The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lee's Ferry and Beyond

After a good night's sleep in the middle of Horseshoe Bend the group woke early and got busy making breakfast and packing up. By 8:30 am we were on the water headed for the take-out at Lee's Ferry. It was a little cloudy so the walls of the canyon weren't as spectacular as the day before but amazing none the less. The clouds ended up being a great benefit in keeping the temps relatively cool (75-80 deg f). It was roughly nine miles to Lee's Ferry but it went quick as the current pulled us along.

Oh yeah

On the way up Water Holes
Midway to the big rap

This is O'Neil and Young Tim's first taste for what they might encounter in the slots were going to in a couple days. AF can't help but down climb high-traction red rock 
 Approximately four miles from Lee's Ferry is the mouth of Water Holes Canyon. This canyon has been gnawing at me for a while as a canyoneering route and I wanted to go see it from the bottom to get a better idea of what to expect. From what I have been told/deciphered,  the canyon is dangerous and many people have been rescued form it. The crux consists of a 440' rap that is done in two parts and involves a hanging belay station. This doesn't sound so bad but "the rope eating crack" has been known to do just that, and strands the rappelling victim several hundred feet above the ground. I talked to a group that has done it before and said it was "no problem". The National Park Ranger we talked to later that day said he has rescued quite a few people including a ranger performing a rescue. Despite the "unknown" of this route I still want to do it, but just need more info so I can descend it safely some time in the future. On the other hand the walk up canyon was rewarding and beautiful.
The big rap and the rope eating crack lie within the V-notch in the sky before us. We cant actually get up close due to a short 30-40 ' drop that blocks our way 

Desert Flora
Leaving Lee's Ferry.

Old relic of the ferry, for more info on the area go here

Spencer Trail

Top of Spencer Trail

 After reaching our take-out we stopped for a lunch break, and to reshuffle our gear for the long hike up the Spencer Trail and into the desert beyond. The Spencer Trail doesn't mess around, it gains roughly 1700 feet in a matter of two miles, mostly up a scree slope. A.F. described it as "Pleasant". Once on top we took out the GPS to get a rough idea of where we left our bikes. I really don't like GPS, but this time I was happy to have it. Onward into the desert we marched through sand and rocks, around small stone outcroppings and all manner of cacti and pointy vegetation. We picked up a road that eventually led us right to the hidden bikes. Navigation was really quite simple, having left the bikes near the only power line in the area, the logical choice was to find it and follow it. The hike was a little over seven miles,with the cloud cover and cooler than normal desert temps it only felt like six and a half.  :)
The canyon in the background is what we just paddled through

3-4 miles of this

Getting ready for the ride back to the van

Spirits were way up when we could actually ride our bikes instead of pushing them

This was the end of the line, the van was a couple miles away on a fast downhill. This gate across the old highway was  the thorn in our side that had us walking and driving all over hell the previous day for the bike drop
 Getting to the bikes was a good feeling, we were going to make the loop! Having made-up this route 1500 miles away, via the internet, incomplete maps, and hearsay, and not previewing any of it other than a out the window of a truck passing through Page AZ, was a damn good feeling. I didn't want to let my friends down, and as we cruised the last ten or so miles back to Page, I knew I didn't. We arrived back at the van around dark, completely satisfied with our trek. We took time to reassemble and put away gear in the fading light before heading into town for some dinner. The last two days were so action packed they seemed to last a week, but we were just getting started. After dinner I drove on into the night until 3am to get us set up for the next round.
Using the last bits of precious light to reorganize for the next day

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