Day 1

April 3, 2013

Nankoweap Trail

Click on photos to see larger image.

Today's route stats: 

    Distance:  11 miles

    Elevation Gain:  1520 feet

    Elevation Loss:  4470 feet

We awoke well before dawn, ate breakfast, and divided up the communal gear between the seven of us.  Jed and his friend drove us to the trailhead, which took about 30 minutes.  It was a gorgeous day -- sunny and cool -- perfect backpacking weather.  We began hiking around 7 am. 

There are two trailheads for the Nankoweap Trail:  One starts high on the Kaibab Plateau, the other starts near Saddle Mountain in House Rock Valley.  The latter is where we began -- snow usually renders the high trailhead inaccessible this time of year.

The trail begins by slowly climbing the slope towards the saddle of Saddle Mountain.  In about 3/4 miles, the trail drops about 400 feet into the upper reaches of Saddle Canyon, then continues up the drainage for close to a half mile.  Eventually it starts climbing again, slow and steady, until reaching the saddle.  It took us about 1-3/4 hours to hike the 3 miles and 1520 feet elevation gain to the saddle.  At the saddle we dropped our packs and gawked at our first view into the depths of Grand Canyon. 

Hiking Towards the Saddle. Looking Back Toward House Rock Valley. Starting to Drop into Grand Canyon.

After a 20 to 30 minute break at the saddle, we continued on, dropping down a hundred feet or so to the prominent ledge in the Supai formation that we would follow for the next few hours.   In another 4 hours of hiking we reached Tilted Mesa.  Near Tilted Mesa the trail follows the top of a ridge where the Nankoweap drainage is on the right, and the Little Nankoweap drainage is on the left.  We stopped for lunch here, at around 1:30 pm.  Although we had covered quite a distance, we still had to drop another 2200 feet before getting to Nankoweap Creek, our destination for the day.  

Nankoweap Trail. Looking SE Towards Butte Fault. Sunrise at Nankoweap Creek.

The last couple of miles of the Nankoweap Trail seemed endless.  You can look down and see where you want to end up, but it seems to take forever to get there.  The fact that my feet were really feeling pounded didn't help.  About two hours after lunch we reached Nankoweap Creek.  We set up camp a couple hundred yards upstream from where the trail ends at the creek and spring -- a lush area of cottonwoods.  It didn't get dark until after 7 pm,  and since it was only 3:30, we had plenty of time to wash up,  relax, and soak our sore feet in the cold water.   

All of our dinners on this trip, with the exception of our one dry-camp dinner, were communal.  Each of us brought our own breakfasts and lunches.  Water was boiled every morning for breakfasts.   We had several large pots and two stoves.

I brought several audio books with me on my iPhone.  I started listening to Al Gore's new book, The Future:  Six Drivers of Global Change, but soon fell asleep.  This would be typical for me for the rest of the trip.


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