Salt Trail Canyon to Eminence Break!

Overland? Why? Trip Report


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November 10/12, 2000 Eminence Break to Salt Trail Canyon

Once again the Little Colorado River was running high and muddy. There was no sense in doing any route down, only to be confronted with high chocolate waters too high to cross and too thick to drink. The dirt roads from the South and North Rims’ were muddy and covered with plenty of fresh snow.

As a plan b, I decided to connect the overland route from Eminence Break to Salt Trail Canyon. This was one stretch that cannot be done along the river due to impassable cliffs. George Steck and his gang had done it, wading at low water. Others had done it by flagging boats to ferry them. In the old days before the Glen Canyon Dam there was plenty of sand and low water to make ones way safely. Those days are gone.

I awoke at the Salt Trail Canyon Trailhead to 4 inches of snow and about 30 degrees. There were three big AZ Fish and game trucks there already. The sunrise on the Palisade’s, Cedar Mountain, and the LCR gorge was incredible and surreal. I descended quickly to the trailhead to look it over, and then headed up the wash, gradually ascending to the higher ground and turning North toward Shinumo Altar. There were banks of frozen fog, and occasional snow squalls that made my line of sight navigation very difficult. Instead of the view for many miles that is the normal, I would be wandering through the rabbit brush with visibility of only a few hundred feet.

Saddle Mountain and most of the North Rim was socked in and getting pounded. Once in a while, the Vermilion Cliffs or the Echo Cliffs would just be erased by the storm, only to slowly reappear. The snow gradually melted off as the day was warmed a bit by the sun.

The walking was fast and easy and Shinumo Altar loomed larger and larger in front of me. I began to head east toward the Eminence Break Trailhead on the Rim, crossing many two track roads, but none seemed to be going my way. I finally reached the Rim about 4:40 and marveled at the gorge that was Marble Canyon and across to Point Hansbrough. Now I only had to hike the 20 something miles back to the car!

I headed away from the Rim, back to a waterhole in a wash that I had seen earlier. It took me about an hour to find it and begin to set up camp. It was a cold night. I read Ayn Rand’s 1100 page, 4 pt font, "Atlas Shrugged" until late. It will take many more hikes to finsh that book. My thermometer said 22 degrees, but I slept warm somehow. I awoke to a huge full moon in the west, a couple inches on new snow, and not a cloud in the sky! I started the stove to make a coffee and some oatmeal, but the Siva stove soon went out and the coffee blew over so I gave up.

I packed up quickly and started the long walk back to Salt Trail Canyon. I was awed by the sunrise on the finally clear Saddle Mountain and Nankoweap, Kwagunt, Chuar Butte, and Vishnu Temple. The snow soon melted, but the day didn’t warm very much. I kept on all my layers of clothes, but didn’t need my rain jacket.

I surprised a Golden Eagle perched on a bluff, a Badger hurrying into his hole, digging furiously; a mama dog and her five puppies; and a lone shy coyote. A few cows and horses just stared at me like I was crazy. This country is not as dry as most people imagine, I found 4 reservoirs, 1 tank, and water from the melted snow in some of the washes.

Finally I made it back to the truck, and left some dust heading back to the Gap Trading Post for an Iced tea and Nacho’s.

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