I have more fun and luck than the law should allow. Consider this--- my research yields an area with minimal specific information but tantalizing tidbits " Remote by even today's standards" " Over 100 miles of dirt road, and part of that is HC and 4wd-- be self sufficient and prepared" "Access to spectacular country without need of permit" and a brief line in Harvey Butchart's book " I was able to shift my shoulders from side to side and touch the walls; the Redwall here was probably 500 feet deep".
Without hesitation I dispatched some emails to Mike Kelsey the guidebook writer who I had met in Utah, got some very descriptive answers, and my trip plans to the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument were set.
Except for weather. Brian elected at the last minute to go with me, which was great from several aspects. We drove north with the storm upon us, snow at Jacob Lake, and steady rain, low clouds, and lots of mud on the dirt road drive in. We had multiple maps, I had a laptop loaded with Natl Geo's Topo for this region. In the end the best map was the Arizona Strip Map put out by the BLM. The network of dirt roads is confusing, and we had extra gas, food etc but nothing to waste. We were making slow but steady progress considering the bad conditions. I finally slid the FJ into the bar ditch, on a really slippery section just south of Bundyville, or Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse. We tried to dig it out but it was too deep and high centered, I was knee deep in cold mud and it was getting dark. Brian road walked to a ranch house while I changed and warmed up. I was worried as he was out with just a goretex jacket and it was getting cold. I walked after him with a warmer jacket and met him coming up the road with four young guys in a huge Dodge Ram. They pulled us out, and didn't give me too much grief on the driving when they found out I was in 2wd and two of them almost fell down getting out of the truck in the mud. I was very thankful.
We motored down a little bit to try and find a camp out of the mud on some gravel. It was hairaising driving in the dark. We met a few guys on a quad from the Bar 10 ranch in the dark and rain as they saw our headlights and wondered who the heck was way out here. The ranch was closed for remodeling--- otherwise you can rent ATV's and do the dude ranch thing here. They were discouraging about a road I wanted to take, but I had info we could make it.
We finally camped, short of our destination but not too far.
Morning was wonderful, clouds, sun, spectacular surroundings. We could see the Grand Canyon walls where the Colorado ran, couldn't see the river. Our goal was near the rim of Parashant Canyon, after 10 minutes of driving the road split and we took off toward a car camp near Frog Spring. The road downgraded, but no trouble for the FJ, narrow and some bushwaking , and some frametwisting over small washes that required 4wd and the rear locker. The scenery was just awesome, we were more or less driving on the Esplanade, some volcanic terrain interspersed, and some alluvial plane covered with some thin dirt and sage, greasewood, etc. We took a wrong turn at the end and ended up on a rocky hoodoo area with wonderful shallow pools of water, fissures in rocks you could step over some 20-30 feet deep, and finally a glimpse into the narrow twisting but huge Parashant canyon.
We backed up to go to the right road to get to our car camp when IT happened. Goodyear Tire will hear about this. I have Goodyear Wrangler MTR's on the FJ, I've had these tires on the Jeep and they were just bomber. Backing up at about 2 miles an hour brushed a bush and put a green broken branch right into the sidewall. Durawall sidewall technology my foot!!! I had left my sidewall plug kit at home. We put in some fix a flat, aired it up and drove on. I didn't want to break out the spare just yet. It held air with the stick still in it.
We made it to a nice car camp in a saddle, complete with old fire ring. It was not that late so we did a reconnaisance hike. We located the old CCC trail ( probably 1930's, we found a 1929 inscription in the rock face) down off the rim to Frog Spring, wildly overgrown and I did not see any surface water. The good unmaintained trail ends here, you are just above the Redwall of Parashant Canyon. We benchwalked down canyon to just where you can see the old Copper Mtn Mine on the opposite side. We were just sightseeing, it was too late to attempt to go over to the mine.
The next day back down the trail, then upcanyon to drop in via a rocky break and where Parashant was more shallow near Shults Spring. We had some missteps exploring some small canyons which ended in some pouroffs. The traversing was not bad but a little slow in spots, there is no trail and it's not level ( its the Grand Canyon --duh).
Down in Parashant it deepened quickly with towering walls, interesting rock surfaces, and nice level walking. Some pools of water from the recent rains made it very nice, along with cool temps. We decided to go to the river and back, see the narrows, and maybe save the mine for another time when we had more time. The narrows are neat and kinda creepy. Where Parashant meets the Colorado is a little narrow still. We came back and climbed out before the cattle trail exit near the mine. When we got on top we noted with Brians' binoculars several vehicles across the canyon near the mine. It can be accessed by a long and difficult 4wd road also.
Brian decided he was tired of the trail, saw a break in the cliffs so aclimbing we went. The most we climbed were about 10 foot walls, but once you do about 4-5 of them then you are 50 feet up on a 8 inch ledge it's no fun with a bulky camera pack, I'll tell ya. Then we had to crawl on a sandstone ledge. However we made it to the top with just some scrambling, then had a nice level cross country walk to the car.
We had a great evening sitting outside and watching some shooting stars, the lights of Las Vegas not too bright. We seemed to be the only ones on this side of the canyon. The hiking was strenous off trail but just awesome. We had decided to move camp a little ways to make our start out to drive a little shorter; I also wanted to go to the river via the Whitmore Point trail not far out of our way. We camped near an apparent Indian occupation site, lots of flakes of chert, a handle for a pot, pottery shards.
The next day the slow drive out then down the rough road thru the lava flow to the very edge, I mean edge, you could back your vehicle up and sit on the back bumper and swing your legs off to look hundreds of feet down to the Colorado River. Just an awesome area, can camp there without a permit and however long BLM would allow you to.
I hiked down to the river and back on the trail, didn't take long and some interesting geology in the basalt columns along the way. We saw some river rafters but they were gone by the time I got down there. It was sunny and just spectacular along the river. I tarried a bit, then wet my shirt down for the hike up.
We reluctantly started our drive back, it would be long and we just seemed to be barely tasting this wonderful country. Our luck for the tire held as the fix a flat finally failed us near the Bundyville/Mt Trumbull schoolhouse, the tire going flat. The other vehicles we had seen at the mine were there at the schoolhouse, part of a 4wd club out of Las Vegas. They kindly loaned us a plug kit, Brian plugged the sidewall and I used my air compressor to air the tire up. I made it all the way back to Tucson with the tire holding air just fine, a shame to have to replace the tire.
I just loved this area---2009--- it deserves a solid 1-2 weeks, and I plan to make that happen.
Pics when I can---