Grand Canyon – the “Death March” hike

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April 13

Since some of us wanted to do a long hike, Walker (with suggestions from Mike, who had lots of experience in the Canyon) set up options: part of us could raft down the river a bit and do a small hike, and some could do a longer hike. Showing excellent sales and marketing talents, Walker named the optional longer hike “the Death March”. The Death March was an eleven mile hike, lots of climbing, but with Thunder River as one of the highlights. Much discussion ensued the night before over adult beverages concerning who would participate in which adventure. The fact that I had to choose from over 200 pictures for this post shows that choosing the Death March was wise; the scenery was unbelievable.

Tapeats meets Colorado River

We were awakened early, this time by Dewey’s coffee call, followed by an enthusiastic “woo hoo”. I am assuming it was enthusiastic because Dewey was not attending the Death March.

Tapeats Creek

We went downriver a few miles, and offloaded myself, Walker, my brother, Ron, John, Mitch and Alex. After bidding a fond farewell to those staying on the boat (and informing them where our wills are), we set off hiking along Tapeats Creek.

The hike immediately turned up, with a series of switchbacks that rapidly got us above the Colorado. We then paralled Tapeats, and eventually dropped back down to the water level, where Alex laid down in the water to cool off.

Grand Canyon the Stuff of Legends

Looking back across the Canyon to the South Rim, we saw yet another amazing spectacle (see picture at right). I can only imagine the Indian legends prompted by the double trouble inward crevases, and how they got that high on the canyon. I’m sure there is a geological explanation for them, but I prefer the legends we made up whilst hiking.

Thunder River

We then hiked up again, to Thunder River, which someone told us was in the Guinness book of records as the world’s shortest river. The water for it comes out of the side of the canyon, fed by many fissures above, and gets it’s name from how loud it is.

Thunder River

There is a spot to climb down and fill your water bottle, which I did. The spray was refreshingly cold after the warm hike. I ate one of the sandwiches I had made, and took a break with my fellow hikers. When Walker informed us that this was the last water for about four miles, my brother Terry helped me fill up everyone else’s water bottles.

Thunder River

There was a trail that looked to go behind Thunder River, but Walker advised me against trying it. He said one of his friends had tried it, and had fallen 50 feet while trying to get past the difficult part. I made the right decision, and ate my Fig Newtons instead.

Then we turned parallel to the Colorado and hiked through Surprise Valley. I kept asking what the surprise was, but I decided it was the sudden wind gusts and the heat. After the cold River and the ice at the Rim, this was a big change, and I am glad we did not attempt this in the summer.

Surprise Valley

We emerged from the Valley to climb down over lots of loose rock, a very desolate looking area than ended at Dutton Springs Falls, near Deer Creek. Some of our party headed for the boat, while the rest of us climb to the waterfall to refill our water bottles and rest. On the other side of the waterfall some jokers had arranged rocks in the shape of thrones. Terry, Walker and I could not resist the photo opp.


We finished by hiking along Deer Creek, which has very smooth and curved rock walls, including one very large area called “the patio”.


We finally got to the boat, and after a swift and tearless reunion, were rewarded with cold beers. Even the Coors tasted good after that hike. We traveled a few more miles down river, and camped at the Football Field campsite at mile 137, so we only went 6 miles that day because of the hike

Oblivious to how far we had hiked that day, there was a cave above the campsite that I hiked up to before dinner. It was not very deep but was a nice hike to end the day.

Dinner was steak and potatoes, with a fire. National Park rules say that you can make a fire if you bring in your own wood, which Walker and Dewey had done.

I had no trouble sleeping that night, even the wind that blew my clothes off the rocks where they were drying did not awaken me.

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1 Response

  1. Tia says:

    Brings back vivid memories of a trip I would repeat in a heartbeat! In 2001 my mom and I hopped into a last minute vacancy for the 2 week rafting/paddling trip. One of the best memories of my life. I cannot wait for my preschoolers to grow up and embark on this adventure with me.

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