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Beamer Trail, AZ

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Guide 24 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northwest > South Rim
4.1 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 9.51 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 492 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,805 feet
Avg Time One Way 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.53
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Will recalculate on button tap!
43  2018-11-21
Lava-Carbon Canyons - Juno Temple
37  2018-10-08
Juno Temple
48  2015-04-24
Tanner - Beamer - Salt Trails
9  2014-11-09
Tanner Trail
41  2014-04-21
Salt-LCR-Beamer-Tanner Trail
4  2014-04-16 AZWanderingBear
23  2013-04-14 Mick
23  2012-09-24 azbackpackr
Page 1,  2
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Apr → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:15am - 6:24pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Junior Tonto Scramble
by HAZ_Hikebot

The Little Colorado River joins the main stem of the Colorado at river mile 61.5. Since Powell's voyage of exploration in 1869 this confluence has marked the end of Marble Canyon and the formal commencement of Grand Canyon proper - the threshold of Powell's "Great Unknown". The setting is remarkable. When unstained by floodwater, the Little Colorado is the color of the sky. Huge unbroken sweeps of vibrant vertical stone range 4000 feet up to the rim as two monumental canyon systems merge into one. The Grand Canyon is a place where the extraordinary is routine, but even here, the Beamer Trail to the mouth of the Little Colorado River represents choice canyon d'cor.

The Beamer Trail was named for Ben Beamer, pioneer, farmer, and miner active in eastern Grand Canyon during the early 1890s. Beamer tried, unsuccessfully, to grow crops and live near the mouth of the Little Colorado.

The mouth of Palisades Creek provides a backdrop for other human activities. The legendary Horsethief Route forded the river a short distance downcanyon. Useable only during the pre-dam low water of winter, this crossing made it possible to move stolen stock from Utah across the canyon for eventual re-sale in Arizona. Seth Tanner (of Tanner Trail fame) discovered and maintained a number of active silver and copper mining claims on both sides of the river. Other early pioneers also became involved with these efforts, including George McCormick who optimistically changed the name of the mine from Tanner to Copper Blossom.

The section between the Tanner Trail and Palisades Creek offers a chance to inspect some of the oldest sedimentary rocks exposed in Grand Canyon. Known collectively as the Grand Canyon Supergroup, these colorful rocks and dark lava flows are thought to be between 800 million and 1.2 billion years old. The Supergroup is easy to spot by its distinctive 20 degree tilt.

Walk the Tanner Trail to the river and start upcanyon. Small outcroppings of Dox Sandstone present minor obstructions (with obvious solutions) at a couple of spots along the way, but in general the route between Tanner Canyon and Palisades Creek is straightforward. Riparian vegetation is dense near the shoreline so the trail tends toward a line a short distance above the water where the brush starts to give way to rocky slopes.

The character of the Beamer Trail changes dramatically at Palisades Canyon. A relatively easy, straight-line stroll across sandy slopes becomes a tedious, demanding trek along narrow, exposed ledges at the very brink of high cliffs.

Tapeats Sandstone outcrops emerging from deep water make it impossible to stay near the river above the mouth of Palisades Creek. Climb about 300 vertical feet up the talus immediately north of the mouth of Palisades to the top of the Tapeats. This slope offers the only break in the sandstone cliff in the general vicinity so the place to start up should be obvious. The top of the Tapeats is the route all the way to the Little Colorado. The trail is badly eroded, narrow, and, in places, remarkably exposed at the edge of an impressive precipice, so hikers should walk carefully. Hikers with a known fear of heights may find this trail segment difficult. It's almost like a junior version of the Tonto Trail, contouring around each of the many small, steep gullies that drain Palisades of the Desert. The trail is reasonably well-defined, but if there are to be route finding problems they will probably occur at the point the trail crosses the drainages. It is possible to scramble down to walk the shoreline 1⁄4 mile below the confluence, but the main trail stays on the Tapeats rim all the way to the Little Colorado River.

Water Sources
The Colorado River is the only reliable source of quality drinking water. The shoreline can be accessed almost anywhere between the Tanner Trail and Palisades Creek and near the mouth of the Little Colorado River. The Colorado frequently carries a heavy sediment load and is difficult to purify under those conditions. There is permanent water in the lower reaches of the Little Colorado but the mineral and/or sediment content make it practically undrinkable.

The Beamer Trail falls within "at-large" use area BA9. Please use existing campsites whenever possible. There is one closed area: The mouth of the Little Colorado River represents sensitive wildlife habitat so the area within 1⁄4 mile of the confluence is closed to overnight use. The best campsites are located between the Tanner Trail junction and Palisades Creek on beaches adjacent to the Colorado River. Campsite selection along the Tapeats rim between Palisades Canyon and the Little Colorado River is limited (at best) for a small party, and nonexistent for a large group. Visitors camping at the Colorado River are reminded to urinate in the river. The scent of urine and associated algae growth quickly foul beaches for other hikers. Human feces should be buried 4-6 inches deep in a cat hole a minimum of 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Carry out toilet paper and all other trash.

If you encounter remnants of mining or other historic activities, please leave artifacts in place for other visitors to enjoy and historians to interpret. The stories of these places and people can be lost when objects are moved.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-03-13 HAZ_Hikebot
  • Grand Canyon Use Area Boundaries - Dynamic Map

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent of 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
Beamer Trail
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Took a leisurely backpack between working seasons at the Canyon.

Had our former coworker Ryan drop us off at Salt trailhead, we began our scramble down this historic route around noon on May 2nd...

It was already warm. Oh well.
The first section was definitely the steepest and I stopped at one point and was reminded of a section of Marble Canyon i.hiked with Jamie once... "We go where?!"

It looks pretty intimidating those first few "switchbacks" but it's a lot easier than it looks.

There was apparently a "climbing" spot.
Jamie suggested we hand down packs so we did and then I monkeyed down the "hard part"...
That climb section isn't difficult at all even with a large pack, the climb is protected and surrounded by large blocky boulders full of hand and footholds.

There was an old frayed rope there. If anyone is hiking out/up salt maybe you can haul that out the last half mile or whatever?
It was day one for us so...yeah, sorry I couldn't grab it.

But yeah, certain folks but a stress on the climby spot and it gave me undue stress even though I knew I could handle anything thrown my way...but it wasn't scary or nerve wracking or anything like that.

In fact, if you look at it from above...there is clearly a "staircase" awaiting your boots! People, I swear...

The rest of the trail is very straightforward,well loved and worn in. A few rockslides here and there near the redwall but nothing too intense.

In fact, the redwall break was my favorite part! It was fun and involved hands a f ew times, maybe just because I'm short.

We camped at the base of Salt on the helipad.
The creek water coming down from. The redwall is VERY salty tasting and I think even with treating and boiling my stomach is against its use in the future. Tea, coffee, food, Crystal light mix.... everything will taste incredibly salty and the thickness is like milk! Drink the LCR instead that's what the fish hatchery crew does...

Route to confluence from salt was easy "just go that way -- :next: "

I recommend crossing the river above the travertine dams, you'll know em when you see em. I think Chumley triplog from way back when had a great photo of em.

We opted to cross walking atop or rather just a behind the top of the travertine dams...I don't know why.
Those of you who know me know I'm quite petite and there were a few times the water was up to my hips! Whoa!
It actually felt very nice thanks to the day's heat but after my accidentally swim in Granite Falls Rapid back in December I was still a bit "mehr" regarding water...the water was swifter in the LCR toward river left, the further we crossed the faster it swept us.

So crossing further above the dams might be better.

I got to play in quicksand!!! First time ever... hilarious fun.

Confluence was packed with "river runners"... Big group on a big pontoon boat I forget which company but took photos. They were quiet and waved and we're respectful.
Of course Jamie and I were on the other side of the river so...maybe we couldn't hear them ;).

We apparently walked right above/under/past Beamers the heck did we manage that?! Oh well...

Took my first step into Beamer Trail and we camped about half a mile down along the Colorado River. Awesome campsite! Much tastier green Colorado River water!

Third day headed down Beamer and camped at Palisades I think it was called and explored some gorgeous mudflats...gotta ask Wayne about those...why are they there?! And "found" the old mine and of course went right up almost into it.
It's a sensitive bat habitat just like all the others now. But still wet and some seepage around the tailings piles.

Beamer Trail is exactly how I always imagined it to be. Long, winding, hot but with Gorgeous views of everything! We could even see snow on the North Rim!

The entirety of Beamer we had company...down on the river maybe 1000ft below us?
Some sort of science river trip with a small motor boat that kept zipping upriver and Down again. Our third night the boats crew was going from camp to camp in the dark...collecting nocturnal specimen maybe?? It amused us and was akin to watching a sitcom on TV haha

Fourth was our shortest day I think, a whopping three miles to Tanner Beach!

Jamie explored up Canyon a bit and found the pouroff where the old man fell and died and the one young boy built a raft a lived...
About a quarter mile away Jamie said he found a Tapeats break that took him right to Tanner Trail...hmmm...

We met a couple of guys who may have been illegally camped at Tanner Beach and boasted their "100 miles in 7 days" while I boasted "I've been napping on this beach since noon" haha

The two guys wanted to hike out wit us at we slept in.
Started hiking out on May 6th (day 5) at was 84° at the beach.

3 hours later at the Redwall it was 96°...
We reached Lipan point at 10:30 on the dot and it was a cool 75°. Ah, perfect.

The sun really beat me up that time...I need to spend more time IN the Canyon and less time gallivanting on the rims and summit apparently ;)
Beamer Trail
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Tanner - Beamer - Salt Trails
Friday: Arose at 5:00am and left one car at the Salt Trail head, and drove the other to Lipan point to start our decent down Tanner Trail. We left the TH at 8:00am and arrived at Tanner beach at 12:30 pm. It was threatening rain all day, but we were only spit on a little bit. The wild flowers were absolutely gorgeous all the way down. Many of the cacti were in bloom. We ate lunch at Tanner Beach. We had originally intended to camp at Tanner, but we were feeling good and it was not late, so we decided to start the trek down Beamer Trail. We left at 2:00pm and arrived at Lava Rapids sometime around 4ish? I was not too happy at that point because there was some sand walking involved. ](*,) We decided to make camp, estimating that we made it a little past half way down the Beamer Trail.

Saturday: Left camp around 8:00am and continued along Beamer Trail. That trail is one of the prettiest trails I have ever hiked. It was view on view on view and we could not have loved it more. We got to the confluence at 10:30 and were happy to find that it was BLUE! The colorado was a lovely green, so I was hoping the LCR was blue. We got down to the confluence, quickly de-clothed and jumped in. At the same time, a rafting photo tour showed up, so they got some free models for their pics. :) We had lunch at the confluence and tanked up on water, since this was our last clean water source. We headed down the trail at 1:30. I am not sure what time we arrived, but it was a very long day. We travelled on the east side of the river for a ways and it had a trail, but then it got bushwacky and we should have moved to the other side. Eventually, we did, and made better time. Eventually you cross again, go through some reeds, and arrive at the bottom of Salt Trail! Last time I was there, it looked like Willy Wonka's chocolate river. So it was much better to see it a lovely blue. We thought it may be brown when we woke because there was a chance of rain, but the blue held through morning.

Sunday: We left camp at 7:40am. Two of the members had done Salt Trail before. This helped us not veer off track so much, as we knew what we were looking for. We took about four solid breaks, said many cuss words, but finally made it out at 11:25, beating our goal of 11:30. From there it was a short walk back up to the truck, our cooler, and some flip flops. We popped over to the GC to get our other truck and made it home to PHX by 6:30.

All in all, one of the most beautiful trips I have done so far.

Many wildflower. Most prickly pear were in bloom, tons of yellow blossoms, some oranges, blues and purples.
Beamer Trail
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Took the Tanner down on Monday afternoon, camped at the beach that night. The Colorado was the color of chocolate milk from all the recent rains. According to a couple of guys that came from the Little Colorado confluence, that river was the same color instead of the azure blue I was hoping for.

Set off on the Beamer the next morning, but it was slower going than I planned for - all those cuts into the side washes slow a guy down. Ended up turning around about 2 miles from the confluence, as I was getting low on water due to the slow pace. Pulled into Lava Rapids around 4PM.

Hiked up to the Tanner campsite on Cardena Butte the next day - highly recommend the scenery, though it was a little breezy.

Hiked out the rest of the way to the trailhead the next morning - out by 10AM. The last mile or so on Tanner was VERY icy - crampons would have been nice...

Not a big fan of the Beamer. There's what, like 20 washes to cut in and out on and they got a little old after a while. Nice view of the rafters going down the river though - kind of feel like you are on an airplane ride through the canyon when you're up on the Palisade wall.
Beamer Trail
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Set off down Tanner Trail at about sunrise. About 1/2 mile down I realized my camera wasn't working so I went back up to my car to get my cell phone. Followed Tanner down to the Beamer junction and then took Beamer east until I was across from the appropriate creek I needed to access. Crossed the Colorado by packraft and then followed a side canyon up to Juno Ruins. Got to the ruins at about sunset so I had just a short time to look around and snap some crappy cell phone pics. I went back down canyon in the dark and then found a nice campsite for the night. It was a windy night with a near full moon, was glad I brought a bivy sack to block the wind and light. Crossed the Colorado back to Beamer the next morning. The current was strong here and I had to paddle furiously to avoid being pulled down into a small rapid.

Ran into Jim H. on the way up Tanner. I almost fell over when he said Tanner wasn't that steep :o

7 liters
Beamer Trail
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Left for the Canyon on Saturday night. Car camped off of HW64 in the Kaibab forest just a few miles from the east rim entrance. Actually I couldn't fall asleep, just laid in my car for 4 hours (I made a bed that fits inside with the passenger seat removed. Its comfortable but I usually have trouble sleeping before a big hike). Hit the Tanner Trail at about 6:40a, just starting to get light out. The first half mile of trail had many snow-packed, icy switchbacks. Wished I had my Yak Trax with me. Almost fell a bunch of times. The rest of the trail was smooth sailing. Cached a liter of water at about 6 miles in. Got to the river/start of Beamer in less than 3 hours.

Beamer is easy to navigate but I used Nonot's track anyway for piece of mind. Almost immediately the trail climbs up a couple hundred feet and you'll be walking along some exposed cliffs. It wasn't bad at all for me but if it bothers you here, it only gets worse later. Then the trail drops back down to beach level where the walking in deep sand gets a bit tedious. I cached another liter just after Palisades Creek and before the big climb up to the Tonto level. After Palisades there is no river access or water (as far as I know) until you get to the Little Colorado, 6 1/2 miles later. Once on the Tonto level, the trail contours in and out of about 14 or so small side drainages. Most of the drainage crossing are straight forward but a few of them get a little wacky. Just pay attention to cairns. A few sections of the Tonto part skirt very close to the edge, which drops straight down to the Colorado about 500 feet below. A couple of spots got the stomach butterflies going but it was over quickly.

Along the Tonto part I met an older gentleman, Steve from Iowa, who was doing a multi-day backpack from Tanner to Grandview. He was doing an out and back on Beamer today. It was starting to get warm (80s?)and the cloud cover had disappeared. He had just 2 small Gatoraid bottles in his pockets (he left his pack somewhere near Tanner beach). I offered him some of my water but he wouldn't accept. We chatted for a bit and then I continued on to the LCR where I was a little disappointed to see it a muddy shade of blue. Went down and checked out the river and Beamer's cabin. On the way back I ran into Steve again. He could see from above that the LCR was muddy and didn't want to drop down to it. It was hot and his water was almost out. Still not accepting any of my extra water no matter how many times I offered, I convinced him to go down to the river and fill his bottles. I hope he made it out ok.

On the return from LCR, the wind picked up to what felt like hurricane levels! On one hand it was nice for the cooling effect but walking along the exposed cliff sections became very interesting. I had to crouch so low to avoid getting blown off, I was almost crawling. Once I got back down to the beach level, the weather changed again. Clouds rolled in and it was now sprinkling rain. The wind slowed but it was still enough to kick up sand into the air and in my mouth :yuck:

Hiking up Tanner was pretty much a death march at this point. By the time I got above the redwall it was dark and with the clouds covering the moon, I had to pull out my headlamp. It continued to sprinkle off and on and the wind really picked up again. As I neared the top the temp plummeted but I was happy to see that a majority of the snow had melted. My pace slowed to like 1mph. All I could think about was pizza. So glad when this one was over!

Best Idea I ever had: I bought a pizza before the hike and had it in my cooler waiting for me when I topped out. It was cold but delicious!

Note: the AEG seems way too high???
Beamer Trail
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While on my fall Grand Canyon river trip I was able to complete a couple of hikes to further my goal of hiking all the named trails off the South Rim. My friend Jane and I started at Little Colorado River beach, and made our way across the river (lots of current, but at least it wasn't cold!) and visited the Beamer Cabin. We then started onto the trail. A couple of our friends, boatmen Randy and Mike, waited on the Colorado River until they could see us coming around the bend. They wanted to be certain we were able to cross the LCR, which had flashed a couple of days before.

It was odd that the LCR was muddy and the Colorado was green, at least until the LCR ran into it. Often the LCR is very blue and runs into a muddy Colorado.

We actually did this hike over two days. The first day we hiked to Palisades Creek, where our rafting party was going to set up camp and wait for us. Of all the camps we had on our 24 day river trip, Palisades Creek was by far the worst: very rocky and uncomfortable for our group of 5 rafts and 12 people.

The first day's leg of the hike took longer than I thought it would. I think we hiked about 5 or 6 hours. It was pretty hot, and Jane just about ran out of water, so I shared. She is a boatman, has her own raft, but hasn't done a lot of desert hiking. So, when I was on her raft, I was learning a lot about rowing from a woman's standpoint, but on the hike she was learning about desert hiking from me. But we did fine, and were grateful to get into camp. The next morning we got up and she hiked part of the way to the Tanner backpacker camp with me. Our boaters floated down to 68 Mile Camp, on river right, and a boatman rowed across to pick her up while I continued on to Tanner.

Once I was at Tanner I connected with the places I had been on backpacking trips, so that completed my "line" as far as furthering my goal of hiking S. Rim trails. So, I turned around and hiked back upstream until I was across the river from 68 mile camp and could see our group. I hollered, and Dennis came over in the "Shredder" to pick me up.

The second day's hike was much easier and shorter, and the weather was very pleasant as well.
Beamer Trail
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I thought it might be about time to post this trip and some photos.

What can I say? Trip of a lifetime? But I did it last year, too! But this time I had a private Special Use Permit from the Park Service. Last year I was invited on someone else's private trip.

It really took a long time to plan this trip, and we had 19 months. I had several really good boaters helping with the logistics. We used Moenkopi Riverworks for catering, plus we rented a very small amount of equipment from them. They comped us a couple things, too, since they are friends of ours. (Thank you, Brady!)

We hired River Runners Shuttle Service of Meadview, AZ to shuttle our vehicles.

We put in at Lees Ferry on Sept. 20 and took out at Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead on Oct 13 (one day earlier than planned in order to help a crew member catch an earlier flight back to North Carolina.)

We started out with 12 people in the group, 3 of whom planned only the half trip, and hiked out at Monument Creek/Hermit. The people came from Flagstaff and Tucson, (plus me from the White Mtns.) and Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Montana. They were mostly all super expert boaters. We had 5 rafts, two kayaks, one open-deck canoe, and a "Shredder" (a very small cataraft) in our fleet. After the 3 hiked out I was the only one without a boat, so I "floated" (pun intended?) around on different boats, and tried my hand rowing different sized rafts and one day in the kayak as well.

We did a lot of the usual hikes, some of which I will write up separately. Saddle Canyon, Nankoweap, Beamer Trail, Monument Creek, North Bass to Bass Camp, Deer Creek Patio, etc. I missed the pull-in at Havasupai, so Scott and I had to wait for everyone downstream. Ever tried pulling in there? If you're a newb it can really be messy. Also missed Matkat, and had to wait downstream, but that was another boatman's fault. I didn't care, having been there the previous year. Same with Havasupai, have been there several times before, both hiking and rafting.

We had a great group, mostly got along fine, with a few personality issues now and then. But for the most part we did get along fine, and I made some new friends. Especially I hope to go boating again with Jane from Boulder, who was a real inspiration to me, having her own raft and rowing the whole Canyon.

I did row a lot more this year than last year, including Granite Rapid. It's a pretty darn big one, but is a straight shot. I thought that on this year's run Horn Creek Rapid was by far the scariest. (Some of you will recall last year's spectacular flip in Lava.) This year I rowed a lot of other named rapids. Downriver, I especially wanted to try Diamond Creek rapid because it was the very first rapid I ever tried to row, back when I took that guide training class from NAU Outdoor Rec. I got all sideways that time! This time I not only aced it but aimed on purpose for a couple big holes down near the foot of the rapid. Scott said, "Hey why don't you aim for those two holes, this boat will just plow right through them!" That was really fun! And got Scott soaking wet, too!

We saw some wildlife, mostly a whole lot of bighorn sheep. We saw one pink rattlesnake, a couple of ringtails, and a couple of foxes. The incident with the foxes was interesting. I had hiked several miles up Parashant Canyon, an hour ahead of the rest of the group. On my way back a fox ran across the canyon in front of me, and then seemed to continue to cross the canyon around every turn or two. But my pal, Jane, hiking upcanyon, intercepted me, had seen the fox, but had seen two at once. So, I still don't know if I saw only one, or both of them!

Well, it was a fine run, with a great group of folks! My photos will tell the story!
Beamer Trail
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This is an extraordinarily long triplog, even for someone with a handle of 'writelots'. I'd rather be thorough on this than brief, though, and I'd really rather post the whole thing than a summary and link to an external website that may or may not work in the past. This was an amazing hike, and it deserves and amazing story. So, as the bumper sticker says: climb up, buckle in and hang on!

Trip Report - Grand Canyon Tanner to Grandview 2/2012
Clyde, Steve P., Sara S. and Wendy

This trip was originally supposed to be along the stretch of the Tonto Trail called the Gems, west of the Corridor. We had spent a bunch of time finding and arranging a shuttle to take us out to the South Bass Trailhead - which, because it is over 30 miles of dirt road prone to muddy madness - we didn't trust to be passable multiple times in a month like February. Then we'd hike 58 miles to the Hermit Trailhead where we'd have our own cars waiting. I was psyched.

The canyon, though, doesn't reward the complacent.

My shuttle company waffled and whiffled, changing dates and availability at the last minute. I rearranged the whole trip (including some work stuff that was arranged around it) only to have them once again waver. I reached the point where I just didn't trust them at all and called off their services. After hours of searching for an alternative, we finally decided that it wasn't worth the risk of driving multiple cars on that road in uncertain weather. Getting stuck in mud just isn't the way to start or end a big adventure. Of course, all of this came about over the weekend and the President's Day holiday, so we had no idea what we would be able to do until we drove up on Tuesday morning. This left us with a window of 6 days in the canyon and no clear idea of what we would actually be able to do once we got there. I've never just shown up at the BCO and said 'what you got', so this was going to be a first. Fun!

Lesson Learned: The Wildland Trekking Company are well intentioned but flaky. Not good if you're taking people down into one of the most dangerous places many of them will ever go.

At the Backcountry Office, we discussed a few different options for trip of that length that still made use of only highly accessible trailheads. The two that really floated to the top early were Clear Creek and the Escalante Route. We decided that Clear Creek would be a bit of a waste since the falls were likely not running and the deep north/south canyon would be a cold place to hang out for 3 days. Plus, we'd all done the SK and BA trails recently enough - we wanted some NEW territory! So Escalante it is... we filled up on Mexican food in Tusayan and made our new shuttle plans for the morning.

I debated up until the last moment whether or not to bring my DSLR on the trip. I'd bought a new strap system for it, along with 'camera armor' that meant I did not have to keep in the case while I was hiking. However, it still seemed particularly heavy and loose hanging at my side. I'd been regretting not using the camera more, but my fear of damaging it on these hikes had always held me back. In the end, I decided that it was time to get over my fears and use the equipment in the activity that was my primary reason for getting it in the first place.


I also decided to bring my tent on this trip. My last few Grand Canyon adventures had been completed with a bivy sack. the bivy feels a bit claustrophobic if you end up spending too much time in them, and February weather is notoriously unpredictable in the Canyon. With the nights still being quite long, I just decided that the potential protection and comfort of a tent were worth the few extra pounds, and I threw it in. But now, with the tent, the big camera and 6 days-worth of food, I had a heavier pack than I'd carried in a while.

Double Gulp.

This is going to be some adventure!

Day 1: Descend to greatness
After leaving Clyde's truck at the Grandview trailhead, we drove out to Lipan Point where we'd catch the Tanner. It was an unexpectedly long drive considering that the hiking distance between the two trails was less than 40 miles. I was surprised, and a bit delighted. Usually it's the other way when you're dealing with the Tonto - and though we only had a short distance to hike on that trail, it was nice to know that we were going to be really making some distance for the miles we hiked! The sun was hiding behind a thin haze above, which we hoped would burn off early. Unfortunately, it didn't and we had a hazy day for most of our hike. There are worse options in the early Spring months, though, so we weren't complaining too loudly.

The Tanner Trail is a real gem as far as I'm concerned. Though the top was somewhat icy as it descended the initial switchbacks through the Kaibab and Coconino, it didn't feel as though it was dangerous at all, as it really is tucked into a nice little drainage most of that way. We got underway a little after 7:30 in the morning, and it was still quite cold, and the ice hadn't really gotten slick yet. The views from the higher points of the trail, down into the wide-expanse of the western canyon and even across the plateau all the way to Navajo Mountain, were fantastic. The massive wall of the Palisades of the Desert was already looking intimidating, though nowhere near as much so as it would from the river. The view just screamed adventure and excitement and sore feet. Now THAT's what we're talking about!

We stayed on the sheltered wall of the canyon much longer than we'd expected. We'd just reach a spot where the sun had successfully melted the snow, and then sure as anything we'd switch-back into the white stuff. A couple of times we were so sure we were done with the snow that Sara and I removed our traction devices. Too soon, though, and we ended up doing a little more slippin-and-slidin' than we'd wanted to.

The small drainage couldn't last forever as a usable trail route, though, and once we made it out to the long ridgeline in the Hermit, we were in the clear (of snow at least). This ridge (Seventy-Five Mile Saddle) was certainly the high point of this trail, at least figuratively. The trail follows it much further out than we expected, with the steep walls of Tanner Canyon and Seventy-Five Mile canyon dropping off on either side into apparent oblivion. A spine of hodoo-like rocks (Bobspixels says they're called Stegosaurus Rocks) along the top of the ridge make for a fun alien-world scenario (another friend told me later she'd played hide-and-seek in them). We kept thinking "this would be the MOST awesome camping spot". Then we'd get down a little further and think "no, THIS is the MOST awesome camping spot". It was good we weren't planning on camping anywhere up there - the options might have rendered us weak in the brain.

We hiked on along the seemingly interminable shoulders of Escalante and Cardenas Buttes. The trail traversed around a small valley which had ample dry camping opportunities - but none as scenic as the Seventy-Five Mile Saddle. A substantial climb (over 100') up to a saddle on the far end of Cardenas Butte felt a little cruel considering how high we still were above our river goal, but we quickly got over it as we rounded the corner and were treated to amazing views up and downriver. A camping spot just above the Redwall descent evoked yet another 'no, THIS is the Most awesome"...I think it might have been the day's winner until just before sunset. The views from this spot went on for miles, including the bends of the river as it winds through the Supergroup below. Not knowing what to expect from the rest of our hike before this moment, my excitement reached new heights. This was going to be awesome!

The Redwall descent on this trail was so much like redwall descents on other off-corridor trails: loose, steep and icky. It was not at all exposed, however, and the massive walls of Tanner Canyon made the view as you descended a real treat. Once the foot-abuse was over, it was time to start some very nice side-slope trail action through the Bright Angel Shale, which treated us with some fun formations and small drainages to cross. Side-slope action would be a reoccurring theme on this trip as never before in my canyon experience. But through here, the slope was quite gentle, and the hiking went fast enough that I had to force myself to stop and take photos.

The final couple of miles of the descent aren't particularly hard hiking, but the grade is relentless, and for tired feet it just seems a bit like torture. As we hiked through the hot Dox sandstone layer, my little doggies were screaming for relief. I got to the junction at the base of the trail, just above the beach, and plopped it all down. A bit of time spent with my feet in the air and my shoes on the ground was just what the foot-doctor ordered. Bliss!

On the way down, we'd talked about whether to camp at Tanner Beach or to continue on the Beamer Trail as far west as we could. Though I knew that the 9 mile stretch between Tanner Beach and the LCR would be too far for me to do as a out-and-back dayhike, I thought if I shaved 4 or 5 miles off it, maybe it would be reachable. Though my feet really wanted to call it quits at Tanner (I was wearing new shoes, and discovered I'd laced them too tightly on my ankles - ouch!), I decided to tough it out and see what kind of progress I could make before sunset.

The Beamer climbs back up into the Dox sandstone almost immediately, as the river level is blocked by a cliff. I think that climb, coupled with some of the exposure and fun trail finding through that stretch, did me in a little. By the time we got back down the river and were walking through the deep sand above Comanche and Espejo Creeks, I was getting pooped again. I suspect that Steve and Sara could have kept going, but Clyde was ready to call it quits for the day, so we headed for a piece of beach at the mouth of Comanche Creek and settled in.

I read for the group the HAZ description of the Beamer trail, and their ambition flagged a bit. The way ahead sounded pretty rough. To put it in perspective, I then read the description of the Tanner we'd just completed. We all agreed that if the Tanner sounded that tough in writing, then the Beamer was doable as well. (We also adopted the phrase "the only reasonably civilized hiking to be found" as our catch-phrase for the hike. From this point on, we would compare every little bit of tough scrambling and way-finding to the Tanner's 'reasonably civilized hiking' stretch).

This beach was a tiny little piece of paradise - a few small mesquites and tammies that might have provided shade if we'd needed it, and a nice quiet rapid that was just enough to sing me to sleep. The impassible wall of the Palisades of the Desert was like a frame to an excellent little sunset. The clouds finally retreated and left us with an amazing star-studded sky, which in this wider portion of the canyon made an amazing show.

Really, only 10 miles today? How come my feet feel as though it were 20?

Day 2: Ravens delight
When the days are so short, I always feel a little guilty about 'sleeping in' when I choose to not get up before the sun. However, considering the lower temperatures and the shorter hiking days we had on this trip, there was no need for me to be beating the sun. I cuddled in my orange down haven perhaps a little longer than I should have, but it was pure bliss after my fitful night of sleep the day before.

Steve already had his breakfast eaten and shoes on when I was just getting myself vertical. I knew he wanted to see if he could make it to the LCR - still over 7 miles away - and back today. I was entirely certain that my feet weren't going to accomplish anything that ambitious. I told him to go solo and stretch those long legs of his, and I had a delightful leisurely morning around camp.

There were a number of rocks right at the river level that were studded with large, old nails. Further, they showed signs of being treated with some sort of putty. It was quite a puzzle considering that this particular spot was not really a high-use camping area. It's still a mystery to me, and who doesn't just love a mystery?

Sara left about half an hour after Steve, also wanting to stretch her legs and see how far she got. Clyde and I dinked around for another hour or so - I had a puncture in one of my bladders that I had to change out - but then we, too, hit the Beamer. Our goal was to get as far as Palisades Creek, at which point the trail description said the trail would climb up onto the Tonto Platform again. Seemed easy enough to get that far.
The trail stayed pretty close to the river until we reached Palisades. There were plenty of pretty little beaches and sand bars to look at long the way. Palisades Creek was much less obvious than we were expecting, largely because of the very broad nature of the river's course through this area. However, we knew once the trail started to climb in earnest that we'd come far enough. Clyde turned around and I kept climbing, wanting to get an idea of how high above the river the route would be further on. The descriptions warned of precipitous 300' drops - and I could certainly see those coming. I stopped about a mile past Palisades, though, in a tiny drainage with a nice flat napping rock and great views. I enjoyed a bit of goat cheese and dates for lunch and watched the canyon's glory go by.

The solitude of this part of the canyon in the winter is staggering. I did see a boat trip earlier in the day, but so far we'd seen no one else on the trails - even at the top. Very few birds were about, and even the lizards were scarce. I felt entirely alone in the stony embrace of the canyon walls, and I felt very safe. It was like my presence and adoration were an acceptable sacrifice to the canyon, who was herself feeling a little lonely and ready for spring.

I hiked back starting a little after 1pm. I'd only come about 3 miles, so I had a lot of time to kill on my way to our little beach. From the trail above Palisades, I'd seen an odd black-paved spot at the base of one of the hills. It seemed easy enough to find from the trail, and after just a bit of off-trail searching, I found it. What appeared to be black from above was actually brilliant white. Salt and mineral crystals carpeted and area about 50yards by 30 yards - a mini playa against a black cliff face. The appearance from the distance must have been a trick of the light reflecting off these black neighbor rocks. I wandered around a bit and played with my camera, but I didn't want to leave too many boot prints, so my stay was brief. It was fun to 'find' something in the canyon, though. Usually, I only discover things that I've already read about in other trip reports and books. This space felt like a whole new spot all my own. Mine were certainly the only footprints I encountered there.

When I got back to camp, I took a little time to soak my feet in the river. They were still quite upset with me, I think for the new shoes as much as the punishing descent of the day before. I wondered if my feet would ever get used to Grand Canyon type hikes, or if complaints from those soldiers are just going to be a part of my life forever.

I went to get myself a snack and discovered that my food, which I had carefully tucked into a rat-sack anchored with some large rocks, had been invaded. My best guess (and I think it's a good one) is ravens - as they're active during the day and the only creatures that I can see being strong enough to break through the metal mesh of the bag. They ripped a 3" hole in the sack and removed a startling amount of food. They completely consumed 5 medium tortillas, 4 complete home-made dehydrated dinners and a bag of Sports Beans. They even broke the foil on the salmon cup and fished out every morsel in there. There were bits of plastic bags and dustings of soup powder everywhere. They were so untidy in their orgy that I couldn't even begin to collect all the little bits and pieces that were flung out in their joy.

My heart sank. I hoped this would not be the end of this trip - so soon! Carefully I began to inventory what was left. 3 packets of peanut butter, 3 packets of jelly - but nothing to put them on. 1 dinner, hot coco, some tabouli and 1 breakfast. I'd carried a few snacks with me, so I had those as well. It wasn't nearly enough food for 4 whole more days on the trail.

As Steve and Sara returned to camp, we took further inventory of the group's stores. It seemed that I'd be able to make due with some creative meal planning and perhaps a little calorie deficit. Even as I tried to clean up, though, the ravens were returning to see if we'd left them any more treats. Those blinking birds.

Steve reported that he'd made it to the LCR, though he'd chosen not to descend all of the way down to the river level at the confluence. Instead he enjoyed the view and turned right back around. I was glad I hadn't tried to keep up - for Steve 8 hours of fast hiking would have meant 10-12 hours for me, and with as little food as I might have to live on the next 4 days, it was better for me to keep the exertion reasonable.

Another night under the gorgeous stars. Clyde shared his soup and tortillas with me, and I made myself some hot coco. Life certainly is good!

Day 3: Straightforward, generally speaking
We got another reasonably late start the third day, as we knew we only had about 6-7 miles of hiking for the day. The write up even said that the hike from Tanner to Cardenas Creek would be straightforward (generally speaking). We found the route over the Dox sandstone that had proven such a challenge two days before to be quite easy when we were fresh - but still with some exposure that would make some quite nervous.
At Tanner we were still alone. We noted that we'd prefer some of the camps that were just past the Tanner junction on the Escalante Route - they seemed like they'd be more private if there were boaters around, and some even had a little shade. With the pit toilet located there, I can only assume that the area sees a fair amount of camping in the high season.

We were just a short ways above Tanner when we saw a small metal boat heading right for us, with some official looking folks on it. My first thought was that they were NPS looking to check our permit, and I was amazed. I mean really? All the way out here in February? However, when I saw them land two guys right on the red sandstone cliffs who then climbed straight up and even past the trail, it was clear something else was going on. Turned out that they were USGS and were servicing the cameras along the river which are recording soil movement in the inner canyon. They were nice guys, and we talked for a bit. When I asked if they had any extra food, one guy reached into his lunch sack and gave me his hamburger and a handful of chocolates. I wanted to tell him I wasn't desperate enough to steal someone's lunch, but I wasn't sure that was the truth at that point. Instead, I accepted graciously (I hope) and they headed off down the river. Their 'barge' was already half way to Phantom - where they'd be sleeping tonight. They told us to expect NPS and more river groups at Cardenas, which is evidently a very popular beach camp.

Sure enough the hiking between Tanner and Cardenas was indeed straightforward. The trail through the long, flat beach area was well marked and easy to follow, though the sand did give us enough of a challenge to make it interesting. On a hot day, this stretch would be torture - without a stitch of shade and all that white sand reflecting the sun back at you. As it was, we were comfortable enough to take our time across the sands and over the small hills to the floor of Cardenas Creek. From there it is just a short walk to the beach. The one short climb gets you to a spot with an amazing view of the bend in the Colorado that happens just below Tanner Rapids. It was one of my favorite views of the whole tip - it hardly felt like the Grand Canyon at all!

When we arrived, there was no one else around - seems the NPS folks had moved on along with the other river trip. We didn't count out the fact that another river group might come by, as we'd seen more on the water than we expected for the time of year. We settled in for lunch (1/2 a pound of cold ground beef on an English Muffin with no condiments...yum!) and generally just enjoyed a long afternoon lounging on the sand. For the folks who'd hiked hard the day before it was a welcome rest. For those of us who were less...aggressive previously, it was just another delightful day on the Colorado.

Just before the sun began to set, we got company. The boat group was very friendly and willing to work around us. They offered beer and other treats (including a dark chocolate with chili - yum!) and were more polite and well behaved than many of the private trips I've seen. They were on night 7 of 21...I was pretty jealous. Then I saw them unloading tons of stuff from their boats and felt a little better. I like the basic simplicity of backpacking - all that stuff would make me feel overwhelmed.

I ate my tabouli with another one of Clyde's tortillas. It satisfied enough on top of the massive meat-fest of lunch. I slept out under the stars in the shelter of a mesquite's branches. It was just like heaven - if only I'd had my hammock ;)

Steve did report that he had completely frozen water bottles and bladders the next morning. Oddly, Cardenas was the coldest camp that we had the whole trip. Maybe it's in a cold pocket somehow, but it certainly is worth mentioning to those who may camp there again.

Day 4: At the Unkar Delta tonight: It's the Supergroup, with special guests, Random Unnamed Drainage!
When we pulled out just before 8am the next morning, I went to wish bon voyage to the boat group (who were spending 2 nights at Cardenas). They were shocked that we were gone already, and were just ready to offer us some breakfast. I had to laugh - boaters never get used to backpacker's schedule. We figured we might see them again before we left the river for good, but wished them a safe journey just the same.

The route out of Cardenas immediately begins climbing up and over another Dox hill. It was a recurring theme throughout the day. Up and over an obstruction, back down to the river. Up, down, up down. If we'd been moving faster, we'd have been at risk for seasickness.

Steve jogged out on a remarkably well trodden path to a campsite on the top of the Dox cliff overlooking the Unkar Delta. Although I was sorry to miss the view, I was glad that Steve blew off a little of the extra energy he'd built up having a rest day. It made him much easier to keep up with the rest of the day, even if he was a tad bit grumpy. I imagine that campsite has got to be one of the best on the whole route - the views are simply incredible.

We were worried about the weather after some of the reports we'd read at the rim said a storm was due to blow in about now, but our worry turned out to be needless. It continued to be beautiful throughout the day. Our goal was to camp along the Neville Rapids and save the climb out of Pueblo Creek for the next morning. It looked doable on the map, but once we got in sight of the massive walls of the shoulders of Escalante Butte I started to doubt myself. It simply didn't look like terrain you could hike on, let alone follow a legitimate trail through. The ragged spine of Tapeats atop the long ridgeline was a very formidable boundary, and below it was an insanely steep slope of soft sandstone and shale. I kept looking ahead and saying 'How on earth do we do this?'.

As it turns out, you go up. And up. And up. We climbed all of the way to the base of the Tapeats to a high saddle. This involved a lot of sideslope walking that from even just a few yards away seemed impossibly precarious. However, the tread of the route was always reasonable when you were on it. It was amazing. There were a number of jumbled landslides to navigate, but being a veteran of two Royal Arch trips, these were kitten play. At least the sandstone here was soft and forgiving, without the evil spines of the limestone we encountered on that trip.

The saddle is 800' above the river according to my GPS. Although it did feel good to climb, there was a bittersweet feeling to that victory as we knew we'd be back at the river in no time. As the trail began to descend into the arms of Escalante Creek, we were faced with much of the same kind of hiking that had gotten us up there in the first place, with some narrow fun creek bed action thrown in at intervals to keep things interesting. Steve stopped briefly to play house at a small campsite on the first arm of the creek - no shade here, but plenty of flat rocks to build furniture out of. He's always fun to hike with because he's never really grown up enough to stop playing at every opportunity. If only I had that kind of energy!

We followed the narrow and bolder-choked creek down to the pour-off, which appeared very suddenly as Grand Canyon pour-offs can. Bypassing it easily, we were back to the river in no time. We all agreed that the descent we'd done did not feel nearly equal to the climb on the other side - certainly a reason to complete the route in this direction. I think the descent into Cardenas would be a bear going the opposite direction.

At the small rapids at the mouth of Escalante Creek, we watched a boat trip run through. One of the members of the group was in an inflatable kayak, and he liked the action so well he portaged back upstream and ran the whole thing a second time. It was fun to talk with him in his post-rapid enthusiasm. Made me really want to try some of those smaller, quieter whitewater sections in a 'yak.

Just below Escalante Creek's mouth is a gorgeous stretch of white beach. The trail is a bit above it, but it seems like it would be easy to access if one wanted to camp in that area. The lagoon created by the rapids is one of the larger I've seen, and would be VERY tempting if the temps were higher!

We weren't on the river more than about 200 yards when we began climbing. Again. This time we were ascending a sloping layer of Shimuno sandstone into Seventy-Five Mile Creek. Yes, the same Seventy-Five Mile creek we'd been at the top of at Stegosaurus Rocks days before. Only here, it's a narrow slot. As we continued up the slope, the canyon got deeper. Though in places it seemed we could jump across, we couldn't see the trail on the other side, try as we might. I promised Steve that if we camped at Neville Rapids that night, he could spend the evening exploring up this amazing slot. I had no idea ;)!

We made it to the back of the canyon, where the creek cuts through the Shimuno to make a shelf. We paused for a break and pictures, then began looking for the trail on the other side. It seemed to be just a bunch of dead ends. Any veteran of Tonto hiking knows that pattern, though - you hike up a little (or down) until you get to a spot to cross the drainage, then you skip to the other side and 'Tontour' out again. It just wasn't adding up here, though (which should have sunk in a little more since we weren't ON the Tonto). Finally, I dug out the route description and was amazed that the trail actually followed the bed of the creek back to the river. Though the initial drop into the creekbed seemed unlikely, it was actually quite easy. We lowered our packs with ropes, but in retrospect probably did not need to. The rock is nice and sticky, with lots of hand and foot holds and the slope is less severe than it appears (I think because it is polished white).

I was quite tired when we reached the top of Seventy-Five Mile's slot canyon, but the descent and the fun canyon action below it revived me considerably. I love walkable slot canyons on any day, and surprise trips in walkable slot canyons are rare indeed. Though I've been in narrower, taller and more scenic slots, this one has a special place in my heart for being such an unexpected treat.

We searched the area at the mouth of the creek for camping, but found only thick willow and tammy stands on the beach. Figuring we'd need to head downcanyon anyway the next day, we continued hiking until we found a beautiful, long stretch of beach along Neville Rapids just below the creek's mouth. This area was huge, easily big enough for multiple groups, but we had it all to ourselves. It was much warmer at this spot than it had been at Cardenas, and the sand was sugar sweet. We took special pains to enjoy ourselves at our final river camp - tomorrow we'd be up on the Tonto Plateau and the Colorado would be a distant memory.

Day 5: Easier and harder than you thought
When we started out for the fifth day, some of us were a bit apprehensive. Though the route description repeatedly reassured us that the scramble/climb out of Pueblo Creek was 'doable', it was still an actual climb (rather than a scramble or hike) and was often given as the one reason people didn't even attempt this route. As someone who has struggled with acrophobia my whole life, any time there's a description of climbing, I get agitated. Not that I don't press on - I'm just stubborn enough for that - but I get a bit edgy.

We reached the mouth of Pueblo Creek very early. The hike between the beach at Neville and the confluence was short and sweet, with some fun slab walking directly above the water. It was very clear from the 20' dryfall at the very base of Pueblo Creek that there was no getting around the climbing on the far side. Clyde had been nervous about it as well, and his solution was simply to tackle it straight on and get it over with while the rest of the group was still taking pictures and psyching up.

Once we saw how quickly and easily Clyde made the platform above the falls, we all breathed a bit easier. Okay, I breathed a bit easier. It looked so much less challenging and scary than my mind had anticipated. Though there was one move that I chose to do without my pack, I think most sturdy, long legged hikers could do the whole thing without even removing their packs (this is up, not down. If I were going down this, it would be a very different story). I was concerned about my camera, which was hanging loose for the whole hike. I turned my fleece vest around and zipped it behind me, trapping the camera in a protective wrap against my tummy. I called it my 'camera baby', and found that it was a surprisingly effective method of climbing with the big boy. Easily enough, we climbed and scrambled up to the top of the cliff and enjoyed the downriver views for the 50 or so yards before we caught sight of our next challenge.

The hike description I had says that after the climb at Pueblo, a "a talus filled runnel" allows passage back to the river, and that it's "steep, with lots of big boulders in precarious balance". What it fails to mention is that the "Pueblo Slide" is damn near vertical, looser than a doorway slot and out-of-your-mind scary. As recommended, we went down one at a time, waiting until the first man had cleared the path of any falling rocks before the next proceeded. I hate steep descents on loose rock under the best circumstances, and this was definitely not that. Though it wasn't terribly exposed, a small slip would mean a long and uncomfortable slide down very rough rocks and the occasional cactus and possibly even a dunk into the river directly below. There wasn't room for error. I dug my poles in, hung on for my life, and s l o w l y descended the slope of the rockfall. In what seemed to be an impossible feat of stubbornness over logic, stubbornness won. Again.

Honestly, if I never see that little piece of rockfall again, it'll be years too soon.

But, like so many other miserable bits of hiking - it was over soon and I was happily waiting on a nice, flat piece of dirt about 30' above the river while Steve and Sara took their turns coming down (I might add that they were substantially faster than me, and that I was glad to not have such a long wait as they had).

From there, the trail description makes it sound like a delightful walk in the park - which I suppose it might be in comparison to the mad descent we'd just finished. However, the route along the river between the far side of Pueblo Canyon and Hance Rapids is actually a tricky route balancing on rocks just above the river's surface and very painfully short stretches of sand. Dodging tammies and mesquites, now with the friendly cat-claws thrown in isn't really the 'walk downstream through riparian vegetation' that we were told to enjoy.

Whatever. We made it to Hance Rapids and we knew that the very worst of what we could expect from this hike was behind us. We knew it - but then, we'd been wrong before.

While we were hiking across the river level, we spotted the boat trip that we'd spent the night with at Cardenas coming toward Hance Rapids. They all pulled off on the north side of the river and climbed up to a low bench where they could scout the rapids. I'm no river person, but even I could tell that Hance is a BIG piece of water. We waited on the large rocks near the shore while they debated (it felt like FOREVER), and then finally - one at a time - put in down the rapids. Steve's experience said that they'd either go left or right - he was leaning toward everyone going left, but he hoped he got to watch someone take the route to the right. As it turned out, all of the boats went right, and everyone got through without incident. It looked like fun, but it also looked a little hair-raising. NOT one I'd want to do in a little inflatable for sure! One of the more energetic boaters was running up and down the trail between the top and bottom of the rapids, I assume giving advice as each boat came through. It was fun to watch and a nice way to spend the late-morning (sitting on a rock watching other people work).

Finally, with the boaters back on their journey downriver, it was time for us to hit the Tonto. Given that this was supposed to be an all-Tonto-all-the-time kind of hike to start with, it sure took us enough time to get there! The first mile or so of the Tonto Trail as it left Hance was amazingly like the Escalante Route: same color, same texture, same mixture of beach walking and side-slope climbing. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to see the chalky beige dirt that is indicative of the Tonto I know and love.

As the trail climbs up, the walls of the canyon begin to close in and the familiar igneous 'Granite Gorge' begins to appear. It's quite interesting to watch the Great Unconformity appear in this area as the Supergroup pinches into nothing and the Tapeats becomes more massive. Enjoying the geology is a great way to keep your mind off the steady incline. There are a number of rockfalls along this stretch, some of them with boulders the size of trucks balance precariously next to one another that the hiker gets to wind through. It's a magical feeling, and there are a couple of really cool campsites tucked into these rock gardens that would be kind of cool/creepy on a moonlit night.

You can see the tunnel openings and tailings from Hance Mine across the river, and it gives a bit of pause to think of how hard it must have been for those miners to access such a remote worksite.

The trail began to wind into the back of Mineral Canyon, a dry and boulder-choked drainage that looks like an unlikely camping area. However, there were a number of nice sites in the area - I suppose it was close enough to the beach to make hauling water up here not such a big deal. We rested a bit on the floor of Mineral Creek, I think we were all feeling the days of hiking we'd been through and we were reaching the 'silent acceptance' stage. It's a nice place to be, when walking is just walking and you're no longer thinking so much about up, down or other unimportant details.

The trail here was still looking very much like the Escalante Route doing an imitation of the Tonto Trail as we climbed out of Mineral Canyon up to the ridge which I've seen called 'Shady Overhang'. Then we began into an unnamed canyon which was pinching off the last of those deep red layers. At the back of this little drainage, like magic, the Supergroup disappeared almost entirely and the dusty, chalky Tonto Trail appeared. I'm not sure many people would have understood my little dance of elation, but for me it was a victory. I've now walked the first and last steps of the Tonto, and very nearly all the miles in between. I love this trail, so it was quite the reunion! Although there would still be climbing and rockfall dodging, it seemed like the unknown and unexpected would be over.

As we rounded the ridge of Ayer's Point, we could see the gentle slope of the Tonto as it curved way back into the Hance drainage. The wall of Horseshoe Mesa felt like it was still a very long ways away, and as we got to a point where we could see into the depths of Hance Canyon, I appreciated how much work we still had left. Our camp for the night in Hance Creek would be down there somewhere, and way back in this massive cut through the Tonto. Once again, though, the quiet acceptance of walk, walk, walk took over. Finally - THIS is what I call 'relatively civilized hiking'!

As we got deeper into the drainage, it was clear that there was still a considerable amount of snow on the north facing ledges of the South Rim. It was such a surprise considering how hot we'd been much of the hike. In some of the smaller side drainages along the wall of Hance I began to see new plants like junipers and pinon pines. It was a nice change from the saltbush and mesquites of the river bottom, and brought me even closer to a more familiar Grand Canyon experience. We continued around Ayer's Point for over an hour before we saw the worn maze of trails that was the camp at Hance Creek below us. I spotted a hiker in the campsite, and mistakenly thinking it was Steve, whooped and hollered in celebration. It wasn't Steve, and I'm sure I looked like a fool - but considering that they were only the second group of hikers we'd seen in 5 days, I suppose I had a good excuse.

The pair turned out to be a couple of young people who worked for an outfitter in Flag and lead regular hikes with tourists down in the Canyon. This trip was just for them, though, and she'd been hiking in canyon for 28 (!) days, and he for 14. They'd been planning on doing the whole Tonto, and has started at South Bass, intending to pull out at the LCR. However, he'd hurt his ankle (I think), and they were doing a couple-day layover at Hance to determine if they needed to bail out Grandview and avoid further injury (which seemed to be the way they were going). They were trying to eat up their extra stores of food, and gave me a generous Mountain House breakfast to round out my light food pack. We swapped a few stories then went down the creek a little to camp under the giant cottonwood and give the couple the privacy they deserved. It was so nice to see them.

Lesson Learned: The day before a big climb is not the time to try your first freeze-dried pork sausage.

I mention here that we had actually encountered another group on the trail, but I honestly don't recall exactly where. It was a group of 4-5 and they were the most taciturn and honestly unfriendly group I've ever come across in the Grand Canyon. Typically when you meet up with other hikers on one of the more remote backcountry routes, it's a cause to stop, chat, share beta and encourage camaraderie. However, this group was either tired or grumpy or both, and walked past with barely a word to us. I only mention it because I want a complete record. Hopefully they were just on an off day (certainly have had a few of those myself!).

Hance Creek had a pleasant flow, and our evening was a delightful one. The winds had picked up most of the day, and with some high clouds blowing over right at sunset there was some concern that weather might blow in overnight. I put the rainfly on my tent for the first time on the trip, so of course there was not rain at all and the sky was full of bright stars. I think, though, that the 4 nights I did have that full-sky night show were the better ones to enjoy, since this time we were deep in a narrow canyon with only a sliver of sky available to us. I certainly didn't lose any sleep over it!

Day 6: An unexpected luge
Definition: A luge is an object that is designed to be used for racing downhill over snow or ice - English Collins Dictionary

The next morning once again saw temperatures near freezing, which wasn't a surprise as we were camped almost 1,500' higher than the previous nights. Steve had some frozen water and my camera battery, which was already near the end of its charge, froze up. I really wanted a few more shots as we hiked out so I stuck it in my pocket hoping it would warm up enough to snap a few more shots. I got lucky - using only one battery for a six day hike was much more than I'd expected. The trip turned out to be a success for the new SLR setup, and it now has the green light for bigger adventures.

The junction with the Miner's Trail up to Page Spring came faster than we were expecting. I remembered it being a bit vague from my previous trip, but this time it seemed even more obscure. Perhaps a bigger cairn is needed - especially in this area where there are so many animal and casual use trails. We left camp just a little after 8am, and by 9:45 we were up on the mesa. Steve had never visited the Horseshoe Mesa before, so he had lots of fun checking out the old mines on the way up and the relics and ruins on the mesa top. The hike up to that point was as steep as I remembered, though with most all of the food and water out of my pack, it did seem like things were finally getting a little easier.

Just above the mesa we met another hiker coming out. He'd spent several nights below the rim on the Tonto solo. He was quite eager to chat, which was nice, especially since I wanted the little break. He and I played hopscotch for a bit before I finally pulled ahead as he stopped for a longer break.

At first the climb was easy, as it was in an area that got lots of sunshine. However, the trail soon traveled onto the east-facing slope of the break, and we began to encounter long stretches of slick, packed ice. Steve, Sara and Clyde were a good bit ahead of me, but I think the ice slowed us all down. I put on my traction, which helped a lot, but certainly didn't prevent slipping and some feelings of dangerous instability. Sara, unfortunately, had only the instep cleats - which are not only much less effective on hard ice than most other devices, but also make walking across areas without ice nearly impossible. She ended up having to stop repeatedly to apply and remove the cleats as we hiked up, which was not only time consuming but obviously frustrating. The other hiker called up a couple of times jokingly for us to pack it down good, but that was clearly not a problem. In some places, the ice was as hard and slick as a luge track, and we found ourselves occasionally demonstrating poor luge technique with our poles and backpacks. I was glad to be going up rather than down this slick little nightmare, but either way was less than a cakewalk. Luckily, the weather had held all day and it was just a matter of very slowly making out way up the ice to the next short stretch of solid, comforting rock.

It was almost 1:30 by the time we hit the top of the rim. Not surprisingly given the icy conditions, we'd only encountered a couple of day hikers on the final stretch out. However the Grandview Point was quite busy, and there were many ooh's and aaah's about how amazing Sara and I were for hiking down in there. One particularly funny and impressed older gentleman was going on about how the miner's got in and out of there. When I explained to him the route and how I'd hiked in there the last 6 days, his response was simply 'Are you crazy?'.

Well, clearly, I am. But I hope I don't get cured from this crazy!

Clyde and Steve chivalrously drove the truck right up to us and loaded us in. After picking up the shuttle car, it was a quick drive straight to We Cook Pizza for some serious post-hike pig out time. Their salad bar is one of the best things I can imagine after 6 days of dried, packaged food scavenged from ravens. We languished over the pizza and already began inflating our accomplishments into the stuff of legend.

While the rest of the crew headed back for their homes, I went to check in to my lodging for the volunteer project. I got to stay at the Albright Training Center, which are delightful rooms complete with little kitchenettes and huge soft beds. I ran to the General Store and bought myself some beer and a pint of Ben and Jerry's (which I'd promised myself two days before), and sat down for the next 5 hours to read, review maps, check email and pig out on Banana Split. I fell asleep with the light on and awoke at 6am to find over a foot of snow had fallen in the night.

Talk about timing!

The canyon giveth, and the canyon taketh away. But on this trip, I think I came out an big winner! Thanks to everyone for being flexible and positive and for making this another canyon adventure that I'll never forget!
Beamer Trail
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On day 2 of the trip we made it with our packs to the beach right outside the restricted area at the confluence. The LC was BLUE and we rolled into camp just as the day was fading away. The trail seemed less exposed than I remember but perhaps I have gained more tolerance. There were at least 2 section that seems to have been delibrately rerouted in the recent past. The camp is delightful -- soft sand bar with soaring canyon walls!

Day 3 we realized this little paradise gets NO sun!!! It was cold. We wandered up LC for a bit - there is a low route from this beach to the confluence and on up LC. I dare to take a quick dip in the LC -- and remained cold for a few hours. Note to self: Do not do this again [-X . Also winter light was not to be had on the river (LC) left bank ( Beamer cabin side) so photo ops were limited :( The river was a nice blue but none of the brilliant summer turquioses....the water was crystal clear & that was good! We enjoyed our time this day -- watched the sun tease us all day -- the warming sunlight never made it to anywhere where we were....We returned to camp and watched a nearby sandbar slowly disappear under the waters -- mesmerizing!

Day 4: Return trip back to Tanner -- we made great time. downside: Lost my ratsack somewhere along the Beamer trail :(
Beamer Trail
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On Friday I dropped in on the Tanner and hit the beach in a few hours, then headed up the Beamer about 6 miles and setup camp in one of the side canyons up on the Tapeats shelf. The next morning I hiked the remained 4 miles to the LCR to happily find it flowing turquoise blue. :D I crossed the LCR w/o too much difficulty and pumped some water on the upstream side of the Colorado before venturing a few miles up the LRC taking loads of photos and taking a dip whenever it got a little toasty in the 80-85° heat. That Powell Route had to be around there somewhere? Once back at the mouth, I pumped some more water and hiked back to my camp. I wanted to pack up and drop off of the Tapeats and camp along the river but I ran out of daylight. :? The next morning I packed up and made the long hike back to Tanner Beach for some more water before heading back up the Tanner. :sweat: It wasn't too bad of a hike out until I started running out of steam on that last mile of the steep upper Tanner. :roll:

Map Drive

To hike
This trail is an inner-canyon trail. The Tanner Trail provides access on the south. The Beamer Trail joins the Tanner Trail just above Tanner Rapids.

It is possible to access the Beamer Trail at the north end by way of the Little Colorado River, but rim-to-river routes in this seldom visited gorge are, without exception, rough and possibly dangerous wilderness routes. The Little Colorado drains most of northeastern Arizona and has the potential to produce sediment laden floods of massive proportions. A current weather report, careful campsite selection, a conservative attitude, and a vigilant eye on the sky are essential for safe travel through this confined, flood-prone canyon system. Visitors accessing the area via Little Colorado River routes will need a permit to cross Navajo land.
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