I’ve had such a nice time staying with Li. We talk hiking philosophy a lot, finding we have similar views that at this point in contemporary society I would almost call idiosyncratic (I don’t know if he would agree). He’s an incredibly giving host, sharing his time and space and food generously, all in service of my needs as a hiker. It’s because Li is one, a long distance hiker, with considerable experience both hiking and being hosted. It snowed fairly seriously for much of the day, though it barely was able to stick. While the weather rampaged we had breakfast and a long conversation over coffee, and then he took me to the Post Office to finally mail home my bucket. We then went to the Backcountry Permit Office.
My original plan was to head back down to the Tonto Trail tomorrow morning and continue contouring on the wide green Tonto bench skirting the upper canyon. I would do this two and a half days before hitching another ride across the river with a rafting party and continuing up to the North Rim on a trail. All nice trails, known quantities, predictable. I have a different plan now, one I spent considerable time hashing out with Li (who has done a substantial portion of or all of the route, depending on which variation I take), with rangers at the Backcountry Permit Office, even over the phone with a Grand Canyon employee who everyone deemed the most currently knowledgable of the area I’m heading into. Li helped me draw up a new map and I have at this point all the information I could possibly find. I’m going to take a trail from the South Rim down to Phantom Ranch and from there take a crosscountry route across the north side of the canyon. There are no trails over there, it’s riddled with substantial unknowns, and I couldn’t find anybody who themselves had done the route I’m planning to take. But the consensus is that it’s doable, and I have three options of varying levels of challenge and difficulty (though the nature of the difficulty will change with each option). So, it promises to be an interesting and adventure-filled couple of days, until I rejoin with the official trail (which is relatively information-rich comparatively) which itself is interesting and adventurous. I may come back having been raised by wolves. I’ll almost certainly by cactus scratched.
I have right around two weeks left of the trail. I have seven more days in the Grand Canyon and then probably another five until I reach Colorado City to resupply. After that I have only four or five hiking days left, to the Weeping Wall in Zion where the Hayduke Trail officially ends and then two more days to hike across the park and make a proper finish at Kolob Canyon on the west side. It’s all very close and in the ungraspable way of such things, very far. Keep an eye out for updates, but know that Colorado City may not have cell service and there are no motels (it’s the center of LDS fundamentalism and apparently the town and it’s general lack of tourist services reflects that), so I may not be able to post until the end. But as soon as I can I will. I walk out of here tomorrow with eleven days of food and into a warming week in the Grand Canyon. Temperatures are reaching into the high eighties in the bottom of the canyon by midweek which is on the hot side for sun-exposed, dry hiking. I’m making the last of my preparations. Here we go!
On another couple notes, a number of commenters have suggested the giant bird I saw and posted photos of a couple days ago was likely a California Condor, which is very cool if true. The bird had big vehicle spots under its wings if that helps. It was definitely the biggest and strangest looking bird I’d ever seen. Also the blistered scratched up wrist I took out of the Horsethief route has gotten a bit worse. Ok suggested I may be having an allergic reaction to Agave, one of the brutalizing plants in bushwhacks out here.
Finally, happy Mother’s Day to the dear sweet mothers in my life! To my friends courageously raising kids, to my mother-in-law, my stepmom, and especially to my own radical mother to whom I no doubt owe half my sense of adventure, thank you for what are doing and have done. All the world’s current and former children couldn’t have made it without you.