Grand Canyon: Tuckup Trace
Tuckup "Trail"/ 150-Mile / Esplanade / Corkscrew Spring / Little Joe and Hotel Spring
miles; ERM =
 
April 14 - 21, 2017
Text © copyright by Rob; and Photos © copyright by Rob Jones

Ben lilts past Esplanade potholes, Day 2
Ben lilts past Esplanade potholes, Day 2
(Click the image for the full-size image)
Boysag Point and Prince's Plume, Day 2
Boysag Point and Prince's Plume, Day 2
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Bob in Corkscrew Spring Canyon, Day 3
Bob in Corkscrew Spring Canyon, Day 3
(Click the image for the full-size image)
A Speckled Rattlesnake chokes down a Chuckwalla, Day 3
A Speckled Rattlesnake chokes down a Chuckwalla, Day 3
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Bob and Ben stroll the Esplanade, Day 1
Bob and Ben stroll the Esplanade, Day 1
(Click the image for the full-size image)
Sunrise in Hotel Spring Canyon, Day 7
Sunrise in Hotel Spring Canyon, Day 7
(Click the image for the full-size image)

Movie 1  Chuckwalla Choke, 11mb
Movie 1 Chuckwalla Choke, 11mb
(Click the image to see the short video)

Map - Tuckup Trace
Map - Tuckup Trace
(Click the image to see the map)

Report under construction.

miles; ERM =

Co-Adventurers: Bob Bordasch and Ben Mahlab

camera: Panasonic DMC-ZS19

     ERM = Energy Required Miles. A mile is added for every 500' elevation gain or loss. It's a very serviceable method of estimating energy required miles. ERM was initially used in Trails of the Tetons (long out of print) by Paul Petzold, founder of NOLS. It's a wonderfully useful concept and application. Add one mile for each 500' up AND down to distance = ERM. I use ERMs to calculate what the actual day is like. It's a very serviceable method of estimating energy required miles. Remember, however, that the ERMs are estimates because they depend on GPS satellite coverage and math functions.
     Using ERMs does not account for the 'texture' of the route or trail - that is, rocky, boulders, no trail, slimy mud, etc., yet does help approximate the route.

     Preliminary: All who wander may be lost.
     Starting out from Kanab, Utah, the long dirt drive ensues. Dust, more dust. Some roads are on the ground yet not on the map while others are on the map but not on the ground. Confusion and consternation are options. The quality of road surface deteriorates as Bob drives toward The Canyon, and we cannot find nonexistent roads to the twilight, and we camp. Initially, the wind makes it cold as stars pop. Chilly night.

     Day 1: Hotel Grand Canyon: 4.76 miles; ERM = 9.
     Down we slide on the vestiges of an old horse trail through the Kaibab, Toroweap, and Coconino layers, tediously descending to Buckhorn Spring, where we find a tiny oasis supported by a slip of a seep. Canyon Tree Frog, hummingbird, spiny lizard share the oasis. Glorious.
     I am calling this route the Tuckup Trace because there is nary a trace of it anywhere, except remnants of the drop from rim to Buckhorn Spring. I suspect what happened is that the historic cow people and others take the contour tour approach - weaving around the canyon heads as efficiently as possible, avoiding dramatic elevation changes. Most of the hydra heads piercing the Esplanade don't really allow cutting through the canyons anyway - barrier cliff bands abound. All the same, there are occasional traces of the Tuckup. The route may seem obvious, yet it is difficult to see many of the intruding canyons as one scans across the Esplanade, suggesting that keeping track of one's position on a good map is useful indeed. Bob and Ben provide numerous insightful course corrections.
     On the Esplanade, whence we go up to it from the 150-mile creekbed and contour atop this walkway through and around side canyons until finally dropping into and working our way down to Hotel Spring. Hotel Grand Canyon. Bob performs his usual excellent navigation on the trace. Water courses through the slickrock sluicebox and Canyon Tree Frogs chortle as the air cools and it's night far too early. Our narrow slice of desert sky is crowded with billions and billions of stars. Bats ply the crepuscular.

photos day1

     Day 2: Pothole Promenade: To the froggy potholes: 8.8 miles; ERM = 13.
     A salmon pink sunrise paints the blocky Esplanade Sandstone as morning arrives in Hotel Spring Canyon. Excellent. It's up and out onto the top of the Esplanade and into the low angle light of The Canyon. Nary a human footprint sullies the cryptobiotic soil, which is developed enough to resemble the pleated surface of a laureate's brain. A lithic field appears along with a racer snake who blinks at me from under a blackbrush. Ben and I explore the field as Bob surges ahead on the contour of the Tuckup Trace. Bits of scrapers and broken arrow points are visible, most sharp enough to use to trim your beard. The base rock appears to be a chert, a rock not in local evidence and probably toted here during hunting or foraging trips.
     Now, we're beyond Boysag Point, lounging in the deep shade of a towering Coconino Sandstone boulder and enjoying lunch. Farther along, we find a series of delightful potholes partially filled with desert water. Reassuring. Peeling off our route and relaxing under an overhang seems like the sensible thing to do before continuing on the trace of the Tuckup. Mostly, there is no trail, no trace, no Tuckup Trace or trace of Tuckup.
     On we hike, occasionally imagining a trace of the Tuckup in the torrid feeling solar load.
     Some of the sidecanyons protrude nearly to the foot of the cliff slope, making the route sweep wide. Out on a point between canyons, I hear the sheepish sounds of froggies. And a good place to camp not far from another deeply drilled set of precious potholes. Bob notes that it may be the clay lining the bottom of these potholes that helps retain water after the other holes and canyon beds are dry.

photos day2

     Day 3: Corkscrewing Steck's Picto Camp. Chuckwalla Choke: 6.5 miles, 3 to camp, 3.5 to water; ERM = 11.
     Ahhh, the boots are off in the deep shade of the overhang, surrounded by lithic chips, a few cowboy artifacts, a small picto panel on the roof, and lots of dust. Superb. It appears that the picto panel has been diminished through flaking off of the rock. A bit of a disappointment.
     Out in the full sun, a plethora of flowers wave in a slight breeze. Mariposa Lily, several kinds of cactus, phlox, globe mallow, banana yucca, primrose, blackbrush, mormon tea, prince's plume, Four O'Clock, Indian Paintbrush, and even larkspur. Lovely. Bob and Ben discuss how one's experience of something, anything, changes through the act of naming it. So much remains unnamed on the Tuckup Trace that the experience has an original and pristine quality to it.
     Corkscrewing to Cork Spring is laborious and circuitous and nearly canyoneering. Down one canyon, contour above a pour-off to another canyon, sliding off slickrock into gamble oak, down, boulder hopping and climbing. A tiny pool. Stagnant. More bouldering. Our reward is a refreshing slide of water bordered by maidenhair ferns. Crucial. Filling 6 to 8 liters each, we decide to exit the spring canyon more directly from the spring, using the West arm, which results in lots of creeping the contour on the Tuckup Trace back to camp. Yet the canyon clambering (West arm) is non-technical and straightforward. Around an endless 5 heads of tributaries. Argh. It's three and a half miles of slow going.
     The A Speckled Rattlesnake, which I initially misidentified as a GC Pink, chokes down the Chuckwalla, or tries to. Or maybe is choking on the Chuckwalla? A feeble shake of the rattle alerts Ben to the snake's plight, or maybe delight. It's a big snake, yet the Chuckwalla is also large, and appears to have inflated himself prior to being seized by the snake.
     Marveling at the glutinous snake, we stumble back to camp as the sunset glow spreads across the Esplanade.

photos day3

     Day 4: Fond Froggy Return: 3.5 miles; ERM = 6.
     An orange glowing sunrise spreads across the patchwork of Esplanade. It's Day 4 on the Tuckup Trace. Not wanting to risk the improbability of future water sources and honestly evaluating our pace around the myriad of canyon hydra heads, we reluctantly reverse course and walk back toward the froggy potholes.
     Wind decreases the glory of a bucket bath. Then it's on into the afternoon, lounging under a wood rat overhang sipping mango green tea and discussing the meaning of life.
     The solitary natural quiet of the Tuckup Trace continues. There are few fly-overs, no air tour terrorists, no mass of hikers, no hikers at all.
     Mount Sinyella collects the last of the local sunset rays as lenticular clouds saucer across the sky and a bright planet is the first celestial body to appear.

photos day4

     Day 5: Pothole Promenade; Blacktail Buzzworm. To Pothole #1: 3.6 miles; ERM = 6.
     The slanted sun illuminates the nuts and bolts of the Supai level, backed by the distant hulk of Mount Sinyella. It's Day 5 on the Tuckup Trace. And a slow start it is today, as we debate what could possibly convince someone to vote for a hate-filled, uninformed, incurious, impulsive, oligarchic, selfish, narcissistic, braggart who takes no responsibility for their lies and sins and proudly assaults women and scientists and people of knowledge. I suppose that one conclusion is that Americans want to blame others rather than take responsibility for their future, leaving decisions to the least qualified bamboozler in chief.
     Again, we are on the Trace, around an assortment of canyon heads to the first potholes. Bob encounters another rattlesnake, this time not a Speckled Rattlesnake . It's a Blacktail Buzzworm. At first, I thought Mojave Rattlesnake, then Diamondback, eventually settling on Blacktail. Sluggishly, the snake slithers from sun to shade. He or she is a gorgeous slithering reptilian.
     As we rest under a narrow overhang, I notice a tick lightlegging across my pants. Yikes. Now I can feel ticks everywhere; in my hair, on my back, crawling around on the neck, in every crack and cranny of my rumpled skin. Argh. Back to the Trace.
     We soon arrive at Pothole #1 and find a shade rock for lunch and lounging. The wind is now screaming, making it difficult to imagine a bath without a chill or losing things over the edge.
     A shade and windbreak rock provides a location for a short nap. Then, it's off to find a series of overhangs to get out of the gale and in the event that the gathering cumulonimbus send rain. My rabbit hole is secure, yet I wonder about the population of scorpions.
     It's an occasionally blustery night, and we're again surrounded by natural quiet. The Tuckup Trace is very quiet; generally free of air tour terrorists and other corporate welfare artists, stealing public resources for their immoral amoral gain while saddling the public with noise, pollution, and global warming. Horrid. Yet it's quiet on the Tuckup Trace and we've seen almost no sign of others, and no others at all.

photos day5

Movie: The River from the Silver Bridge, 19mb, day 5
Movie: The River from the Silver Bridge, 19mb, day 5
(Click the image to see the short video)

     Day 6: Hotel Reunion. To Hotel Spring Canyon: 5.2 miles; ERM = 8.5.
     The Finch pair flitter into our lunch #1 break overhang and nearly onto Ben's head. Darling lovers? Maybe, and there is a nest of tiny eggs hidden in a plant hanging from the top of the overhang. Amazing. We quickly wrap-up lunch and return the overhang to the Finches.
     The robin egg blue sky sets a fine backdrop for Boysag Point. We weave partly around yet another hydra head of canyons on the return jaunt to Hotel Spring. Then lunch #2.
     The walking is easier most of today because there are not as many canyons to circumnavigate. Five miles and we drop into the sluice box that is Hotel Spring Canyon, where it's time for a bath and some laundry.
     An orzo dinner is enjoyed as the last of the light fades salmon from the bulbous Esplanade rim 200+ feet above.
     It's a pleasant and enjoyable evening on the polished Esplanade Sandstone.
     Later, in bed, I hear what I assume is a breeze rippling the groundsheet. Wrong, it's a Canyon Tree Frog hopping toward the tadpole pools to sing with his kin. And sing they do, chortling and baa-ing like Bighorn Sheep.

photos day6

     Day 7: Little Joe: 1 mile; ERM = 1.2. Explore for 3 miles.
     Reflections on the tadpole pools, refracting warm hues to you.
     Delightful. Bats and Sphinx Moths float and dodge. It's an introspective morning in The Canyon.
     A Raven drifts down canyon, thoroughly inspecting us and our gear. The trickle of water is now flowing between pools in Hotel Spring canyon, not hindered by high rates of evaporation; something that the Lake Foul cheerleaders fail to observe or admit, evaporation. Of course, the cheerleaders also ignore the exponential human population growth, global warming, extant over-allocation of most water sources on Eaarth, etc.
     We're strolling and exploring in the upper canyon, finding what might have been a cowboy camp or waypoint, when, Wow! Pictos! A Bighorn Sheep and suckling lamb, Yoweee. A striped pole of red and brown. An aggressive looking ungulate beast, more pole people.
     Down toward 150 Mile Canyon we roll, soon finding cowman-built horse ramps, including a zigzag down a steep slickrock drop to get around a water slide. Bits of barbed wire and ramp remnants mark the route to the bottom. Not far below we are at the intersection with 150 Mile Canyon. Nearby and upstream we locate Little Joe Spring.
     Exploring upcanyon, there are numerous difficult to see pictos, many in brown, some charcoal, and others white.
     Little Joe Spring is producing fine water and it's sad to note this last night of camping on the bare slickrock.

photos day7

     Day 8: Out of It: 3.5 miles; ERM = 8.
     The ancient wheelbarrow wheel still turns, yet grudgingly so. It's old enough to have a heavy iron wheel (no rubber) and has languished on the now marginal trail from Buckhorn Spring to the rim since the work was abandoned decades ago. After wind-walking from Little Joe Spring to Buckhorn Spring, and lounging near the trickle of Buckhorn water beneath a Cottonwood tree, we reluctantly begin the climb through the Hermit Shale, Coconino Sandstone, Toroweap Limestone, and the Kaibab Limestone. Up to the rim, out of The Canyon.
     Then, the gnarly and then bumpy web of roads across abused and cow burnt BLM public land back to the highway, to Fredonia, to Kanab for a well-deserved shower, and an Escobar (cafe) gorging. A fitting end to wandering the Tuckup Trace.

photos day8

Movie:  from Plateau Point, 15mb, day 7
Movie: from Plateau Point, 15mb, day 7
(Click the image to see the short video)

Links:

Other WV reports about the Grand Canyon:

Click here or on the Looking Lizard to go to all WV reports about The Grand Canyon

All Wilderness Vagabond trip reports about the Grand Canyon
Looking for All Wilderness Vagabond trip reports about the Grand Canyon?
Click the image to go to All WV reports about The Grand Canyon

Map:

Map - Tuckup Trace
Map - Tuckup Trace
(Click the image to see the map)

Related Links:

Bob's Grand Canyon Journals

Scenic Toilets of Inner Eaarth

the geology of the Grand Canyon by the NPS

Eaarth - Living on a fundamentally altered planet by Bill McKibben

More Truth Than Joke:

all dams are ugly
all dams are ugly
(Click the image for the full-size image)

a psychopath lies, surprise
a psychopath lies, surprise
(Click the image for the full-size image)

profits over life
profits over life
(Click the image for the full-size image)

war breaks out
war breaks out
(Click the image for the full-size image)

silly you, clean air is for the rich
silly you, clean air is for the rich
(Click the image for the full-size image)

trickle down economics, again
trickle down economics, again
(Click the image for the full-size image)

militants
militants
(Click the image for the full-size image)


Wild Vagabond Main   Trip Report Index   Caveat