Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From Grand Canyon

From Grand Canyon:
Section: 105m
Hayduke Mileage: 285m

At the South Rim trailhead over looking the impressive Grand Canyon I chatted up Li. Li was an ever-gracious host and showed some tolerance because he let me stay in his apartment for 2 days as sick as I was. I went into his apartment feeling ill and under-prepared for the Hayduke. Now, as I filled my water bladder, I felt secure in my knowledge and preparedness for the HT. He divulged me in maps, water sources, alternate routes, and advice for the Vagabond Loop. He is a tremendous source of information for these trails, a lot of effort and work he puts in on his own time for the aid of others. Li truly loves the trail. And he is a great cook!

We took a quick photo and a NPS bus arrived. A flood of people exited and hurriedly went to the rim of the canyon and trailhead. I figured to wait a couple of minutes to let the herd thin before plunging back down to the center of the Earth.

About 2m down I ran into the frontrunners, a healthy looking couple. They had put some distance between them and the herd. They struck up a conversation with me all the way down to my trail junction. We sat in the shade of the reststop house. Matt works for Barnana, a unique and up-and-coming energy bar. It's about 4 bananas in a pouch, all dehydrated, gluten-free, all natural, and damn good. His girlfriend, Trish, was full of spunk and energy. I am very grateful to meet them. And, hopefully, Barnana will be a part of the Vagabond Loop!

I scampered along the Tonto Trail which traverses a broad shelf within the canyon. It sets about 1,500ft above the Colorado River. It made for easy travel though after a while, trudging in and out of every deep cut from eons of erosion, the going got pretty mundane. But because I was feeling much better and had some good social experiences I made excellent time. I made about 30m and camped along the river with the rapids being a loud, monotonous soother for sleeping.

I had been in a transfixed state all that day and it continued for the next 2 in the canyon. Something was grabbing me, pulling me, tugging at my spirit. The proverbial abyss now was real. I thought of every beer I drunk, line I snorted, or any other fatalistic action. I stumbled over that abyss too many times. Now faced with an actual abyss, life becomes too precious.  The wind howled, the river roared, the rocks held stoic, and I mashed. I would drift in thought feeling so far away, feeling in the place I wanted to leave a piece of my heart. No longer self-indulging in the proverbial abyss, my outside perception has grown in tune with nature, the flow of the water, the breath of the wind, and the rhythm of self. Having this existential moment I realized the canyon held only truths; it could not hide its illusions. The canyon blended spirit and reality, the essence and existence. Though a great prestidigitator, if you observed keenly enough you'll find the secret, or the way. It is there but you have to pay attention. I felt so awake in my time down there, real...
I digress. But to progress I've got to keep movin' forward. 'The yawning abyss; it makes me sleepy.' E.A. Sleepy and transfixed, this life is real. Stay awake...

Temperatures stayed cool because of the cloud cover. I intercepted the Escalante Trail which climbed to a deep red hogback looking over the Colorado. Amazing views abounded in every direction and my hard work was rewarded with the broad vistas. Then down and down along sweeping trail and I connected with the Beamer Trail.

The Beamer Trail clings precariously to the edge of a rim about 1,000ft above the window. The abyss held its alluring quality and the occasional dark yet beautiful suicidal thought would jump in my head. The pull kept pulling and I felt exhilarated. The trail would lose itself in massive debris-swept gullies signifying the enormous erosive power of water, such strength in only ephemeral moments.

neared the confluence of the Little Colorado River with the Colorado. My train of thought turned to the ferry I needed to cross the cold, green waters of the Colorado. I became nervous though my thoughts should've been comforted by the hordes of rafter I saw that day. But as evening crept along the river quieted.

The Little Colorado glowed strangely aquamarine blue, like glacial water flow, between giant walls thousands of feet above. Massive promontories jutted into the wide chasm at the confluence. I waded into the LCR. I slowly made my way across jamming my trekking pole into the river bottom which was hard to see from the silty cloudiness. It was weird to gaze into something so startling bright and clear and not see into it deeply.

Across, with a glimmer of daylight still penetrating the canyon, I made a couple more rugged river miles. With no trail and nothing but boulder hopping I found camp on a sandy beach. Throughout the night the wind blew finely grained sand into my hair and sleeping bag. No matter, I was tuckered out and slept soundly.

I took a gamble the next morning. I continued up-river in hopes of making miles and attaining a ferry ride across. I knew this was risky as it almost assured me that I would need a motor raft. But I could not just sit and wait. Plus I figured if I hiked on I would run into a river float party camped out. To no avail, all I did that early morning was hike and plod along the rocky and rugged, choked with willow and salt cedar, shoreline. I didn't even see one single boat!
Worried, I hit a cliff on the opposite bank of Kwagunt Creek. I could go no further. I laid up on a broad sandstone jut into the river and waited. I was in a helpless spot. I certainly needed a boat with a motor now and I definitely was not turning back. I couldn't swim the Colorado for it was too frigid and way too powerful. I was stranded. However, sitting there on the rocky jut I felt a tremendous solitude and peace. Absorbed in the moment and my surrounding, I meditated staring deep into the rapidly moving water. Time ceased to move despite the sign of times, erosion, all around me.


About an hour passed and a raft came around the bend through belchy rapids. The boat burped out right in front of me and I flagged it down. The NPS boat ramped up on the sandstone and I hopped aboard. The captain questioned my permits and I weaseled my way out of it. In a split second, we hit the sandy beach, I hopped off, sauntered into the willows and waved at the boat excitedly.
From there I followed a game trail along a thin shelf of sandy alluvial fans all the way to Nankoweap Creek. On the ridge above the creek I espied ancient Anasazi granaries high up in the bright red rock layer. Once in the creek bottom I made easy, smooth miles walking along the meandering bed.

The climb up the Nankoweap Trail is one of the coolest trail experiences I've had! Following thin trail insanely steep up along narrow ridgelines and contouring along rock talus slopes, I gaped in dumbstruck at the scenery around me. Rock pinnacles and steamship buttes towered over deep cut valleys. Earthy colors swirled in contrast to form a blended rainbow making sense to the visual. Long and arduous, the trail wended in places clinging to the rim. Vertiginous drops, straight down, caused my gullet to gulp, my eyes bugged in and out and I had to focus with all my strength to keep standing and walking without losing my balance. The slippery talus slopes made walking difficult but soon the tiny trail cut right underneath massive, polished, crimson cliffs. Catwalking along side alcoves, overhangs and hollows made for a neat experience, like tip-toeing the abyss. Hoodoos sprung from knife-ridge buttes. The sun sunk behind the Kaibab Plateau and the hoodoos formed idols in the shadows as if the spirit world was coming alive.

After hours of ascending I attained the plateau. I took a quick breather among the cold wind. I walked to generate heat, for the sweat from the 6,500ft climb was now chilling my bones. I found camp in an aspen grove with the barely budded quaking leaves lulling me to sleep.

I awoke early and with a mix of dirt and paved roads I made Jacob Lake in the afternoon.At one point while fetching water riverside, I found a deflated basketball pinned underneath a boulder. Who knows how long it had been there but from the make and model I deduced it to be from the mid-80s. Pondering over this sudden find I felt to be in a wishing well, a canyon of memories and dreams and aspirations, of my life. I thought about how I have put away some of those dreams deep in the recesses of my mind but how because of those dreams, both failed and won, they have shaped me into the person I am and are empowering my dream of living the life I lead. it was very a propo for me to find that basketball pinned underneath that boulder, a rare find indeed. You hold onto your dreams no matter if you achieved them or not. This skeleton in my closet was a reminder of where I came from...and where I am headed.


  1. DM - I really appreciate the candid talk about thru-hiking vs the abyss of depression. I attacked the GET last year mostly for reasons of mental health, yet many hikers tend to shy away from talking about this aspect of the internal struggle of a long walk. Sounds like nature is doing what it does best. Thanks for the pictures and the good read. Keep it up!


    1. Thanks very much strider! I will be giving updates to my route/connection here in a couple of days...