|Backpack||24.80 Miles||2 Days 11 Hrs 49 Mns |
|2,719 ft AEG|
||no linked trail guides|
|What can I say of this adventure that has not already been said? It's like being a part of a NASA mission, each of us sitting in front of a row of microphones and giving our own version of events - trying to bring something new to the table without making anyone else feel left out.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press...I am here to tell you it didn't happen at all like Hippy or John or Chumley said. Not even a little bit.
Well, except for almost all of it...
My adventure starts in February, when I hiked the Escalante Route and Beamer trail to see much of this territory from below the rim. We spent 3 days hiking below the imposing cliffs of the Palisades (palisades) of the Desert (...desert...desert...). Then in August I floated along the river past the same area - the river thick with monsoon runoff and the LCR only adding to the murk. My boat pilot pointed out Cape Solitude, and we debated about how far it was from the top of that point to the river, concluding that it was a really long way. Then in September, when I was at Cape Royal and Point Imperial, staring across the expanse at what seemed to be an utterly flat and featurless landscape of the South Rim. I could see Cape Solitude from there, and I could see how it would get that name.
So, then, it's time to put boot to dirt and get my butt out there! I was so glad that Larry put together this trip - a great group of hikers headed out to one of the more isolated and lonely points in the canyon. Well, that is, if you don't count helicopters and sight-seeing airplanes. Oh, and ravens. If you count all those, we'd have to rename the spot 'Cape Flyover'.
The next major chapter in my pilgrimage to Cape Solitude was my drive. I think it bears mentioning that in addition to the three trips mentioned above, I have two more Grand Canyon adventures planned this year (plus this one makes 3). The drive from Tucson to the South Rim is about 5 hours with change, multiply that by 5, then by 2 (for the back and forth), and I'll spent 2 whole days of 2012 just driving to the canyon. Now - I know Sirena's got me beat with all of her river work, but I think you can't really count it if it's a part of your job!
It was great to hook up with Larry (Mr. Puke) in Flagstaff, and we swapped great hiking stories the whole way to Desert View. We arrived just in time to find our campsite and take in the sunset at the tower. Then we made it back for a campfire, some dogs on the grill and good company joining us (John, Haley and Vince) later. For some reason, it has really stuck with me that Vince ate 2 whole honeydew melons that night for dinner. Maybe it's because I'm not a honeydew fan - but that seems like enough melon to make me hate life for a few days after. He's much more man than I, it seems
The next 'chapter' if you will involves getting down the first hill to the actual trailhead. Our plan had always been to drive this portion, and save our feet and legs the climb out. I was happy when Mr. Puke volunteered to take his 4wd down the hill. We'd talked earlier about using Mr. Wendy's big-ol-truck http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=208680, but the cost of the extra gas to get Nismo to Flagstaff added to the heartache Mr. Wendy was experiencing upon trusting his loyal steed to his wife - well, lets just say that it was starting to look like an expensive trip, financially and emotionally. Larry's car did great on the rocky hill, though I certainly see why the trip write up says that most hikers spare their cars that 3 miles... It's rough, the rocks are sharp, and it really makes your brakes work. Larry's expert driving and his vehicle's obvious experience were an excellent team, both uphill and down. Next time, though, Mr. Wendy's going to have to man up and let me take the Nissan...I think Larry's done with torturing his ride.
For those of you who are worried that this is going to be another of Wendy's eternal and insanely long trip logs...fear not. I figured I'd fill in on a few of the details that the others either missed or didn't mention. That way I don't re-tell stories (even the really good ones) and hopefully I can keep this triplog to a reasonably long diatribe.
So, we're hiking. Some have called the 12 miles out to Solitude boring, but for a through hiker, it's actually quite pleasant. You've got constantly changing landmarks and incredibly open views. Although once off the first high part of the trail you lose all site of the canyon itself, you can see this amazingly flat plateau surrounding you in all directions - interrupted by the occasional little hill and gully. It's impressive, and with the puffy whites that we had overhead on the first day, it's quite attractive. The trail is good enough that you can really step out - which is exactly what we did. Even with the 8 liters of water in my pack and the (??OMG I don't even want to think about how many) liters in Mr. Puke's pack - we made good time.
Blah .... blah...blah... We hiked and hiked - oh, and then I decided it was time for lunch (which I announced just after we 'lost our way' on the Indian Res). Then we hiked some more...and found the sign. I think it's safe now to call it the 'Infamous Chummley Chuckwagon Sign'. My first thought "Some hiker had too much time on their hands" (if only I'd kept to my first instinct). My second thought "Well, I suppose the Navajo could have someone holed up there, hoping to sell ice and water to entice more $$ out of the biligaana." Then I moved at last to "Well - whatever, I'll cache water at the sign because it's easy to spot an remember".
When Volcanoclimber and I came over the hill and saw the rest of our group gathered around a truck and drinking, have to admit I went back to the Navajo theory. Then Frank recognized Chummley's truck, and finally the trickster himself, and then we were all set. Thanks for the ice cold drink, Chum!
Then we hiked some more before I realized we'd never stopped for lunch. I get grumpy without my lunch breaks, so Larry and I took 10 under a nice juniper on a piece of smooth limestone. it was nice to just sit and listen to nothing for a few minutes, not the stomp of my feet or the slosh of all that water in my pack...
Walk, walk, walk... Yeah, we thought that the peak of Char Butte was Solitude...and we were VERY glad it wasn't. Walk, walk, walk.
Okay - so I have to be honest here. There are very fine views from Cape Solitude - and some that are unique (such as the confluence from above). But, is it worth 13miles of hiking relatively flat plateau carrying 2 gallons of water? Maybe. Is it worth doing that when it's hot as hell out? Not really. I'm glad I went, that I saw what I did, and was with who I was with, but on the long (long, long) list of canyon destinations you MUST see - put this one a lot further down on your list than it is now. There are better views and better hikes and better hiking with views.
Nuff' said. I did love scrambling about the edge, though my fear of heights picked a terrible time to rear it's ugly head and I didn't get out as far as I wished. Our camping spot was choice, amid the junipers of the little gully, with an unending view out past the LCR gorge. I loved the campfire and the company - it was a pretty perky night for me, so I guess I've been backpacking with fellow old-people too long! The rattlesnake was a big highlight - he was so sleepy, that when Larry and I came back after the sunset photoshoot, he'd moved about 3', and very slowly slithered back into a bush when I almost stepped on him. Poor guy - I think we were really stressing him out (though truth be told, he was stressing some of our party out too!)
The hike back actually felt shorter, and I hardly took a single picture. We just hauled butt across the plateau...my GPS clocked me at 2.2 overall and 2.9 moving (which for me is booking it!) By the time we got back to the car I was jonesen' for some ice cream hard, which we satisfied once we were at Desert View. Oh, and I bought some pink undies because I'd forgotten to bring extras (and pink was all they had). Larry had to make sure he told the cashier that they weren't his. As if he'd buy undies in a bunch (gawd, I crack myself up!).
Back in Flag, I changed my undies (since my pee habits were topic of conversation on another triplog, I figured undies were fair game here), and got pizza with the gang. It was so nice to hike with such kindred souls! Each one of us loved the canyon enough to go to great lengths to enjoy such a secluded and otherwise gawd-forsaken place.
To the canyon! Cheers!
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- Barack Obama