Day 51: the half plan

The wind was at my tent with enough vigor that I ended up putting in my earplugs around 10:30 so I could sleep last night. I did sleep then, deep and well and right through my alarm, and I didn’t wake up until 5:30 when it was already light out. The raft crew told me last night that the first conch blow is coffee, the second is breakfast. I heard the first conch, airy and strange, float up the hill while I was packing up my things. I headed down to their camp. They quickly put a cup of coffee in my hands and I sat leaning against my pack watching them make breakfast. They are a cheerful crew, laughing hard and teasing each other, while working very efficiently. Breakfast was ready shortly: pancakes, fried spam, bacon, and sliced melon. I ate six pancakes. They were delicious (as was the spam and bacon). The commercial river trips often throw away food because they aren’t allowed to serve leftovers to the passengers (park regulations) but they make astonishing quantities. Everyone suggested I fill my pack with pancakes. If only it weren’t already full to the brim and beyond with food.

It takes a while for a river crew to totally undo their elaborate and civilized set up. I chatted with passengers and sat in on the morning meeting where the crew captain talked about the upcoming day with the passengers and we all looked at large fault map of the Grand Canyon. I hadn’t seen the fault map before but it explained a lot of things I’ve been experiencing. Or, rather than explain, it presented a kind of coherence about the place I’ve been negotiating for the last week, like seeing the code that wrote the interface. The entire Horsethief route shows up as a fault line, and so does the route I had considered taking along Saggitarius Ridge and over the Flint-Tuna saddle. That particular fault is the Crazy Jug fault and continues up into Saddle Canyon where I will be the night after tomorrow, so even though I’m missing the Sagittarius Ridge part of the fault, I’m still connected.

They dropped me off at a gully across the river around 8:20, just before Crystal rapid and before the mouth of Slate Creek which comes to the river in the middle of the rapid. They weren’t comfortable trying to navigate their boats over to Slate mid-rapid, so I’m taking another somewhat strange route up a gully and then down the other side. It was a late start to hike but it was fine because I had pancakes. I waved goodbye as they headed into Crystal rapid and turned to climb up the gully. It led maybe 300 feet up to a shoulder of Visunu schist, the metamorphic rock that forms the reddish walls of the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I slipped backwards at a steady rate in the very steep and loose scree until I could get on a seal of blocky boulders the size of toaster ovens. They weren’t moving very much. Still, it was slow climbing. The gully was some steep schist. Eventually I made it to the top and began picking my way down the other side. I hadn’t been able to see the other side last night, not completely, so I wasn’t sure if I would get cliffed out on my way down. It was incredibly steep and I picked my way down in an angled traverse, but once I picked the right gully I was able to make it all the way to the creek to bed. The whole deal took me an hour, and I landed maybe a tenth of a mile from where I started.

I made my way up Slate Creek which was pleasant and very easy to walk. The day was heating up. Sweat dripped off my face. I eventually came to a pour off I tried to climb past but then hit another pour off around the corner I couldn’t see. I had to backtrack, lowering my pack back down the first pour off and making a careful downclimb (up is always easier than down, unless you are jumping or falling). I found a long cairned bypass and then eventually found a place to climb out of the Slate Drainage to the west around 1pm. I was on Tonto the rest of the day, on a trail. I had time I examine the difference between the north and south sides of the canyon. The north side is mostly cactus with occasional black brush thrown in. The south side is the reverse. It was bewilderingly  hot today, and I felt exhausted and desperately thirsty, even though I drank two gallons of water.

I camped at dusk in a sandy wash. Cooked, wrote this. Sleep beckons.

I climbed the loose gully on the left

fault map


Slate drainage

the pour off

beautiful thick Tapeats

my pack after lowering it back down the pour off



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