A Rockfall in Vishnu
A premature end to spring break.

Friday-Friday, March 12-19, 2010

by Dennis Foster

Bill Ferris manages a wave
as I begin the hike out for help.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

     As I write this (June 2014) I can't believe that more than four years have passed since this hike and the accident that nearly finished (at least one of) us off, and I mean that in a terminal fashion.  Although my hiking partner, Bill Ferris, and I both penned stories for the Arizona Daily Sun in the aftermath (his and mine), and Bill wrote his own trip report and had an additional story appear later in Backpacker magazine, I hadn't taken the time to really put together the photos and my record in a much fuller manner.  But, just a couple of weeks ago I met up with a reporter for the local NPR station who interviewed me (and Bill earlier) about this hike for a story she called Close Calls, which was aired about a week ago.  That got me to reviewing my photos and realizing that I hadn't yet posted up a trip report.  Until now...

     In October of 2007, the Grand Canyon Backpackers and Hikers Association sponsored their second Hiker Symposium up at the Grand Canyon.  I don't recall how I came to find out about this, but it was a fantastic experience - in all the years since I first set foot on the Bright Angel trail in 1979 I can't remember ever sitting around and talking about Grand Canyon hiking adventures with more than two, or three, other people at any one time.  And, here, there were a couple hundred enthusiasts talking about just a few of their varied experiences.  Among them was Sally Underwood, who described a high route atop the Redwall between Clear Creek and Vishnu.  I had covered that stretch at least five times before, but always along the slow and tedious Tonto Plateau.  I had no idea about this high route and was instantly thinking about how I could use it for a hike.

     Fast forward two and a half years and it is time to check this out.  With hiking buddy Bill Ferris, we planned a trip during my spring break, using this route to get to Asbestos Canyon for a couple of days of intensive poking around.  I had spent some time there in 1981 and passed through in 1993.  This is where John Hance had his major mining operation.  But using the Tonto Plateau route requires a stiff 3.5 day hike.  [In my youth, maybe 2.75 days.]  So, you burn up a whole week just in getting there and back again.  Just to get one whole day in Asbestos would require an eight day hike.  These days, I've heard of people hitching a ride across the Colorado River, and that means you could get to Asbestos in one day.  But, I'd feel uncomfortable doing that unless it was arranged in advance.  So, using the high route between Clear Creek and Vishnu it looked like you could cover this ground more quickly and have more time to explore, which is what we were hoping for on this nine day hike.

Day 1 - Down the South Kaibab Trail (Friday, March 12) - We weren't in any particular rush to get started on this hike as our first night would be at the Bright Angel campground.  We were parked up at the Visitor's Center and on the bus to the trailhead by a quarter to eleven and started down the trail at 11 a.m.  No real concerns about the heat, as there was snow all the way down to Cedar Ridge.  We wore our Kahtoolas and cached them just below Cedar Ridge at 12 noon.  By 12:45 p.m. we were atop the Redwall, overlooking the Colorado River and having our lunch.  A half hour later we were on our way.  We crossed the Tonto at 2 p.m. and were on the black bridge by 3:15 p.m.  By 3:30 p.m. we were at a spot in the campground.
     We quickly headed over to the canteen at Phantom Ranch where we downed some lemonade and wrote up some post cards.  We caught the 4 p.m. ranger talk, but once the sun set behind the cliff I found it too cold and headed back to camp.  I stretched out on the picnic table bench and was startled when a ranger came by and alerted me to the fact that a squirrel was rummaging through my pack - which was laying on top of the picnic table right next to me!!  Aargh!  It also got into Bill's pack, which was hanging on the pack bar.  Well, that was our own fault as we hadn't put our food into the ammo cans provided for that purpose.  I ended up sewing the top pocket of my pack half shut because the zipper had been destroyed.
     We did go back for the late ranger program, at 7:30 p.m. and a return visit to the canteen to finish up our postcards and enjoy some hot cocoa before heading back to our tents for a chilly night.

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

Snowy switchbacks on So. Kaibab.

Snow at Cedar Ridge.

Bill straddles the main trail and its muddy puddles now that we are below the snow.  Zoroaster Temple and Brahma Temple loom over the background.

Snowy north rim from So. Kaibab.
Machine for trail improvements.

Trail work in the Redwall.

The black bridge.

Our campsite at the BA.

Day 2 - To Clear Creek (Saturday, March 13) - We were up while it was still dark as we had been able to sign on for the early breakfast, at 5:30 a.m.  There was a lot of condensation on the tent and the ground cloth was quite wet and muddy.  Yeech - it's never fun to pack up damp stuff.  By 8 a.m. we were on the trail.  Twenty minutes later we were at the Clear Creek junction and we reached the Tonto level at 10 a.m.  There we took a half hour break before starting the miles and miles of trail that winds around Zoroaster and Brahma Temples before dropping down into Clear Creek.
     We noticed quite a few water pockets along the way.  At 11:45 a.m. we heard the train whistle from the Grand Canyon Depot.  [I wonder why I haven't heard anyone complain about that "noise"?]  We broke for lunch from 12:40 to 1:15 and arrived in Clear Creek at ten minutes past four o'clock.  It took quite a while to set up camp because it was very windy.  I had to use rocks on the inside of my tent while I was putting it up to keep it from blowing away.  We had dinner at 6 p.m. and were ready to turn in by 7 p.m., just as we started to get some light rain.  The rain lasted for a couple of hours and the wind persisted until the early morning hours.  Once again it was a chilly night in the canyon.

BA Creek and campground.

Deer at the ranger station.

River runners from CC trail.

Clear Creek trail below Tapeats.

Bill ascends the last stretch of the Clear Creek trail that is below the Tapeats.  This well-constructed section soon gives way to a more primitive path along the Tonto.

CC trail heads into Zoroaster bay.

Looking to Angel's Gate.

Fossils in the rocks.

The descent into Clear Creek.
East to Wotans and Angels Gate.

Our camp in Clear Creek.

Day 3: Pt. 1 - The ruins in the east arm of Clear Creek (Sunday, March 14) - Although we weren't on our way until 9:20 a.m., it was at first light in our neck of the canyon.  Fleece caps and jackets were the norm for our early mornings.  It only took us twenty minutes to reach the junction with the so-called "east arm of Clear Creek."  It had some water flowing which indicates how wet things were around here this year.  Walking up the bed you get flanked by towering cliffs and enter a narrows that must be chaos when it rains.
     At 10:50 a.m. we came out of the narrows and into an open valley.  Looking to the east (or, technically, the southeast), we could spy a possible route up to the top of the Tapeats.  We couldn't see deeper into the canyon that leads up to the Angels Gate--Wotans Throne saddle but we knew that we'd be close.  Below is an annotated photo that shows this route drawn in.
     I had never before been up this arm past the first side canyon, which leads to the top of the Tapeats and the start of the long contour around along the Tonto Plateau to Vishnu Canyon.  But, Harvey Butchart's old map shows some Indian ruins here, above the narrows, and I was excited to try and find them.  There were cliffs at the top of a talus slope to our west that looked promising, so we climbed up to check it out.  We found the ruins easily, and there was quite a bit here - room outlines on different terrace levels, pot shards, pictographs and petroglyphs, and a mostly-complete granary (it seemed to only be missing its roof).  We poked around for about 50 minutes.  It would have been nice to spend more time here, but we needed to push on.  So, at 11:40 a.m. we were heading back down to the bed (which had a trickle of water in it) and across to the climb up to the top of the Tapeats.

The Clear Creek facility.

Bill heads up the increasingly narrow east arm of Clear Creek.  The small trickle at the junction with the main arm soon gave out until we passed through these narrows.

Water flowing at exit route.

The narrows of the east arm of CC.

Annotated (or not) exit route to the SE.

Ruins in the east arm of Clear Creek

Terraced room outlines.

A remaining wall.

Pottery shards.

Well-constructed granary.
Side view faces the canyon.

Bill snaps a photo near granary.




Mortared wall.

View back to ruins from exit.

Close-up of ruins area.

Day 3: Pt. 2 - The high route to Vishnu (Sunday, March 14) - It only took us 30 minutes to get from the ruins, on the northwest side of the valley, to the top of the Tapeats, on the southeast side.  We went only a short ways along the Tonto before stopping for a lunch break, from 12:20 p.m. to 1 p.m.  Then it was back to business, rounding the corner into the big bay that leads to our saddle.  Looking up to it one can hardly imagine that it will go.  But, we knew it would, so we mentally traced out the route and even if there looked to be some obstacle in the way, felt confident that when we got to it there would be a bypass.  We reached the base of the Redwall in 90 minutes and then started to scramble up through the breaks and follow along narrow ledges.  The limestone was very crumbly, although my photo to the right probably doesn't do it justice.  I felt that anything other than direct pressure downward would dislodge pieces of the rock.  Up high in the cliff our final challenge was a bowl that we had to climb out of.  This required us to climb up to a narrow ridge and we both heaved a great sigh of relief that we had passed up over it without incident.  I am pretty sure that we kept out packs on the whole way - it just wasn't suitable terrain to try and use a rope to raise them.  [I say that now, but Bill's recollection may be different.]
     It only took us one hour to do the climb, from the base of the Redwall to the saddle.  But, I was quite sure that I would never want to come down this route.  It just seemed too sketchy.  So, while this route saves a lot of time relative to using the Tonto, we were both agreed that we'd come back on the lower route.
     We hung around the Angels-Wotans saddle for about 20 minutes.  It was quite cool be to be right between these two massive formations.  It was also quite cool to be seeing Angels Gate from the "back" side.  At just a few minutes before 4 p.m. we started our contour around to the next saddle - between Wotans Throne and Hall Butte.  We reached that saddle at 5:40 p.m. and were headed down the descent chute about fifteen minutes later.  I recall thinking that I would be quite willing to stop here and camp for the night.  It had been a long day and we had enough water to see us through to Vishnu the next morning.  Bill was more concerned with the cold overnight temperatures we'd get on this saddle, which at 5500 feet was some 3000 feet higher up than our camp at Bright Angel.  But, we did still have daylight and we didn't anticipate it would take long to get into Vishnu where we would have water and a much more comfortable camp.
     The initial descent is down a narrow break between the rim and a detached section of Redwall.  Lots of loose rocks in here led us to stick pretty close together.  It wasn't death-defying, but it was impossible to keep from knocking stuff down the slope.  Once we got into the open talus slope we worked our way down a bit.  I was reasonably sure that we needed to contour more to our right in order to find the proper break in the lower (Muav?) cliff below us.  I had some notes from other hikers to guide us.  When we were at the edge of a very scoured-out ravine I decided to stop and consult the notes (yet again).  Bill was less concerned about an exact route and wanted to just continue down until we reached the cliff and then contour along the top to the proper break.  I thought we should keep at the level we were on and start angling our way to the right.
     By the time I was finished with my notes, Bill had worked his way down the ravine a ways.  I decided I wanted to cross over and keep moving to the right.  Since we were still kicking down loose rocks, I waited until I felt that Bill was far enough down the slope so that he wouldn't get a shower of rocks and pebbles when I made my move.  I should have yelled down to him that I was going to be crossing above him, but everything looked fine.  I place my right hand on a rock to help provide some balance as I took my first step into and across this ravine.  I don't remember putting any pressure on it and certainly nothing in terms of hanging onto it.  I made one step and then with my next step I was mid-air.  I couldn't fathom what was happening to cause this and it all occurred in slow motion to me.  I didn't have any footing and so I fell into the other (rocky) side of the ravine.  I knew that a rock had passed over my back while I was crashing into the side.  I banged my right knee and winced in pain.  I rolled to my right and could see down the slope where a thundering boulder, which I think was the size and approximate shape of a shopping cart (very boxy looking), was heading right for Bill, who was looking up in my direction.  Since my right knee was in pain, I tried to stand up by pushing down on my left leg.  As I straightened out I heard a pop in my knee and I fell back down to the ground.  I was still looking down at the boulder and Bill.  He made a move to get out of the way but the rock caught just a small corner of the bottom of his pack.  I am sure that it was a matter of inches - a couple less and he would have been badly injured (at best) and a couple more and it would have missed him completely.  [Bill describes his sense that the boulder was on an erratic path downhill and that he even thought it might miss him, while I had the distinct impression that it was rolling straight for him the entire time.]
     Although the boulder barely clipped Bill's pack, the force spun him 180 in the air.  Then he began to make giant sideways barrel rolls down the slope.  While I remember being fearful as I watched the boulder heading towards Bill, now I was full of panic and terror at what I was seeing.  All I could think of was that he was rolling towards a cliff and that once he went over, he would ... well, not survive.  While my mind was racing with thoughts about what I was going to do, Bill made four, or five, of these big rolls.  He would be up in the air, facing down, and then crash back into the slope on his side, roll over on his pack, back onto his other side and then back up into the air.  There seemed nothing he could do to stop this.  And then he came crashing down into a patch of loose rocks, the size of softballs, and his rolling came to a stop.  Simultaneously, we yelled to each other to see if the other one was OK.
     I couldn't stand up so I started to slide on my butt down the ravine.  This kicked up rocks that then rolled right down onto Bill.  So, he dragged himself - he couldn't stand up either - out of the ravine to our left and waited for me to get to him.  We did a quick survey and couldn't believe that there were no broken bones or more serious injuries.  Bill had a cut above his eye, had sprained a couple of fingers, had banged up his knees and had various scrapes and bruises.  His glasses came flying off during the ordeal and his camera lens was smashed up, but that was it.  He may have been suffering from a mild concussion as well.  We knew we couldn't go anywhere right away.  It was getting dark.  Just about twenty feet from us was a relatively flat spot wedged in by some boulders.  We dragged ourselves there and I laid out our ground cloths and sleeping bags.  I think we did try to eat something, but I don't think we got out the stove.  We were both beat up and totally exhausted.  We were injured, but not badly, and we could take stock of our situation the next morning.

The exit route from Clear Creek.

Annotated close-up.

Looking back into Clear Creek.
   Crude panorama showing ledge climbs in the upper part of route and the bowl as the last difficult spot. [Annotated.]

Bill ascends this route and nears the top as we pass over limestone outcroppings and wade through
the occasional brush.

Posing on saddle below Wotan.

A rather unusual cairn.
Looking back down the route.

Clear Creek canyon behind me.

Looking to Hall Butte and exit.

Unnamed (Hall-Hawkins) canyon.

Bill heads down the rocky chute.
With each step we would dislodge
a handful of stones so we tended
to stick close together here.

Looking back to Angels-Wotans saddle.
Bill gets close to descent ravine.

Day 4 - The struggle to get to water in Vishnu (Monday, March 15) - Sleep was fitful.  We were both cold, although I put our rainflys over us to help keep in the warmth.  Bill was quite chilled and had a difficult time moving around, much less trying to get comfortable.  I wonder now whether he was also suffering from some shock and wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't the case.  [The photo to the right is the last one before we had our accident.]
     At first light we stirred and came to a quick conclusion - we couldn't stay where we were.  We just didn't have enough water - I think we may have been down to just about a liter apiece.  We had seen water in the canyon below us, and we had seen lots of potholes in the three days prior to this, so we knew it wouldn't be too far.  But, we were still in pretty bad shape.  I went back to the ravine and climbed up hoping to find Bill's glasses.  Surprisingly, I did!  I also got a better look at the terrain and it seemed we only needed to head to our right, over and through a few more ravines, before we'd be on a nice gently sloping hillside that would take us into the drainage.  In good shape, this would probably take 20-30 minutes.  It took us three hours.
     The pain and suffering we went through lifted when we reached a flowing spring.  Ledges here would provide great places for our sleeping bags.  We knew that we would survive this ordeal.  The rest of the day we did little more than poke around our little campsite.  We did talk about possible plans we might follow for self-rescue.  The default would be to just wait.  In another 6 days the Park Service would be alerted to our being overdue and they'd start looking.  That might take them a while, but we were on our hiking itinerary and were out in the open.
     We could also try to attract attention by starting a smoky fire.  But since we didn't feel like we were in need of immediate medical attention that wasn't high on our list of options.  We talked about continuing our hike, going across Vishnu, up to the Newberry saddle and over into Asbestos.  From here we could follow a trail down to Hance Rapids and flag down a river runner for assistance - either to use their satellite phone or to take a message down to Phantom Ranch.  But, that seemed way too challenging, if not for me than at least for Bill.  I wasn't sure he could even get down into Vishnu, much less climb up from there to the next saddle.
     As the day wore on, I felt like I would be able to do some hiking.  My knee was swollen and sore and would often buckle.  [It would take another six days to find out I had a completely torn ACL.]  I suggested that I could hike back to Phantom Ranch and alert the NPS to come and rescue Bill.  Most of the hiking would be on the Tonto Plateau, which I thought would be OK with me and we knew there was water in all these side canyons.  The biggest obstacle would be getting down into Clear Creek.  I knew the route, but it would be difficult.  If I had trouble hiking, I could always turn around and come back to wait with Bill.  Even in the worst case scenario, if I had to just stop and hunker down, like Bill was doing, there were plenty of water sources that would accommodate me.

Our emergency overnight campsite.

Happy to be alive & to have water!

Looking back at Bill and our camp (very small in lower left-of-center) beside a small spring in a drainage that empties into Vishnu Canyon.

Bill hobbles around our little Eden.
Home for now.

Day 5 - A plan to return to Phantom Ranch (Tuesday, March 16) - The next morning I did feel enough improved to try the hike back to Phantom.  We split up the food - Bill kept the stove and all the meals needing hot water.  I took the ready-to-eat food, which was mostly our lunches.  At 7:30 a.m. I was off on my way.  I had problems right away with the uneven terrain.  My bad leg was on the downhill side and when I would take a step I had to be very careful not to roll my foot nor to step so hard that my knee would buckle.  It seemed like every few steps I was falling down and it took me a while to steel my concentration to keep that to a minimum.  By 10 a.m. I was out in front of Hall Butte and feeling better about my progress.
     Eighty minutes later I was in the main bed of the nameless canyon that is between Hall and Hawkins Buttes.  It is referred to by some as "Disappointment Canyon" and by others as "Double Disappointment Canyon."  That's because you have to go back into this canyon quite a ways before you can cross.  And along the way you have to climb up over another rock layer to do so.  I looked for a shortcut across this canyon but couldn't be sure of anything.  And while I have been through here a few times, it was many years ago and I had no firm recollection of the correct route.  The last climb left me on a broad bench that gently sloped down to the bed.  I learned that going downhill with my bum knee was also going to present problems and that I would have go slow and be careful.
     Once in the bed I was greeted by a nice pool (well, OK, a puddle) of water.  I stopped to clean up a bit and have some lunch.  By 12 noon I was on my way up a well-cairned route to the top of the Tapeats.  From 1:15 p.m. to 1:35 p.m. I rested at a big rock in the ravine between Hawkins and Dunn Buttes, still on the Double D side.  It would be another half hour before I crossed the ridge into the next major drainage, which is flanked by Hawkins and The Howlands Buttes.
     I carefully made my way back into this side canyon.  Before reaching the point where I could cross I spotted a good looking camping spot on the west side that had some big rocks to sit on.  When I crossed the main bed I saw a couple of potholes full of water.  I didn't need any, as I thought I had enough to get me to Clear Creek the next day.  At 5:45 p.m. I reached the spot I saw, and set up my camp with a fiery Angels Gate looming over me as the sun set.

Trekking along the Tonto level was somewhat problematic as my downhill side was the leg with the torn ACL.  It seemed like every dozen steps my knee would buckle and I'd fall down.

Water in "Double D" canyon.

I set up my first camp just past the main ravine between Hawkins and The Howlands Buttes.  Angels Gate
looms over this area.
Pothole water in Hawkins-Howlands.

Day 6 - Fear and terror descending into Clear Creek (Wednesday, March 17) - I was packed up and on my way by 8:15 a.m., with the first sunlight starting to shine on this area.  I crossed the ridge that put me in the Clear Creek drainage at 9 a.m. and after two more hours I stopped in the shade of a big boulder to take a twenty minute break.  I knew I was finally getting close to the descent ravine into Clear Creek and I was not really looking forward to it.
     At noon I reached the spot.  There is some fault here, I think, which allows for steep passage through the Tapeats cliff.  And, it is very steep.  I was quite concerned about my leg being unable to provide enough support, so I tried to use my hands and butt as much as possible.  I got to one spot where I took off my pack and lowered it on a rope.  I had the distinct feeling that this is where my hike may end.  I could practically anticipate falling down in here and doing much more serious damage and then being really in trouble.
     Despite my misgivings, in just a half hour I reached the bed.  Getting down it to the east arm of Clear Creek would present some minor trials as there are four places where the bed is blocked and you have to scamper up and over bypasses.  But, another 40 minutes brought me to the east arm.  I walked down a bit, to where there was a nice flow of water and took a half hour break to recoup, wash up and snack.
     At 1:45 p.m. I was on my way.  Coming up Clear Creek was tedious and tiring, given the creek crossings and the relatively thick brush.  At 2:30 p.m. I was at the campsite area where I took a break to eat a late lunch and fill up with water.
     At 3:15 p.m. I was on my way up the trail.  There was no way I could make Phantom Ranch this day, but I would be able to put in some miles so that I could get there early the next.  I reached the Tonto level at 3:50 p.m. and passed six other backpackers - the first people I had seen, besides Bill, since we left Phantom Ranch on Saturday.  I didn't bother to tell them my story, as I felt confident in being able to accomplish my task and I didn't need to use up the time I could spend hiking.  At 5:45 p.m. I rounded the last corner of the Clear Creek drainage and now was parallel with the river.  Fifteen minutes later I found a suitable campsite.

X marks the spot?

The descent into Clear Creek.

Clear Creek.

Finally back on a real trail!
Indian paintbrush to brighten the day.

Camping along the CC trail.

Day 7 - To Phantom Ranch (Thursday, March 18) - I was up and on my way by 7:20 a.m.  As has been true the last few days, there were sunny blue skies.  About a half hour into my hike I scared up a small group of deer.  About an hour after that I was starting to descend through the Tapeats, having just passed by another group of hikers.  If I thought going downhill was hard out in the brush where there are no trails, it was many, many times worse on a well-constructed trail.  I was constantly having trouble keeping my balance and was slipping and falling with some regularity.  [Going uphill, on the other hand, wasn't any real problem for me.]  Just before reaching the North Kaibab Trail I passed by the volunteer ranger, Sjors, as he was heading up the trail.  I asked him if someone was at the ranger station and apprised him of mine and Bill's situation.  He radioed in the news so that when I arrived at the station, at 10:15 a.m., the ranger on duty, Bil Vandergraff, already knew pretty much what to expect.
     Bil took down the pertinent information and made the call to the rim for an air evac for Bill.  He told me to grab a spot in the campground for the night and so off I went.  I first made a stop at the canteen to cancel all the meals Bill and I had booked for our return.  And I bought a tee shirt to change into that would make me a bit more presentable.  Then I was off for the campground and got my stuff all set up, cleaned up a bit and headed back to see Bil.  He made me a sandwich!  Nice guy.  [I first met him ages ago, in the backcountry office on the rim, where he showed me Harvey Butchart's map.  This was back when they kept it in a closet in a back room.  Today it is posted up in the lobby.]  He called to the rim and I got a chance to talk with Bill.  He got checked out at the clinic and was going to wait for his wife to come up to the canyon to take him back to Flagstaff.  Then the helicopter made a run to Phantom to pick up member of the trail crew who was ill.  So, I got a chance to talk to the EMT that picked up Bill.  I also helped set up a perimeter to keep hikers from the copter area when it took off.
     I returned to Phantom and scored the steak dinner.  I didn't even think about it earlier, but I was certainly ready for some cooked food.  I whiled away the rest of the afternoon and following dinner stopped by to visit more with Bil.  Knowing of my critiques of the Park Service he said, "I wish the super was here tonight so I could sit you next to each other."  Too bad we couldn't do that!  Still, Bil and I spent a couple of hours sitting on the porch chatting amicably about all manner of park service and Grand Canyon issues.  He also set me up with a reservation for the Grand Canyon-to-Flagstaff shuttle for the next day, since I didn't otherwise have a way to get back to Flagstaff.

Early morning deer herd.

I'm there!

Sign at the Ranger Station.

Trailside flowers.
After Bill's trip, copter made PR stop.

Relaxing in the Phantom canteen.

Day 8 - The final climb (Friday, March 19) - I was up at 5 a.m. and on my way by 6:40 a.m.  Twenty minutes later I was passing through the tunnel after crossing the black bridge.  I wanted to go up the Kaibab trail (and felt fully capable of doing so, despite my knee problems) because it is shorter, the weather was pleasant and I wanted to pick up the Kahtoolas that Bill and I had cached on the way down.  I rested on the Tonto level from 8:10 to 8:25 a.m.  There was a whole village of tents nearby housing the crew that is doing so much work on the trail.  I passed quite a few such crews on my way up through the Redwall, which I topped at 9:30 a.m.  Forty-five minutes later I was picking up the Kahtoolas.  Somewhere in here I met a friend of Sally Underwood and chatted for a few minutes.  Small world.  At 10:40 a.m. I was on Cedar Ridge and two hours later I was at the trailhead and soon to board the shuttle.  I went to the Maswik Lodge, where I would pick up my ride to Flagstaff.  I checked my bag in with the bellman, who I worked with at the South Rim in 1980!  Like I said, small world.

Mule train following me up SK.

Restroom on Tonto with tents behind.

The hike up, surprisingly, wasn't hard on my knee.  I had more problems with descending than ascending.  But, I was quite relieved to be able to take off my pack and end my hike.

Tonto tent village for the trail crew.

Redwall switchbacks on So. Kaibab.

     The afternoon was spent mostly lounging around.  On the ride back to Flagstaff there was only one other passenger, Ray Andrews.  He had been hiking the canyon, maybe for the first time.  Or, at least the first time inside it.  He was on a Grand Canyon Field Institute trip as I recall.  Well, we had a great time on the hour and a half trip back talking all about the canyon.  He had booked a river trip with Grand Canyon Dories for later this year - May, I think.  We stayed in touch and had dinner the night he returned for that adventure.  And, then in the fall, when I was finally able to get back into backpacking following my ACL reconstruction surgery and rehab, he came back for a three day hike with Cara Lynn and me down to Indian Garden and over to Hermit and out.  Great trip.  I also wrote up a story on that hike for the AZ Daily Sun and probably should get around to getting a full blog report up here as well!

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