A Hot Hike to Deer Creek
Meeting up with an old North Rim buddy

Saturday, May 30 to Tuesday, June 2, 1987

by Dennis Foster

With Paul E. on the Esplanade beside Bridgers Knoll.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

     My older hikes suffer from spotty record keeping, infrequent picture-taking and my own fuzzy memory of what happened.  This one, from 1987, was done while my Dad and I were traveling around the North Rim area.  An old buddy of mine, Paul Eichenberger, met up with me to do this hike down to Deer Creek.  He and I were the two bellmen at the North Rim (working for the lodge of course) in the summer of 1984.  Consequently we never hiked together then, since one of us was always on duty!  Paul was living up in Park City, Utah, if I remember correctly and I must have known his address and been able to get him interested in traveling down for this hike.  He brought along his big golden retriever and my Dad watched after him for the days we were on this hike.  So, while I do remember some things about this hike, it turns out that I actually have a nicely detailed journal I wrote at the time.  So, I thought it would suffice to just transcribe the journal.  I have corrected a couple of misspellings and I have inserted a missing word or two in square brackets. Otherwise, it is as I wrote it down nearly thirty years ago.  Still, not too many photos to go from (and none from Thunder River!!), but there's nothing I can do about that.  [June 21, 2016]

  Sat. May 30  Day 1
     Hiking w/Paul Eichenberger.  Arrived at the parking lot for Monument Pt. around 10 am.  It's been about 3 years since I've been hiking with a pack and it is heavy.
     The [path] to the trailhead seems like an awful lot of work!  The cliffrose are blooming all around this area, with their delicate yellow flowers.  There is quite a bit of the Indian Paintbrush around here too.  Nice colors.  The sky is mostly clear, and the slight breeze is cool.
     We made good time to the Esplanade.  There were quite a few people coming out (8 or 9).  We passed 3 people going down, that are also headed to Deer Creek.  We stayed ahead of them until Surprise Valley* and then swapped "leads" a couple of times.
     We had lunch at the junction of the T.R. [Thunder River] trail and rested a bit.  It was a hard trip down.  Contouring around the Esplanade took a lot out of me.  It necessitated quite a few stops to rest.  Still the breeze would blow cool.  When the wind died down, it would heat up quite a bit.
     Descending into Surprise Valley was quite a chore.  My feet were getting sore (I had already put on some moleskin).  I was about halfway down and, feeling pretty miserable, stopped in some shade for about an hour.  I was able to eat some of my trail mix and drink some water.  I have also started soaking my bandana and cooling off my face with it.
     Paul is doing much better and was further down the trail waiting for me.  When I caught up, we had passed 3 more people heading up.  They had spent 6 days hiking from Sowats Point into Kanab Canyon and up the river.  We stopped to talk with a woman in this group (there were 4 in this party:  her, her husband, their child and a friend).  She has been on only 8 trips into the canyon (w/her husband) but they have been quite remarkable trips (the family is from Wyo.).
     We holed up in this place until the sun set over the red wall.  Hiking through this valley I dropped behind right away.  Traversing the saddle towards Deer Creek was grueling and I was stopping frequently.  My feet hurt (I had a blister on my big toe of my left foot and the side of my right foot), my legs ached, my thighs hurt and my shoulders hurt.  I would take small sips of water to keep myself going, but I knew that I was very dehydrated.  Coming into Deer Creek Canyon I finally had to stop.  It was twilight and I had very little water.  I was trying to cool down with my damp bandana.
     The party of 3 passed me and gave me
~1 3/4 qts. of water.  They had hardly gone 30 feet away when I threw up (mostly the apple I had in the Muav limestone layer of Surprise Valley).  At least I had gotten over that!  I lay down for a while (I had asked the group to let Paul know that I would probably spend the night there on the trail).  After dark Paul hiked up (he was on his way up when he passed the other group).  He left me some water and took my day pack back full of stuff.
     By 10:30 pm I finally felt like eating, and had a small can of lasagna.  I felt better, but didn't feel like traveling at night.  My flashlight still is acting up on me.
     The night sky was clear and the stars blazing.  I had a direct view of Ursa Major and Leo.  I slept fitfully (fully clothed - lacking the initiative to do otherwise).  In the early morning hours the Milky Way was quite visible.

* I invariable wrote "Suprise" instead of "Surprise."

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Blooming cactus.

More blooming cactus.
  Sunday, May 31  Day 2
     I woke up with the faint signs of dawn at 4:30 and had packed up and left by 5 am.  I was very stiff and my feet were still quite sore.  I managed my way down to the creek and Paul's camp, quite close to the narrows on a nice sandy platform.
     I took a quick shower and changed and hopped into my sleeping bag.  I made some coffee and ate some of my salami and cheese.
     The sun hits the creek quite late, so we didn't stir until maybe 9 o'clock.  Numerous little bugs drove us crazy then.  I did a drawing and returned the water bottles to the other group (they are at the creek and trail junction).
     We decided to spend the day down in the narrows - cool and no bugs.  But on arriving, a dozen, or two, of river runners were there, [so] we stopped by a little fall and just took things easy.  I drew a pen & ink sketch of our view back up [the] creek.
     A few river people climbed down into the narrows (they used a rope) and meandered down quite a ways.  Someone said that you could go all the way to above the falls.
     My appetite was good all day and so I ate well and drank a lot of water.  I felt much better - except for some sore feet where I picked up 4 or 5 blisters, a couple of them are painful.
     In the afternoon we followed the trail down to the river and Deer Creek Falls.  I had never been there before.  The force of the falls (maybe 100 ft. or more) shoots a driving mist away at a 90 angle.  I waded into it.  It was quite strong and very cold.  I only got up to my waist.
     We had run into a small river party - 9 people in rafts and kayaks.  They were going to spend the night at Kanab Creek.
     As the canyon (Deer Creek) fell into shadow, the little bugs got worse.  We had been immune all day, but not now.  We headed back to camp around seven, but the bugs continued to buzz us until about 8 pm.
     Some critter, probably a ringtail cat, ransacked our stuff.  It opened all my side pockets and my lower compartment.  Luckily most of my food was in the main compartment untouched.  Mostly it picked over my trash, which was now all over the place, and it got my bag of M&M's.  It also got Paul's sausage, left in the stream to keep cool.
     It was a chore to clean up the mess and repack, while making dinner, before it got too dark.  It was an unsuccessful effort.  It did get dark, and my flashlight works like junk (just like this damn pen).  How frustrating to have it dim and go out constantly!
     Paul and I spent a while stargazing.  Unfortunately our view is limited sideways, and looking through the 'scope* is difficult when it's pointed straight up!  We saw Mizar and looked for some galaxies in Leo (w/no luck here).  So we just watched the stars and chatted.  Mostly about how crazy the Mormon religion is.  We did see about half a dozen shooting stars.

* I brought along my little Halleyscope to do some casual night viewing.

The beginning of the narrows.

My drawing from this spot.

The narrows are ... well, narrow!

The trail to the river stays at the upper creek level and follows along the ledge here, to the right.  Once you reach the river it wraps around and switchbacks down to the falls.

Looking up the river from the trail.

Deer Creek Falls are quite a fabulous sight.  The water shoots out from the narrowest of cracks in the rock and crashes to a very shallow pool.  The walls make the noise deafening.

Boaters and kayakers at the falls.

The view from camp.

My drawing of this same view.
  Monday, June 1  Day 3
     I slept like a log - not once do I remember waking up until it was about 5 am.  We got going pretty well then, but still didn't leave until about 7:30 - I was the slow one.  (We had hung our packs up as a precaution - there was no problem).
     I felt good coming out of Deer Creek.  Tired, my feet a little sore, and stiff (I did stretch this morning).  But not aching.  It seemed like a regular hard climb.  We had the advantage of shade, and relative coolness, all the way to the top of the falls.  We stopped at the bottom of the falls for a short while.  Another place I hadn't been to before.  You can get up onto a platform right behind the falls.  I took some pictures from here - I hope they turn out well.
     It was a long haul out of the ravine and into Surprise Valley.  I went through most of a quart of water.  I still feel quite good - just tired.  The breezes are reasonably cool still, so it's not too bad.
     We hiked a ways past the junction in the north end of the valley and stashed our packs.  We are taking day packs with us to Thunder River and spending the day there.  We each left a quart of water there and eked ourselves along to TR on about 2 cups - whew, were we parched upon reaching TR.
     There was no one at TR when we arrived, about 11:30 am, much to my surprise.  It looked like we would have it all to ourselves today.  While here, a squirrel got into my gorp and chewed a couple of small holes in my pack - what a persistent pest!
     Later in the afternoon 3 women hiked by going towards Tapeats - 2 stopped at the falls here.  These were our only visitors all day.
     Paul and I mostly just vegetated all day - eating, drinking, sleeping.  He climbed up to the outlet through which TR flows.
     We mixed our dinner (his chili and my noodles) and ate it before leaving.  We got going at about 6:30 pm, when the shadows were long.
     Hiking up to our packs in Surprise Valley was fairly easy and we were enjoying the views of the canyon walls changing colors as the sun set.
     We reached our packs at 7:45 pm and got going from there by 8.  Boy, did they feel heavy!  We were both grunting right away.  We adjusted to a reasonable pace and hiked up out of this place by 10 pm.
     We hiked this ascent through the Muav and Redwall formations by the light of the moon, now about 1/4.  It was cool and, while tiring, a pleasant hike.
     We camped at a spot that provides a scenic panorama of Surprise Valley and the rims.  We had some hot drinks and peered through the telescope at a few things - 2 clusters in Scorpius.

Deer Spring Falls & Paul waving.

The view from behind the waterfall.  Not a bad spot to spend some time when it is brutally hot.

Here am I at this little spot behind the falls.  I chuckle at the thought of hiking in jeans!

Nearing the waterfall.
  Tue, June 2  Day 4
     For the second night in a row I slept very soundly - no problems with tossing and turning and waking up every 15 minutes.
     But getting out of bed is another story.  Sore, stiff and creaky, I move with the awkwardness of a puppet.
     We got going by 7:30 am.  It is cool enough to take the sun on the Esplanade - and on the climb out.
     We encountered a lot of Boy Scouts heading for TR for a day hike.  They were leaving a wake of trash behind them.
     The climb was slow, but steady.  We were both beat upon reaching the top - at 12:30 pm.  Our water was used up perfectly.  As were our bodies!

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