Escalante Creek Mouth to Hance Creek
Total Mileage- 9.9 miles
Total Elevation Gain- 1200 feet
Total Elevation Loss- 0 feet
This was by far our longest day… but maybe one of our best in terms of seeing everything the Grand Canyon had to offer. This trek from Escalante Mouth Creek to Hance Creek ended up taking us 11.5 hours. We began at 8am and reached Hance Creek at 7:30pm. You may be wondering how in the world we moved at less than a mile per hour. Well… because we stopped a thousand times to take pictures. We took a two hour lunch break that involved swimming, pumping water, and washing out our sweaty clothes. And we reached three different spots in which we ran around like little kids because it was so spectacular. We wasted a ton of time… but it was beyond worth it. And other than the hike being 10 miles in distance… the actual terrain was relatively easy to move across.
From Escalante Creek Mouth we immediately began an ascent leaving the river. Opportunities for hiking close to the river were absent because the beaches yielded to cliffs and walls. By following the trail, and the cairns, the trail began to cut sharply to the southeast to circumvent steep cliffs and walls that hugged the river. The Escalante Route was taking us to a point where we could drop down into the dry Escalante Creek. We would then follow the creek bed through some sweet slot canyons and then back to hiking just above the river until we reached another beach that introduced the Papago Wall.
There was a bit of a discussion/debate about this portion of our hike. We could either scale the 40-foot Papago Wall and then navigate Papago Slide back down to another beach which would take close to an hour total to tackle – or – we could float our packs on our inflated sleeping pads and walk them down the river about 70-feet to the next beach. Either route would lead to the same destination… with the water option looking like a lot less work. I am sure that whatever time would have saved doing the water option was obliterated by how much time we spent discussing both options. It was finally decided that we would tackle Papago because the water was too cold and because the water option was too unpredictable. As it turned out… Papago Wall and Papago Slide were pretty cool to navigate. We took a break at Hance Rapids before hiking back to our Hance Creek destination. We had lunch, did some cooling off in the river, and pumped some water before we began our biggest ascent of the day.
This portion of our hike, from Hance Rapids to Hance Creek, was the best and longest portion of our hike. While there were spectacular, unbelievable, astounding views all around us… it seemed as if we would never make it to Hance Creek. Even more… I seriously wondered if Hance Creek would even have water. Every single saddle that we went over and every single bend that we turned was evidence of dry creek after dry creek. If it wasn’t for the views and two separate picture-taking diversions I may have gone crazy. Anyway, check out these pictures. The panorama was almost, almost, almost as epic as our panorama from 50 Mountain in Glacier… both extraordinary in their own unique way. Wow!
As it turned out, Hance Creek did have water. When we were about a quarter mile away we saw this lush, green habitat right in the middle of this rocky, dry arid canyon. We knew water was near. And as we drew closer to Hance Creek we began to hear the cadence of frogs beginning to come out for the night. We knew we were entering a strange ecosystem… but we just didn’t know how strange. We dropped the packs and set up the tents. We were spent. But we also had to pump water because most or all of us were dry and we were also very hungry. Upon examining the 2-inch deep creek that moved just enough to keep it from being stagnate… we saw hundreds of tadpoles in the water and dozens of frogs making their debut for the night. Their roar was louder than their size. They could really belt it out. It wasn’t five minutes into pumping that one of the guys began to yell that white mice were attacking our packs. Upon investigation, the mice had chewed through two packs and were looking for food. Being that our food was already secure, the mice only found wrappers. But their deed was already done. They made holes and pooped around the packs. All they could do was watch us while we ate our warm meals… and they did.
Our hike for the next day would take us up to Horseshoe Mesa and, surprisingly, out of the canyon to Grandview Point. We ended up forgoing our stay on Horseshoe Mesa and opting to make the final push out in one day.
For the first post in this series click here.