Hopi Salt Trail-Grand Canyon
“The longing to be primitive is a disease of culture”.
Hopi Salt Trail-Grand Canyon- Rim to the LCR (Little Colorado River-- Approximately ten miles R/T and 6000’ elevation gain/loss. Access to the trailhead is on the Navajo Reservation and thereby requires a Navajo permit. Finding the trailhead can be a challenge with the maze of side roads. It is 21 miles from Cedar Ridge and you must follow the road log very carefully.
The Salt trail is more of a route than a trail and in some sections it becomes a steep descent requiring some down climbing. The route is well marked with cairns but it is very rough and time consuming.
Cast of characters: (Men behaving badly)
Jake the Snake
John DA Jackal
El Lobo Grande
Now that Spring training is over it is time for some serious canyoneering.
We left Saturday afternoon for the destination of the legendary Hopi Salt Trail to investigate a myth.
When you think of a historical Indian trail you may think of the Inca Trail in South America. Unlike the heavily used Inca Trail, few know of the Hopi Trail and fewer have traveled it. Some locals make the journey when they are on a ritual quest for salt. According to the belief of some Third Mesa Villages, the Grand Canyon contains not only sacred salt beds and shrines but also “Sipapu” the center of creation, or place where humans emerged.
We wanted to investigate the myth.
This group has a routine when we hike the canyon. We stop at Flagstaff for dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery and camp at the Cameron trading Post in one of their beautiful rooms.
In Flag, a beautifully painted George Mancuso memorial on the side of a building, got our attention. George Mancuso was a photographer and Grand Canyon explorer that was killed by a flash flood last year in the next canyon over from the Salt Canyon. About eight years ago he was featured on the cover of Backpacker magazine as a warrior of the Canyon.
At Beaver Street we enjoyed a great dinner and slammed down several Microbrews while we watched (with mixed feeling) the NCAA basketball tournament and numero uno seed University of Arizona go down to Kansas.
The Little Colorado was flowing heavily at Cameron. This meant that our destination at the river would look like thick chocolate syrup flowing instead of the mineralized spectacular blue green water that flows from the Springs.
The following morning:
We finished breakfast at 6:30 A.M. at the Trading Post and headed for Cedar Ridge. We had no problems negotiating the back roads and started on the trail (route) at 8:00 A.M.
The initial descent was steep with some exposure. The Canyon walls however blocked out the lethal sun through the Coconino until we almost reached the canyon floor. It was perfect hiking weather and there was not a cloud in the sky. Potholes were filled with water from recent rains.
The route stayed on ledges through the Supai. It dropped steeply into a drainage at the top of the Redwall and climbed steeply out the other side. We easily located the descent through the break in the Redwall. It was marked with two large cairns. The trail stays above the bottom of the canyon until the river. We arrived at the Little Colorado at 11:00 A.M. three hours after starting.
The river was indeed, flowing milk chocolate. We had talked about trekking over to the next canyon to where George had met his fate, but decided against it due to the heavy flow that created a time consuming difficulty factor. We enjoyed a lunch on the beach and relaxed for an hour before starting back up.
We were now totally exposed to the sun and the climb was laborious. Thoughts of our people in Iraq drifted in and out of my head. With that in mind, the climb didn’t seem so difficult.
The views, cool breezes and the water that some had frozen the night before provided relief to the arduous grind. We were out in a little over three hours.
On the rim we celebrated life and our freedom with a cooler full of fine cervezas. John cranked up the Rolling Stones on the stereo while Jacobo, Zo, and Dingo relaxed in camp chairs. John brought baseball gloves and a ball and we played catch on the rim. I have never played catch in a more beautiful setting nor enjoyed it as much. We all appreciated our comradery and the time we had shared together.
Perhaps we had found Sipapu after all.
Overall I rate this adventure as a 9.9. There are not better people than mi amigos to do these adventures with. Thanks to all and particularly John for driving.
Men Behaving Badly:
John Da Jackal, for his thunderous outbursts and trying to kill us with his own brand of lethal gas.
ZO, for flaunting his gear. A declared minimalist that always comes hiking with all the latest and greatest.
Dingo Dan, for finally not wearing the same Hawaian Dirt Shirt for a record 5, 255th time. However his replacement of a Telecom shirt with a picture of a chicken with it’s head cut off gets him a gold star for not flaunting his gear like Zo.
John Da Jackal, for drinking all my Moosehead.
Jake the Snake, for telling stories about “the Doobs” (an old girlfriend of his friend Giddy) and her prolific wind breaking virtuosity.