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SK to Grandview with some off trail jaunts


Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 31.6 miles

Grand Canyon trip, April 6 ‰ÛÒ 11, 2006 Light weight backpacking trip from the South Kaibab east to a Grandview exit, with some off-trail day hikes.
  • SK looking north.JPG
  • DSCN1517.JPG
  • Looking back up the SK
  • Morning panorama
  • Cottonwood Redwall overlook
  • Cottonwood confluance
  • Looking east
  • Tonto camp
  • Mule powered winch
  • Miner's spring trail
  • Cottonwood Creek overlook
  • ...and I am out

I have cut my pack weight from a dry weight of around 35 lbs to a much more age appropriate weight of around 14 ½ Lbs. I carried 20 oz. of food per full day and 15 oz. for the walk out.

6:30 I am up and freezing my hands packing frost covered gear. I get a quick breakfast and catch a bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.
8:05 I have watered up and I am heading down.
8:50 – I am below Cedar Ridge. I have shed some clothes and am down to a good fighting weight now that it has warmed up.
11:00 – I have started east on the Tonto. I have a lunch of Moose Goo on Tortillas at the top of the drop-off down to the floor of the Tonto.
1:47 I am through the three branches of Cremation and contouring around Pattie Butte. What a bear they are! You drop down 300 – 400 feet and scramble back up what is little more that dirt cliffs. I have 3 or 4 miles to go till camp.
3:45 – I arrive at Lonetree and setup camp. There is a good flow of water, and it is sweet tasting.
6:00 I have had a freeze-dried dinner, pumped water for tomorrow, and wander to explore. This is a lovely spot surrounded by unbroken Redwall cliffs. The Redbud trees are blooming and there is a steady buzz of bees making the last round of the day.
10.0 miles +1310’/-4800 

5:45 am It was a nice cool night and I have the right amount of sleeping bag. I made the requisite Oatmeal breakfast, and a cup of powdered gourmet coffee. No blisters and only a little sore of knee and calf. By 6:20 the sun starts to illuminate the highest peaks. I am on the trail at 7:05; it is 52 degrees and a clear sunny day. Grapevine is the next camp.
9:25, I am in Boulder. I stop for a break and to put the poles away. The Tonto Trail is very flat and easy hiking.
11:00, I break for lunch on top of the slow rise before the trail heads south into Grapevine. I set my pack down on my water bladder’s bite valve and spilled most of my water! The cactuses are happy, me, not so much! I have a little less that a liter, but water is just a few miles away. It is starting to get warm and I sit in the shade of a large boulder in one of the minor side drainages in Grapevine to cool off. I explore the Hotel de Willow Creek in the west branch of Grapevine. There is a slow flow in the creel bed, and I pump a liter and drink a few cups of water. It is 82 at around 3:25 in Grapevine. I fill up on some water for a dry camp. I will camp out on the Tonto, the views are better.
5:45 PM, I have made camp on a nice flat. It is rather breezy and I have found some rocks to anchor my tent.
8.7 miles +1200’/-1280

Up at 5:45 and off to reconnoiter after Oatmeal.
7:45 I have had breakfast and am on the trail again.
11:10 - I have made the west branch of Cottonwood and am heading upstream. I start off in the stream bead but climb up the east bank for easer walking. There are other's boot prints in the sand. I am heading up the top of the drainage that is the east fork of the dry stream bead. The surface is very loose and footing is poor. By noon I’m through the narrow point in the drainage on a clear trail. The view from the point is stunning. You can see both branches of Cottonwood and the camping areas, the Tonto stretching out to the ease and west, Horseshoe Mesa to the east and people exploring the cave. I have a bite to eat and start to head down the way I came up. It took only 35 minutes to go back down to the Cottonwood stream bead.
4:45 and I have made the main branch/Tonto crossing. When I arrived I went down stream to see if it was OK with the couple camping there if I camped 500’ feet upstream. After dinner, they wandered up and offered me a glass of wine and a cigar. We sat and talked, finished off the bottle and smoked our cigars. Nice ending to a day. Tomorrow I plan to do a day hike to explore a route down to Cottonwood near the drop off to the Colorado.
9.8 miles (including off trail) +3980’/-4050’

8:00 – After the requisite Oatmeal, I have put together my day pack. Once north of the west arm of Horseshoe, there is the old Tonto Trail that follows the edge of the Tonto around to the east. It can't be seen from the Tonto Trail, but is very clear when you get there. It is also cairned here and there.
By 8:20 I have reached the last break before the Tonto curves to the south over the Colorado. I start down the last wash wash to before the Colorado.
9:10 I am at the stream bead, it is just about 2 miles from the Tonto/Cottonwood crossing to the bottom of this cut. I am starting up stream.
At 9:30 I have come to an 20' falls with a bypass on each side. I go back down stream to look at the two ways around. I set my pack down right next to a cairn on the east side.
10:00 I am at the top of the east bypass and can see the confluence of the main and west branch. From here, it is clear that I have taken the harder of the two bypasses; the one on the west looks like a harder ascent, but is shorter with an easer descent. If someone can remove the eastern cairn, and make a nice western one, it would be helpful. I find a dozen mature Cottonwood trees, cool shade, and a flowing stream in the confluence. It is a truly a lovely spot. About ¼ mile upstream on the west side there is a developed cave with 4 rooms and some surviving walls.
11:10 and I am into some dark sandstone. The stream bed is very narrow through here. I get back to the Tonto and gather up the rest of my gear. I am permitted for tonight in BE9, Hance use Area. I will camp on the Tonto again. Tomorrow I am heading out. It is very windy and I put big rocks on top of rocks on top of my tent stakes. Not much sunset due to the incoming high clouds. It looks like snow is on the way.

4.6 miles +1230’/-1010’



Up to watch a pretty sunrise. It is 42 degrees and partly cloudy. I am heading up the middle Horseshoe Mesa trail.

By 6:30 I am at the big Iron bar that marks the start of the ascent. The trail is in good shape despite the lack us use. After 8 switchbacks you can see the old trail work. After several more sets of switchbacks the trail heads for the break in the top of the Redwall.

7:35 I am on the mesa and take a break. There is a nice view down into Cottonwood from here.

By 10:15 I have made the saddle between Cottonwood and Hance. I take a break and enjoy the blue birds that are hanging around. I really like this spot with the views into both Cottonwood and Hance drainages.

By 12:15 I top out and go find the car, and drive to the village. I find fresh coffee and a brew and a burger. I drive off to Phoenix and get my room. I fly back out east around noon tomorrow.

4.5 miles +4460’/-500’

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