Twig Adventures

HayDay 36: The North Rim

Friday, Sep 29th, 2023, 0630-1900
North Rim Grand Canyon to Teddys Cabin, Muav Saddle
30 miles, elevation 6690′

I thought about making a pre-post to this blog, trying to explain how I got back to the Grand Canyon to resume the Hayduke. Hopefully I can sum it up just fine here:

I ended my spring Hayduke hike at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in May, due to the conditions in and above the canyon (snow, flooded streams, closed and washed out trails). In doing so, I was able to attend my aunt’s memorial service and wait to come back when conditions were more favorable. The logistics worked out seamlessly following my summer hike from Oregon to the Sierra. My friend Jon was driving from Seattle to Phoenix, so was able to give me a ride from Pinecrest\Sonora pass. I synced my plans with Worm, another Hayduke hiker I met in the spring. We both ended at the South Rim and wished to resume at the North Rim, since we had also already hiked the GC rim to rim corridor as part of the Arizona Trail.

I was lucky to find a ride all the way from Phoenix to the NR through the FB GC rideshare page. I met up with Raj on Thursday afternoon and we made the 6 hour drive. It was sooo much better than taking several buses and shuttles, or just trying to hitch all that way. Raj was rather new to hiking but his enthusiasm for the outdoors was refreshing. I hope I inspired him to up his game to get into backpacking, maybe even thru-hiking someday.

Worm set our water and food cache at Hack Canyon all on his own and also took care of our permits at the NR ranger station. He left his van in Kanab and hitched to the NR Thursday morning. After days of planning and replanning for the Grand Canyon in the spring, Worm took care of all our logistics in just a few hours. How efficient! We originally planned to start Oct 1st, but everything panned out so smoothly, we started 2 days earlier.

We were up early just in time to see the full moon setting behind one of the canyon rims. It seemed like a good omen to the start of our trip. So beautiful! We stopped at a bathroom to fill our water bottles. Worm filled 6 liters and me, well, only 2.7. I also chugged about 2 liters along with electrolytes. That’s how I roll. We didn’t expect to find good water until the end of the day, almost 30 miles later. The ranger who issued Worm the permit seemed confident that the seep near Teddy’s canin was flowing. I placed a lot of trust in this…otherwise I would have needed to carry a lot more.

Hopefully we wouldn’t need them!

We wondered through all the infrastructure surrounding the park and eventually found an Arizona Trail sign, drawing us away from the gaping maw of the start of the north Kaibab trail. We dropped into a series of meadows and valleys, where it progressively became colder. The night on the rim had been surprisingly warm, with lows barely leaving the 50s. But here, less than a mile away, my thermometer suddenly read 33! I thought I was just being overly sensitive, but the Thermodrop never lies. My hands started to feel like they were frozen.

It took a long time to warm up. We took a short break to take off layers, plus I had to stop a bunch of times to eliminate sll the excess water I drank. Our goal for the day was to just follow a series of forest roads, perhaps one of the most mundane days on the Hayduke. Other routes through the canyon existed, but this was the easier and shortest way to get to Muav Saddle, where we would once again drop into the main canyon via Saddle canyon. The official Hayduke route makes 2.5 ascents and descents of the main canyon, or 3 if one does as most do by going up to the South Rim. We negated the rim to rim section and also split up our hike so that at least on this trip, we only needed to go down and back up one time. This felt pretty manageable.

The day was fairly easy, although with my heavy pack, my legs were feeling it by the end. The roads were also not the best, with lots of ball bearing rocks. We stopped to take some glamour shots at a vista point above Crystal Canyon. This was the canyon Sky clambered up to reach the North Rim on their own, back in May. It looked like a rough and difficult route.

We encountered several fire crews working an area around a very small fire. We didn’t even see smoke from it, only smelled it briefly. They were also using a bull dozer to improve the roads, an ongoing battle against the snow, rain, ORVs, and even bison. We talked to one of the guys in charge who was a park archaeologist. He was struggling to manage his resources before the government shut down, which was scheduled to go into effect over the weekend. We had perhaps been very lucky to start when we did, because the park might have to shut the gates to the public. We’d be well into the canyon, so they couldn’t kick us out at this point. But it begged the question, what if we had an emergency? Was no one going to be there to respond? I try to always operate under the assumption that I’m on my own, come what may. But this situation made our journey feel even more remote and daunting. I also wondered what the fire crew was going to do about the ongoing management of fires? I guess nature was on its own, too.

We had lunch at the nearby fire tower. There was cell phone signal at the top, but we only briefly went up there since the archaeologist was busy with an important call. The views were ok, but we had better earlier at Crystal canyon. The rest of the afternoon passed by uneventfully. We saw some bison tracks and spooked a huge buck, but that was about it for wildlife. The sun sank alarming quickly, signaling in the early night. Such short days! We came to the end of the road abruptly at a point, surrounded on all sides by the canyon. It was a very dramatic ending to the day and our easy travel. It was time to drop into the ditch.

A series of switchbacks expertly skipped down past the first white band, bringing us to Mauv Saddle. We found the tiny cabin among the bush and quickly dropped packs to retrieve our water collection supplies. There was no time to waste checking out the cabin, as the light was quickly failing and we needed to locate the seep that was down the North Bass trail about 0.3 miles away. We reached it just as it became necessary to turn our headlamps on. To our great relief, it was bubbling just enough to fill up all our bottles. We didn’t even bother to filter, as it was coming pretty much straight out of the ground. We trudged back up the hill, each laden with about a gallon. We needed a lot for the next day, as we didn’t expect to come to good water again until maybe the afternoon…either Jug canyon or Tapeats creek.

Water mission fulfilled, we could finally set up and relax in our little cabin. Arriving in the dark went a long way towards helping me ignore all the dust, spiders, and whatever else. We could have also pitched out tents, but the way the wind was starting to howl, the cabin seemed preferable. At first I thought I’d just sleep on the floor, but then decided on one of the rustic, creaky wire cots. I used an old tarp, plus my own polycro one to layer under my inflatable pad and quilt. It was a very cushy bed in the end. There were even separate rooms for Worm and I. We had dinner, read about our route for the next day, then promptly went to bed. I loved that 2 strangers, which is what we basically were to each other, could so immediately be in sync. We didn’t even have to discuss our routine. Worm had 4 or 5 thru-hikes under his belt (including the PCT, CDT, and AZT) and was well practiced in all the ways. I was a little nervous about the difficulty of the route the next day, but at least was feeling confident about my partner and the ease with which all our plans came together.

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