The night had been filled with thousands of stars. The temperature had dropped from 80 degF when we felt asleep to a refreshing 60 degF when we woke, but the ground was still warm! We had both slept well and felt surprisingly refreshed. Our plan was just a 4.5-mile hike along the Colorado to Deer Creek, so we had a slow start, enjoying one of Janet’s precious sausage rolls. Our plan changed significantly, but more of that later! After our leisurely start, the walk along the river was easy until the large black rock after about 0.5 miles. The National Park overview had mentioned this, suggested a 25-ft rope to lower one’s pack on the other side. Once on top of the rock, all we saw were vertical 50-foot walls. They appeared “climbable” but I was very uncomfortable. After checking them out a bit, I suggested we look for another route higher, which is when we found the rock slide down, towards the river, which was the route. There is no cairn, but it is by the tree! After that, the path climbed up the valley, opening up the views of the Colorado. While it was only a 500-ft climb, our later departure meant the sun was strong. However, this just made the arrival at Deer Creek, with its refreshing water and shade, all the more welcoming!
It’s amazing how you can nap on rocks! Once refreshed, it was time to explore the river downstream. I knew there was a slot canyon and it did not disappoint, though we could not follow the river and had lots of hairy cliff-hugging. Watching me crawl along the ledge, that Samuel would merrily rock-hop along, was his highlight of the trip! Heights and exposure are not my favorite. After the canyon, there is a path that leads to the river and looks back at a waterfall, but we chose not to do that. The heat of the walk to Deer Creek had made us fearful of too long a walk tomorrow, and we were planning to get further today, hiking up to the Esplanade in the cool of the evening/night.
After a few hours of chilling out in the shade, we decided we’d start walking when our location was in the shade of the mountain. Unfortunately, this was a bit too early and we were back in the heat of the sun pretty quickly. The climb out of Deer Creek to Surprise Valley was steeper and longer than expected, and we were carrying an extra 3-liters of water in our bladder. Nevertheless, we plodded on. The sun set before the steep climb out of Surprise Valley. Much of the climb was in darkness, but there was enough residual light, even at night, for us to note the switchbacks and hike without lights. This makes the stars even more special, but unfortunately they are very difficult to photograph! Once on the top, we were unable to find the cairn-marked trail so out came the lights, and we were very happy to see that the way had been marked by reflective strips every 100-yards. The next challenge was to find our cached water. By chance, I had marked it with my GPS, never expecting to be looking for it in the dark. All that was left was to find a campsite, which was the nearest flat rock, and we were soon asleep.
So that was day 2. We had got further than planned, with a slow start and lots of resting. The challenge with hiking this area is definitely a combination of water management and hiking when it is cooler. Hiking up the hills is hard work and sweaty, but you just need to plod on! Having plenty of water was essential.
The final morning brought a special sunrise over the rim, followed by a hard slog up the 50 switchbacks. Read about day 3!
This page is linked to from my Grand Canyon Buckskin Gulch home page.