Grand Canyon Hiking and Backpacking Trip: October/November 1996; Tanner, Beamer, Escalante and New Hance Trails - Brian, Doug and Wes

(A very different Adventure)
Grand Canyon Hike Photo: The Unkar Delta and Colorado River from Escalante
Unkar Delta from Escalante Butte
Trails Illustrated Map

Text by Brian; Photos by Doug and Brian

Click on the Map and Pictures, throughout this trip, to view enlarged versions. When you are finished viewing, printing or downloading, close the window to return to the trip page.

Planned Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip

Day   i Oct 29: Drive to outside of Moab, Utah. Camp by the Colorado River.
Day  ii Oct 30: Arrive at the Grand Canyon around 2:00. Camp at Desert View Campground..
Day   1 Oct 31: Hike the Taner Trail to Tanner Rapids. 9.0 miles and an elevation drop of 4600 feet.
Day   2 Nov   1: Rest day or short hike on the Beamer Trail to Palisades Creek. 7.0 round Trip Hike to Backcountry Zone BC9 for night. 2.0 miles
Day   3 Nov   2 Hike the Escalante Trail to Red Canyon. 8.0 miles. This was not the correct See Final trip mileage summary.
Day   4 Nov   3: Ascend the New Hance Trail 8.0 miles.
Total miles: 34.0


The way things should have been if only...This is the story of an adventure where, because of preparation, everything came out OK! Yet this hike would have been more fun if one key fact had been known -- 15 miles, not 8 to10, on the Escalante.


Transition: How to get "in-touch" with the canyon when one has only 3 or 4 days of hike time.

This is how Doug and I try to speed up the transition:

1. We now take an extra day to drive down to the Grand Canyon. We used to drive straight through, for 12+ hours. By leaving at mid morning on day 1, we spend the first night along the Colorado River just outside of Moab, Utah. This enables us to have two nights in the tent before hiking down. We normally spend the second night at one of the campgrounds in the National Park and head down the following morning.

2. We talk business (we work in similar lines of work and sometime share projects) only for the first hour the trip--then no more. We use book tapes to help pass the miles and time. Book tapes (usually mysteries) also help, creating a visualization process of the story and a diversion away from "normal' life, that helps, we feel, in the transition to a simple life.

3. Minimize the contact with other people - i.e. No bar nights on the trip to the Canyon.

4. Never sleep, never use, a tent if at all possible. There is nothing like waking at 2:00 am and watching the clouds play peak-a-boo with the moon. We will, if necessary put up the tent as protection against rain and excessively cold weather. Even then we will sleep half out, which enables us to feel the outdoors, see the stars and moon.

5. The weight of the pack seems to occupy most of the first day's hiking. The pack is, of course, at its heaviest, as one will have all the food required for the trip and a full load of water, if no seasonal is available on the way down. We now make a major attempt to cut total weight. See our section on Lightweight Backpacking. We attempted to train our bodies by carrying on day hikes a pack with weights in excess of that that will be carried in the canyon. If possible, one should have done a hike of at least 5 hours and several more of at least 1 hour, with more than normal pack weight. I have found carrying 50# on the 1-hour hikes, with at least one at 60#. The result has been a major reduction in back and shoulder complaints.

6. In the past, we have usually stayed in a motel on the way home. We find we can extend the Grand Canyon experience by car-camping on the way home.

Day i The Drive from Colorado --Transition Begins

We decide to leave at 11:00, as there was a chance that snow would make the Colorado mountain passes difficult. At 11:20 I get a call from Ellen. Doug forgot the book tapes. We finally leave at 12:00, after stopping to get me an emergency whistle and more iodine tablets at REI. Planning ahead, as usual.

The passes are clear, even sunny at times. The snow on the mountains and bluffs makse for a very different visual drive. A Robert B. Parker "Spenser" mystery, read by Burt Reynolds, and C is for Corpse, by Sue Grafton, are our starting book tapes. The transition from the normal day to day begins. The book tapes serve a dual propose. Being adventure/mystery books, imagination is involved - the visualization of the story. One gets into a state of flow. The miles and time pass.

We talk no business, and little of even the day-to-day.

It is dark when we find a campsite ten miles east of Moab, and it is only 6:00 pm. (The joy of Mountain Standard Time?) Tents are set up for the possibility of rain, using the car headlights. Sleeping bags are shaken out, sleeping pads blown up, stuff sacks prepared as pillows. Then it's off to Moab for fast food. Only one problem - the car won't start. We ran down the battery using the headlights to set up camp. Thank god for standard shift and a slight down hill. Few people are seen in Moab. The book tape is finished as we eat and have a beer back at the campsite


We both sleep half out of the tent so we can see and feel the beauty of the night. It does not rain.

Day ii-- on to the Grand Canyon.

Up at 6:00 am and on the road by 6:30. We eat a big breakfast at Blanding. We arrive at the Canyon at 1:30 and find Wes sitting at the Desert View campground at the East Entrance. He had pulled in just 2 minutes before we arrived. This was not planned. It just happened.

We find the campground covered with 5-7 inches of snow. No charge, though, to stay the night, if we choose to stay. We do. We find a campsite used the previous night. They had made two big circles for tents, so we had to only clear one more circle. We then set up tents, sleeping bags, etc.

Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Desert View Campground - Doug sets up in the snow Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Desert View Campground - Brian digs in at Camp
  Doug sets up in the snow         Brian digs in at Camp Snow  

Then we're off to Grand Canyon Village some 24 miles down the road. We stop at the visitor center, where we ask about the condition of the Tanner Trail. Snow down about 1500 feet. Trail should be visible, however. The ranger gives us a rough description of the Escalante trail. A bit of luck running into him. He has written a description, but does not have a copy available. (We do not confirm mileage - a mistake, as it turns out.) Next, a cafeteria meal and a quick shower for me. Back at the campsite, Doug and I again sit in the car to finish another book tape until it is time to call home and provide updates of the trip and good-byes till Friday night.

In the tent by 7:10 pm. The wind blows - its cold, in the 20's, so we stay inside, zipped up, tonight. And I stay mostly clothed throughout the night, even wear two pair of socks. Later we get blowing snow. The clouds whirl by the moon, making for strange images during pee breaks. Temperatures inside the tent vary between 36 and 39 degrees.

Around 1: 30 the wind blows down Wes's tent. Since his sleeping bag is only good for down to 40 degrees, he spends the rest of the night in the car, rather than re-pitch the tent in the wind. Periodically, I hear the car start up as he warms it up.

Grand Canyon Hike Photo: North Rim from the upper Escalante Route trail
  North Rim from the upper Escalante Route trail  

Contents Page