February 13, 2011
This was one of my all-time favorite hikes in the Canyon.
We did the Royal Arch Loop over the course of 6 days, and every day had its highlights.
Jed planned the trip for his brother and father, and I was honored to join them. He’s one of my all-time favorite hiking companions, and the addition of his family amplified that sentiment.
The depth and frequency of my Canyon explorations was reaching a fever pitch at this time, in early 2011. Every weekend brought new terrain – a new route, summit, or side canyon, and this trip was a highlight of the year.
We did the Royal Arch Loop in the traditional clockwise direction, in mid February.
This post documents the 1st day of the hike.
Day 1: The South Bass Trail to Royal Arch Creek
We met early on this cold winter morning, and headed out for the notoriously arduous drive to the South Bass Trail.
I met Jed in Grand Canyon Village, where we lived, and went to Tusayan to join his father Russell and 16 year-old brother Josiah. They’d camped in the National Forest on the outskirts of town.
The drive went well – the ground was still frozen, and there was little to no snow left above the rim. I think Jed still had his old, lifted Jeep Cherokee at the time.
This was just my 2nd visit to the South Bass Trailhead – the first was when I hiked the Gems in 2009.
After all was situated, we took our first steps into the Canyon.
Mount Huethawali is an eye-catching sight all throughout the upper segment of the South Bass Trail.
There was some snow along the shaded north-facing slopes, but little to contend with overall.
looking west toward Chemehuevi Point
looking east at Fossil Mountain
We reached the expansive Esplanade rock layer after descending the Bass Trail’s upper strata, less than a mile and a half from the trailhead.
In the western reaches of the Grand Canyon, the Esplanade expands into a wide, relatively flat terrace that’s conducive to foot travel – similar to the Tonto “plateau” in the eastern reaches of the Canyon.
We followed the Esplanade through the afternoon toward Royal Arch Creek.
This interesting bit of smooth ice was a novel discovery in one of the many small washes that we crossed. We’d find an even more expansive ice flow at camp this evening.
This was probably our first (of many) little scramble-moves of the trip. And take a gander here at Josiah’s awesome red, white, and blue external frame backpack! I was quite smitten with it.
Eventually we descended into the main east head of Royal Arch Creek.
Check out all the ice! Jed couldn’t help but perform a bit of skating on it.
It was around this time in early 2011 when I experimented with a different camera, a Canon G10. I’d been using a Nikon D40 since I first came to Arizona – a camera that I liked just fine – but we all know that DSLRs are a little oversized for rugged backing.
I learned that Todd Martin (of Grand Canyoneering notoriety) did his work for the book with this Canon. I like his photos, and thought I’d try the downsize. It had some fun in-camera features, like the ability to highlight a specific color, seen above.
The compact sensor didn’t quite perform like I was accustomed to, so after the trip I ultimately returned to shooting with a DSLR. I think the electronic zoom bothered me most, as opposed to the physical, removable lens found in a DSLR.
We went some distance down the canyon to a place where there was even more ice. But here we found flowing water, pools, and nice slickrock for camping.
Yes, that’s a bear canister. I suppose I was too stubborn and cheap to buy one of those fancy, rodent-proof sacks, when I owned this perfectly good canister! I didn’t mind carrying it. Ah, to be young and strong.
It was a wonderful first night of camping out under stars. Slickrock sites like this in the Canyon are always a treat, especially on silent winter nights.