Monday 15th May – More Canyons

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After breakfast and pack up, I was well ahead of the others, so I decided to break camp much ealier than them with the idea of meeting them at our next destination, the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I left around 10am and head north out of Bryce Canyon. While the others were taking the highway route to the west of Bryce, I opted for a dirt road that lead through the Grand Starcase-Escalante National Monument. I’d found out earlier as I drove through with Jon that the road was doable in a car so figured it would be a more scenic option than the highway and presented the opportunity of doing a hike.

I stopped in at the visitor’s centre just north of the entrance to the monument and spoke to a very helpful lady about possible hikes to do along the way. While I was taking the less of the two scenic dirt roads, the hiking in Willis Creek promised to be exceptional. It was only a 4 mile round trip so I considered I’d be able to manage that. A couple of miles south of the visitor’s centre, I turned onto Skutumpah road and the dirt started with a creek crossing. The creek was almost dry so it wasn’t a problem and this trend continued for the rest of the drive. The road was corrugated in places, but otherwise pretty smooth. I could understand that would all change if it rained though. Six miles in, I reached the trailhead and parked. It was a sunny day and warming up nicely after another cold night in Bryce Canyon.

I didn’t bother packing any food, just exchanged my trackies for shorts, got some water in a backpack and walked off across the road. I could see the small canyon I was to be following from the trail which soon dropped straight into the canyon. The water was barely a trickle, probably only a couple of inches deep but the colour of the creek bed was an amazing orange. This wasn’t the case for the ground around the creek so there’s obviously something in the water that makes it that way.

I walked along the sandy banks, following the trickling water, happy that I had my waterproof hiking boots on so I didn’t have to be overly careful about not getting my feet wet. The canyon was similar to the Cathedral Wash hike I’ve done a couple of times, in the way that it started with short walls that got taller and taller. In this case, they started towering above my head rapidly.

The first narrow part of the canyon crept up on me, presenting itself as I turned a corner and found two older people with their cameras and tripods trying to capture the view. It definitely made me go wow, I could only imagine what it would be like with a rage of water flowing through it, forming the smooth rounded edges of the rock.

Not long after the first “narrows”, I came upon a small waterfall. It was another channel where the rock had been smoothed over and coloured orange by the water. Too far and narrow to jump down so I followed the trail and walked around to it. There was a family at the mouth of the waterfall, so I didn’t investigate further, saving it for the way back.

The canyon opened up again before narrowing back down to another steep section. At the entrance to this one was a standalone rock that had braved the force of the water, diverting it to either side. More open plain walking and another narrow canyon later and I was wandering along the sandy shores of Willis Creek.

I should have turned around after the third narrow canyon, which everyone else obviously had, because there was only open sandy creek until the intersection with Sheep Creek which marked the end of the trail. The cliffs around the creek were still pretty but after the narrow canyons, it was just another walk.

It was obvious when I came upon Sheep Creek since its bed was not a different colour, with only pale coloured rocks which marked a different water source. I went a little further down the new combined creek to look around the corner and found more of the same so decided to turn back.

I didn’t see anyone before reaching the canyons again, stopping to pee at least three times thanks to the constant sound of trickling water. The narrow canyons took on a completely different personality looking from the other direction, seeming even narrower in some places. Super impressive for such a short walk and free! What a secret gem!

I explored further into the short waterfall on the way back and discovered it was pretty, but after that I pretty much put my head down and got out, conscious of the time. I didn’t want to be getting in to North Rim too late.

By the time I was back at the car, I think I’d been gone for about two hours. I made lunch in a rush since I was famished. I still had enough supplies to make myself a salad wrap but managed to cut my pinkie in the process, which bloody hurt!

I consulted my map then carried on south down Skutumpah Road, avoiding the corrugations where I could, but I didn’t have to worry much. I was stopped short at a creek crossing that looked straight down into another narrow canyon, one I’m sure is hikable. I discovered that my driver’s side window switch is on the flick so I had to remove the switch from the trim to get the window down.

I had the same trouble with my window when I came down a hill and found a bunch of animals lazing around near a water source by the road. There were horses, cows and bulls and these bulls were impressive with the biggest straight horns I’ve ever seen. I stopped to admire but didn’t get out of my car fearing trouble.

A short time later I was off the dirt and back on to tarmac, much to the relief of my suspension. After I hit the highway, the road was familiar since I’d travelled it before more than once so I tuned out a bit and listened to the Elon Musk biography until I got into Kanab. In town, I stopped at Honey’s Supermarket to restock (my first non-Walmart shop in a long time) then went across the road to Maccas to update my blogs on their Wifi. I’d sat there for an hour before I ordered something to justify my being there. Snacked up and blogs up to date, there was nothing left to do now but drive.

I re-entered Arizona for what feels like the gazillionth time, it almost feels like home. When I hit the turn off to the Grand Canyon, I was happy to be in new territory. Just after turning off, I noticed a vibration coming from somewhere on the front end. I turned the audio down and concentrated on listening/feeling the problem. I thought about ignoring it until I got to camp but decided I was heading further into isolated territory so stopped at the next turnout. Upon inspection of the front left tyre, I found that one of the treads had formed an egg shape so it sat above the other three tread rows. I think that was the source of my problem. Serves me right for paying $30 for the tyre!

For good measure, I had a good look at the other three corners and was astounded to find that the rear left was completely bald on the inside edge and worn down to the metal carcus of the tyre. Shit! Classic example of having one problem and finding another. I decided that the egg-shaped tyre was the lesser evil of the two problems so I put the spare on the rear left to replace the shredded tyre. I’m getting pretty good at changing tyres now, I seem to do it so often so I was done within ten minutes. I got lucky when the car fell off the jack (I guess the ground wasn’t quite level and I know my park brake sticks) but the spare was already on the studs and fastened with one nut. Phew! If the car fell onto the hub I think I’d have been buggered. Lesson learnt. In the time I took to change the tyre, one person stopped to ask if I needed assistance, which I greatly appreciated but I sent him on his way.

The remaining 30 miles to the park I had no issues, apart from the still existing vibration from the egg-shaped tyre. I shouted in surprise when snow started hitting my windscreen. I wasn’t surprised about the patches still on the ground but when it started falling from the sky? I am supposed to be done with snow dammit!

When I got to camp, I checked in at the desk and they informed me I didn’t need any sort of tag on my car so I proceeded into the campground to find my friends. Everyone had already arrived and set up so I took my place at the back of the car train which the rangers had no trouble with. Once I’d levelled up, I got straight on to putting some warmer clothes on. The others set about making dinner while I sat underneath Tomcat’s obnoxiously coloured tent out of the snow that had started falling lightly just after I got to camp.

Dinner finished, we were all ready to go for a short walk. We were camped right on the rim of Transept Canyon, which feeds directly in to the Grand so we didn’t have to walk far to get a sweet view. When we could see over to the south rim, we debated whether the trails we could see were the ones Derek and I had walked before, South Kaibab or the Bright Angel trail.

It was cold and windy so the others turned back after a while but I continued on out to Bright Angel point with the hopes of catching sunset. It wasn’t much further to go before lookouts jutted out on rocks into the canyon right below the Grand Lodge (for the rich and organised). At Bright Angel point, the view into the canyon was perfect and the clouds above the north rim promised to provide a good sunset, especially according to the photographer I got talking to there. A Japanese lady took my photo at the point before I settled into a good spot to watch the orange sun dip below the canyon wall. The photographer was disappointed not to see bright rays dive into the canyon, but I was suitably impressed.

After the show, I said goodbye to my new friend and head back along the trail I’d come in on. It got dark quickly and in the sections where the forest became thick I felt a bit uncomfortable hiking through the woods alone. When a guy and his dog appeared in front of me I got a huge fright. I sang the rest of the way back so I didn’t lose my mind.

The kids were just going to bed when I got back so I said my goodnights before Tomcat and I huddled under the obnoxious tent chatting a while before we couldn’t brave the 0*C temperature anymore and went to bed.

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