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mini location map2021-04-27
35 by photographer avatarBarrett
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Nankoweap TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Backpack avatar Apr 27 2021
Backpack30.60 Miles 9,608 AEG
Backpack30.60 Miles4 Days         
9,608 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Partners none no partners
In the three years it had been since I was able to backpack the Canyon, a lot had happened. The most relevant being a diagnosis of moderate to severe arthritis in both knees. ](*,) This realization caused me to sort the remaining Grand Canyon hikes on my Bucket List in descending order of difficulty. Fortunately there also exists hyaluronic acid, which is the closest thing to a miracle drug I have ever experienced. That, along with a plan of low daily mileage and low pack weight was my best shot to knock off Nankoweap.
Day One - 8 miles
Snow still remained in the shade at the west trailhead, and as I approached the edge the wind was incredible. I was able to lean into it well enough, but it actually would sweep my foot so my steps did not land where planned. Glad that it was pushing me away from and not over the edge, I made my way through the ups and downs to the Nankoweap Trail proper. The drop down was pleasant enough, and I contoured around to Marion Point, where I met 4 women retrieving their cache. The campsite was small and bumpy, but Marion Point is gorgeous.
From there I continued the traverse, where I found the exposure and obstacles less than say Boucher, Deer Creek, Escalante, or Utah Flats.
I reached Tilted Mesa and set up camp just in time for some light rain. I had dinner and watched the sun set through the snow that was falling on the rim above. Dry under my GoLite, comfortable in my Flexlite, I celebrated with my Magic Flight at the end of a perfect day.
After about 5 hours of blissfull sleep, I woke up around 2 am to hard rain and my 25 year old tent deciding to leak from multiple points. I did the best I could mopping and catching, and gradually the rain softened, leaving me to try in vain to get some sleep before dawn.
Day Two - 7 Miles
The rain stopped entirely in perfect time for me to break camp, and then resumed as a light drizzle as forecast for my hike down to the Creek. The clouds were rolling down off the rim and the rain brought out the colors that surrounded me. The going was steep at times, but I was being super slow and careful with my knees, and had no slips or issues. GoLite umbrellas are lousy in high winds, but in a drizzle they rule. I reached the creek and had a PB+J Burrito under the big tree, listening to introduction of birdsong after the relative silence above. The next three miles meandered, and soon I was at the northern beach. I set up camp, this time using the 1 ounce mylar emergency blanket between my tent and the fly, just as the rain picked up again. Perfect timing.
When the rain stopped, I headed to the empty beach to do my traditional immersion and wash up, coming back to my tent just as the rafters arrived. I loaded up my pack for the granaries and was headed up a little after 4. My plan was to shoot them at as many times as I could to get different light.
On the way up I ran into a group of rafters from the south beach wearing day-glo Tu-Tu's. I asked them the significance, to which the woman replied "It's Tu-Tu Tuesday!" Raft trips sound like fun. She also said it was her second 17 day raft trip through the Canyon, and that in her opinion the Granaries are the best view anywhere.
When I reached the top and looked back, I don't think I would argue. Beautiful perspective lines, foreground interest, river reflections, blah, blah, blah. It was sweet.
Over the next 3 hours or so I cooked dinner and waited for the light to change, eventually putting LED tea candles in the openings and trying to photograph their glow in the now dark canyon. I can't say those turned out very well, but it was fun playing around up there listening to the rafters party it up below from precisely 7 to 8 pm, when all the lights went out and the canyon was once again silent.
Day Three - 9 Miles
I woke to clear skies and headed up the Creek, and then began the ascent to Tilted Mesa. While stopped to take a picture, I was startled by a girl jogging up the trail behind me. She was a rafter who decided to "bust a move" and bop up to Tilted Mesa on their rest day. She was from Montana, so we talked a bit about Glacier before we parted ways, with her moving up the steep grade like it was nothing.
Having reached the Mesa by around 2 pm, I decided to continue on to Marion Point, as I thought the photography there would be better. I found Marion Point empty, but had to spend some time breaking up the dried, lumpy mud that made up the only level spot. It was worth it, I spent some time exploring the point, stumbling across an amazing nest condo that I think was made by some kind of swallow. Camp improvement, dinner, sunset, another perfect day.
Day Four - 6 Miles
Up at 5 like always, on the trail by 6:30, this time meeting two Hayduke Trail guys who had already logged over 500 miles. It did not sound like my thing, with all the road walking, but total respect for the dedication.
Realizing it was almost over, I slowed down even more and tried to take everything in - it's easy to spend all your time watching your step or trekking pole placement that you miss where you are.
I reached the rim and looked back, this time the air was still and peaceful. There's something about the Canyon's ability to shift from howling winds to dead silence so completely. One moment you're thinking how inhospitable a place it is, the next you're dumbfounded by soundless cinemascope. Man, I love this place.
I felt relieved that my knees had been fine, and I was filled with incredible gratitude to have one more chance to live a chapter in the Canyon's Big Book. I opened my Trappistes Rochefort, reclined in the Gravity Lounger I had stashed in my truck, and felt a tinge of excitement about how much weight I would save on my next tent.
Sacred Datura
Belt of Venus
The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar.
It was tense.
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