Roving The Happy Horsethief and Bodacious Butte Fault:
Backpacking the Butte Fault Route / Nankoweap to Bright Angel / Horsethief Trail / Nankoweap / Kwagunt / Malgosa / Awatubi / 60-mile / Carbon / Lava / Unkar / Vishnu/ Clear Creek
 

April 15 - 25, 2013

Text © copyright by Rob Jones and Photos © copyright by Rob

Nankoweap - ruin in foreground - Day 2
Nankoweap - ruin in foreground - Day 2
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Bill in lower Lava Canyon - Day 4
Bill in lower Lava Canyon - Day 4
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Colorado River from Lava Beach - Day 4
Colorado River from Lava Beach - Day 4
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Chris at Juno Ruin - Day 5
Chris at Juno Ruin - Day 5
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pano day 8 - Hall butte to Angels Gate to Whoton Throne - scroll L-R to view it 
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pano day 8 - Hall butte to Angels Gate to Whoton Throne - scroll L-R to view it all (4222 x 900 pixels, 1.5mb)
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(There are - photos embedded in the trip narrative.)

Co-Adventurers: Bill Ferris and part with Chris Forsyth. Thanks to Dennis Foster for the shuttle.

Bill's report about the Bodacious Butte Fault epic: Bill has previously hiked and written about this route. He has also posted a very detailed report about the current trip.

You can find Bill's report and superb photos here (click here)

Bodacious Blatant, remarkable, audacious, impressive, or attractive.
     As you can tell from the wide-spectrum definition, this American word is one of those wide-ranging superlatives to which speakers turn when they want to say that some quality is present in large degree; that quality might be unreasonableness, impressiveness, insolence, or (most recently) female attraction, specifically big breasts. This last meaning seems to have become widely known in the middle 1980s after it was employed in the film An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982. Another film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure of 1989, contributed to its growing nationwide popularity.
     As a result, many people would guess the word is modern, but the earliest record (actually of the adverb bodaciously, which appeared as body-aciously) is from as long ago as 1832. The adjective is known from the 1840s, often as bowdacious in the early years. This leads lexicographers to think that both it and the adverb are from a English West Country dialect form, written as boldacious or bowldacious, which was probably an amalgam of bold and audacious.

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.
     Yet, ERMs do not account for the texture of the topography. This route is tough going, there is no trail between Nankoweap Creek and the Clear Creek Trail, none.

Total trip - (per my GPS) of 78 miles and total ERM = 163, indicating an immense amount of elevation gained and lost.

Click here to go to our GPS route backpacking the Horsethief and Bodacious Butte Fault Route, 2013. It will appear as a Google map on a USGS topo background. Change the scale of the map (the "+") to better see the route. Move around on the map with the 'hand.' click here to enjoy a full-screen view. Enjoy. Caution - do not use this map or gps track for navigating the Butte Fault Route. It can be a tricky place.

Click here to go to Bill Ferris' day-by-day and overview maps of our route. Bill used my GPS track and his mapping skills to construct these maps. An internal link references Bill's excellent report and his GC Adventure site. Caution - do not use these maps or gps track for navigating the Butte Fault Route. It can be a tricky place.

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

     Summary: Three of us hiked from Nankoweap to Bright Angel (South Rim via BA Trail). There is trail only at the start and end of this route. Be prepared for slow going, this is a more difficult route in the Grand Canyon.

     Nankoweap to BA to South Rim: Roving the Happy Horsethief and Bodacious Butte Fault Route (10 days)

     With camps at: Nankoweap, Kwagunt, 60-Mile, Lava (2), Unkar, Vishnu, Clear Creek, BA.

     Mini History - Walcott and the Nankoweap Trail: Dennis Foster has written about The Walcott Expedition, Deciphering the Grand Canyon Expedition of 1882-1883. Here's a link to his publication.

The Walcott Expedition, by Dennis Foster (click here)

     Prelim: Haboob to Nanko TH: Shuttle.
     The dust cloud swirls and obscures much of Hwy 89 as Dennis Foster drives Bill and me toward Bitter Springs and a rendezvous with a sandwich under the towering Vermilion Cliffs. Haboob. 60+ MPH gusts spreading garbage from poorly-covered transfer trucks across the Big Rez.
     On to Lower House Rock Valley Rd (8910) and a chilly and windy evening observing Saddle Mountain. Dust coats the inside and outside of the tent. It feels good to snuggle into the fluffy bag.
     Haboob = a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric gravity current. Those sardine can citizens of Phoenix know about the Haboob.

     Day 1: Windfall: To Nankoweap Creek. 10.5 miles; ERM = 27. Camp @ 3400'.
     The graupel drums off our hats and rain jackets, propelled by shrieking winds from the SW. It's cloudy, cool, and time to hike. Up to the FS/NPS boundary we climb, where Dennis breaks off to climb Saddle Mountain, then loop around to his truck. Bill and I continue onto the Nankoweap Trail buffeted by the raging wind. Around in the Supai layer, to Marion Point, to Tilted Mesa, now the Redwall Limestone. Then down. Dramatically. On rolley fractured Redwall Limestone. Windfall. Lots of down, in the wind, wind strong enough to spin me in the lose scree, leveraging the bulbous pack. Horrible ball bearing rocks of the Redwall and the layer below it. Complaining body parts.
     Ahh, the views, to Nankoweap Mesa and Butte, Kwagunt Butte, a range of others, poking up below the flying black clouds. And, only a few air tour terrorists today, chased from the sky by the galestorm. This may be the consolation prize - bad weather leads to natural quiet? An interesting prospect. Tired in Nanko - Bill and I decide to leave some petro exploring for the morning.
     The Cliffrose and cactus are blooming and the wind is choking down, now gasping. Mr. yellow submarine beetle has dug into the lose sand of this good camp.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 1 photos

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     Day 2: Cold Kwagunt : To Kwagunt Creek. 4.6 miles; ERM = 10.6. Camp @ 3300'.
     Black on red, artfully designed, corrugated, black on white, pottery shards abound. A corner of shattered metate. Smashed when moving day arrived? Wondrous. Petros on the boulder, pointing the route? Bill and I are exploring in Nankoweap prior to assaulting the ridge, to the pass below Nankoweap Butte and near the Butte Fault. Horsethief revisited?
     While taking a break just below the pass, I'm urged to put on my boots because the blasting wind is popping snow into the open boot tops. Argh. So much for enjoying a foot break. The gale force at the pass makes it difficult to breath, so we tuck around the left (LDC, looking down canyon) and drop off toward Kwagunt. It's a delightful geology tour to Kwagunt Creek because a local fault has uplifted rows of deposits, gold, green, chocolate colors, more.
     After setting up camp, we look up Kwagunt for more ruins, finding one small sample and a few shards. A break in the clouds and I dodge out near Kwagunt Creek for a quick bucket bath. We end the day with clear skies, cool temps, fairly calm winds and pumping/treating lots of water for tomorrow, then set an early, 4 a.m., wake-up. Yucca, cactus, cliffrose, mormon tea, mariposa, globe mallow, brittlebush, et. al. bloom in our big back yard. Lovely.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 2 photos

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     Day 3: Three Humps to 60: To 60-Mile, Malgosa, Awatubi, 60-Mile divides. 5.8 miles; ERM = 17. Camp @ 4200'.
     Dragging. And yet, there's another pass to surmount. Argh. Good thing it's not hot today - as the cold front continues. All the same, hauling extra water for a dry camp in 60-mile is laborious. And heavy. Bill is still smiling. GC times.
     We start off from Kwagunt with a total of about 8 liters each. Yikes, that's approximately 16 pounds of water weight. ! First, the Kwagunt-Malgosa divide. Followed by the Malgosa-Awatubi divide, and then lurching up the Awatubi-60-mile divide. And, finally down the rocky canyon to 60-mile. It's dry, with some alkaline seeps - where only some invasive tamarisk and some rye grass can make a living. A downy froth of alkali crystals bloom from the sand below the seeps.
     Today was a tough go, and without any vestige of trail. The last salmon light slips off the Awatubi Crest to the N and Chuar Butte to the S and my muscles and feet are way past ready for nighty-night. That, and it's cool.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 3 photos

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wgcbf-day3-1  Kwagunt morning.jpg (146037 bytes)

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wgcbf-day3-2  North rim view.jpg (141505 bytes)

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     Day 4: Carbon Cruise and Bistro. To The River at Lava: 7.1 miles; ERM = 13. Camp @ 2700'.
     The River rolls lustily as it fidgets through Lava Rapids. We're camped near some AZRA boaters, after enjoying a fine and deluxe meal with Dave Edwards, Clair, Jerry, Lorna (guides) and guests. Thanks all. Chris has arrived after hiking in the Tanner Trail and pack-rafting across the Colorado from Palisades to Lava beach. Welcome Chris.
     The day starts cold, near 30F in 60-mile and Bill and I shuffle about trying to stay warm and eat breakfast and pack for the day. Up over the next divide and into Carbon country we hike, occasionally following what we suspect are the tracks of the wily Bob Bordasch and group. It's a bit rugged in the upper section of Carbon, then a delightful cruise through colorful geology to the lower turn to Lava (just above the Carbon narrows), where we meet part of the AZRA group on a day hike.
     Wow, now we're actually on the first trail since Nankoweap, and we lilt over to and down Lava to The River, where the day has warmed to shorts temperatures. The River and thunder provide background so, so much more pleasing than the agitating disquiet of air tour terrorists.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 4 photos

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     Day 5: Leaping Lava. To Juno Ruin: 7.6 miles; ERM = 10.6. Camp @ 4400'.
     The multi-ported ruin rests under the Tapeats SS (sandstone) break, overlooking the rough terrain of upper Lava. Several rooms once complemented the remaining wall. The spring head spurts into life a couple of minutes walk down canyon. Juno Ruin. Perhaps named for Juno, queen of the gods and wife of the sky god, Jupiter. Juno Temple is in the area. Of course, this is a modern name, and we can only speculate what the ancient Pueblo People called this area.
     The spring starts Lava Creek, suddenly. It's after 9 p.m. as I write notes in the tent, hiding from marauding bugs and a cool breeze. It's been a more laborious leap of Lava, several hundred times, more difficult than expected. This was predicted to be the "easy" day. The lower stretch, to Still Spring, was kind. An active hummingbird nest, coffee mill (perhaps for milling grain for the still?), and barrel hoops decorate the Still Spring area. And, here we enjoy beer and Fritos that Chris brought in last night. A fitting toast to the continuance of the trek.
     The day starts with the sounding of a conch shell signaling breakfast with the AZRA boaters. Breakfast burrito! Yum. Then the hot walk up Lava, through burgundy Dox SS and other delightful layers.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 5 photos

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     Day 6: Ugg to Unkar; under an Unkar Sky: 6.7 miles; ERM = 16. Camp @ 3500'.
     One foot in space and one slowly sliding down, down the beyond the angle of repose slope and in some oak brush, I'm struggling up the ugg to the divide into Unkar. I can hear Bill and Chris, also thrashing about. Tough going. Nearly four hours to get from camp below Juno Ruin to the divide. Ugg. We rest and enjoy a well-earned lunch break in the pygmy forest (Pinyon-Juniper) of the divide, where we enjoy the shade, the views.
     After lunch, down, rock-hopping for the first stretch. Just when the hiking improves, we're forced over the Tapeats SS, around a pour-off, and treacherously down a sharp, sliding rock hillside back to the streambed. Now, it's more of a cruise, yet I'm very tired. A distant view of Angel's Window surprises me. Passing the route to Vishnu, we look for water, continuing down Unkar. Cottonwoods beckon, yet there's no surface water. Onward, ugg. Finally, somewhat over a mile, a trickle. Hurrah. No more than a trickle, and this for only a few yards, yet life is good.
     Lovely naked red Dox SS complements camp. There are few places to camp, however. Bill and Chris find spots on the slickrock and I find one among the mesquite. I feel salty. A bucket bath helps. Tired. Bill and I drink a mango peach tea chaser as froggies begin to trill and the first stars pop in the full moon light. Sitting on a Dox SS recliner, the night unfolds as crepuscular creatures close it down for the night. There, we three enjoy a camaraderie of Canyon kinship, saying little, watching the Unkar sky.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 6 photos

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wgcbf-day6-4  view to Juno from saddle.jpg (547398 bytes)

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wgcbf-day6-5  Bill down from divide.jpg (462700 bytes)

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     Day 7: Very Vishnu. To Vishnu overhang camp: 10 miles (estimated); ERM = 16 (estimated). Camp @ 4000'.
     It's well past dark in the Vishnu overhang camp, and the wind throbs through the quartzite narrows. A thin slip of sky allows the nearly full moon to cast a glow on a twist of wall down canyon. Canyon Tree Frogs chortle and bahh for mates.
     We start out from Unkar, first walking gravel, then boulders, then boulder-hopping, then climbing Redwall, and finally to the saddle. We explore, on the top of the Redwall layer, up the North tributary of Vishnu and learn there is no way down. Back to the drainage below the saddle and boulder down it to the base of the Redwall, then on the Redwall break to above the N tributary, and from there down a vicious Vishnu scree of rotten Redwall and such. Then, hopping and boulder walking to the quartzite slot, where the glide of this terrain is deluxe. Tired. Sore knees and shoulders - lots of time carrying the pack today. Water appears. Cattails. Then, a flow from the West and then the well obscured overhang. Not large, but enough for 3 tents. It's well past local sunset and time to throw together camp.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 7 photos

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wgcbf-day7-1  Unkar view.jpg (391028 bytes)

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     Day 8: Clear to Hell Gate: 5.7 miles; ERM = 14. Camp @ 3500'.
     The Redwall ledges below Angel's Gate are hell. Rotten limestone, down climbing rather than scrambling. Should it be renamed "Hell's Gate?"
     Leaving the overhang camp, we climb stair steps of quartzite past more water and pollywogs. Heading for Hall Butte-Woton's Throne gap, the hillside is steep and lose. The gap, however is easy. Then, the long contour over to Hell's Gate and finally the slow down into the East arm of Clear Creek.
     A break in the Tapeats SS-Shinumo Quartzite grants access to Clear Creek and its gorgeous Tapeats narrows. We enter Clear Creek below the Tapeats SS pour-off, a definite stopper. Now in Clear Creek, Bill points out a large agave roasting pit and some surface ruins on the bench above the pit.
     Now, fording Clear Creek to the foot of the trail camp, I muse that my knees and other parts are exhausted from rolling, scrambling, bushwhacking, climbing, steeply climbing and descending, rock-hopping and very occasionally hiking the Bodacious Butte Fault Route.
     Turkey Vultures teeter on dihedral wings, eyeing us for a future meal. Or, perhaps they can smell us, and wonder about our "use by" date. (Turkey Vultures are among the few birds that have a sense of smell. Condors do not, they are more visual creatures.) At Clear Creek camp, we encounter Jeff and Danny, who are contemplating a butte adventure over to the North Kaibab. Jeff is a friend from the GCHBA (Grand Canyon Hiker and Backpacker Assoc.) site.
     Cool air floods down Clear Creek Canyon and the roll of the creek speeds sleep.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 8 photos

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wgcbf-day8-1  Starting out from Vishnu.jpg (270246 bytes)

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     Day 9: The Great Unconformity. To Bright Angel (BA) Camp: 9.9 miles; ERM = 18. Camp @ 2400'.
     The flank of Hell Gate lords over, or bedevils, us as we rise in the cool air from the North Rim in the Clear Creek Camp. It's time to hit the trail, an actual trail, with CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) manicured tread and all. It's a mild day and the miles roll past, approaching the great unconformity. We'd already experienced an unconformity with the constructed trail and meeting so many, five or more, people. Then, walking the Clear Creek Trail, the Great (geological) Unconformity, where billions (1.2 billion) of years of rock history are missing Or, a few seconds time if you are a religionist. Put on those sarah palin glasses and you can see time compressed neatly into easy to understand 7-day bits.
     Then, we ease into a relatively quiet Phantom Ranch/BA CG, an unconformity unique to the Grand Canyon. Jarring. Treated water, TP in bathrooms, bathrooms, beer in the cantina, cold beer, lots of people. And yet, no air tour terrorist unnatural noise. Yes, all sorts of other unnatural noise, but not the air tour terrorists. This, the most horrid of noise, is reserved for the special wild places. Imagine that? Unconformity. It would (will?) be so appropriate for all the commercial ventures to share the clatter and cacophony of decibel-driven excessive profits. But no, it's the most wild portions of the Park that are so horribly noisy. A republican wet dream. Privatization of gain, socialization of loss. Hear loss included, no cost to corporate welfare artists.
     It's a good afternoon at BA CG. Including an excellent discussion with Bil Vandergraff of the NPS, years of putting the "service" in National Park Service.

pano-day 9 - along the Clear Creek Trail - scroll L-R to view it 
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pano-day 9 - along the Clear Creek Trail - scroll L-R to view it all (4136 x 950 pixels, 1.3mb)
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Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 9 photos

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wgcbf-day9-1  Hell Gate from Clear Cr.jpg (161497 bytes)

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wgcbf-day9-4  Cactus blooms.jpg (281956 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-4 Cactus blooms.jpg

wgcbf-day9-5  Collared Lizard.jpg (619825 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-5 Collared Lizard.jpg

wgcbf-day9-6  Across to S Kaibab view.jpg (292341 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-6 Across to S Kaibab view.jpg

wgcbf-day9-7  Clear Cr Trail view.jpg (309910 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-7 Clear Cr Trail view.jpg

wgcbf-day9-8  Unconformity.jpg (429673 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-8 Unconformity.jpg

wgcbf-day9-9  Unconformity.jpg (568768 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-9 Unconformity.jpg

wgcbf-day9-10  view to S Kaibab.jpg (285178 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-10 view to S Kaibab.jpg

wgcbf-day9-11  Brittlebush view.jpg (517777 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-11 Brittlebush view.jpg

wgcbf-day9-12  down to BA Creek.jpg (346071 bytes)

wgcbf-day9-12 down to BA Creek.jpg

     Day 10: BA Out: 10.1 miles; ERM = 21.
     Out of The Canyon we trek, on super-developed trail, stopping to say "bye" to Bil Vandergraff at BA and "hello" to Jeff at IG (Indian Garden). Bill feels the rhythm of The Canyon and walks out in one long motion. Chris and I pause at IG and then move on. We've hiked the Bodacious Butte Fault and Happy Horsethief Route and celebrate with stew in Cameron. Cameron, one of those miners (mostly mining tourist) who held The Canyon hostage, keeping it from the public. Sort of like the corporate raiders of today?
     Yahoo and exhausted. Recovery takes time after this most bodacious of adventures.

Bodacious Butte Fault - Day 10 photos

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wgcbf-day10-1  Starting out.jpg (348859 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-1 Starting out.jpg

wgcbf-day10-2  Chris on lower BA Trail.jpg (339975 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-2 Chris on lower BA Trail.jpg

wgcbf-day10-3  BA color - Brittlebush.jpg (524706 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-3 BA color - Brittlebush.jpg

wgcbf-day10-4  River times.jpg (514759 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-4 River times.jpg

wgcbf-day10-5  Pipe creek Scenic Toilet.jpg (271674 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-5 Pipe creek Scenic Toilet.jpg

wgcbf-day10-6  Near the old BA.jpg (182027 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-6 Near the old BA.jpg

wgcbf-day10-7  view from IG.jpg (233911 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-7 view from IG.jpg

wgcbf-day10-8  Wrangling at IG.jpg (375185 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-8 Wrangling at IG.jpg

wgcbf-day10-9  Pictos in Supai layer.jpg (327179 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-9 Pictos in Supai layer.jpg

Scenic Toilets of the Bodacious Butte Fault

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wgcbf-day4-17  scenic toilet.jpg (410626 bytes)

wgcbf-day4-17 scenic toilet.jpg

wgcbf-day10-5  Pipe creek Scenic Toilet.jpg (271674 bytes)

wgcbf-day10-5 Pipe creek Scenic Toilet.jpg

     Turkey Vulture eating road-rolled Raccoon:
     As part of my recovery efforts after the Bodacious Butte Fault adventure, I did some spinning on my road bike. Here is what I saw on one of my rides. It's akin to what corporations do with and to us every day - pick clean your dead bones ("Corporations are vultures, my friend!" Tadd Romney, 2013).

"Capitalism: Nothing so mean could be right. Greed is the ugliest of the capital sins." - Edward Abbey

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias." - Stephen Colbert.

Movie of a Turkey Vulture eating a road-rolled Raccoon - 4.4mb
Movie of a Turke Vulture eating a road-rolled Raccoon - 4.4mb
(Click the image to see the short video - 6mb)

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Links:

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You can find Bill's report and superb photos about GC hiking here (click here)

Here is Bill's detailed report about the current trip

The Walcott Expedition, by Dennis Foster (click here)

This link goes to Dennis' Kaibab Journal trip report site.

Maps:

Click here to go to our GPS route backpacking the Horsethief and Bodacious Butte Fault Route, 2013. It will appear as a Google map on a USGS topo background. Change the scale of the map (the "+") to better see the route. Move around on the map with the 'hand.' click here to enjoy a full-screen view. Enjoy. Caution - do not use this map or gps track for navigating the Butte Fault Route. It can be a tricky place.

Click here to go to Bill Ferris' day-by-day and overview maps of our route. Bill used my GPS track and his mapping skills to construct these maps. An internal link references Bill's excellent report and his GC Adventure site. Caution - again - do not use these maps or gps track for navigating the Butte Fault Route. It can be a tricky place.

Panos:

Click here to: see a pano day 8 - Hall butte to Angels Gate to Whoton Throne - scroll L-R to view it all (4222 x 900 pixels, 1.5mb)

Click here to: see a pano-day 9 - along the Clear Creek Trail - scroll L-R to view it all (4136 x 950 pixels, 1.3mb)

Movies:

Click here to: see a Movie of a turkey vulture eating a raccoon.

Books:

Eaarth : making a life on a tough new planet, McKibben, Bill, Time Books, 2010.

Maybe one : an environmental and personal argument for single-child families, McKibben, Bill, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

The end of nature, McKibben, Bill, Random House, 1989.

A River Runner's Guide to the History of the GRAND CANYON, Crumbo, Kim, JOHNSON BOOKS 1880 South 57th Court, Boulder, Colorado, 80301 1994.

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

Related Links:

Scenic Toilets of Inner Earth

the geology of the Grand Canyon by the NPS

the geology of the Grand Canyon by Bob Ribokas

More Truth Than Joke:

vote republican
vote republican
(Click the image for the full-size image)

brain map of the gop
brain map of the gop
(Click the image for the full-size image)

bushco results
bushco results
(Click the image for the full-size image)

nra has control
nra has control
(Click the image for the full-size image)

your brain on drugs?
your brain on drugs?
(Click the image for the truth)

corporations are (bad) people
corporations are (bad) people
(Click the image for the truth)

less government?
less government?
(Click the image for the truth)

overtaxed Colorado - where is population reduction?
overtaxed Colorado - where is population reduction?
(Click the image for the article - pdf file)


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