Forum Index > Trip Reports > bright angel to hermit's rest + horseshoe mesa, GCNP - 11.14 - 11.16.19
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rubywrangler
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 7:09 pm 
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Slow week on the TR forum, so I'll throw in some hikes from the last leg of my road trip. Also if I don't post them here, no one will see the photos except me, my mom, and nancyann lol.gif

I had seen many incredibly beautiful sights on my hikes through the Sierras, but without a doubt, the highlight of the whole road trip was my first visit to the Grand Canyon. It was mind-blowing. The scale, the colors, everything about it is just staggering! Not having hiked in the desert much (ok ever), I was a little nervous about the water situation, so decided to stick with the beaten path for my first visit. I arrived to the park in the afternoon and went to the Backcountry Info. Center to get a permit. The first few camps I requested were all booked, but I was able to get a permit for Cedar Spring the following night.

The morning was cold and it took me awhile to get out of my cozy CRV bed so I didn't hit the trail until about 9:30am. As I'm sure some of you know, the Bright Angel trail is basically a sidewalk. The good thing about it is, you can pay less attention to your feet and more attention to the views. I passed a bunch of people, though not as many as I was expecting, and made good time to Indian Garden camp. After a snack break I accidentally blew past the intersection with the Tonto trail and made an unplanned side trip to Plateau Point, thus adding another 1.5 miles to my day.

bright angel trail
bright angel trail
the battleship
the battleship
bright angel trail
bright angel trail
bright angel trail
bright angel trail
looking back toward the trailhead
looking back toward the trailhead
plateau point
plateau point
plateau point
plateau point

I backtracked to the Tonto trail and headed west along the plateau, passing Horn creek (which I had been warned not to drink due to high uranium level) and Salt creek (which I had not been warned about and drank, but is apparently also radioactive eek.gif ) on my way to Cedar Spring (not radioactive and safe for drinking!!). Although all of the camps I passed were apparently reserved, I only saw a handful of people. It had been overcast for most of the day but the sun peeked through for a bit before sunset.

tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
tonto trail
camp view
camp view

I set up camp and quickly secured my food from the very large and diverse local rodent population in a metal cookie tin with a rock on top. As soon as the sun went down, mice and rats of all sizes were scurrying everywhere. I got in my tent and pulled the zipper pull down... but the door was still open. Tried again. And again. For an hour I fought with the zipper, but it had completely failed and I was surrounded! Luckily I remembered a friend's story about a persistent mouse on Snowfield earlier this year. Long story short, she learned that mice do not like light. So I turned on my headlamp, wrapped it around my water bottle, and pointed it out the tent door. The rodents did not bother me all night. (Thanks Liz!)

In the morning I continued west on the Tonto trail and shortly came to Monument Creek, a lovely side canyon with a nice camp and a trail down to the Colorado. This was my favorite spot along the part of the Tonto I hiked. I slowly worked my way down to the creek and then back up to the Tonto plateau, taking many photos along the way.

cedar spring
cedar spring
cedar spring outfall
cedar spring outfall
tower of set
tower of set
tonto trail
tonto trail
monument creek
monument creek
monument creek
monument creek
monument creek trail
monument creek trail
monument creek, granite rapids in the distance
monument creek, granite rapids in the distance
westward on the tonto trail from hermit trail jxn
westward on the tonto trail from hermit trail jxn

After a couple more hours of hiking on the Tonto I turned left on the Hermit trail and began to climb out of the canyon. This part of the trip is the most beautiful, IMO.I scrambled up to Lookout Point for a late lunch and stopped at the Santa Maria spring resthouse to read and sign the visitor book. I made it back to Hermit's Rest around 4pm, hopped on the shuttle, and headed to Bright Angel lodge for dinner and a visit with the resident ring-tailed cat.

looking back from hermit trail
looking back from hermit trail
lookout point
lookout point
hermit creek canyon
hermit creek canyon
lookout point and beyond
lookout point and beyond

The next morning I got moving early enough to catch the sunrise from the rim, made breakfast and coffee in the Grandview Point parking lot, and then did a quick out-and-back to Horseshoe Mesa. By the time I got back to the rim, a thick layer of smoke filled the canyon, and I never figured out where it came from.

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Malachai Constant
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 7:23 pm 
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Did you visit the cave and cliff dwellings on Horshoe Mesa?

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Eric Hansen
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:26 pm 
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Thanks for the TR, pics. Time on the Tonto is where it's at and November and February are prime time. I've done 45 backpack trips in the canyon, and yes it is addictive.

You may want to consider a Grandview to Kaibab trip on your next visit. It's a classic. Undesignated camping allows you to sleep on the rim of the Inner Gorge, enjoy long views and early and late sunlight. And avoid critter/rodent problems of designated and often used campsites.

Seasonal springs are pretty reliable. PM me if you want water notes.
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rubywrangler
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:54 pm 
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Malachai Constant wrote:
Did you visit the cave and cliff dwellings on Horshoe Mesa?

No, I didn't know they existed until right now!


Eric Hansen wrote:
PM me if you want water notes.

Thanks, I will!
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Nancyann
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 11:24 pm 
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What a great way to finish up your road trip. Glad you did another report on the pics Ive been enjoying. biggrin.gif
I have never been in the Grand Canyon, but last April, our pilot flew right over it at sunset on the way back from AZ. My mind was completely blown and I have been conjuring up ideas of visiting it this coming spring!
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Eric Hansen
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 9:12 am 
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Hi Nancyann,
GC backcountry permit information, and application drill is at this page
https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry-permit.htm
March, April and early May are very popular and many of those permits would typically be assigned already (note May early requests taken until Jan. 1)
This page offers extensive statistical data on backcountry use, flow and timing of permit requests.
https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/Backcountry_and_River_Use_Statistics_2018.pdf

Good luck with it. Quiz me if I can be of help.
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Nancyann
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 10:45 am 
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Thanks for the information, Eric. Much appreciated! up.gif
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Malachai Constant
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 11:00 am 
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The cave is called the Cave of the Domes and the Park Service does not publicize it much but allows entry without a permit. Details are available by googling name but I will not put on public forum. The dwelling are kept secret but are also available on web.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Eric Hansen
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 11:06 am 
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Edit. I didn't want to discourage if your thoughts were for a (for example) April trip. Just to offer a view of possible odds, flow of traffic and demand, on an early permit approval. And that would be true for the popular, somewhat easy to access trails. Many other areas of the park are difficult to access, and permit applications are easier to obtain for those areas.

During the slow season (mid November to end of February with the exception of holidays) permits for usually popular trails are often available on a walk up basis.
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Malachai Constant
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 12:05 pm 
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There are many places on the North Rim which lead to interesting seldom visited areas. Access generally requires long drives on sketchy 4x4 roads which can become impassable if there is heavy rain. The timing is important because too early the roads are in deep snow and too late water is near unavailable.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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geyer
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PostThu Dec 19, 2019 1:14 pm 
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rubywrangler wrote:
Slow week on the TR forum

Thanks for putting da team on your back
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Sculpin
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PostFri Dec 20, 2019 10:14 am 
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Excellent TR, more memories for me.   up.gif

Eric Hansen wrote:
Time on the Tonto is where it's at and November and February are prime time.

Weather happens of course, but the Tonto at +/-2200', protected from the wind by high canyon walls, can be sublime in the offseason.  Unfortunately the upper trails from the south rim were in all-day shade and coated in ice when we did it.

"Horn creek (which I had been warned not to drink due to high uranium level) and Salt creek (which I had not been warned about and drank, but is apparently also radioactive"

I'm kind of a radiation toxicology geek, so this piqued my interest.  I did a little sleuthing and came up with this:

https://radwatch.berkeley.edu/blog/grand-canyon-horn-creek

The short summary is the guy measured 23 ppb on the samples he took, which is within drinking water guidelines.  The USGS measured levels above the limit up by the mine, but Radwatch puts that in perspective:

"The EPA regulatory limit for drinking water is 30 g/L [3], or 30 ppb, so in terms of uranium content in this sample, you could drink this water for your entire life!

The concern about Horn Creek stems from samples that are above the EPA limit for drinking water. USGS has measured levels ranging from 18.9 g/L to 67.8 g/L, with other samples in the Orphan Mine vicinity as high as 202 g/L [4]. These concentrations would be a concern if a person was drinking this water over a long period of time (months or years). In the short term, consuming water at any of these levels for 1-2 days would not be a significant risk."

It is more or less inconceivable that backcountry water would have so much radioactivity that drinking from it for a couple days would impact your total radiation budget.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Eric Hansen
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PostFri Dec 20, 2019 2:37 pm 
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Sculpin, thanks for the radiation thoughts. I can't remember ever seeing Horn Cr. wet, but Salt Creek is typically flowing in the winter months when I'm there.

And, forgive me, but one correction - Tonto Plateau is not 2,200' but typically 3,700' to 4,000.

Also, thanks for mentioning the deep shade under the south rim (i.e. north slope) and typical winter snow and ice on upper trails, definitely part of the game there in winter. Microspikes and poles are a darn good idea for many trails, and there are some trails with notable exposure such as top of the Grandview and Dripping Springs across the Hermit headwall. Grandview I've done many times, just cautious to remain totally focused. I doubt I'd do Dripping Springs with snow or ice.

So, some challenges and nuance to winter in the Grand Canyon, but bottom line is it is an incredible venue with a wide variety of good choices for routes. And remarkably easy to access via public transportation. Shuttle from Flagstaff (Amtrak) or Phoenix. Check your duffle with the bellhop at the hotel, put on your pack and go.

Also, possible to do multi-week trips with mule resupply at Phantom Ranch (bottom of canyon). 30 pounds, about $70 (up or down). Note the fine print, drop-off at Ranch only.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostFri Dec 20, 2019 8:11 pm 
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rubywrangler wrote:
the highlight of the whole road trip was my first visit to the Grand Canyon. It was mind-blowing.

Right-on thought!
The Grand is widely considered ( correctly I believe*) to be one of the geologic must- see places on Earth.
The scenery 'ain't too bad', either, as your excellent pictures prove!

*I have not seen all of the geologic 'musts' but a lot of them, and the G.C. is surely way up on the list!

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Sculpin
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PostFri Dec 20, 2019 9:44 pm 
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Eric Hansen wrote:
Tonto Plateau is not 2,200' but typically 3,700' to 4,000.

Oops, that's right.  The river is at 2200' but that is not the backpack elevation.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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