The Real Thunder Canyon

We woke to our alarm the following morning and we were hiking with our headlamps when the sky turned shades of grays with the first light of the day. We were determined to get ourselves back on route and cover some good miles. We were now on day seven since our last food resupply, a resupply in which we carried out a “heavy seven days” worth of food. Luckily our estimated “heavy seven” was actually a good solid eight days of food which we could stretch further if needed. It was definitely going to be needed as we still had over fifty miles to go, almost all of which was difficult terrain without a trail to follow where our pace would creep to less than one mile an hour at times. For the start of our day however we did have a trail and we made quick time as we found our way down the canyon to the intersection with the real Thunder Canyon which we had thought we had been in all day the day prior. We easily followed the trail as it climbed up and out of the side canyon, across Surprise Valley above and back down Deer Canyon to the Colorado River again.

We stopped for a break at Deer Springs where an immense rocket of water shot out from a sheer stone cliff high above the ground and free fell to a crystal pool below. We filled our bottles, took a short break and continued towards the river. The cliffs began to narrow and Deer Creek began to drop below us carving and winding deeper and deeper into the rock. We had to squeeze around a couple of tight corners and tiptoe around narrow ledges until the canyon spat us out on a cliff side that was bright in the afternoon sun. We soaked up the view of the green waters of the Colorado river below us and the colorful walls of the Grand Canyon that were carved in both directions and then we began to make our way down the crumbling hillside to the beach at the bottom.

We reached the sand and followed the waters of the river down the canyon. This was the beginning of a seven mile stretch that would follow the Colorado River picking our route through spots of sand and thorny bushes eventually leading to what our guidebook called, “The most tedious four mile boulder hop that you will ever experience in your life.” Not just the most tedious on this hike, but in our entire lives. We couldn’t wait to get these four miles over with.

Goose’s long legs gave him a huge advantage as he hopped from rock to rock. I would watch him leap over cracks and gaps in one seemingly effortless bound while I would have to lower myself down or around taking eight to ten steps for each of his jumps. He quickly covered ground and would periodically wait for me to catch up giving me a good natured hard time for taking so long. We sat for a snack and noticed four huge big horn sheep across the river from us. We enjoyed our food while they grazed on greenery not far from us and reluctantly we continued down river as they watched us from their beach on the other side.

The evening sky began to change and knowing that we had only a short time until the canyon grew dark we decided to find a flat spot on a high sandy perch for the night rather than attempt the challenging boulder course by headlamp. We set up our tarp and bed and then began an inventory of our food, determining how much we could allot for the night and how many calories we would have to get us through the next two days, which just so happened to be Thanksgiving day followed by my birthday. Caloric wise we would be fine as we still had a 2000 calorie bag of nuts, about a dozen bars, a few protein drinks and a handful of other snacks, but it would not be the thanksgiving and birthday celebrations that we had been planning for as those special meals were waiting in cache buckets about forty miles away. It was hard not to be disappointed as I thought about the hungry hard miles we had ahead of us on what we had planned on being fun celebratory days on trail, but I tried not to dwell on it as we closed our eyes for the night and prepared for another early morning and more boulder hopping down river.