North Bass to Kanab Creek
The best visual highlight reel of this trip by far is this video that Joelle and I collaborated on. The trip report below is a relatively low-effort one, just a place to post my journal to share details, remember feelings, and add a few photos that didn't make it anywhere else.
Ever since completing our Powell Plateau to Phantom hike in November 2021, the next logical step in section hiking the length of Grand Canyon was a trip to connect North Bass to Kanab Creek. I knew this route would traverse through some of the most wonderous water features in the entire Canyon, and rather than being laser focused on lengthwise travel, we wanted to use it as an oportunity to explore the best parts of Kanab Creek from the bottom up. The near-constant companionship of water made this section of the route very unique in that we would prefer warmer weather. So when November 2022 turned out much colder and wetter than average, pivoting to instead hike Scotty's Hollow to Tuckup on the Esplanade was the right choice. We then planned to do this trip in late April of 2023, which was not only unseasonably cold, but snowpack blocked the trailheads. The week after we decided to pull the plug, Joelle broke her foot and sprained her ankle. We rescheduled for mid-October over our anniversary, and our friends Nick and Caleb planned to join for half, but 3 weeks of overworking myself guiding led to a mild back injury, and I made the very difficult decision to postpone the trip to rest. We reset the permit to November 4th, mostly just as a way to avoid losing money, but it quickly became clear that I would recover, so if the weather was warm enough, we should just actually do it then. Sadly Nick and Caleb were unable to join, but the stars aligned for our friend Abbey (whose New Zealand residence makes her a much rarer guest) to join.
On the 3rd, we took a slow morning at home to finalize packing and left town around noon. We had considered an e-bike shuttle, but 37 miles of potentially rough roads making for at least a 12-hour day was intimidating. So we rolled out with Douglas, my Rav4 and JT, Daniel's 4Runner, carrying us onto the Kaibab Plateau. Sunset happened as we neared Sowats Point, and when we all piled into Douglas, I took over driving to blast us up and down some steep and rugged Kaibab roads as we all sang along to fun music. In this way, I find loud music to be very helpful for dirt road driving because it drowns out the suffering of the car. It was 35 degrees at Sowats, and dipped to 30 along the way, but somehow as we progressed down the Swamp Point road, the temperature climbed to 45! We pulled up to an amazing camp near the trailhead and enjoyed a warm night with a light breeze.
*It's worth noting that almost this whole trip can be completed very naturally as a shuttleless loop from the Indian Hollow Trailhead. If one were to also include a worthwhile side trip to Tapeats Cave, I would consider this probably the best long closed loop in the Park. We would've been very compelled by this if we weren't going for the arbitrary goal of section-hiking the length of the Canyon.
Day 1 - A rough day for clothing
It was a nice warm evening with a gentle breeze, and stars were coming out in force. We enjoyed a good dinner and each did our own array of chores before laying down, most falling asleep by 8:30.
8 days of food, 4L of water.
SWD Movement 40
The big pines of the North Rim spill over into Saddle
One of many chockstones in Saddle Canyon
A side scramble on Day 2
Nearly every route follows in the footsteps of the ancients, both animal and human
Day 2 - Faffing around in beauty
Regrouping at 5:10, they were ready to quest into the unknown towards Upper Tapeats camp. But adventuring into 1.5 miles of potentially complex terrain that promised a 100-meter wade in the dark seemed a bit much, even to me. I'd rather do things in early morning daylight, especially things like that. I had just returned from briefly scouting around for a camp where I'd found a well-positioned flat area just big enough, on our side of the creek. So, despite our lack of accomplishment for the day, we decided to call it, and were able to setup camp before dark. We had a nice evening of dinner and stretching. Joelle falling asleep by 7:30 allowed me to write this before even feeling tired.
Day 3 - Through the Wonders
We eventually walked out onto the beach and observed that the two groups of visiting rafters were not planning on staying. After some consideration of pushing onward, we agreed it seemed too convenient of an opportunity to pass up. We found a flat gravel bar between the falls and the river, and laid out camp. As night fell, we enjoyed a comet and a good dinner, satisfied by what was probably the most glorious day any of us have ever had in the Canyon.
The Shinumo Quartzite narrows of Tapeats Creek
The first of many waterfalls on Thunder River
First view of the river, Deer Creek Overlook
The magnificent Deer Creek Falls
Day 4 - The Commute
Here at this inconspicuous spot between bushes, we managed to have a great evening. A warm breeze was blowing as we all went for a dip off the sandy beach, then the wind died completely as we made dinner. The Milky Way came out, we filled the canyon with laughter, and we saw an even better comet than the night before.
High above the river, too soon on our rugged mistake route. The rest of the river traverse was easier, but mostly boulder hopping.
This guy was more eager to share drinks than any other river runner I've met!
Day 5 - Into Kanab
As the day darkened, we fought our way through one last boulder section before the terrain eased and we made it to Scotty's Hollow just in time. I had taken off my pants and hiked in my underwear most of the day, which seemed like a good idea for all the water walking. Unfortunately, the skin of my calves became chapped from the constant wet/dry/wet/dry and was quite painful. We scrambled around looking for the best camp, and I stumbled upon a nice developed flatish spot under and overhang on the upstream side of the confluence. It turned into a worse campsite when a mouse appeared, which was promptly struck by Joelle. No more mice appeared. It was a great day!
Day 6 - Scotty's Hollow
We returned to camp rather quickly which was a nice complement to the constant breaks for awe on the way up. Getting back to camp well before dark, I was happy to be back with Joelle and really proud of her for having the confidence to turn back alone and negotiate the other challenges by herself. She had enjoyed a nice amount of sun at camp while she journaled and reviewed photos. As we ate dinner and laid down under the stars once again, we had our best evening of laughter yet.
Triple window? Not really
A particularly nice boulder spout
Abbey's gear highlight was my water filter
Day 7 - To Jumpup
As we turned up Jumpup, the scenery got exciting again and continued to become more dramatic. The Redwall forms a nice limestone "walkable slot" that got increasingly narrow. As we passed Indian Hollow, a truly deep and dark subway feature provided a grand finale. Immediately at the top of the Redwall, we took a right to go up Kwangunt Hollow, which was bouldery and uninteresting at first but quickly got exciting once we saw our first bright yellow cottonwoods and a trickle of clear water. We found a great impacted campsite between two overhanging falls and settled in for our coldest night of the trip. It was clear and got down to 33. I was a little chilly in my quilt with just a shirt on and a beanie for my head. Impressively, my bare toes were not cold, it was really just my head and shoulders. Surprisingly Joelle slept well with the help of her warm hooded puffy, even though her new bag is less warm than mine. Clothing makes a big difference, especially on the head which is otherwise uncovered.
The perfect narrows of Jumpup Canyon
Back to fall, approaching camp in Kwagunt Hollow
Day 8 - Exit
We awoke slowly from our chilly slumber and eventually started walking upcanyon, bypassing one waterfall and then climbing up many small and fun drops. The reflections were stunning in many places. Soon, we joined the prominent trail on the Esplanade and headed towards the climb up the white layers. We paused for an extended snack break to look out over the expanse of the platform above Kanab, a side of the Canyon that most people rarely get to see.
But before long, we topped out and climbed into JT. We tried a less direct route to Swamp Point using less rugged roads, and it seemed to be quicker overall, but Daniel is a great pilot and we were once again stoking the fire with music. We returned home to Flagstaff after in the dark, picked up some pizza and ice cream, and enjoyed a chill return from a great trip.
Kwagunt Hollow was an unexpected treat. It's always a pleasure when spring water flows through the red layers.
It seems there was once a sign for Kanab Creek Wilderness
Carry bag=dirty bag
Drinking bottle=clean bag
No need for redundancy
Hard to show loft in a picture. But it's as fluffy as I could hope for.
Super faded hood vs. inside
This was before the trip, so I had a feeling it would be the last one.
I also chose to wear my almost-new Topo Traverse shoes which I'm very excited about. I have been most happy with the fit and performance of my La Sportiva TX3, but this year have noticed I rarely push the scrambling limit and questioned if the rugged fabric actually leads to more longevity (creases lead to holes in the mesh). I also really want other qualities like lighter weight, runnability, and sand resistance. I tried on 15 running shoes this year and took many outside, taking meticulous notes. I had narrowed my search to focus on the Saucony Peregrine and Topo Terraventure. The Peregrine got my attention from a post by my friend Ben Kilbourne that helped me think through what I'm looking for in a shoe (not the same, but close). I liked it more than all other options, but it still had a slightly sloppier heel and narrower toebox than I hoped. I couldn't shake the dreamy feel of the Terraventure, but wanted a little more underfoot. The next week, Topo released the Traverse, which seem perfect. At the end of this trip, I'm still as excited about them as before.
I plan to continue using the Movement and Traverse aggressively over the next few months, and hope to eventually write detailed reviews for both.