Each man sees himself in the Grand Canyon -Carl Sandburg
North Bass Trail-- 27 miles R/T -- 10,640' elevation gain/loss This trip has been on my radar screen for three years, rescheduled numerous times. This one was also in danger of being scrapped.
Our permit was for a group of five. Three of us finally did end up going. John had to drop out due to a serious cold and did not want to jeopardize the group. He really wanted to go, and I felt bad for him. This was certainly an excused absence. Steve dropped out due to it being too hot, and a grandchild due soon. Steve has also opted out of expeditions at the last minute because it was too cold. Weather is not an excused absence, however a first new grandchild does qualify for exclusion. Or, perhaps, the Master Grand Canyoneer could not get a weekend pass due to spending much of May in the Canyon?El Lobo was hobbled by nagging leg injuries and fighting off a cold but his commitment and compulsive need to get another check off the list put him at the trailhead. Lorenzo fought off work pressures and Dan was simply ready to go, and did the driving.We left from Phoenix for the eight hour drive to the Swamp Point trailhead on the North Rim early Wednesday morning, negotiated the 20 miles of back roads without problems and arrived in the late afternoon. The views were panoramic and we took advantage of the time by sitting in comfortable camp chairs, sipping cervezas and enjoying the extraordinary sunset. Dan prepared a gourmet dinner of salad and ravioli that night. Steve had volunteered to provide a pasta dinner. Dan graciously covered him.Question at the trailhead: Where's Steve?Answer at the trailhead: At his cozy Scottsdale home, in his polka dot pajamas on the couch eating huge bowls of mashed potatoes and gravy.The North Bass trail is actually more of a route than a trail and is arbitrarily documented in some publications as the most difficult and demanding trail in the canyon, involving inventive route finding and a good deal of exposure to steep cliffs. It is an old Indian route once known as the Shinimu trail and later improved upon by William Bass whom had constructed the South Bass trail in the 1880s and utilized the system to guide tourists and hunters. Bass constructed a cable system on the river that is long gone.The first mile brings you to Muav Saddle and to a cabin built by the Park Service in 1925. Teddy Roosevelt camped here while hunting mountain lions so the cabin is sometimes is referred to as "Teddy's cabin." It is in very good condition and hikers can sign in at a register located in the cabin. One of the comments written by a female backpacker was particularly inspiring. "My ass is fine. This can't be one of the hardest hikes in the canyon".We agreed that this fine line reflected how much progress our sisters have made in achieving equality. You've come a long way baby!The views down to White Creek were extraordinary. Climbing down to the Redwall generated deep thoughts and questions such as; exactly what temperature is just right to hike the canyon?Where's Steve?We were never more than a couple of miles from water all the way to the confluence with Shinimu creek where we camped. We elected to follow the drainage instead of the trail where we knew we had access to water. It took us eight hours and we arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon, leaving us plenty of time to cool off in the fast flowing Shinimu creek. Temperatures were well above the century level and the cold water soothed our hot bodies and sore feet. Probably due to the intense heat, there was not much dialogue among the group. Dan casually commented that the shrilling cicada noise was unpleasant. I hadn't noticed it before he mentioned it but now that my hearing sense was activated it became deafening and made me a little crazy. Thanks Dan. We heard thunder in the distance and a storm started to move in. Mysteriously, the insect noise stopped. We received some rain that was very welcome. The storm passed and as soon as it did the loud cicada noise immediately started again. That was interesting.Other small talk included: Question: Where's Steve?Answer: Napping or eating huge scoops of ice creamAt 9:30 that night my thermometer displayed 99 degrees. Going to sleep presented a challenge.The next morning the three of us headed off for a day hike to the river. On route, Dan turned his ankle and elected to spend the day soaking it in the creek and resting it for the gruesome hike out. Lorenzo and I continued following the creek, that required many crossings. At Shinimu camp where Bass once lived there was many interesting artifacts.We came across a small group from a private rafting expedition and they invited us to drop in on their camp on the Colorado for something cold to drink. This was something to look forward to, as our water would very quickly turn sickening hot after filtering. We followed the creek to within 100 yards of the river and could not gain passage, rim locked over a 40 foot water fall. Not desiring to negotiate this problem we returned to search for passage. We thought we may have found a route up and over but the steep lava rock was too hot and difficult to climb. At this point we back tracked to a wonderful pool and jumped in for survival. The temperature was registering at 110.Needless to say, it was one of the best dips we have ever had. We decided to make another go at getting to the river and after a 400 foot steep ascent we found a pronounced path and took it to the river.Immediately upon reaching the Colorado we jumped into the 47 degree water. It is amazing how cold that river stays.We were really looking forward to that promised "cold drink" but no one was around. We finally located one fellow that looked at us in disbelief and asked if we were crazy hiking down here. I suggested that we might be thirsty and that a cold drink would be great and he responded, "the Colorado River water is free." This was not what we had in mind. Our new friend then spent five minutes bitching about the river trip and how hot it was. We took some of his free water, thanked him for his hospitality, and started back. We discovered a much better route that took us moderately down to our swimming hole and again jumped in. We crossed paths with our river friends that politely asked if we had been given cold refreshments. "Oh yes, thank you very much."Back in camp Dan was doing fine with some pain in his ankle but confident of the hike out. The original plan was to take two days to get out and to spend one night on the Redwall.We elected to scrap that option and hike all the way out. Staying on the Redwall at poor camp sites with hot water to drink was determined to be far more miserable than a torturous, continuous climb with cool cervezas and sodas at the top. The first seven miles went very well but the last three were a wee bit challenging. There was little shade and it was El Lobo that occasionally lost the necessary positive attitude. G-----med Bass!!!!! Crazy SOB!!! Came from El Lobo's lips more than once, as sweat trickled off his body.Lorenzo and Dan remained positive and strong.Question on the grueling ascent: Where's Steve?Answer on the grueling ascent: Probably eating lunch at Earls, sipping iced teaWe got out in nine hours and set up the chairs on a shaded part of the rim and sucked down numerous sodas and San Salvador cervezas. We then packed up and drove the back road to the Kaibab Lodge where we dined on double cheese bacon burgers and washed them down with cold beer. After dinner the young lads got a little out of control and continued to order huge volumes of Bass Ale. El Lobo had to drag them out of the bar. There were no rooms left at the lodge. We now had to find a camp site on a back road in the dark. Dan just pulled off a side road close to the lodge and we threw down our bags. About two in the morning El Lobo got up to get in the cooler for a coke. He was totally dehydrated. A horrible alarm went off and the lights on the truck kept flashing on and off. After Dan cheerfully fixed this little problem, El Lobo reached into the cooler and pulled out his soda that felt a little strange in the dark. It appeared that it was covered with lard? It was really awful! There was also a terrible smell but El Lobo just wiped his hands on his shirt and sucked down the drink. It was that, or die of thirst. The next morning we got up at five, and discovered that indeed, there was something greasy in the cooler. It was covered with garlic butter that had tipped over when Dan was wildly driving to our camp site. We cleaned up the mess, broke camp and headed for the North Rim Lodge. We were able to shower in the campgrounds and then had a terrific breakfast in the beautiful lodge dining room, at a table with a knock out canyon view. We then headed back to Phoenix.Question on the road: Where's Steve?Answer on the road: Still sleepingDan got us back in town close to three. This allowed for time to clean gear and have a nice Sunday dinner. Question at my house: Where's Steve?Answer at my house: Dreaming of washboard Abs