energy up Tapeats Creek I found camp. I laid under a giant cottonwood gazing at the stars. Throughout the night the occasional small frog would hop into my sleeping bag rousing me awake. After the toughest day I ever had on trail anywhere and only 17m in 13 hours of hiking, at least I had friendly companionship.
The next morning, I blew snot rockets all the way up until Saddle Canyon. My head was still ferociously clogged. I swear, you could've followed me all the way from Colorado City just from my snot-trail. But I needed to focus. I was in the part Skittles and Buck-30 had warned me about: polished sandstone chutes and potholes. The canyon narrowed extremely tight. Claustrophobia could enter someone's fears, if you let it in. I rejected any emotional feeling, even the day before I was in an un-feeling state. The first pothole, muddy-colored and red, was now in front of me, then the chute. I looked at the chute, some 15-20ft up, and thought: "HOLY FUCK!!" Never mind the pothole, the chute looked crazy varnished and slick. Into the pool I went. My heart rate went immediately up. I almost became frantic because of the extreme cold of the water. Compiled with not being able to see the bottom my heart almost jumped out of my chest! The water got deeper and fucking deeper. To the middle of my chest it crept up. Hold it together, shithead! C'mon! I got to a shelf of polished rock. I plied pressure with the palms of my hands and pushed myself up. Standing on the shelf I shivered vigorously but eyed the chute. I read a way up and wedged my right hand into a crack. I found a tiny notch for my right foot and the lifted my body to pin my rear against the opposite wall of the chute. Barely enough width for my stature, I reached up with my left hand and then re-positioned my body to face the chute, found another notch with my left foot, and pulled my self up. Wiggling and pulling, I used physics to attain the top. I stood up, not thinking nor feeling of anything but the next problem. I was in the goddamn zone. This continued on for 1 1/2m: work and solving problems and determination.

After the chutes, I had to 'climb the spit of the land' to avoid an impassable pour-off, which only proved to be another exhausting endeavor. I blew snot out of nose constantly but kept at it.

Back in the drainage, the temperature stayed cool until the canyon opened up. The heat became oppressive again but rather than boulder-hopping I now had to deal with overgrowth. Thorns, the sharpest and most annoying you could think of, choked my route. The hillsides were impenetrable with the manzanita and scrub oak. The tiny gully was the only somewhat clear path. My legs bled, my arms too. Being tall for the chutes proved beneficial but not for the overgrowth. And I still had some 2,000ft to go and 2m, straight up!

I persevered on. That drive I have, the one that can be detrimental to me, is also a blessing. I can un-feel anything and achieve physical achievements that others would bend and break. As much as this sucked, I wanted more. It is perverse, I know.

At the trail head on Muav Point I found a truck. Miraculously, the bed had 5 gallons of water. I had drank all of mine and didn't tank up, for the climb up out of Saddle Canyon took way longer than expected: 5m in 5 hours. I stole 2L from the truck and starting the 28m dirt road walk to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My tasks were not over yet. I still had to cross that infernal hole in the goddamn Earth once again.

I camped at Kanabownits Spring. My water barely froze that morning and I briskly walked along trying to stay warm. After 14.5m, I hit the North Rim by noon and now had 21m from me and a rest day and food.

Driven, I kept the machine going. I even met 3 ladies running rim-to-rim-to-rim and a AZT hiker, Vocal. They motivated me and inspired me to try for the top. I staggered across the bridge of the powerful Colorado and began to climb. Into dusk I went, the temperature cooling the higher I got. Around Skeleton Point, 3m from the top, I sat down for a rest a watched the last pink hues of the sunset dwindle away. I slowly laid down on my sleeping pad and drifted to sleep. I gutted out 34 rugged miles that day.

I awoke a couple hours later and decided to just stay the way I was: on a rock, in a cool breeze, with no bag, only a pad, and in a torpid state.

At the South Rim, Li greeted me. He works for the NPS, but what is more impressive to me is his trail knowledge, dedication, and experience. 16 long distance trails under his belt! He is very inspiring to be around, to say the least. He is also known for his map and route prowess. I stayed in luxury on the South Rim. And now I must rest and try to heal. This 'sore throat' that started in Kanab 8 days ago has flourished into a real nuisance and concern. I got to get to the bottom of this.


  1. Perseverance is not a cure for a bronchial infection, be careful and smart my friend. Consider green a warning flag...

    1. True that! Thankfully my buddy Doc Levin got me a prescription filled on the South Rim. On to good health...and miles!

  2. Hello from one of the 4 peeps you met at Surprise Valley last weekend! Awesome blog documenting an incredible adventure. Keep truckin'.

    1. Greetings! Thx for following along. You all really uplifted me at the time we saw each other. Yall had great energy. Happy trails...

    2. Awesome photos! Cool to hear you met up with Li. Hope you got rid of that chest cold.

      Happy surfing at 'The Wave'!



    3. Man, i got carded on the way to the wave! Aha!

  3. Dirtmonger thats what I'm talking about! Dominating the trail no matter what. Great writing for sure and I wish I was there writing the other half haha. Glad to hear you got some meds and feeling better.

    The trail seems amazing and brutal which is freaking awesome. Embrace the Brutality!(New saying). Keep pumped up man.

    Miss ya brotha,

    1. Man, yer the best dude! Just seeing yer words fires me up. I mean it about spending a week with me...

  4. Amazing photos this time.