"I asked for a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one" - Apocalypse Now
On Friday morning we looked down into the depths of the
Nankoweep basin. Record temperatures were forecast. The inner canyon would be a virtual oven. (100 degree +) We knew that we would be tested but had no idea that the conditions and events would threaten to drive a wedge between five very good friends.
Zo (Rim 8840')
Juan da Chacal
El Lobo Grande (River 2800')
The Nankoweep trail was constructed by Major John Wesley Powell, geologist Charles Doolittle Walcott, and others during 1882 so Walcott could study the Grand Canyon series of rock layers.
The one armed Major was one tough hombre.
The "trail" is perhaps the most difficult and demanding in the Grand Canyon.
Nankoweep has the greatest elevation loss from rim- to- river (6400') and often has a very narrow tread with considerable exposure, that corkscrews along the edge of plunging cliffs. It is hard for me to believe that Utah horse thieves took their horses down the Nankoweep and linked a route with the Tanner Trail.
"Take it to the limit one more time" Eagles 4/76
What is the motivation for such a death March into the inferno?
Juan loves the canyon and has precious little time to explore it. Zo loves the party and beer after the torture. Dingo loves to explore. Jacobo simply and innocently just wanted to see the North Rim of the Canyon.
Mine was unfinished business. The last time down the Nankoweep my trekking partner (donde esta steeeeeeve) arbitrarily decided that we were finished just below the Redwall. It was time to get this one done. Check!
We dropped down the south side of the Saddle Mountain saddle through the Esplanade Sandstone and contoured the Supai Sandstone for about three miles before descending through the Redwall on the West side of Tilted Mesa.
The stretch along the Supai Sandstone is dangerously exposed in two sections and takes inventive forks in two other stretches. We negotiated them with great care. No margin for error. At about five miles we found a slow
dripping seep. We put empty water bottles under the drips. They should be full when we returned.
Below the Redwall we descended steeply through the landslide, Limestone and Galeros formation. There is no shade in this stretch. We eventually got to the bed of Nankoweep Creek. The Creek was flowing mud brown and our hearts sank. We had little water and filtering would be a timely process. However,
we found a spring of clear water flowing from the Muav Limestone, and a nice campsite under some cottonwoods.
"And I was thinking to myself This could be Heaven or this could be Hell" Eagles-Hotel California
"I am tempted to write "my canyon" so possessive can that make one feel. But the canyon is not mine, nor any ones."
"You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths." John Wesley Powell
We broke camp early the next morning to try to beat some of the heat.
Our plan was to stop at the seep and make a decision to camp there or continue out in one day. We all knew that we would elect to get out that day.
Cervezas were waiting at the trail head.
Along the way we met a strange group of four. Their leader asked a lot of questions that apparently he already knew all the answers to. Adios asshole.
The rest of the return trip was very hot and arduous. Everyone's feet were killing them.
At the trail head we collapsed into our camp chairs ready for a well deserved rest and refreshments when a strange guy with the tightest shirt in the world jumped out of a small Subaru and started rambling about his misfortune and needed a jump to start the car. He was part of the group we met on the trail but he had turned back after a mile and had spent the night in the car. His group was not due out for three days. He had no water?
We gave him water and unsuccessfully tried to start his friend's car whom was the leader of the group. His dialogue was inconsistent and he did not make much sense. Juan was very uncomfortable with him. He wanted a ride back to the Cliff Dwellers Motel with us. We could not just leave him there so we agreed to take him. I told him to bring his gear because there probably would not be any rooms available at any of the three lodges. He ignored my request and I told the guys that he would want to be staying with us. He did not have a plan. Dingo was sure that they would make some type of accommodation for him. I was sure that he would be asking to stay with us. We were already overcrowded and this guy was a total flake.
The Buffalo Ranch back road is 30 miles long and our hitchhiker's (Jim) dialogue did nothing to make us more comfortable with him. He talked about picking up 20 year old girls on the trail? He said he was a professional guitarist that had not worked for 10 years.
Back at the Ranch
Sure enough -no rooms and he did not want to call a tow truck. Can I stay with you guys? What could we do? Our party time was now full of tension.
El Lobo was livid, Everyone was on a short fuse. Hard words were exchanged. This group that had gotten along together for so many years and outings were now at each others throats. Jake and I had never gotten into it before. Him and Lorenzo (the dynamic tag team) both chewed me out. One delivered a lecture blow on "someday you may need help" and the other delivered a "you are being a total asshole" blow.
They are lucky that El Lobo kept a cool head and did not knock them to the ground and bite their ears off. (like in a boy named Sue song)
Hey somebody had to be the bad guy and put up some parameters for "Uncle Jim" Jim needed to take ownership of this problem and not pass it on to us. Some of the boys did not see it quite that way. They have very big hearts-to their credit.
One option was to drive back to Phoenix thoroughly pissed off at each other
We ended up coming together and making due with the strange and difficult situation. At best case this guy would now want a ride to Phoenix or money. Worst case he was "the axe killer" and would do us all in.
We survived the evening and the next morning our unwanted guest
announced that he wanted to go back to the car and work on it?
We drew the line here-you are on your own on that one. He found someone that would take him back there for a fee but of course he did not have enough money.
The last we talked, he had a room reserved for the next two nights and called a friend in Tucson that was going to come up and get him back to the trail head. Adios Jim. Give my best to the trip leader.
Juan got us home by noon. Thanks for driving Juan.
Men and Thing behaving Badly
The entire pack for MMMMMMMing Jesse, Thursday's beer waitress with the bodacious tatas, and using her as inspiration through all the hard parts of this death march.
Juan the Rico Republican for being an overall management problem.
-For talking, talking on his car phone on the way to Vermillion Cliffs and trying to pedal bad software products to his clients.
-For being too eager to get to the trail head, driving way too fast on the back road and getting a tire blow out. This delayed our descent to a much hotter time of the day.
-For being way too cheerful for the brutal conditions while the rest of the group was miserable.
-For F*#king with a rattlesnake and irresponsibly placing his pack so that it nearly rolled off a cliff. This incident almost reinstated the practice of El Lobo issuing demerits.
-For cheerfully talking way too long listening to the argumentive, asshole trip leader of a party of four met on the trail, while the rest of us were in the sun and then turning into a bleeding heart Democrat and giving them water without checking to see how much water the rest of our group had.
-For hanging around in his underwear at camp and being so excited about being there that he sprung a woody. (in the manner that a dog does)
For taking advantage of being out in nature to show his hippie side by wearing his Grateful Dead tie-dye shirt and breaking out the patchouli oil to cover up the stink that his donker powder missed.
-For espousing his management philosophy on the long ride home. How long have you been managing Juan? Two years? How many people report to you?
Six? Save it for your corporate leisure suit colleagues!
Juan&Dingo on Friday for stopping at a shady spot that could only accommodate 2.
Juan&Lobo on Saturday for stopping at shady spots that could only accommodate 2.
Asshole hikers for replacing our water bottles at a seep with their own.
Jacobo for announcing at the end of the first day that he's no longer interested in going on the Tahoe Rim Trail trip.
Dingo for breaking out the infamous Red Dirt shirt for the millionth time. I hope his will states that's the shirt he wants to be buried in.
El Lobo for farting while Dingo was enjoying a Cliff Bar. Dingo for wining -"Wah, can't you see that I am trying to eat!"
Jim, the stranded backpacker, whose situation threatened to drive a wedge between the Jake-Lobo familial bond and Zo-Lobo climber (my life is in your hands) bond. Why blame each other when there's an easy scapegoat available!?
The androgynous Thing, a waitress at Lee's Ferry Lodge for being the Thing and giving El Lobo Grande the new moniker of "Pops" and calling Juan "Mr. Tie-Dye.
Doesn't she(?) know that El Lobo is a world famous guide en su cabeza? By the way, the beer selection and onion rings are excellent.
ZO & Jake (tag team) for separately jumping on El Lobo for fuming about giving Jim-in-need a ride to the lodge and because he correctly surmised that Jim-in-need would end up having to share accommodations with the group. All poor El Lobo Grande/World Famous Guide/Trip Leader/Pops wanted to do was look out for the best interests of the group.
Lobo/Jake/Dingo/John for volunteering poor Zo to be the sacrificial lamb to share the room with 2 single beds with Jim-in-need in case he turned out to be a mass murderer.
The pack for doing a death march in two days that normally takes four or five.
Entire group for being cantankerous after the hike and finishing every comment directed at someone with "you f*#$"
Jacobo for complaining to the secretaries at his office on Monday morning about how brutal the hike was.