The Gems Day 1: I’ve never slept with frogs

May 6, 2023

Pasture Wash -> South Bass -> Serpentine Canyon = 17.3 miles

It was not a great night’s sleep. It often isn’t the night before a trip. We slept in the forest outside of Tusayan, a peaceful place yet cold. It seemed to take half the night to get my feet warm. Alas, a Full Moon probably added to the mix, along with excitement for our adventure into the Canyon.

5:05am. I am awake. I am surpised it is already getting light out. Time to go out in that freakin’ cold and boil water for coffee. Once I get that rolling I turn on my car, blast the heater and hop back inside. It is 25F out, yikes. Can I just tell you how good my coffee is tho? The moon is now setting, it’s glow beaming white through the Juniper trees.

We set off at 6:00am driving the back way to get inside the park because I lost my pass. It’s the better way to go anyway. There is such a harsh glare from the sunrise filtering through the forest which seems to be filled with smoke. They are apparently doing a prescribed burn here.

The back way

After dropping off one car at Hermit’s Rest and a longer than we wanted trip to Starbucks we are finally driving down to Pasture Wash. It’s been a year since I drove down here. The road is thankfully in good condition after the massive Winter we had.

The G packs

I am trying out one of Rockin’s Gossamer Gear packs, the Gorilla, and am excited. I pack it up hastily, not knowing what my system should be, I will figure it out as I go. When we start walking the pack feels quite comfortable even with 4L of water. I am so happy to be out here, I love this particular area and I am really excited to hike down South Bass again, it is my favorite trail in the Canyon. The last time I hiked it was exactly a year ago right when I came down with Covid. It was a rough hike up, I will just leave it at that. 

We will walk 8 miles from here to the S. Bass TH

The eight mile dirt track walk goes by quickly, along the way we chat and catch up on life, we love to talk about health and today we are talking a lot about the importance of Earthing or Grounding to offset all the EMF’s we all get exposed to in day to to day life. I can’t think of a better place than the Grand Canyon to get grounded right? There is one car that passes by, kicking up plenty of dust, and I wonder why they don’t offer us a lift? And, I thought you weren’t supposed to drive out to the trailhead anyway. Has that changed?

We are on the Kaibab Plateau

We notice how incredibly green the vegetation is up here. The sage is a remarkable Jade Green and the Cedars, Junipers and Pines Kelly Green. Wow!

It really is a pleasant 8 mile walk
Our first wildflowers

When we reach the S. Bass Trailhead there are several cars there and a group at one of the picnic benches. We take in the view from the edge of the Earth and I revel in how it must feel to Rockin’ to see this particular view of the Canyon for the first time. It is spectacular to say the least.

View from S.Bass, Mount Huethawali in center

We are definitely hungry so we grab the other picnic table and splay out, taking shoes off, feet in dirt, and commence eating lunch. We begin chatting with the other group who just came off a variant of the Point Huitzel/Royal Arch Route that apparently had a lot of long rappels. It’s fun talking with them but we are also focused on eating and airing out our already hot feet. And getting grounded. I am a little miffed that we didn’t know we could have driven all the way out here, taking that 8 miles off our morning and I apologize to Rockin. Ever since the pandemic the Havasupai had closed their land to even foot travel so I have been honoring that for the past three years, but I guess it’s okay now. Good to know for next time.

And here we go!!

We drop to the Esplanade admiring the changing of rock layers, a plethora of flowers and then red sand. Before reaching what we are calling “drop city usa” we take a stretching break in the shade. From here the topo lines get real tight, like they are stacked on top of each other. These next few miles of trail are some of my favorite in the canyon. It is so varied, with twists and turns, you never quite know where its taking you next. There are rocks, rock stairs, and overgrown Oak Trees that get bushwhacky in places. It feels wild and rugged and I love it. We are also getting a really lovely cloud layer and a breeze which helps keep us cool and comfortable even though it’s become a very warm day.

This much green is not normal
One of my favorite sections
Rockin’ in her happy place

Two thirds of the way down canyon we stop for a shade break at which time I discover that the water I had stashed inside my pack is leaking all over my gear. Crap! I have to take everything out and try to get it dry, namely my sleeping shirt and sleeping bag. Good thing it’s going to be a warm night, this would not bode well at 25F. I drape my sleeping bag through the top of my pack and wrap my sleep shirt around my neck which actually keeps me cool and we laugh at my new fangled hiker fashion ststement. Fashion before function, I always say.

A shady break
Gotta get it dry

The Tonto Trail is lovely and absolutely covered with flowers, like an abnormal amount of flowers smattered across every slope. It is amazing. The views of the river are stunning too. With the frame of color splashed in the foreground of an already dramatic view the splendor is even more jaw dropping than usual. Rockin’ stands out on the point facing East, taking it all in and states matter of factly “I’m feeling really grounded” and we crack up. We see a couple boats way down at the water’s edge and imagine what the views of the steep canyon walls look like from their vantage point.

It is splendiferous indeed
She’s feeling grounded
View from the Tonto facing West
She assumes the position of break time

Our goal number one is to make it all the way to Serpentine Canyon where we should find water. Like we need to find water there or we have to back track. I got intel from my buddy Scott who hiked here a week ago that it was good, but I am not expecting much more than a few pools, which will suffice. I just hope they haven’t dried up in the past week! We round the bend from the Tonto platform to begin our walk back into the depths of Serpentine Canyon. The Bitter Brush is absolutely insane and I smile from deep within watching Rockin’ make her way through the yellow fields of flowers.

It’s like a dream

It’s getting to be past 6pm now and we still have a ways to go. The trail is picky and we need to pay attention to the cairns to show us the way. I am starting to hope to God that there is water in the back of this Canyon, as there is no way we would retreat this evening, we would have to do it in the morning which would be a major diversion to our itinerary. Please, please have water!

We still have a ways to go

When we finally arrive in the back crevices of Serpentine it’s 6:50pm and to our great delight and relief there is water! Hooray!! We decide to cowboy camp on the slick rock and Rockin’ says it reminds her so much of Escalante in Utah, a place she has done a lot of guiding. A place I have never been and now want to go. The towering red rock walls shoot up all around us and layers of slick rock shelves make our camp tonight. We have trees, flowers, big pools of water, it’s balmy out, there is no wind and the air is soft on our faces.

Serpentine Canyon = We have water!!
A good pool to scoop from, tadpoles and all!!
Cowboy camping on slick rock

As darkness begins to settle in, a chorus of frogs starts up. I mean really loud too, and it goes on and on. It is not going to be a quiet night. As I am eating my dinner I see a frog hopping by my bed. It’s a cute frog. Rockin has one hop into hear hair and she has to pluck it off saying” Welp, I’ve never camped with frogs before.” It will be an interesting night won’t it?

We are laughing a lot, one of the many things I love about hiking with this woman. I look up to the sky, there aren’t any stars out since we have that thin veil of cloud but now there are crickets chirping. There are also a ton of bats darting around like they do. I love the bats. So no stars, but we have frogs, bats and crickets. I love it. We both say how good we feel, really good. We are very happy, we feel very grounded indeed.

View Rockin’s Reel on Instagram!

11 thoughts on “The Gems Day 1: I’ve never slept with frogs

  1. Hello Mary Poppins, MVNMTS lic. Plate eh, perfect ! With all of the rain this is the best spring in years for new green and colorful flowers. I need to get to get to the Grand Canyon. Have you ever been to kodachrome basin ? It is between Capitol Reef and Bryce. What a beautiful surprise. Well I just thought of a fun story to share. About ten years ago I was sitting at alpine col listening to music ,( Edvard Grieg, “morning mood” ) when it occured to me that these mountains promote spiritual uplift, awakening, they activate the human spirit… Or it could have been the mendocino home grown that an off trail angel left in the sierra club register with a note, ” enjoy the view” . We were enjoying the view anyway, but this was the cherry on top ! As you say ” expect the unexpected ” !

  2. Good to see you’re hiking again. Great pics and story line. What camera are you using? Thanks for sharing your experience

    1. Hi Rex! Thanks for following along, it’s been a fun Spring season here in the desert for sure! I am just using my phone which is a samsung Note 8 and it’s 5 years old! I may need to upgrade soon, but for now it’s still ticking along, it’s been a solid phone for all these years, it has seen many a trails!

  3. Great images, as always. I witnessed a tremendous frog “migration” a few summers ago at Silver Pass…hundreds (thousands?) of them chirping and hopping along. None of them made any contact with us, however. How cool to experience that. LOL Hope the rest of the trip yields more fun surprises.

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