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The Gems - Grand Canyon, AZ
mini location map2016-03-07
22 by photographer avatarautumnstars
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The Gems - Grand Canyon, AZ 
The Gems - Grand Canyon, AZ
Backpack avatar Mar 07 2016
Backpack52.59 Miles 10,895 AEG
Backpack52.59 Miles7 Days         
10,895 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Day 0
A simple drive over to the canyon to camp at Mather turned unexpectedly interesting. Just as I was setting up my "rim tent," heavy wet snow began to fall. It snowed heavily for many hours, a fun turn of events for a Las Vegas resident. Still managed to make it to the ranger talk about mountain lions. Who knew they have a 5.5m (18ft) vertical leap?

Day 1
The day began by scraping my car windows clean of snow and ice - thank goodness for that ice scraper my dad insisted on giving me when I moved to Vegas! :lol: Wanting to get an earlyish start, I moved my pack to the passenger seat and crammed the wet, snowy tent in the trunk. After some snowy road conditions, and obligatory elk stops (No, I'm not a touron - they were IN the road), the Hermit parking lot was pleasantly sunny, and I took my time prepping to head down. Hermit was mainly snow free, but the logs were slick with frost and best avoided. The hike down was uneventful and the familiar landmarks seemed to pass quickly. As the first arrival at Hermit Creek, I picked a site and settled in. It was by no means a quiet night at Hermit with a large boyscout group plus an arguing couple beside me, and I was happy to have the sound of the creek nearby to help drown it out.

Day 2
The goal today was Slate Creek, 10.8 mi away. I was excited to be headed toward unfamiliar territory and get started on The Gems in earnest. The section of the Tonto Trail between Hermit and Boucher provides stunning views of the Colorado River, and I spent some time soaking in the scenery. At some point before Boucher, there were 2 men headed in the opposite direction and we talked for a bit. They were doing a Boucher :next: Bright Angel Loop, and were the only people I interacted with until hiking out of the canyon 5 days later. :y:
With no recent water reports, I made a stop at Boucher Creek to top off my water load at 2 full days' worth. This was a theme for the trip - always carrying too much heavy, heavy water. Guess it was good for my fitness level, though, and it was definitely good for my peace of mind. The rest of the hike to Slate was mostly scenic, if uneventful. The climb out of Boucher via Topaz was initially steep, but my legs were happy to go up after all of yesterday's down. Hiking toward the back of Slate, the water in the drainage sparkled invitingly. Nice campsite and flowing water for tonight's supply.

Day 3
Today's goal was Turquoise, 9.3 mi away. Although some find it tedious, I find something strangely game-like about "Tontouring" around the drainages. It's a puzzle to assess where the trail will come out and how it will avoid or traverse the various obstacles you can see across each side canyon. The views aren't half-bad, either. Arriving at Turquoise, it was a bit of a downer to find no flowing water at the crossing after Sapphire was flowing nicely. Could have hiked down-canyon ~30 min to flowing water (heard and seen from above), but I simply didn't feel like it and ended up filtering from a pool below the dry falls. Enjoyed some exploration up-canyon, above the seeps. When backpacking, it is a wonderful feeling to walk around free of your pack! Another nice campsite tonight.

Day 4
The park had inserted an extra night in the Ruby Use Area to my permit, expanding my options for today. Ruby was a beautiful canyon of ledges complete with a small waterfall, and I decided to spend the night. Nice campsite and again flowing water for tonight's supply.

Day 5
I reluctantly broke camp and left Ruby, possibly my favorite camp spot of the trip. Today was short mileage, and it passed quickly. As expected, Quartz and Emerald were both dry. Reaching Serpentine Canyon, there was flowing water and lots of frogs. They didn't seem deterred by the alleged poor quality of the water here.

After a long break, complete with foot soak in the icy waters of Serpentine, I made a fateful decision... To decrease my mileage the next day, I decided to push on past Serpentine to near the boundary of the use zone and set up a dry camp on a point overlooking the Colorado and Bass Canyon. The nicely sheltered spot I noted in Serpentine Canyon would have been a better choice. Weather predictions had run out by this time, but I was not worried as I settled down for the night under cloudless skies. At approx 2:30 am, the warning sprinkles began and I jumped out to set up the rain fly. Out on the point, the wind gusts were intense, and I had staked my tent lazily. With the wind, I couldn't get out to fix the staking problem without having the tent potentially escape entirely. Although the most important things (sleeping bag and clothes) stayed dry, the bottom half of my ground pad and inside the bottom of the tent were pretty soaked by the time the rain and wind let up at approx 4 am. Pack towel to the rescue! I placed it between the wet ground pad and my dry sleeping bag and caught a few hours of sleep.

Day 6
What should have been a mellow day was derailed somewhat by low-lying clouds and sleepiness from my rude awakening by the storm. Snow was visible on both rims, lasting well into late morning. The trail through Bass Canyon passed quickly, but the trek from there to Copper Canyon seemed endless. With grey skies overhead, I was anxious to find a protected camping spot, resulting in many stops to check every ledge. At Copper, I spotted the perfect overhang, clearly used previously, as evidenced by rock "seats" and a pile of very old cans on a shelf. After the early morning rain, I found enough water in shallow potholes along the canyon bed - score! Time to explore. Shortly, I noticed a very weathered coil of rope behind a rock above a dry fall. At some point, someone must have left it there for "next time," but next time never came. Interesting. The sky finally cleared up and the night was beautifully star-filled.

Day 7
Hike out day. I had no idea what to expect from South Bass Trail, and it turned out to be an interesting change. Odd how, in caparison to most trails in Grand Canyon, you hardly notice the Redwall ascent, at least not in the sense of one continuous push. Unique trail that I would hike again. Met 2 maximum-size (or slightly above) groups on my way up. They wanted to talk way too much for a person who hadn't had any human contact in several days, but at least I could help them out with a very recent water report. Didn't head over to the granary, so I have something new to look forward to the next time. A few small patches of snow near the top, but mostly melted. Climbing the last bit of trail, I saw my ride standing at the trailhead. Nice timing, as he had arrived only 5 minutes before me. Also, he had a delicious sandwich, fresh carrots, and fresh fruit in hand for a lunch. :y:
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
Just beginning

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Boucher Creek Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Hermit Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Normal flow conditions

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Jade Canyon (Gems unofficial) Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Pools near Tonto crossing

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Ruby Creek - GC Light flow Light flow
Flow at Tonto crossing.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Santa Maria Spring Dripping Dripping
Only dripping from pipe, but trough full.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Sapphire Creek - GC Light flow Light flow
Flow <1 min above Tonto crossing

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Serpentine Creek - GC Light flow Light flow
Flow at Tonto crossing.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Slate Creek Light flow Light flow
Flow <1 min above Tonto crossing

dry Topaz Canyon Dry Dry

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Turquoise Creek - GC Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Pools at Tonto crossing. Flow ~30-45 min down-canyon from crossing.
"Let it ride / Let it roll / Let it go"
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