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S Kaibab to Lone Tree, AZ
mini location map2019-12-28
9 by photographer avatarShatteredArm
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S Kaibab to Lone Tree, AZ 
S Kaibab to Lone Tree, AZ
 
Backpack avatar Dec 28 2019
ShatteredArm
Backpack19.30 Miles 5,100 AEG
Backpack19.30 Miles1 Day   4 Hrs   41 Mns   
5,100 ft AEG   19 Hrs   15 Mns Break
 
1st trip
Partners none no partners
With over a week off of work, I wanted to do something kind of fun, but didn't really have a chance to plan out anything epic. So I made a sort-of-last-minute decision to do a 4 night hike in the Grand Canyon. Believe it or not, this would be my first ever solo backpacking trip.

Apparently I didn't learn my lesson from 5 years ago, when I vowed to never again camp in the canyon during the winter. It turned out to be a pretty ill-fated weekend.

Thing that went wrong #1: Originally planned on leaving on Thursday, but...weather. Decided to postpone till Saturday to let the winter storm pass.

The original plan was to do two nights at Hance Creek, explore down to Sockdolager Rapids as a day hike, then wander over to Cottonwood for a couple of nights, with a day hike over to Grapevine (turns out the Cottonwood Creek area got burned up this fall due to an illegal campfire, for which the culprits are being federally prosecuted).

Thing that went wrong #2: Desert View Drive closed

When I got to the canyon, the road to Grandview was still closed due to ice, and the notice as of 10am said it "may" open in the afternoon. Decided not to risk it, and just booked an alternate itinerary with 1st and 3rd nights in Cremation use area, and 2nd in Grapevine.

Parking at the visitor center was a complete pumpkinshow, but I managed to squeeze in a spot and got to the TH by 11:45am. Put on some yaktrax just in case, and made quick time down to Tipoff. Wasn't sure whether I'd camp in Cremation or Lone Tree (both are in the same use area), but since I was making such good time, I figured I may as well shorten the mileage to Grapevine the next day. Got to Lone Tree with a full two hours of daylight left, set up camp, hiked the quarter mile or so down to the namesake tree, back up to camp, and... made dinner. While making dinner, I realized I had forgotten to bring spare fuel for my JetBoil, like I usually do.

Made plans in my head, if I at least made it to Grapevine before running out, and got a hot dinner there, I could manage the rest of the trip eating the stuff that doesn't require heating.

As the sun set, I crawled into the tent for the rest of the night and finished a flask of whiskey and the book I was reading.

Thing that went wrong #3: Out of fuel

Sunday morning was absolutely frigid. My sleeping bag was just on the verge of not being able to handle the temperature - my guess, based on how fast stuff was freezing, is that it got down to about 20F. Made coffee while still in the sleeping bag, then started heating up water for breakfast, and... flame dies. Took inventory of the food I had, and I had two servings of granola, some salmon I could eat for dinner, and an assortment of meal bars, gels, nuun tablets, meat sticks, and plenty of whiskey. Coffee would've been the biggest problem (maybe I could cold brew it?), but ultimately I decided, with those temperatures, this was just a sign I should pull the plug on the rest of the trip.

So out I went. At 10:45am temperatures were still below freezing at Lone Tree, and the hike out was much slower. The middle and west branches of Cremation seemed even steeper than before, and even the flats seemed to take longer. Pushed up to the rim and a steady pace, with minimal breaks. Just wanted to get out of there with a little bit of daylight left, so I can beat the worst of the traffic out of the park.

Even though almost everything went wrong, it was still a good experience overall. Saw a new place, got a solid 24 hours with no human contact, and enjoyed some cool scenery along the way.

dry Cremation Creek Dry Dry
West and Middle branches had a few pools in the narrows below the trail.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Lonetree Creek - GC Light flow Light flow
Light flow at the trail crossing, only took a few minutes to fill 3L. Spring at the tree downstream had a little less flow.
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