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Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ, AZ
mini location map2015-10-26
44 by photographer avatarBarrett
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Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ, AZ 
Deer Creek / Thunder River AZ, AZ
Backpack avatar Oct 26 2015
Backpack26.00 Miles 9,000 AEG
Backpack26.00 Miles4 Days         
9,000 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Day 1
Despite getting lost on the way to the trailhead by a Ranger supplied incorrect map, getting rained on at 1:30 am in the back of my pickup after a 4 day 0% chance forecast, and an aggravated nerve in my back from scar tissue sending flashes of pain through my shoulder and arm with each step, I made my way toward Monument Point in the dark with a smile on my face. The rain had stopped and the smells and sounds of the North Rim swirled around me, the Canyon to my left a beautiful abyss of silence, it's depth beyond the reach of my tiny headlamp. After 8 trips, my love for this place has only grown deeper. I hope someday to travel the world with my wife and see other amazing places, but I know now this will always be Home.
The down climb at the alcove wasn't bad - somewhat polished and slippery but big holds everywhere. I had planned on seeing the Esplanade in morning light, but unfortunately the overcast skies lent no color to the amazing sandstone. I kept an eye open for good camp sites for my return, and cached 3 x 32 oz. water bottles before I headed down the red wall. Surprise Valley was easy going, with the descent to Deer Spring punctuated with killer views and the wonderful arrival of the sound of falling water. I spent almost an hour and a half at the amazing Throne Room, enjoying the sound of Deer Spring as I had lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed all 12 thrones for good measure.
Heading down to Deer Creek I met 3 guys in their 20's from Kingman who had just passed Deer Spring without even stopping in (?). We would leapfrog for the rest of the day, with me moving faster but stopping often for pictures and video. The Patio arrived and did not disappoint my high expectations, the narrow ledges not as bad as I thought, and the down climb to Deer Creek Falls more work than I expected. After cooling off at the spectacular falls, I started back up, noticing the 3 guys trying to head east along the river. I asked them if they were trying to get to Lower Tapeats, and they said yes. After a short talk it was apparent how poorly prepared they were. No map, no information on the river route at all. I shared my info with them and we all hiked back up to the Patio for the River Route turnoff and headed toward camp as the inner canyon filled with shadow, and finally darkness. I reached Lower Tapeats at 6:20 pm, the 14 mile day taking it's toll, and I was in bed by 8.
Day 2
Woke up and met Frank, Kevin, and Mark while breaking camp. They were turning back on a loop attempt in the opposite direction. Frank was 71 and though quite the bad :pk: back in the day, he was really struggling. They informed me that Tapeats Creek was running high from all the rain, and the crossings impossible - requiring the far less desirable western route. I went up to the crossing just in case, but ended up opting for the west as well. Obnoxious. Huge up and downs with little forward travel, really steep, slippery off camber shale sections with lethal exposure. I was glad to reach Upper Tapeats Camp.
I had hoped to explore up the Creek, but with the high water I ended up spending the afternoon exploring the amphitheater above camp, as well as some serious housekeeping. The older trio arrived and hung out for a while. Fascinating group - ex-owner of an aerospace company, a CFO and a CEO, all involved in charities to help orphans from developing countries. One had a rescue farm with over 30 large animals, and another 3 adopted children from places including Kazakhstan.
Awesome to see rich people doing the Right Thing.
Day 3
Hit the trail and enjoyed early light on Thunder River. A perfect climax to the sound of water nonstop for the last 40 hours. What a place.
The relative quiet of Surprise Valley arrived, and then a trip up the red wall as the air warmed up. I picked up my water and was happy as a clam to find my 1st choice site not taken! Once again I had time to explore a bit - I have to say the views may not be as big on the 'Nade, but the terrain is awesome slickrock.
Had a great evening - my only decent sunset color, followed by a blast with camera and tripod, topped off with my only visible full moon rise for the trip!
Day 4
Up before dawn as usual, this time thanking my choice of campsite. The overhang provided shelter to break camp under the light rain that had begun. The trip up Bill Hall was really enjoyable - without any real wind I was able to use my GoLite umbrella. The gentle cadence of raindrops and footfall, the smell of evergreen and wet earth made for a perfect ending to the hike.

There are a few really good videos on YouTube of this hike. Solid camera work, informative maps and graphics, etc.
Mine isn't one of them. ... r2_c

Post Hike
Checked out Crazy Jug on the way out- very cool formations below and some good views of the canyon.
Checked into the North Rim Campground and took the Transept Trail to the Lodge. I had been here 40 years ago but don't remember much. Love the overlooks, Bright Angel Point kicks :pk: .
After a fizzle sunset, I invited some guys I met from the U.K., Colorado, and North Dakota over from their dark camps to my fire of dry wood I had brought up. Will was on Holiday with about 5K in camera gear, and Chris and Johnny were in AZ to see Tool in Phoenix. They had a bottle of Caduceus, and I some heavy Malbec, which paired perfectly with the cold wind and warm fire. The conversation flowed, with comparisons of Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer mixed in with explanations of white balance settings. Sufficiently toasted, we wandered off to tents when the wood ran out and the rain began anew. The wind picked up as well, and by morning a layer of ice covered everything as we all met for a sunrise jaunt out to the Point. Once again, cloud cover kind of killed it, and we all decided to hit the road.
Snow covered the trees all the way to Jacob lake, and the drive back across the Vermillion Cliffs was gorgeous.
I don't know when I'll be back to the North Rim. It's a long drive -
but sometimes you have to drive a long way to get Home.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Deer Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Deer Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
30 gpm

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Thunder River Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Thunder Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar.
It was tense.
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