641 miles hiked
I wake in the dark for some reason, can’t fall back asleep. Oh well. There are worse places to be awake, watching the stars fade towards light.
It’s good to hike before the sun has crested the canyon wall, and everything is still shaded and cool. The Escalate route, even though it’s a “route”, is gentle and well trodden so far. It climbs and descends the dry hills along the Colorado, scrambles down into ravines and makes its way out again. We even contour way into a deep narrow side canyon on its rim, only to drop down into the canyon at its beginning and walk all the way back out on the cool gravelly floor. Then, in the last 1.5 miles of the Escalante route, everything becomes slow and interesting and insane again.
There are no low dry hills, anymore. There is just the river and the cliff. So our route, which we now follow via cairns, climbs up the hard smooth rock of this cliff via its broken bits, which requires both hands and lots of careful footwork. Then the route goes down, through a bit of spiny mesquite, and up again. And so forth. Dan and I have a running joke about the exposure on this trail. It’s actually a quote from Game of Thrones, which we got pretty into binge-watching in my apartment in Sedona the month before our hike. In the show, Syrio Forel is teaching young Arya how to swordfight. He says-
“There is only one god, and that god is death. And what do we say to death?”
The sun is fully awake, now, and roasting everything. By the time we reach the sandy beach that marks the end of the Escalante route we feel like two characters in Naked and Afraid, ready to build our signal fire for rescue. We take off all our sweat-soaked clothes and pour water on ourselves, and this makes us feel even more in character. We keep hiking, though.
The Tonto trail starts out slow and rocky and then commences to climb for eight miles in the heat. The contouring is beautiful, just the sheer size and intricacy of all these canyons and side canyons, above and below and all around. I feel like I’m contouring around a snowflake, into all its secret corners. But we are overheating in this brutal shadeless sun, and Colorado river water does little to quench a person’s thirst. What they say is true- it’s hot in the Grand Canyon! Every time we see a cool patch of shade on the lee of a truck-sized boulder we take advantage of it, throwing down our sleeping pads and wilting for half an hour on the ground. Before we know it we have gone exactly no miles.
When I planned food for this section, I figured we’d be hiking 20-ish mile days. LOL! The Hayduke route through the Grand Canyon, so far, has been the hardest hiking of the entire trail. (The mileages are also off the most, which contributes to this, and which I also didn’t account for.) One cool thing about the grand canyon is that if one is planning to resupply at the South Rim village (we are), one gets to choose which trail to take up to the rim from the Hayduke. One of these trails, the Grand View trail, which goes up Horseshoe Mesa, starts close to the creek where we want to camp tonight. This trail is super steep and, as far as I can tell from the map, super fucking cool. If we take this trail, it’ll put us on the South Rim tomorrow. That’s about as much food as we have.
All day we leapfrog with another Hayduke hiker, Bert. This is our first time seeing another Hayduker on the trail, and it’s strange/cool. I mean I know, conceptually, that there are other humans out here, but to actually see one in the nature, and get to talk to them? It’s wild!
We camp on a rock shelf above Hance creek. The clear water here tastes incredible, so much better than the murky green Colorado. We are so cooked/exhausted from the sun that we barely talk, just eat our dinners and watch the squirrels scurry too and fro, eyeing us and probably plotting to steal our food in the night. It’s balmy and clear but mosquitos are a thing, so we have to set the tent, and then a wind appears and begins to flap it. I don’t care, though. I put in my earplugs. So tired.
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