Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hiking down Hermit because SK was muddy.  Got all the way into Dripping Springs and out without seeing anyone else.  This, of course, changed when we got to the Hermit Junction.

Among other pilgrims, we met three commercial groups.  Two of which were backpacking, starting down at 11:30. I would not start a group of newbies down a non-maintained trail at 11:30.  Indeed, I would not start a group down a maintained trail that late.

I elbowed my way through a half-dozen backpackers before the guide giggled, "Oh, yes, (tee, hee), uphill has the right of way."  The next guide was telling his group that "of course, I am slowing my pace down for you".  Real professional.  Then he turned to me.

"You folks go to the Creek and back?"

"15 miles round trip, hardly."

"Oh, I bet folks have done it!".

Yeah, don't patronize me, punk.  Although assuming I could hike 15 miles before 11:30 is pretty flattering, I suppose.

To obtain a CUA (commercial use authorization} one fills out a form, pays $300, and gets liability insurance.  One must have a WFR and have hiked the trail one is leading on at least twice.

There are a plethora of CUAs at Grand Canyon, some more competent than others.  Indeed, I turned in one group that I was sure was illegal, only to be told that, unfortunately, they did have a CUA.

One ranger complains that the CUAs do not have desert experience, much less Grand Canyon experience, and they hike to Phantom Ranch on a day permit.  When someone in their group is in trouble, they send them to the Ranger station.

The new backcountry management plant would establish two concessionaires for backcountry hikes, both of which would be subject to more restricting.  The Park Service would also get a cut of the profits.  Needless to say, the CUAs don't want this.

One company brags that their enrollment has increased 30-0 percent.  This group also claims that the vast majority of people cannot hike the Canyon without a guide.

My response is, sure, with an attitude like that.  Tell your clients that they can't do it without you, and they will probably believe it

Going with a guide because they have the permits, because they carry the gear, because they fix the food, okay.  Signing up for a class in geology, or photography, or history, sure.  But not able?  Cannot?  Choose to, more like.

I have beeb on commercial Mountain Bike trips because they arranged the route and provided a sag wagon with all supplies.  Could I have done these trips myself?  Absolutely.  Was it worth hiring support?  Oh, yeah.  Were the guides professional?  Five out of six, yes.  The interpretation was another matter.  But that is the subject for another blog.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring break means a long trek, so we put in for the Gems.  Our backup plan was the Escalante Death March, but the road to South Bass was deemed to be OK so we went for it.

First obstacle: we start down Rowe Well Road and there is a big sign: road closed. So we went to the backcountry office.  There is a big line of people waiting for last minute permits, so I ambushed the ranger putting up the flag and asked about the closure.  She didn’t know, so she called head of Law Enforcement, and they didn’t know, so they told us if we had a permit, just drive the road.

Road was dry though rutted.  Someone had been out there in the two feet of snow we got last week (more about this later).  We paid our fee to the Supai and they took our permit number.  Interesting, since I am sure we saw a couple down there sans permit.  The mile just past the four-way junction was horrible: I thought I had the wrong road. 

Five years ago when we got to Bass Tanks, we hiked to the River. This time we just sat in the shade.  Gravity must have increased since then. 

We met a group from Tucson hiking the opposite way.  They asked how we got to the trailhead, and we told them a friend drove us.  "That's some friend!".  Of course, since he lives here, he didn't have a long commute.  So they told us they tried to get to the trailhead two weeks ago, but the road was so muddy they had to have two people behind the truck trying to keep it from sliding off the road altogether.  So THAT's where the ruts came from!

Water in all named canyons except Agate.  We were kind of planning on water in Agate, but alas, no water.  So, said we, it is about an hour and a half around to Slate, and that is still in our use area. After an hour and a half, I came around the corner and saw that we still had to round Charybdis Rock, and kind of lost it.  Three hours later we finally stumble into Slate. However it was a lovely campsite, and we were in fine shape to get into Boucher early the next day.

Met a guy day hiking from Boucher to who knows where, no water, no hat, no nothin’.  He declined to chat.  Probably dehydrated already.

Boucher was more than full, because a group from Dallas who had wanted to do the Gems but couldn’t figure out the car shuttle decided to go down the Boucher Trail (for their first hike in the Canyon ever!) and it “wiped them out” so they stayed where they were instead of hiking to Serpentine and back, which their permit was for.  I questioned them casually and was told they were going to camp “At the very edge of the Boucher use area” and hike out Hermit.  Had lots of time to hike to the River.  Boucher is such a pretty beach.

Hiking above Hermit Rapid

Victim of dehydration
This is the only way to scout Crystal

The hole in Crystal Rapid

hiking out Hermit

Carried my trust squirt bottle, and got two graffiti panels
Another easy trek into Hermit, and another hike to the River.  Get back and lo and behold, there is Dallas trying to camp ON Hermit Creek.  The Boucher use area is above the creek.  They wandered about for a few hours helplessly, so I finally informed them that their use area was not here.  Hermit Creek use area was full, they would have to move.  They did.  I may have mentioned that I work “with the Park Service”.  I did not say “for” because that would be a fib.  Anyhow, they left, and we saw them briefly as they started out next day.  I informed the BCO that they would probably take two days coming out Hermit, because they were that kind of group, and thus would be illegal again.  Ratting people out is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Had my January trip to Phantom for GCAFI.  The mules cannot get down the trail, in fact they have not been for six days.  Had to make a helicopter run to resupply the ranch and take out the trash.  No new reservations accepted, and there were only 13 people at dinner, including our eight.  Very strange experience.

One gal really wanted to go up Phantom Creek, so we did so.  Cold crossing the pothole.  New slides all up and down the canyon.  The scree slope is no longer stable.  In some areas, rocks had fallen and bounced so hard they left divots.  I assume in August when we had a our big rain and the Bright Angel washed out.

The South Kaibab is drifted over and hard to tell where the trail is.  Bright Angel has a good path stomped in, but step off, and you are hip deep in powder. Some people did that stepping off for us.  Thanks guys!  I suppose the mules would break a leg if they accidentally got into that deep stuff.
I took people on this trail in this snow for their first Canyon hike?  Holy moly.

Black bridge: almost there

Cabin eight: my favorite

Killers of fish: they are eliminating the non native species

had to air lift the food in and the trash out

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

For birthday, I like to get a cabin at Phantom Ranch.  This year the weather was inauspicious.  Much rain and snow in the forecast.  No rain on the way down, but the mud!  Ankle deep mud.  All the way through the Red and Whites.  The mules churn the dirt into fine dust, and when it gets wet, it gets sticky and slippery at the same time.  Put in a little clay, as is found in the Hermit, and it is a gooey mess.

Jenn had her daughter down for HER birthday, and they ate dinner with us.  I embarrassed her good by telling the staff to sing happy birthday to us.

We were in Cabin 10, which is one of the originals.  On the layover day we started walking up North Kaibab, and wound up at Ribbon Falls.  We do this a lot.  Oh, let's just start walking with no goal in mind.  Then once at the Beaver Ponds, Gee, we're almost there now.  Might as well keep going.

It rained like a fiend Saturday night.  So the trail was even more muddy going out.  Took an extra half out to get out just because of the footing.  Glad I wasn't racing the mules, or a guided group, or a kid.
New picnic tables

Mist moving in

I like these dancing mules

ONeil Butte

Cabin Ten

Friday, October 7, 2016

Have not done Boucher for at least 30 years.  I dragged a unsuspecting novice down with me, too.

This time three of us, not novices,  gathered at Hermit to start down our perilous trek.  Boucher is 8 miles, but that does not count the mile and a half of the Hermit and Dripping Springs one has to traverse first.

Starts out OK.  Then gets narrower.  At one point I tripped head over teakettle and landed in a bush.  One twig went straight through my finger.  Ouch!  It looked bloodier and more painful than it was, but it was hard to hold the trekking pole, particularly since said pole got bent in the process.

The trail follows the top of the Esplanade for like, forever, then cuts down through the cliff.  I had remembered the very top of this as mostly rocks, and I was right.
The Esplanade downclimb

The downclimb back in the day

From there the trail got worse.  It was fairly easy to follow, but narrow and exposed.  It took eight hours to travel 10 miles, mostly because it is so tedious to creep downhill with every step sliding away. 
This is a trail?  In the Redwall.

I found my old gargoyle that I remembered from the very first time I went down the trail.  He was in the Supai just before White Butte. 

The Tonto was a relief after that downclimb.  We wended in and out of side canyons until Monument, then Indian Garden.  Lots of water, Monument was full, Indian Garden also.

Brad and Scott walked out to the edge to see Horn Rapid where we flipped a boat and lost a boatman when the raft slammed into the rock.  (we got him back)

This big guy was asleep (we hope) at Boucher.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer road trip.  We started in Durango so Brad could ride the Iron Horse where the bikes race the Silverton-Durango train.  I have no road bike, and I don't like steep downhill, so I just drove the truck to Silverton to pick up the bikes.  First time I had ever driven this truck, and I managed to get my foot on both the accelerator and brake and ram into a passing car.  First moving violation I've had in 50 years of driving, thank you very much.  At the end of ride party that night, it felt very weird to not be talking about the event.  I am not used to being on the sidelines.

sunset over Salt Lake
Watch out for Bison.  (no one is in the tent)
From there we drove to Antelope Island in the Great Salt lake.  There was a warning sign at the causeway which warned that the gnats had just hatched out, and people were abandoning the island in droves.  It was breezy enough that we didn't have a lot of bugs that night, and we walked around the point.  In the morning we ate between mosquitos and hiked to the high point on the island.  The trail was lovely until the last quarter mile, which took 40 minutes each way.  Very loose, exposed, and altogether nasty.  Next time turn around at the three mile mark.

Cascade canyon.  In the season, this trail is as crowded as the BA.
Next stop the Tetons.  We stayed in a fancy condo in the ski area and hiked Cascade Canyon and a little hike up to a lesser lake.  Cascade had a lot of people, the Two Ocean Lake was less crowded.  Perhaps due to the fact that the adjoining area was closed.  We read one sign which said the closure was from wolf dens in the area (!) but we didn't get to see any wolves.

Hot pool in Yellowstone

Lone Star Geyser.  Well worth the walk.
From Tetons to Yellowstone.  A one-hour wait to get into the south entrance.  If there was a by-pass for locals, I don't know where it is.  Old Faithful Inn is Okay for a National Park lodge.  We had a room without a bath, but we were right next door to the shared bathroom.  Spent two days chasing geysers.  Lone Star is a two mile walk, but it has a long eruption which was fun to watch.  Then we climbed Mt. Washburn because so many people have told me that we should.  About a quarter mile was pretty deep snow, and I fell into a hole and broke my new hiking pole.  Right near the top the snow was pretty slippery right near an interesting exposure.

Mama elks hide their babies, but this one relies too much on camouflage. 
Last night was at Mammoth Hot Springs.  This lodge was not worth it.  ONE shower and TWO toilets for the whole floor.  A fan was provided, but only two electrical outlets, so we had to choose between the fan, the lamp, and the clock.  I tried to borrow the bell cart to haul our luggage and was told it was for the bell staff only.  Then they locked it up.  I suppose one is supposed to utilize the bell staff and tip them a dollar a bag.

We left the park the day the kid went way far off the boardwalk and slid into an acid pool.  All they found were his flip flops.  Gee, I wonder what this boardwalk is for?  This is one thing we don't have to worry about at the Canyon. 

Whenever I visit a new Park I resolve not to be condescending to visitors to my Park. I tried not to ask stupid questions, but in a new area, a lot of questions sound stupid.  

On the way back we stayed in a really nice hotel in Cedar City.  We had a little refrigerator, and a microwave, and a real breakfast, and lots of electric outlets, and our own bathroom.  Why, oh why, do Park lodges have to be so tacky and cheap and still so expensive?

Friday, April 1, 2016

A couple of notes to myself from the last hike.

I was sleeping in the CCC kitchen shelter at Bright Angel Campground, and a cute little ringtail was peeking at me from the roof.  He started throwing what I assumed were dried leaves at me.  In the morning, I found a pile of Cliff Bar wrappers.  No, they were not mine.

At Indian Garden, a young man asked me where the ranger was.  I told him she was in the campground checking permits, and what was the problem?  He was hiking out with nothing, NOTHING, and needed something to carry water in.  Immediately I got into the bag of trash I had been picking up for the last four days and found two gatorade bottles and a one-liter pop bottle.  I handed them to him and showed him the water faucet.