Saturday, February 13, 2016

Clear Creek

Last weekend Jacob and I took off for the Grand Canyon planning to head down to Clear Creek and spend the night.  After a cold week in Flagstaff, we were looking forward to some warmer temperatures in the canyon, but on the drive over we watched the thermometer slowly sink to 0 before rising up to the mid 20s when we got to the park.  After parking the car we at the visitors center we took the shuttle to the Kaibab Trailhead and took off into the canyon.  Actually we started fairly gingerly as there was still a bit of snow on the trail.

Halfway down
We made it down to the river in less than an hour and a half and soon were at Phantom Ranch where we filled up our bottles and headed up the trail.  After turning off on the Clear Creek trail we took a quick break to eat and then were back underway.  The day heated up a little at times as we made our way along the Tonto Platform but there was almost always a nice little breeze to keep us cool.  We moved along pretty quickly and soon found ourselves heading down the red hillside into Clear Creek.  We reached the creek and decided to head upstream a ways where there are some Native American ruins at the foot of a canyon wall.

The Zoroaster Temple

Hanging out by the ruins

Pretty fascinating to think about

After eating a late afternoon snack at the Native American ruins and taking some time to check them out, we headed back down the stream and looked for a place to camp.  We found a nice spot for the bivy sacks, ate dinner, then wandered down the creek a little ways before we crawled into the bags and  went to sleep.  Of course at 6:30, we weren't all that tired so we watched the stars for a while before settling down to sleep.  Clear Creek was definitely warmer than our night in the Mazatzal Mountains, but camping by the creek lead to a bit more humidity and condensation was soon forming on the inside of my bag.  The way to deal with condensation is to open up your bivy sack and get more air flow, but this also means a colder night.  Fortunately, it wasn't all that cold and I slept nearly the entire night without waking up.

When morning came we packed up quickly and were soon on the trail heading of the Clear Creek drainage.  Breakfast was chilly but it didn't take long for us to warm up on the climb and start shedding clothes.  After a couple short stop to lose some clothes, we were cruising along the Tonto Platform enjoying a warm sunny morning in the canyon.  We didn't see anyone until we were descending down toward Phantom Ranch where we filled up our bottles and started the climb back up to the South Rim.


Getting under way

Up and out

The Tonto Platform

Just upstream from Phantom Ranch
We started the hike up to the South Rim and decided to just eat on the walk to save some time so we munched on sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and jerky for the first section of the climb.  Once we reached the Tipoff we caught up with a group of mules who were only a couple hundred yards ahead of us.  Initially we were worried we'd be eating dust to the rim, but as soon as we caught up to the mules the skinners stopped the train and let us by.  What great guys!  Jacob and I continued on the long sunny section up to Skeleton Ridge and then on to Cedar Ridge where the cool air from the rim was finally starting to come down.  The climb was pretty uneventful as we saw quite a few people and mostly just chugged along.  The one mind boggling thing was the people, well, the canyon is mind boggling too.  First, you have no clue how many people where yak tracks to the bottom on the Canyon.  Maybe the first mile was icy.  Also there was this older dude who was wheeling something like a wheelbarrow full of stuff down the Kaibab.  I kid you not.  First, I don't think you can have wheeled vehicles in the canyon.  Second, how was he going get that think out?  Last, if your one mile into the canyon after noon, I sure hope you can make it to the bottom.  Anyhow, we were nearly out and ready to jog the last couple miles along the rim back to the car when we hit mule train number 2.  These were not the supply mules this time, but the touring group.  Anyhow, I have no doubt they cost us 15 minutes in the last quarter mile.  I don't think mules should be in the canyon at all, but this group really pissed us off.  Anyhow, we enjoyed a quick jog along the rim and hopped in the car much sooner than anticipated.

Nearly out

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