April 19, 2010
This hike to Cheyava Falls was one my more memorable trips. So many factors came together to make it happen.
First of all, it shines as a quintessential advantage of living and working at the South Rim. I had no plans for my 2-day weekend. It was a busy week, so I didn’t start mulling over what I’d like to do until my Friday night came around.
There was the sudden realization that Cheyava Falls was flowing, with the knowledge that I had the strength to get out there and back as an overnight trip. Clear Creek is a popular area and I knew the permits were likely to be full, but a quick glance at a map revealed that I had a shot at staying in the neighboring use-area, AJ9, in which Cheyava Falls is actually located.
Next, there was a token of redemption in the opportunity to get there. It was less than a month prior when my planned trip with Michael to the same location literally came up dry.
When I heard that Friday that Cheyava was flowing, disappointment was my first reaction. Work was busy, I knew it was a long way out there, and I knew permits for Clear Creek were probably unavailable, essentially blocking me out. But then I remembered my strength and the deeper use-area for overnight camping.
The winter snows that brought Cheyava also gave birth to a deluge of wildflowers. This the most wildflowers that I have EVER seen in the Grand Canyon.
I felt so good after the trip that I took the time write up a detailed trip report almost immediately afterward. So the 2 posts I have to document the trip are a little more verbose than usual. Most of the text that follows is from that original write-up.
Down the South Kaibab Trail
Sunday April 18th was “my Friday” at the El Tovar. I was looking forward to Monday and Tuesday off work, with no specific plans. I had some light day hikes in mind, and maybe some everyday chores and general relaxation.
Then I heard that Cheyava Falls was flowing.
I instantaneously knew I’d find a way to get there. I assumed the Clear Creek use-area would be booked, but that didn’t matter much anyway with only two free days on hand. My hopes were set on the “wild” Cheyava use-area. Nobody would be there. Hopefully.
I was packed and ready to go when the Backcountry Center opened at 8am. At least 10 people were already there, waiting in queue for last-minute openings at Indian Garden and Bright Angel Campground.
I patiently waited my turn, and finally approached with the oddball request: “Do you have AJ9 available, for tonight, for a solo hiker?”
The ranger (rightfully) wasn’t enthusiastic about issuing such a permit, but went ahead and processed it as more people waited in line behind me. Her warning to me as we parted: “You know if you get tired before you get there, you can’t stop.”
I went directly from the Backcountry Center to the South Kaibab Trail, but it was already 9am by then. I flew as quick as I could without running, but the wildflowers were brilliant, forcing me to stop often for photos! Since I was all juiced up on coffee and excited to be on my way to Cheyava, I went ahead and put in my iPod headphones. The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack was involved, along with a little Dave Matthews Two Step.
I set foot on the black bridge at 11 o’clock. Then it was a short rest at Phantom – a quick hello to a friend that worked there – and I was up at the Phantom Overlook at noon.
more Kaibab Trail photos:
Out the Clear Creek Trail
I eased off the gas on the Clear Creek Trail.
The afternoon heat set in, and I stopped to chat with a few groups that were returning from Clear Creek. I gathered that the falls were running as strong as reported, and that the creek itself was silt-laden and difficult to purify.
One pair of hikers had even been up to Ariel Falls, and seemed very impressed with it and its flow at this time. Another interesting encounter was with a guy that worked at the Bright Angel Restaurant in 1987 – he had a funny story or two to tell about one of my present co-workers.
The spectacular wildflower bloom stretched out along this trail, too. I was here just three weeks ago, and everything looked different today.
more Clear Creek Trail Photos
Up to Cheyava
I reached the Clear Creek campsites by 4pm, and turned the corner for the 3rd and final leg of the day, upstream to Cheyava.
Clear Creek itself was a daunting sight… it wasn’t so clear anymore! The first crossing, a simple rock-hop three weeks prior, was now an all out knee deep ford with a strong current. Wonderful. I had some miles on feet by this time in the late-afternoon, and still had some distance to go upstream through these conditions to get to my legally allotted camping area, let alone the falls.
A young couple I met at the campsites was spooked enough by the high flow not to explore further.
I found a good solid walking stick, removed my socks (I only brought one pair on this trip, and wanted to keep them dry), put my shoes back on, and stepped in the torrent.
The first ford was the deepest and most intimidating. The stream carried a heavy load of debris, so every moment that my shoes were under water was a moment of opportunity for small, sharp rocks to work their way to the soles of my feet. Let’s just say that I had to stop more than once to remove my shoes and empty them out.
I often discovered that the path that I walked on three weeks ago was now the streambed!
The open area at the confluence of the Cheyava arm and the Ariel arm beyond Obi Canyon is a great little place in the Canyon. It was especially so in this evening light with it all to myself.
The campsite immediately up the Cheyava arm at the foot of the Tapeats looked as inviting as ever, especially with limited camping options further above. But I was so close to the falls now.
More path-finding, more stream crossings, and suddenly I looked up and saw it. Cheyava Falls. I let out an involuntary exclamation, something like “Haw!” in my best Gimli voice.
The falls were still farther away than they looked, and I didn’t reach the foot of the cascades until sunset, 7pm. I was fortunate to find a tiny flat spot just big enough for me to lay out and set up my one-man tent, there beside Cheyava.
more photos up Clear Creek:
Camp at the Falls
I was simply tired by this point with only 5 hours of sleep last night, but I grabbed a lot more photos before settling in.
Darkness fell quickly as I went through the chores of pumping water and cooking dinner. I discovered that I lost the tip of my Camelbak hose back in the bushes and thorns.
A crescent moon shone over my corner of Grand Canyon for the night, with big clouds passing swiftly beneath the stars. I slept like another rock in the wilderness, surrounded by the sound of rushing water.