Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day Nine: The Long Walk


Friday, April 14, 2000 - The sky was completely socked in when I woke up this morning. I wasn't in any particular hurry to get up by my farm boy biological clock wouldn't stop even at the bottom of the Grand Canyon so I joined the cooks for the early morning preparations. Today is going to be another layover day so everyone else slept in allowing me to get caught up on my journal writing and gawking. I was in awe as wave after wave of clouds disappeared over the rim line, turning a flaming red from the rising sun. I might have just gone hungry had it been going on by the time breakfast was served but it finally ended in a cloudless sky so that I could enjoy my fresh melon, pancakes and sausage.

The longest hike option for today was a long ways and because I had excellent map reading skills, trip captain Bronco let me set off early with the promise to wait by the head of a particular canyon that some crewmembers and myself wanted to see. So as soon as I had my lunch packed, I did just that heading up a hill and crossing over a pass down into Shinumo Wash. We had been told that today would be a "foot dry" hike so I had left my river shoes back at camp but when I got to Shinumo Creek, it was swollen and muddy though not still not very deep or broad. From my maps, I could see my first destination for the day was on the same side of the creek that I was on so rather than crossing it twice, I bushwhacked to the remains of W.W. Bass's camp.

W.W. Bass is a well-known name in Grand Canyon history. Although a native of Indiana, he settled in Arizona in 1880 and eventually in the depth of the Grand Canyons searching for the mythical mother lode of gold that supposed to be there. When that dream didn't pan out (pun intended), he became a guide and through a series of old Indian trails, created one of the first cross canyon routes. The old cable setup remains that we had looked at the day before were his creation and linked the trails on both sides of the river. Now, the only remains of his camp besides the cable car setup were a bunch of pots, pans and tools.
Sign At W. W. Bass Camp

W. W. Bass Camp

I set off again along the trail now once again on my side of swollen Shinumo Creek but was soon rim rocked. With a long hike ahead, I opted to take off my hiking boots and with difficulty, slipped and slid across to the other side. After thoroughly drying my feet and getting reshod, I started off again only to get rim rocked once again. I repeated my process for three more times before deciding that my only real choice was to wade through boots and all, which I did. My hiking time improved and soon I found myself at the head of Bass Creek where the hiking was much easier. I also met up with one of the baggage raft rowers, Lee Hall who had also made the decision to just wade through after a few crossings, just as I had promised Bronco.

After about two miles up White Canyon, we were up in the Tapeats stone layer and the canyon narrowed in so much that you could reach out and touch both sides at once in areas. The stream disappeared and we were dramatically stopped by what would have been a spectacular waterfall in wetter weather. Lee and I ate lunch on a ledge at the base of the dry falls while waiting for anyone else who decided to come up here to reach us. Only two other people, both crewmembers showed up.
White Canyon

Lichen Covered Rock

In the cool shade of the slot canyon, I could have stayed forever especially knowing how hot it was out in the "rest" of the world but my water supplies were dangerously low due to the especially hard hike up here and it was a long, long ways back. I kept a steady pace and though tried not too, still rationed my water out to sips as I made my way back. In my dehydrated haze, I did notice that Shinumo stream was an emerald green on the way back and not a muddy brown but that only made the thirst worse. Parched, sore, my bad knee swollen like a grapefruit and utterly exhausted, I staggered back into camp after twelve rugged miles and over a dozen strenuous stream crossings. I was a happy camper as I downed almost a gallon of fluids and regaled the other older clients about my adventure. Everyone was still jubilant and very much ABC (Alive Below Crystal).

When the crew made it back, we celebrated with some scotch and cigars. I didn't smoke so I celebrated with some scotch on the upwind side. Dinner was a hearty pasta with shrimp, a green salad and French bread and never tasted so good. Afterwards we sat around the campfire a bit, the non-hiking clients being well-rested and able to stay up past eight. Growing bored of their retirement stories, I hobbled down to the beach where I found Bronco, Lee and Nick telling stories mostly of their past. Realizing the delicate balance in their lives between being themselves and being hosts for a group of paying clients, I sat on the very edge of the group and just listened. Nick has told me that the crew feels comfortable around me and I'm welcome to join them anytime but I still try not to push it. The star gazing tonight was put on hold as the clouds of this morning returned and socked us completely in. In the narrows of the canyons with a low blanket of clouds hovering right above, our camp feels eerily like a coffin.
Lee Hall In White Canyon


Sage said...

Nice photos--sounds like a good hike.

PhilippinesPhil said...

"Growing tired of the non-hikers retirement stories..." Geez, still the snob.

I downloaded the neat pic of the 1880s Bass camp to get a closer look at it. That stuff looks authentic. Over the years I'm surprised its not been picked over and removed piece by piece by souvenier hunters. Good that they haven't.

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - Although all hikes are good, the thing that sticks in my mind about this one was the physical toll on me. I'm still glad I did it.

Phil - I'll probably be a snob until I turn into one of those geezers. Everything appeared authentic to me too at Bass Camp. Mostly what was left were the bigger pieces, too big for hikers to carry out. The large majority of people on the river are on some outfitted trip so such a big item would go noticed. Those on private trips probably don't know it is there as there is no sign of it from the river and it is still a good hike to reach it. Never the less, I'm sure lots of smaller items have disappeared over the years.