Day Forty-Nine: The Bushwhack

Map Miles: Today: 18/ Total: 816.5

GPS Miles: Today: 19.2/ Total: 862.2

Today’s Miles Sponsored By: Heather, Irene, Rachel, Karen, Janeen, Barb & Gregg

Another day completely alone. Is that 6 or 7 now? The uneventful terrain of the road walk continued this morning. For nearly the entirety of the 4.5 hours direct sunlight did not reach me, the frost stayed put in the grass and I was thankful to be moving.

What kept the morning exciting was the wildlife! I spotted one of the Kaibab Squirrels I mentioned yesterday flitting it’s bushy white tail across the road. I scared a few deer down the trail, and then, I came across 5 of the infamous Grand Canyon Beefalo herd. I didn’t even realize there were bison in the Grand Canyon until I spotted the first one.

There’s a beefalo dead center of this photo- I swear! All of my photos have been taken on my iPhone and unfortunately a zoom function is not one of its stronger features.

In brief they were introduced to the area after being crossbreed with cattle before the National Park was established. They’re a pretty big problem for the local ecosystem but no one knows what to do about them, and the longer folks wait to figure out a solution the larger the herd gets. Check out this awesome article about them that I found!

I got to Swamp Point around 10:30 where I surveyed the landscape ahead of me. Trying to imagine where the route would fall and just how difficult the terrain would be.

Looking down Saddle Canyon. No trail from here!

Today is the day I begin the detour route around Tapeats Creek that I worked out with the backcountry ranger. The river is still running too high to safely do the guidebook route, which I’m kinda bummed about. Since first reading about the Hayduke, this particular section has been one of the ones I’ve been most looking forward to. It holds a bit of a mythical aura to it: Plunge Pools down Saddle Canyon, knee deep wading in the swift Tapeats, Thunder Falls forcefully cascading straight out of the cliff. But alas it shall be another time for me.

Instead my route contours around the canyon heads for nearly 19 miles up on the Esplanade. It’s mostly pretty flat and wide. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?


The descent from Swamp Point to Muav Saddle and Teddy’s Cabin was fine, but after that….well it’s all bushwhacking all the time.

While the cabin was built in the 1920s after Teddy Roosevelt died, he did camp at this Saddle while hunting cougars in the area in 1912. Maybe the same trip Brighty accompanied him on!!

I love finding register entries from great friends.

And this isn’t the bushwhacking of the canyon washes either- the whipping and switching of the willows and tamarisks. This is the grabbing by the oak from one side while being jabbed and pricked by locust on the other side, all while trying not to trip over the roots and fallen logs (or your own feet). Pushed one way by the branches while a different one grabs a drawstring on my pack and pulls me backwards. Poles swinging and flailing trying to find solid purchase. There is no path of least resistance. Only resistance.

Can’t go over it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go through it.

It’s so bad through here the map mentions that you should wear long sleeves and pants or prepare to bleed…well in my case I did both. I have some new scrapes on my hands and I pulled out more thorns than I can remember from my shirt and pants. I even caught a thorn in the new Evernew bladder that Drop N Roll sent me to replace the Sawyer bladders that broke. This is now the 4th bladder this trail has destroyed! (Though I actually can still filter from the bag…I just can’t use it for storage). Sadly I also left Scoopy behind at my last water refill location. 😦 He will forever be in my thoughts though. I wouldn’t have even stopped for water at his final resting place if it weren’t for his encouragement.

Looking back up canyon through the nasty terrain.

The miles came super slowly. About the slowest I think they’ve been on trail. I thought I’d be ok once I popped out of the forest onto the Esplanade, but soon discovered that rather than the open slopes of cactus and easy to navigate bushes of the South side, here the slopes are covered in the same oak and locust before giving way to ankle grabbing manzanita.

Manzanita ahead. Shorter, but just as thick and hard to get through.

It was the worst bushwhacking I think I’ve ever done. Certainly the worst of this trail. I only made about two thirds of the distance I had hoped to today. Fortunately though the day ended with some awesome slick rock benches.

Looking up Tapeats Canyon in the late day.

I’m hopeful that’s a sign of easier travel tomorrow…otherwise I’m in for a long day…or more…

Awesome camp in the slickrock.

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