Grand Canyon/Phantom Creek Field Institute overland trip
Five days, forty one miles, Approximately 15,000’ elevation gain/loss
After an orientation day on Sunday, our group headed down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch where we spent the evening. The group consisted of Maverick, 75 years young, Margaret, a retired school teacher, Tony a retired Army Sergeant/Major in the Special forces, Lisa, a 31 year old nurse, our leader Sally, a northern Arizona veterinarian, the Yahner man and Lobo, veteran cosmic canyoneers. This was a diverse group of fun and capable hikers.
Steve and Lobo enjoyed the gourmet hiker’s stew dinner at the ranch with Tecate and vino libations. The rest of the group “roughed it” and had their backpacker dinners at camp. It rained slightly, and this gave me the opportunity to put up my new tarp with Steve’s assistance. A ringtail cat toured our camp that evening, but came up empty as all food was safely enclosed in the provided metal canisters.
The next morning we climbed steeply off trail up about 800’ to the plateau above Bright Angel Creek known as “Utah flats” and continued for about seven miles to the oasis of Phantom Creek, lined with Narrowleaf Cottonwood trees. This drainage offers a variety of indigenous plants, but is prone to “flashing” and we checked out the weather carefully prior to exploring. Several hikers have lost their lives in recent years in this flood prone drainage. An alternative route would be to go directly up the Phantom Creek drainage to the Tonto Platform. This may require some wading. Another way into Phantom Creek Valley can be made on an old cattle trail from the North Kaibab trail, 1/2 mile below Ribbon Falls. There are supposed to be a couple of springs along the way. Also there are apparently numerous “routes” into Phantom Canyon from the North Rim. This gives us a number of choices for a possible future exploratory return trip.
We enjoyed day hikes to Haunted Canyon and up an unnamed side canyon to the spring where Phantom Creek originates. This is an absolutely beautiful part of the canyon. There were brilliant flowers and butterflies all along the upper drainage. I particularly enjoyed the bright black and blue colored butterflies. Tony’s background in Special Forces was of great assistance in route finding.
We also explored down drainage, taking an overland bypass to a pristine waterfall. This side trip involved much slipping and sliding in scree, down a steep decline.
Men behaving Badly
-Steve lost the contact in his right eye, but nurse Lisa found it in his left eye?
-Lisa reported “trumpeting” sounds coming from the location of Steve’s tent. Steve suggested that the sounds originated in El Lobo’s den. Sure Steve.
-Maverick, Tony, and Steve-flaunting their “go light” gear and talking about it for hours.
Women or Men behaving badly?
-Lisa’s version of comfy camp attire was a black cocktail dress, however there were no formal complaints logged from any of the alpha males.
Steve and I had to leave the group a day early so that I could get to an important wedding in Pinetop. Steven and Susan Dolan’s daughter Angela’s ring ceremony was scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Country Club. Gerry (spouse) and I love the Dolans and would not miss this event for the world. Gerry would also punish me badly if I did not get out of the canyon for this event.
This necessitated a 16 mile climb back to the South Rim. The group would hike to the Ranch and spend one more evening, prior to hiking out.
Steve and I ended going a little additional vertical mileage with an unplanned side trip, passing westward over the Cheops/Isis saddle towards 91 mile and Trinity Creek drainages. El Lobo twice questioned the route prior to the Master Canyoneer/navigator changing directions from West to East. Steve did come through in the clutch however, and found the steep route down to Phantom Ranch.
The hike out was long and arduous. Tight hamstrings and perhaps a bit of dehydration did not help Lobo. Love for the Dolans and fear of Gerry kept me going. The Yahner man was strong the whole way, I struggled with the last mile to the rim. This was one of the tougher “outs” for me. We arrived back in Scottsdale at 9:30 that night. This gave me time to get ready for an early morning departure to the White Mountains the following day. Our good friends Ron and Sherry Jasper picked us up the following morning and we made it to Pinetop in plenty of time.
Overall, this was a fabulous pack into the canyon outback. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we shared with the group. Everyone provided value. Sally is a terrific leader, a native Arizonan, extremely knowledgeable in the geology and ecology of the canyon. She made the outing interesting and enjoyable for each participant. Go on a GCFI outing with her, you will really like it.
Thanks to Steve for coming out early with me and sharing the drive home.
I rate this trip a 9.5