|Hiking||10.65 Miles|| 4 Hrs 5 Mns ||2.61 mph|
|3,630 ft AEG||40 LBS Pack|
||no linked trail guides|
|I flew over Cape Solitude in April 2011 on a Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour. (See http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=190517). I knew right then that this was a place I wanted to go! So when Squatpuke posted this on the HAZ calendar, I was instantly interested. But upon reading about it, I was also a little bit apprehensive. A 30-mile overnight with no water is quite a challenge, and I wasn't sure I was up for it.
I remembered from my fly-by that there was an old road out on the cape, and as I did more research on the subject, I came to learn that there still is access to that old road. At least on the portion of land that is not National Park.
All my research didn't really tell me anything concrete. What I learned is that the road is really rough, and takes a long time to drive. But if my maps were right, it looked like it might be possible to get to about 5 miles from the cape. I decided that a 10-mile overnight without water was a much more manageable trip for me! So I decided to give it a try.
I spent plenty of time looking at maps and satellite photos, reading newsgroups and random website clippings. I felt good about the route, and knew that I wouldn't be able to know if I could drive to my alternate trailhead until I got out there and tried it. So I never did sign up for the hike. Nor did I tell anybody on the hike that I would be trying to meet up with them. I had considered it, since I could significantly lighten the load of water they would have to carry, but without being sure that I could make it to a rendezvous point, I didn't want them to rely on me.
Sometime during the week before the hike I decided that if I was able to make it there, it would be one really big surprise for the HAZ group to encounter me and my truck, with water and snacks, 7 or 8 miles into a 15 mile hike. Somewhere along the line I decided to double-down on the surprise, and devised a plan to put a sign along the trail advertising cold beer and water ahead. I occasionally wish for a mirage like that in the middle of my hikes, but alas, it never actually happens!
So I pulled some scrap wood out of my garage and got the router out. I knew approximately where I would put the sign, so I got my mileages right, and carved it up. I didn't have nice weathered wood, so I had to stain the bright pine darker to make it look a little less new. I threw it in the back of my truck with the coolers, ice, extra water, etc. and headed out.
Saturday morning, after I had successfully reached the alternate trailhead on the long, rough road, I got up and hiked out a ways and posted my sign, anxious to see the reactions of the group when they came by.
It was about two hours before a lone hiker appeared on the horizon, and I had been sitting in the bed of my truck doing some work on my laptop. I put everything away and got my pack out ready to join the group. When the lone hiker walked past my truck, head down, I simply yelled out "how's it going!?". At that point, an unrecognized man that looked a bit like grizzly adams turned to acknowledge my query. I was shocked that this was not somebody I recognized. Who else would be out here today!?
"Chumley!" followed by a few expletives of shock and awe and more than one good laugh followed as I realized that I did know this guy. But John had grown a beard since our hike two weeks prior and I didn't recognize him initially. Their hiking group had separated so I learned that each had experienced the sign on their own, with wonder and bewilderment. I was happy to have Punk'd them all!
Larry is still upset that he had to carry 4-gallons of water all that distance! So after a short break, I joined the group for the 5 miles or so to the cape from there. With a relatively short distance, I decided to load up on stupid weight ... a 6-pack of beer, and a bottle of vodka. Plus the extra water needed to offset the dehydration caused by those nectars. So with 24-lbs of liquid in tow, those 5-miles were a little rough too. The hike is unspectacular ... one might even say downright boring. And seemingly endless.
After about 2 hours, we reached the first viewpoint. Still about a mile from the cape, we all took a good break to take in the incredible views looking down on the Colorado and back toward Desert View. Finally I decided to press on, wanting to get to the ultimate destination. It's really difficult to describe. But we all spent at least the first hour there just exploring every different side. Every angle, and every view in all directions. Truly awe inspiring.
It had been very windy the previous night, and the cape is very exposed, so we decided to set up camp a couple of hundred yards from the edge in a slight bowl near a tree. As we were setting up our tents, and I was gathering some firewood, I nearly stepped on what I believe is a Mohave rattlesnake. (Edit: He was a Hopi). It slowly took refuge in a bush and refused to move. Or even really rattle or get mad. After a short discussion about trying to relocate him so we didn't stumble upon him at night, we decided it would be cold and he would probably just stay there all night. So we put a couple of hiking poles next to the bush as a reminder he was there.
Of course, an hour later, he was in another bush, and after dark, he was gone altogether, never to be seen again. I guess that's a good thing?
So our night was spent around the campfire passing around the beers and vodka. Wendy sang irish drinking songs for us, John forgot to eat anything, and Vince took some cool photos. I don't know about anybody else, but I slept like a rock until just before sunrise when I decided just to get up and enjoy this spectacular place. After watching the morning light illuminate the canyon, we all had some breakfast snacks and packed up and started the long trek back.
Haley reinjured her knee on the way in and it was becoming increasingly painful on the way out. My truck was the initial destination, and we all made it there in really fast time. Haley decided to endure the 3-hour dirt road drive with me rather than hike the remaining 8 miles on her knee, and I loaded up my truck with packs and tents and sleeping bags to help lighten the load for the rest of the group.
Haley took some pain meds and we took the drive slowly, stopping to enjoy some of the Navajo structures and history along the way. John texted when he got to his Jeep, and we still had 5 miles of driving to go. Luckily the rest of the group was further behind and we were able to get to Desert View before they did. That afforded time for a few good tourist photos and some cartwheels.
We all then headed back to Flagstaff for some good food before each heading our separate ways.
I'm pretty sure I will make this a destination again. Not for the terrible drive, nor the boring hike. But the end destination is truly something to behold!
Thanks to Larry for getting the permits and making the plans. It was great to hike with all these awesome HAZers again (even though Kyle didn't go. )
out 5.49mi in 2:30
back 5.16mi in 1:35
|Championing breakfast since 1994.|