Grand Canyon – Tanner Beamer Trails: Day 3

Day 3 – The Palisades to The Confluence
6.3 Miles

I had urged my aunt to get even more of a head start that morning so that, again, we would not get stuck out in the heat. We had six miles to hike that day and the goal was to get as far as we could before the sun came up over the canyon walls. I had brought salt packets with me and I think that helped her regain her strength the day before when we stayed put at The Palisades. That, on top of resting and hydrating most of the day, we were successful in getting up early and starting out before the rest of the party. I think we left about 6AM, and it payed off.

Early morning hiking on the Beamer Trail.

Walking out from that insulated thicket of Mesquite trees into the open air was like leaving a sweat lodge. It was good to be up and at it in the cool morning weather. We had climbed up in elevation along the canyon wall, I’d say about a hundred feet, maybe above the Tapeats formation. Maybe above the Great Unconformity, or within some conglomerate supergroup. At points, the trail is no farther than a few feet from the edge. If one were to fall along these points, they might hit a few rock ledges before crashing down into the river. I kept wondering if my pack would make a good flotation device for my broken body if I fell.

I think we had got a pretty good head start before the rest of the group caught up to us and passed us. We eventually caught back up with them as they were taking a break after following the hairpin turns of the trail along the fingers of canyon. Hiking along the crest of the canyon wall over the river, we would come across flat plateaus that were littered with a plethora of boulders and stones. Jay pointed out to me fossils of some ancient sea life, roots, or possibly dinosaur turds, large stones that looked like someone had poured acid on them, and massive boulders made up of a million tiny stones cemented together over time.

The trail eventually brought us down towards the river. We descended from the cliff wall and walked between boulders where the trail split in two. The family of three were there behind the boulder taking a break. We were about a quarter of a mile from the confluence and needed to find our camp spot. There is no camping near the confluence, so we either camped where we were, or hiked ahead past the confluence to attempt to find a spot. It was already a little after noon, and we were tired and hot, so we decided to stay put.

Where the trail split in two, one continued on the Beamer Trail, the other lead down to a flat, sandy beach next to the river. It had enough spots for all of us, but only one tree line for a windbreak, (at this point the wind was starting to pick up) and it was a weak tree line at that. But it was the only flat area we could see and were within a quarter mile of the confluence. I pitched my tent on the high ground of our site in a nice, big, soft sandy patch encircled with large rocks. The rest of the group found their little nooks and crannies.

After we had set up camp, we filtered more water from the river and ate and hydrated. Some of the group headed down to the confluence ahead of me while I was setting up. I then switched out my Merrell’s with my Keens sandals, put a liter of water in my daypack, grabbed my camera, and took the short walk down to the Little Colorado.

The Beamer trail follows sandstone shelves along the river bank the rest of the way, which were actually kind of fun to climb up and down and scale to get there. And once you get there, it is quite a sight to behold. The Little Colorado is almost a neon blue color. Electric blue, as Jay put it. The sediments in the water are thick white/blue/grayish color, easily stirred up with any disturbance of the water surface. It was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen in Arizona. Not even the blue waters of Havasupi were as intense as this.

The sediments of the Little Colorado spilling into the Colorado.

The Colorado water was cold. So cold that we would put any bags of melted chocolate we had in the river to harden them up. You couldn’t keep your feet or hands in there for too long. However, the Little Colorado was the perfect temperature. I stayed in this serene spot for some time with my aunt and Cedar, walking out into the cool water, soaking my feet, and just relaxing. I even made an offering to the River Gods when I forgot that my sunglasses were on top of my head when I went to submerge my head in the water and the flow took them right off. The water was so cloudy I couldn’t see where they went. Taken away by the current to forever be part of the river.

Late in the afternoon, we decided to head back to camp and prepare for dinner and bed. The wind was really picking up at this point, which was troublesome, because hard winds make for unpleasant camping, but also welcomed, because it was finally cooling off. The past couple of days had been unseasonably warm.

We made it back to camp and the wind had pulled the tent stakes out of the ground and my tent was blown over. If it hadn’t been weighed down with my stuff inside I’m sure it would have blown away. I staked it down again and then weighed the corners down with large rocks from the circle of them around me. Then I made dinner and filtered more water. As we ate and conversed, we watched more river rafters float by, and as the night grew darker, we turned in for the evening.

Grand Canyon – Tanner and Beamer Trails: Day 2

Day 2 – Tanner Beach to The Palisades
3.1 Miles

We awoke early-ish that morning, packed up camp, and ate breakfast. I brought along those little bottles of 5-Hour Energy so that I wouldn’t have to use my water for coffee. Effective, I think.

My Aunt Janet and I hit the trail before the others to try to get a head start. It did not take long before the others caught up to us and passed us. The trail takes you through the vegetation of Tanner Beach and climbs up and follows the hairpin turns of the canyon walls along the river. We climbed up high enough to be able to see the full turn of the river where the Colorado flows south and then east around a flat bend crested with vegetation.

At this level, we’re hiking past beautiful rock formations somewhere in the Tapeats Sandstone era. As we hike along, Jay points out various different rock abnormalities. Possibly fossils from 545 million years ago. Large boulders pockmarked with cavities created by flowing water and layed in piles among various stones from some of the younger layers that rolled down to the river.

Our goal that day was to hike to the confluence of the Little Colorado, which is approximately 9.5 miles from Tanner Beach. Should have been easy to do since we weren’t traversing drastic elevation gains and drops. The trail follows the Colorado upstream through brush and along the canyon walls.

We watched as yellow rafts loaded with people and supplies drifted by and piloted around the bend. The trail brought us under stone overhangs, across flat, dirt ground, soft sand, through thick patches of Mesquite trees, and by trenches cutout by the river that formed mini canyon models. We took our first break underneath one of those sandstone ledges along the jagged Tapeats wall near the river about midmorning. I dropped my pack and made my way down to the river and soaked the bandana my aunt had given me and wrapped it around my neck. We ate and hydrated and then moved on.

Eventually the trail parallels the river and brings you through some difficult walking on soft sand. It was along this path, meandering between large boulders, where the trail splits between two. One closer to the cliff walls, and the other closer to the river. It was also along here that the trials from the day before still impacted our day.

My Aunt Janet became very weak and dizzy at one point and needed to sit down. Of course, the family of three were far ahead of us. Jay and I were with Janet and attended to her. We had her sit on a rock and rest. I remembered that I had brought an umbrella and gave it to her for shade. We still had plenty of water on us since we had only been hiking about three hours at this point. It was almost noon, and already very warm. She was feeling the effects of being dehydrated from the day before. She hadn’t recovered and rehydrated enough since then and it was taking its toll.

I ran ahead to catch up to the others and let them know. They were resting underneath a tree across the drybed that led to the Palisades. I let them know what had happened and dropped my pack there and ran back to my aunt. She was feeling better by the time I got back there and we walked to the others at the Palisades. That was it for this day of hiking.

We decided to stay put at the Palisades for the rest of the day, find a camp spot, and continue on in the morning. It would only be another six miles the next day. This way Aunt Janet could recover. The only problem, we had the rest of the day with nothing else to do.

We walked the area and found a good clearing underneath the canopy of thick Mesquite trees and decided we would set up camp there. We went down to the river and cooled off, some of us by wetting our hats and shirts in the river, and others by lying in it. We filtered and refilled our water, ate snacks, hydrated, and took naps.

Everyone bored and taking naps.

Across the river from us was what Jack and Jay believed to be a portion of exposed Vishnu rock. It was black rock, if not very dark, and protruded at an angle. Besides taking naps and cooling ourselves in the river, the only really exciting events that happened were the parties of river rafters that came floating down our way. Large groups of them in very wide rafts that skimmed right over the rapids. and then groups of small, yellow rafts with about four people each, taking a little more caution maneuvering over the rapids.

Possibly Vishnu layer protruding at an angle on the right

Later in the day, two large rafts with about 15 – 20 people each, docked at a flat spot on the other side of the river from us. It was very wide at this point and the other bank was at least half a football’s field away, and they docked on the other side of the thicket of Mesquites on that side. After a while, after they had set up their camp spots and settled in, one by one, a few of their party would come down out of the trees and relieve themselves in the river across from us. They say it’s better to urinate directly in the river because it gets diluted, as opposed to on the ground in the nearby area to keep the smell and pests down. These people across the river from us would also strip down and bathe. I don’t think they knew we were there, or they just didn’t care.

That was it for the day. We did one last filter and refill and retreated to the camp spots in the the Mesquites to set up camp and cook dinner. I found a nice, cozy little clearing just big enough for my tent across the path from everyone else. It was very warm in there, even at night. The trees acted as an insulator, unfortunately, insulating only the heat. It was difficult to sleep that night.

Grand Canyon – Tanner and Beamer Trails: Day 1

Back in early May of 2018 I was lucky enough to get on a group permit to hike down into the Grand Canyon National Park for the first time. Over a period of six days we took the Tanner Trail to the Beamer Trail to the confluence of the Little Colorado.

The Tanner Trail is an approximately nine mile long trail on the east side of the canyon, starts at Lipan Point, and ends at Tanner Beach at the river. The Beamer Trail is approximately 9.5 miles and takes you north from Tanner Beach up the river to the confluence of the Little Colorado.

I had never actually been in the Grand Canyon until this trip. I had always just been one of those people who would drive up to the edge and peer into its depths from the South Rim, or from the North Rim while on hunting trips in Kaibab with my brothers. You can’t fully understand how grand this canyon is just by admiring it from the edge. From the rim, it’s just like looking at the world’s most epic painting. It’s hard to fathom just how deep it is (over a mile), and how far across it is to the other rim (approx. 18 miles), and how far it stretches to the east and west (277 miles).

Hiking down into the canyon lets you know just how immense this ancient geological formation really is, and just how small it can make you feel. I mean, the Tanner Trail is nine miles from the rim to the river. Down through all the layers and periods of rock formed over millions and millions of years. Nine miles through geological history! Sure, there are faster ways to get down there, like falling, but some of us want to live.

Day 1 – Tanner Trail
9 Miles
5/8/18

Tanner Trailhead. Left to right: Cedar, Jack, Butch, Janet, Jay.

I drove up to Flagstaff the night before and stayed at my aunt’s house. Early the next morning we drove to Mike and Ronda’s “The Place,” a local diner off Route 66, to meet the rest of our group for breakfast. Jay, his long-time friend, Jack, and Jack’s two kids, Butch and Cedar, met us there shortly after we had been seated and we spent the meal talking of hiking adventures and experiences. After breakfast, we took Highway 89 to the 64 through Cameron to the park entrance on the east side of the Canyon. We made a pit stop at Desert View to take advantage of the bathrooms since they would be the last plumbing we would see for a while.

We drove around to Lipan Point, parked our cars, and hit the trail about 9AM. Unfortunately, a late start for how warm it was. There is an elevation drop of 4,650 feet over that nine miles of the Tanner Trail, from 7,350 feet at Lipan Point to 2,700 at the Colorado. Not too bad of a grade compared to other parts of the Canyon.

The cool thing about hiking with this group was that Jay and Jack had extensive experience hiking in the Grand Canyon and stored a wealth of knowledge about the Canyon, like this cool mnemonic device Jay taught me:
Know The Canyon’s History Study Rocks Made By Time. Verstehen Sie?

K – Kaibab Formation
T – Toroweap Formation
C – Coconino Sandstone
H – Hermit Formation
S – Supai Group
R – Redwall Limestone
M – Muav Limestone
B – Bright Angel Shale
T – Tapeats Sandstone
V – Vishnu Schist

I added “Verstehen Sie.” It’s German for “Do you understand?” The Vishnu layer will make an appearance later in the trip. These are some of the layers, and groups of layers, you see exposed in the Canyon’s walls. By no means am I an expert in Geology, but it is a good tool to help you identify the layers of rock as you pass them.

The hike down was beautiful. Steep, at first, but the trail was in the cover of trees at that elevation and in the shade of Kaibab Formation cliffs on either side of us. However, all that cover and shade goes away once you clear that Kaibab cliff wall and the trail dumps you out somewhere at the bottom of the Toroweap level. From there on your exposure to sun increases drastically. The thing about hiking the Grand Canyon is that it’s nice and cool at the rims, and as you descend it gets warmer, on top of increasing temperatures as it gets later in the day. Even in early May, the temperatures down in the canyon can reach from the high 90s to low 100s.

Suffice to say, it became pretty dang warm.

We took a short break at a somewhat even spot where the east/west portion of the canyon was coming into view. Then we crossed over a spine of trail that lead us over this ridge that was walled by huge square boulders facing the west just before dropping down in elevation again. The whole way down all I could think was that I was going to have to climb this on the way out. We weren’t even halfway to the river yet. We could see glimpses of the river at this point, glimmering in the sun. The tower of Desert View watching like a sentinel and becoming smaller and smaller as we descended.

We took turns carrying an extra gallon of water with us, and when the grade mellowed out we took refuge behind a giant boulder in a cluster of trees for a break and hid the gallon in a cavity underneath the boulder and put rocks in front of it so as not to be seen. This was to be our last bit of water on the way out on day six.

Did I mention it was warm?

A little after noon we took refuge underneath a haggard looking Colorado Pinyon somewhere between Coconino Sandstone and Hermit where we ate snacks, hydrated, relieved ourselves and chatted a bit. I produced my foldable pack chair, which is always a topic of conversation among other hikers. They usually can’t believe why I would bother carrying the extra weight, and I just laugh. It’s one of my most valuable and used pieces of equipment in my pack. Beats sitting on the ground like an animal.

After some time we geared up and hit the trail. The trail took us west from here, then pointed us north where we continued our descent down some switchbacks in unrelenting sun exposure. I think this was the point where things became challenging for us. The family of the group packed lighter and were quicker. They were far ahead down these switchbacks. I stayed with my aunt, and somehow we lost sight of our sixth man, Jay. He was behind us, and my aunt kept stopping and waiting for him to catch up.

Did I mention it was hot?

She yelled down to the family of three so they would wait for us and Jay. They looked back to us, then continued down the switchbacks and took refuge under a lonely tree on the peninsula of a canyon finger to wait in the shade. We stopped there in the middle of the trail and waited for a bit. My aunt even suggested I go back to look for him. I was not keen on the idea. The way I saw it, we needed to keep moving and get to the river as soon as possible since we were in constant exposure from the midday sun, it was hot, and we only had the water we carried in with us.

We finally saw him coming down the switchbacks towards us, so we moved on, catching up to the rest of the group underneath that lonely tree. When Jay finally caught up to us, it turned out he had stayed back to answer a call from nature, and then got off trail by following another trail that followed along one of the canyon walls. This little hangup caused some issues for the next few days. People in the group were getting heat exhaustion, and everyone was going through more of their water than they should have.

Other hikers had come and visited with us and gone by the time we finally got going from under that lone tree. The family of three were quickly out of sight as they hiked the rest of the way to the river at their own speed, and a good thing they did. We were all running low on water and the exposure to the sun was wearing on us. We only took a few more breaks up against Redwall and Muav Limestone cliff walls where there were slivers of shade. I still had about a liter of water left. My aunt had run out. She ended up drinking a tiny spray bottle of water she was carrying to spritz herself along the way.

The grade of the trail was finally tapering out when we got to the bottom of the Bright Angel Shale level. I was ahead of my aunt. Jay was ahead of us. The other three were already at the river. When we were close to the bottom, Cedar came up the trail to meet us. She was carrying a bottle of water for us and told us we didn’t have much further to go. I told her I was fine on water. Had about half a liter left. I was going to stay with my aunt until the bottom, but Cedar insisted she would keep her company and I could go ahead.

The trail brings you down through a thicket of mesquite trees at the river bottom, past the raised toilet of the outhouse, and down to the campsites. There was a dry creek bed that intersected with the river. This is where the rest of the group was. Butch was lying on his side in the shade and Jay and Jack were refilling on water from the river. We picked the campsite on the other side of the dry creek bed. I dropped my pack and stripped off my sweaty shirt and picked a spot for camping. Aunt Janet and Cedar arrived and we started sharing stories of the day. This is when we learned Butch was suffering from heat exhaustion and feeling nauseous, and I think everyone had run out of water except for me.

There was another group of people in one of the campsites on the other side of the dry creek bed across from us. A group from Rhode Island. They had been there since the day before and also had trouble with the heat coming down. One of them almost passed out on the trail and they had decided to set up camp and stay put for the rest of their trip there at Tanner Beach.

Did I mention the heat felt like the 5th circle of Hell?

I pitched my tent with looks of disbelief from the others. Apparently cowboy camping is the way to go with this group. They just set out tarps, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags. Keeping it simple. And here I was, attempting to pound aluminum stakes into the hard ground with a folding shovel, something I had to reevaluate for future trips.

I started on the arduous task of filtering water from the Colorado, which I learned on this trip there is a process to it. Usually, there is a lot of sediment in the river, so I had brought coffee filters to filter any large sediments when straining the water from one bottle to another. Then I would filter that water with my new Sawyer I bought just for this trip. Turned out, the brown, silty river water is seasonal, and we lucked out getting some pretty clear Spring water. However, even without the extra step of using the coffee filters, it was still a chore filtering six liters of water through a one liter squeeze pouch twice a day.

We eventually made dinner and settled down for the evening and planned on getting up early the next morning to get a good start. We still had 9.5 miles to get to the confluence, and we were hoping for a much easier day.

Soldier Pass

Soldier Pass
Red Rock Secret Mtn. Wilderness
4 Miles Roundtrip
4/10/18

Another hike I did back in April while my friend Eric was visiting from Seattle, and one I had been wanting to do for a long time. Only problem was, I didn’t know where exactly the feature was I really wanted to see on this trail. I had seen pictures of a cave? If you could call it that. A sliver of space between two rock walls, and the beginnings of an arch. Its location is not exactly widely shared within the hiking community, and for good reason, so all I knew was that it was somewhere off Soldier Pass. Just had to look for certain features.

In order to hike in the Red Rock Wilderness you need to get a pass, which we picked up at a gas station on the way through Sedona. If I remember right, it was only $5. Once you get to the trailhead, you have to park in the designated parking area, which is right behind a neighborhood. You’re not allowed to park down any of the neighborhood streets, and the small parking lot was full. We got lucky and were able to to get a space as a few hikers were leaving. Make sure to go early if you want to ensure you get a parking space. It’s a popular trailhead because it connects to other trails besides Soldier Pass.

Not far from the trailhead you arrive at Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole after the trail dips you down through some trees and back up to the sinkhole. It’s just like you’d imagine a sinkhole to look like, except it was the cool, red, sandstone of Sedona. We took a few pictures, then carried on.

Beware! Pickpockets and loose rocks!

Continue around to the left of the sinkhole to follow Soldier Pass trail. The trail takes you through more trees and brings you to Seven Sacred Pools. It’s a large, open area of red rock (go figure) and there were those Pink Jeeps you see all over Sedona parked about and their customers wandering around the area. The pools themselves were actually pretty cool. It was a cascade of these pools that had been formed by running water over the years. The first pool at the top was small, the size of a mixing bowl, and each pool after that was slightly lower down the rocks and slightly bigger. The very last hole was at the bottom in the draw and was mostly dry. I’m sure it would be a better sight after a hard rain.

Pictured: Four of the Seven Sacred Pools

From the Seven Sacred Pools, we followed the Soldier Pass trail back into the forest of Juniper, Oak, and pine as the trail brought us down into the valley between the red canyon rocks. The hike is very pleasant as it meanders through this forest and the trees provide plenty of shade. A little over a mile, the trail intersects the end of the Jeep tour doubletrack, and a little further on past that is the boundary of the wilderness area. The trail forks near the wilderness sign, but it was easy to stay on the Soldier Pass trail since the other trail was blocked off by a line of rocks and tree branches. I’ve seen that a lot on the AZT. Trail maintenance will do that at portions of the trail that are no longer to be used and to keep hikers on the new path.

Now entering the Super Secret Mountain Wilderness.

After that point, the trail gradually climbs up in elevation until you make it to Brins Mesa. The total elevation gain from start to finish is about 500 feet. Cake compared to what we had done at Flatiron two days prior. The trail brings you up out of the shade of the forest, but also into higher ground for better views. The trail gets steeper as you near the mesa and then flattens out into large steps of rock covered in what looked like a rock garden.

Looking back on the valley and towards Sedona.

We hung out there for a bit while I checked where we were supposed to go on my GPS, which was sending us back into thick forest on a very faint trail. The clear path continued up the mesa and on to Brins Mesa trail, but this had been an easy hike so far and we wanted a little more adventure and we had the time. So we took the path less travelled into the thick brush and forest.Ā  I’m glad we took the detour.

“Rock garden” nearing the top of the trail.

We trudged through the brush and pointy oak leaves. This was clearly an old trail that lead us back under the cover of trees. We came to a makeshift bridge of weathered logs laid across a ditch. It looked so unstable we just walked around it and through the ditch. Shortly after that, as we were walking and talking, we heard something rustling in the brush across from us. We walked a few feet forward and then we could see them. Three Javelina milling about in a small clearing behind a ring of brush that separated us and them. One of them laid in the dirt munching on the pad of a prickly pear cactus and stared at us. We kept quiet and a healthy distance. I think they were young due to their size, so also kept an eye out for the mother too. We watched them for a moment longer then carried on.

It was difficult to get a clear picture of the Javelina.

The faint trail came to an indiscernible end. We ended up cutting through raw bush, intersecting with game trails, and following those until we saw a clearing that happened to be a an old forest road. We followed the old road northeast for a bit before we stopped underneath a shade tree for a short snack break, then carried on. It wasn’t long before the old road intersected with Brins Mesa trail and headed east. The trail took us out of the shade and along the crest of a canyon. To the north of us was another valley of Juniper and oak trees, and more red rock and canyon walls beyond that. The trail took us in a big loop and back to where the official Soldier Pass intersected with Brins Mesa, the trail we were supposed to take before we went off on our own adventure. But, it was a good thing to go off the beaten path, because if we hadn’t, we would not have seen the Javelina.

We headed south on Soldier Pass, back the way we came, after we stopped for another break underneath a shady Juniper at the peak with the flat rock garden. We chatted with a few other hikers who were coming up the path before descending back down into the valley between the canyon walls. We were determined to find the arch/cave I had seen so many pictures of, and getting to it was kind of a chore, but worth it. I’m not going to go into great detail of how to find it. It is kind of obvious when you’re out there, but I get the feeling it’s not a well known spot, and would not want to spoil it by advertising it. Sort of. Really, it’s not that hard to find.

Basically, Eric and I tried cutting across the valley at a few points from the trail to the canyon wall but didn’t get far as there was no clear path and the brush was too thick. Heading back, we eventually found the path that led up to the cave, and it just so happened to be the one we passed on the way in that we thought was a detour. That path took us up out of the tree line and to the canyon wall with the cave.

It was one of the coolest destinations I’ve seen while hiking. Well worth the work to get there. It takes some effort climbing in between the rocks to get up inside the cave, but once inside, it’s fairly easy to move around. The way the light comes in through the hole over the arch and illuminates the red rock is brilliant. I could have spent all day there.

…ladies.

I can see why the serious hikers try to keep it a secret, if that’s what they’re indeed trying to do. It’s much more enjoyable without a lot of people around. We also went on a weekday, so that helped immensely. We had the whole place to ourselves. There was an old ammo can in there with notepads where people left their mark, along with a few coupons, tampons, and condoms. You know, the necessities. Otherwise, very clean, and clearly, the hiking community is trying to keep it that way.Ā  We don’t need a bunch of bros up there leaving beer cans.

We hung out there for a bit, soaking it all in, then we left. An easy walk back to the Jeep the same way we came in. Then it was a beautiful drive south on 89A through Cottonwood and Jerome to Prescott where we hit up Prescott Brewery and Superstition Meadery for victory burgers and drinks.

The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek

Another Saturday and another adventure. Someone I know suggested I hike Beaver Creek with Eko, so he could get his paws wet. I tried looking up Beaver Creek trails, and something called The Crack came up. Of course I had to seek it out. I couldn’t pass up something called The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek.

All joking aside, this was actually a pretty good hike. It was approximately 7 miles in and out via the Bell Trail #13. There is very little tree coverage to provide shade along this trail that runs parallel to Wet Beaver Creek. Eko and I got there and started hiking about 11:30, so it was a sunny and hot hike in. I wore a good hat and applied thick amounts of sunscreen before hitting the trail, but poor Eko had a hard time out there. Luckily, there are little offshoot trails that lead down to the creek along the way, where there are thick coverage of Cottonwoods and cool water.

You start out at about 3870 feet in elevation and gradually climb up. At about 2.5 miles in, you hit a steep grade and peak at about 4190 feet, then descend down to the creek bed. I found this to be a very easy hike and did it in my Keens. If you’re not much of a hiker, this might be difficult for you. The only thing I found difficult was the exposure to the Sun, and with that, I was mostly worried about Eko.

It took us about two hours to get down to the creek proper that leads to The Crack. It was slow going with Eko after having to stop for frequent water breaks. If you do this hike, bring plenty of water, especially if you have a dog. He drank the majority of our water supply. I think I sipped on about half a liter the whole time, but he easily drank two liters. That wasn’t including whatever he lapped out of the creek.

At the Y where the trail branches off to Weir Trail, I tried taking Eko down one of the offshoot trails down to the creek. One could definitely get down to the creek this way, but not Eko. There was a ledge I was able to scramble down approximately six feet high. I tried to grab him so I could lower him down, but he wasn’t having any of that. So I climbed back up and we walked back to Bell Trail. Once we got back to the Y, I saw a deer on the hillside near the trail, a little White Tail. It was gray and scrawny. Probably a fawn. Eko didn’t see it, but was walking in its direction and scared it away. I was able to snap a few pictures.

The deer is right above the center post.

Once we got to the creek bed the trail circled down and around this large, flat slab of red sandstone high over the edge of the creek. We followed the path around it to a sandy patch where there was smooth access to the water. Eko stood at the edge and drank. It was clean and clear and I only saw algae in a few places and kept him from drinking there. I walked out into the water and it felt pretty much amazing on my hot, dusty feet. Once he saw I could walk out in the water, he followed, and from then on was good with going in and out of the water.

There were so many people down there, and all along the trail. On the way in I passed countless amounts of people who were on their way out. Where we stopped and were walking around in the cold creek wasn’t The Crack, so I asked one of the many people I kept seeing coming from down the creek. She told me a little further up was The Crack and that’s where all the people were jumping from the rocks. Where she pointed was up the creek, past large river rocks and a thick patch of Cottonwoods. I could see a few people in brightly colored swim shorts through the trees.

I took pictures, ate trail mix, and drank water before we moved down to The Crack. There was a dry path on the other side of the large, flat slab of stone, but the drop down was too high for Eko. So we took the wet path around the slab through the creek. The water level came up just above my knees at its deepest. Eko had to get a little more wet than he wanted because the water came up to his neck. For a Lab, he really doesn’t like water. Luckily for him, it was just a short walk through the water. We then walked over and around the large river rocks and through the Cottonwoods to The Crack.

 

Through the creek, around the rock, and through the trees, the Wet Beaver Crack you will see.

The Crack is a deep swimming hole surrounded by sheer red cliffs and shelves of overhanging rocks where people were jumping off into the cold water. There was a younger couple there with a German Shepherd puppy. I asked if it was ok if Eko met him, and they were cool with it. Eko sniffed at him for a little bit, then got bored and walked out into the water.

 

The Crack

We hung out at The Crack for a bit. I took pictures and Eko wandered around to all of the people getting attention. To get to the top of the shelves where people were jumping from, you had to climb up these tall rock steps. I got up the first one and it was angled enough that Eko could scramble up to me. But the second one was too high for him to climb so I lifted him up there. After that he was ok to climb the rest of the way.

Once up there, you can walk around to the other side of “the crack”, the narrow point in the creek between the walls. There were even more people on that side. They had folding chairs and were laying out on beach towels and had a radio playing. Way too much fun for my liking. I want solitude as much as possible. Plus, all these strangers are now in my scenic pictures.

A view of The Crack from the other side.

After exploring for a little bit up there I decided to get back so I could get some food. Eko and I climbed down, I retrieved our stuff at the bottom, and we headed out. The hike out was pretty much uneventful. Saw a lot of big groups of college aged kids going in as we were leaving. Eko would get ahead of me and start following other groups of people who were ahead of us. Then he’d stop and look back and come back to me. He did that a few times.

Eko following some strangers.

A little less than a mile from the parking lot, we took a detour down one of the little trails leading to the creek. I’m glad we did because it was awesome. The water was clean and clear and flowing over these long, flat, red rocks that stretched across the width of the creek. It was beautiful. They cascaded down over three stages. Eko was walking through the water, following along with me as we explored and took pictures. There were a few deep spots he wasn’t expecting and fell in up to his neck. He didn’t like that very much.

After that, we got back onto Trail 13 and made it back to the car. We were about 15 minutes away from Sedona so I looked up a place where I could get a burger and a beer and that was also dog friendly. I ended up going to Spoke and Wheel, which is in the same upscale complex as Oak Creek Brewery. Eko and I had dinner on the patio there, where, again, he was very popular and the other patrons wanted to come say hi to him. I had the cheeseburger and a Lumberyard Hefeweizen, and got just a plain burger patty for Eko. Then we headed home.

Overall, it was a pretty good hike. Not very difficult, but still a good stretch to get exercise and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Poor Eko slept the whole way home, and all through the night, he was so tired. His paws are a little beat up and he’s limping a bit, but I’m glad I took him. He’s a good hiking buddy.

Sycamore Canyon: Just a Taste

I recently took the time to go up to Sycamore Canyon, which I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve heard great things about it. I was not disappointed, and I didn’t even hike that much of the lush canyon. Due to time constraints, we only hiked approximately 2.5 miles (in and out) to Summers Spring of Parsons Trail, and just getting a glimpse of that little bit has made me want to go back and hike the full length of the 11-something miles.

Just north of Cottonwood and Clarkdale, the trailhead is accessible from Forest Road 131 in the Verde Valley. You will need a vehicle with some ground clearance for this road. All wheel or 4 wheel drive isn’t a must, but helpful.

We caught great weather, and it was nice and green along the creek at the bottom of the canyon. There wasn’t much strenuous climbing over obstacles, or a lot of up and down, but you will have to cross the creek at various points.

It was so much fun, and I can’t wait to go back for the rest.