Point Sublime to South Big Spring!

Oct 23 to Oct. 28, 1994    Mike Mahanay

Because of early season snow the week before I parked at the National Park boundary and walked the fourteen miles of the Point Sublime road. I began walking in the tracks of a truck as there was from one to eight inches of snow on the ground, worse in ravines and low shaded areas. Unfortunately a huge Aspen tree had fallen across the road and the truck had turned around leaving me to break trail until the Tiyo Point road came in. That close to the rim the snow was mostly melted and the last section went fast. I passed a Chevy 4X4 with all four wheels chained up at another big fallen tree but I didn't see the occupants. It is encouraging to see some guts these days, however.

Just before Point Sublime I headed down and up a ravine to the west facing rim. This was the first of many major battles with brush and thorns. At the rim I followed Steck's instructions down and bearing left till I came to the Coconino ramp and then was soon at the Flint/Tuna saddle where I set up a dry camp and enjoyed the nice view to the south and sunset.

Monday I took the water bottle and water bag and headed down Tuna. At the first major pool I left the water bag for my return. There were three Redwall bypasses but all were straight forward and in a couple of hours I was at the spring. I went as far as I could down Tuna but soon got stopped by impassable falls in the granite. I then followed the east arm of Tuna almost to the Redwall before returning to the dry camp with the heavy and awkward water bag with a gallon of water. Tired and sweaty and dehydrated was the order of the evening. The high point of the day was seeing a baby diamondback rattlesnake that was too young to rattle. Fortunately I saw him before he saw me.

Early Tuesday I was off to look for the Redwall route down to Flint. The going was good but it took some time to decide exactly the route as there were no ducks and my only clue was that it was across from Gawain Abyss. Harvey calls this route very sporty and Steck says the climb was scarry. I had to lower my pack twice and hang by my hands and drop down, then pull my pack down from below. Yes, sporty. I easily went down to the Flint streambed, up Gawain almost to the redwall and back to the Flint/Shinumo confluence where I relaxed at a leisurely camp by the clean, deep stream.

The next morning I hurried down to the White Creek/Shinumo Creek confluence in forty- five minutes where I found a fire ring from the storm the week before but very few footprints and no sign of recent hikers. But up Shinumo I headed for the upper reaches. The creek is blocked by a huge chockstone creating a wonderful pool for swimming, but I wasn't feeling that macho so I took a couple of photographs and headed back to the bypass and up and over the granite to the bass of the Tapeats. At this point I realized that the bypass was actually on the other side of the creek but there was a nice Anasazi ruin there. By doing some ledge walking and lowering my pack I was able to make the west side work and soon was standing in the Shinumo Creek Cottonwoods and thorns. By noon I was at the Merlin Modred Confluence and dropped my back and had lunch. There were very few clear areas and any camp would be small and tight. The afternoon was spent fighting bushes and thorns up Modred to just below the Redwall. I was still a ways below the spring, however. The Cottonwoods and Maples were in full fall colors and there was the feeling "of a perfect wilderness" to quote Harvey. Both Merlin and Modred are very narrow with the Tapeats walling them in on both sides. But between these narrow Tapeats walls grows some of the lushest growth in the entire canyon. I even saw some small trout in the Modred arm. Battling my way back to the confluence I headed up Merlin until I found a huge Tapeats boulder that was large enough for me to camp on. I was out of the bushes and had an excellent view of the surrounding Redwall and Sunset.

The next day, number five I hoped to make the rim but ran into navigation problems. I followed the creek to the main spring and continued up looking for the redwall ravine to the left which I missed somehow. I continued up through the redwall pulling my pack up six times but getting to the top. Happily I thought my problems were over but encountered an even less accommodating Supai where I spent most of the afternoon climbing up and down and contouring around. I made many harrowing climbs and pulled my pack up about fifteen more times before I reached the top of the Supai. From there it was easy to drop into the bed of South Big Spring and head up the bed. It was flowing pretty good still form the snowmelt and was very thorny and brushy. Still feeling good I reached the Coconino as the last rays of light were disappearing and set up one last camp. A cold, cold wind came down off the rim the entire night and froze me although the air temperature was only 45 or so.

Day six I headed due north by compass from the Coconino to the Swamp Point road and back to the car at the park boundary. Six days of solitude, pants and shirt ripped to shreds, but feet and shoes ready for more!!!


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