Im out of quotes...
Thursday, Day 6- 26 miles (probably close to 30), Escalante, Tonto
I awoke from an unusually short night of sleep. I went to bed last night almost 4 hours later than normal. I was in bed by 8pm the previous four nights of my trip. I guess when there are people to talk to and a warm fire there is reason for a solo hiker to stay up later.
The rafters treated me to one final warm meal. Eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit. The cantaloupe and honeydew was refreshing. There’s something about eating fresh fruit while camping that just feels good. I was stuffed, refreshed, and mentally prepared to finish off the adventure. I parted ways with my rafting friends and hiked onward.
I expected the Escalante route to be difficult, hard to follow and dangerous based on the reviews I read. It wasn’t. The trail was wide, smooth, and marked frequently with cairns...for the most part. There was one steep section where I had to scramble/climb up a 30 foot rock face. I kept my pack on and made it (I probably would take pack off and hoist it up next time).
I did make one mistake on Escalante. I was walking so fast I missed 75 mile canyon. I figured out I made a mistake after 45 minutes when I came to a very difficult descent down to the River. I was not comfortable with the descent so I reviewed my topo map and turned back. I descended 75 mile canyon. I’m glad I did. 75 mile canyon is an awesome slot canyon.
After conquering Escalante, Tonto was the longest and final section of trail before coming full circle to the South Kaibab. The trail itself is flat and windy and offering view after stunning view of the canyon from the Tonto plateau over 1000 feet above the CR (Colorado River). This portion was beautiful, but I felt ready to be finished. Also, the windiness of the trail was tiresome. The trail would follow the plateau rim for a short distance offering beautiful glimpses of the CR. Then the trail would jut back one mile into the canyon to go around a deep wash and one mile back to the plateau rim. I estimate that that about 3 miles of Tonto trail advances 1 river mile.
As night approached I ran into my first hiker since Nankoweap Creek close to 40 miles away. The hiker happened to be a backcountry ranger, Ranger Ed. Ranger Ed was a big dude with a BIG pack. It must have weighed over 80 pounds. He was partly to blame for making some poor equipment choices such as a steel thermos, but more to blame was the stun gun, two way radio, satellite phone, oversized first aid kit, pepper spray, and whatever else he was required to carry. How could he enjoy the backcountry with so much stuff and weight? Less is better when you are trying to enjoy the wilderness and cover some earth. I felt bad for Ranger Ed for having to haul around such a load. Ranger Ed was a nice guy, I mean how could he not be when his job is to spend 8 days hiking in the canyon backcountry. He checked my permit and even advanced it so I could legally get ahead of my itinerary.
I passed Ranger Ed and hiked for another 3 hours under Moonlight. I finally arrived at Grapevine creek where I spent the night.
Waking up after sleeping next to the warm fire. At least I don't have to stand.
75 mile slot canyon
Life on the Tonto Trail
Abundant Life on the Tonto Trail
Sun going down down down