Monument Point, part 2


Early morning light filling in the Grand Canyon from Monument Point.

Having slept very soundly under a blanket of stars, chilly temps, and bundled up with two blankets in my sleeping bag, I almost didn't want to get up from my nice warm nest. But, nature calls, and the day must begin. After fixing a cup of coffee, I strolled to the rim and sat and watched as the morning light from behind me began to frost the upper layers of the Canyon. As the sun rose, the morning light melted downward, deeper and deeper across and down the cliffs, dissolving the night shadows ever deeper into the inner depths. 


Being in the mood, I decided this first full day would be my day to attempt a partial hike, over the rim. I wrote a note with the date and statement that I would attempt to hike just this day to the Esplanade. A notice board at the trail stated the first segment of the hike, to the Esplanade was 2.5 miles with a decent of about 1800 feet. The total hike to reach the Colorado River would be 12 mikes. I've done 12 mile hikes before, but wasn't even considering such a distance this go around. Summer hikes into the Grand Canyon can be deadly if not prepared and certainly not a feat to be attempted alone. Water requirements, alone, are prohibitive. One person could never carry enough water, to sustain himself on such an arduous hike. Most people go in groups and cache water supplies along the trails, so that they have water awaiting them upon their return ascent. That is a very heavy load, even with several people together. It would get lighter as you go, but there is food and supplies, tents, sleeping gear, etc to consider also…you get the picture.


 By 8 a.m. I was atop the ridge across from my camp. I decided to carry most of my camera equipment, three lenses, the camera, extra battery, a small camera, energy bars, apple, dried fruit mix, and over a gallon of water in smaller, manageable containers. The pack was heavy, probably 60 lbs, at least. But "be prepared" is the boy scout motto and most applicable here as well. Shortly, I reached the trailhead that dropped over the edge and into the canyon. I did, actually, stop and survey the situation. What lay before me, or should I say "below" me was a narrow, very steep descending trail. Checking my pack, I saddled up, so to speak, set my hiking pole to the ground and the hike began.

As I descended, I very carefully, stepped along, using the hiking pole extensively as extra support and safety. Several hundred feet down, I stopped to wipe my sweating brow, not even 9 a.m. and I was sweating profusely. Hummm what's the hike up going to be like?

Now, considering, I thought, an average walking speed for a human in 2 ½ to 3 mph, I should be able to reach the Escarpment two hours, maybe 2 ½ hours tops. Well, that was not going to happen this hike. This was a much steeper hike than I had thought it would be and, being alone, I opted to proceed with utmost caution. It was not a race, after all, and I had all day to complete the journey. I stopped frequently and caught glimpses of the trail lower down onto the Esplanade. As I worked further down, I would also look up to where I had been.                                            

Holy Kamole!                 

 How in the world am I working down along those cliffs. It looks impossible. Then the trail took a change of direction, it leveled out somewhat and seemed to be heading upward to another area which led me to believe I had missed a part of the trail leading downward. This upward trail looked like it might lead to another starting point further along up on the rim. I was ok with that. HA, well no, the trail did not go up again, it rather quickly started a more steady descent, with untold switchbacks, zig zagging downward toward the Esplanade. By now I had been on the trail for 2 hours and while I could see where I hoped to stop, it was still a long ways away. 


Then I hit a roadblock, of sorts. Before me was a cliff, about 8 feet above where the trail continued below it. Darn, I've come this far to be stopped? Having recalled from past reading about this trail I thought this had to be the spot they talked about lowing backpacks by rope to the trail below and picking it up again. Oh, hey, I have rope --back at the campsite. Already having taken off my backpack, I searched around for another possible way to access the trail. No way. I sat and pondered the situation, walked around a bit, remembered the saying "you'll never know until you try", and wondered how I could safely lower my pack and myself those few 8 feet.

Here is what I did. I used my hiking pole, undid my belt, hooked the pack to the belt, the belt to the hiking pole strap, and lowered that down off the cliff. The cliff was not vertical and had a rough surface, that allowed for some finger and foot holds. This also allowed me to scoot the pack ahead of me and safely scoot myself down too. Making the try, successfully, made it seem like a piece of cake once done. Having the pack on my back would have thrown off my balance and may have been trouble, but the way I managed it, it even lessened the fear of my return and hauling the pack up again.

Once that hurdle was jumped I continued to traverse into the canyon. Zig, zag, zig, zag, zig, zag. 

And my legs were feeling the burn. Both my knees, also, were starting to ache. 


I stopped about 10 under the shade of a larger pinion pine, quenching my thirst, and eating some of my snacks. I thought I heard someone above me, talking as they came down the trail. But I could not see anyone and I was enjoying the shade and rest, so took photos from where I was, while also building up my resolve to march onward to the Esplanade. Then I heard voices again and, yes, there was a couple coming down the trail. They stopped and also took a break with me, telling me they were scouting out the trail for another possible hike further into the canyon. The couple were Mark and Moira from south of Tucson, were camping at Timp Point and have hiked and explored extensively at the North Rim and other locations in the northern area. Since we all were heading in the same direction, I joined them and enjoyed chatting with them as we went along. The rest of the downward climb became much more enjoyable and bearable with their company. 

On, and from high above along the trail, it appears the trail levels out at it approaches the "supposedly" level Esplanade. This turned out not to be so. It was an optical illusion, I think. We ended this hike on a much flatter area just the same, which would have been a great spot to camp, preferably the night before you make the final push UP to end the total hike to and back from the river. That, of course, is from my perspective. This area is also where two trails converge, the Bill Hall (which we were on), and the Indian Hollow Trail. The rest of the trail then leads on for almost 10 more miles to it's end.


In the background is from where we began the hike…it was a horrendously long hike back up.

So, there we were 2 ½ miles into the canyon. Looking up at the cliffs we had climbed down, it seemed a totally impossible feat. After some short exploration and some rest, we, soon enough, began our upward push. And that is when it became oh, too obvious, the trail ahead was always on an incline and, to me, it only got steeper and steeper. I do believe that if Mark had not been leading the troupe, I'd have barely crawled out, probably hours later. We did rest several times along the way, but also steadily kept at it. My legs and knees had taken a beating and, Oh boy, were they a hurtin'. Along the ridge top and back to my camp, while easier, was about as fer as these old appendages would go. All I wanted to do then was lay prone on the ground and REST! I think the Park Service has the distance wrong. My body was telling me it was not an 1800 foot elevation change, but more like 3000 feet. (and double that on the way back up).

Mark and Moyra and I exchanged names, numbers, etc, talked about some other sites for me to explore and we said our goodbyes.

I pulled out a blanket and laid in the shade.

The next day I could barely walk. I had some vitamins, Aleve and a sports ointment that helped but any attempts at hiking were out of the question. I read more of Huck Finn, living vicariously through his adventures on the Mississippi, instead.

The following day saw some improvement, and I hiked close by, trying to avoid longer up and down trails. I finished reading young Finn's stories.


Finally, on Monday,  I had to get moving, so decided to drive out to a few other view points. Sowats Point is further north of Monument Point and about 9 miles off on it's own road. Twice I had to maneuver around mud holes, but my Santa Fe was at no risk. It was a long slow drive to the end, but the view was spectacular. The area resembled a huge bowl, which is part of Kanab Creek drainage leading eventually down to the Colorado River. I could see there was a trail down into the depths here also but lost sight of where it went.


After that excursion I decided to go to visit Parisawumpitts Point and on the shortest route there I took a road proclaiming "Narrow Steep road" At it's beginning I had my druthers about attempting it but threw caution to the wind and headed up. All was well until I hit a steep patch of road that was partially washed away with larger rocks and some large slick rocks making up what was left. To my dismay, also, there was no place to turn around. It was narrow, steep and treacherous. I slipped the tranny into low drive, which I've used in similar situations and the Santa Fe, kept reaching out her paws, trying to grab at any stable enough surface to grab ahold of. She kept climbing, some wheel spinning, but always that reaching forward and she clawed her way through and over the rough patch. Thankfully it was only about 15 feet of terror that I had to deal with, and, yes, I sighed a huge sign of relief as I then easily continued up to level ground. After hiking to some vantage points at Parisawumpitts, getting lost in the woods, and returning to my vehicle, I decided to avoid the road that, although the shortest route back to my camp, had that pesky unstable patch of loose rock. I went twenty miles out of my way instead. Chancing a downward catastrophe was more than my nerves would allow.

My last night at Monument Point, ended with an extended gazing upwards at the stars, then another as I lay in bed, being thankful for a wonderful day of exploring, some excitement and beautiful sights that words can barely describe. It was, as usual, another brisk, cozy under my blankets kind of night, as I thought about the next leg of my journey. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments