Tanner Wash to Hot Na Na Wash!

 February 03, 1973    Harvey Butchart

George Billingsley and Jan Jenson were interested in seeing the river at the mouth of Tanner Wash and I was eager to finish the project of going down Tanner and up Hot Na Na. On 09/20/69 we had gone down Hot Na Na to the edge of the Supai above the river. The group had contained a very slow hiker, Ted Wykoff, so that there wasn’t time to go along the river and come out Tanner as planned.

George and Jan were ten minutes ahead of schedule in getting off and we got up to Bitter Springs to start walking at 8 a.m. We parked at an old car graveyard at the head of the side wash west of where the first Standard gas station was located. I had used this draw as an access to the bed of Tanner in years past, but the place where it enters the bed of Tanner seemed entirely different now. My picture of 09/19/64 shows the trail getting to the main bed of Tanner through  a narrow slot behind a big rock. Now there is nothing but open sand and gravel there. A fault goes through here and this accounts for the access from both east and west. There isn’t any other way to get to the bed of Tanner farther north.

We were surprised by the amount of snow we had to walk through. The temperature was 25 degrees when we started and down near the river the maximum for the day was 40. Although we were in the bed consistently, George spotted the places where the old sheep trail had been built around obstacles and taken up on the west side. Ice covered the pools but we weren’t sure that it would hold us. There wee places where the ice had broken under its own weight when the water leaked out from beneath.

George kept us informed about the transitions from one formation to the next. The color of the rock doesn’t help one tell where the contact occurs of the Kaibab with the Toroweap. The upper half of the Toroweap is more laminated. The lower or beta member of the Toroweap is massive and smooth cliff. George remembered that there was no way to the bench on the west once one starts down the beta member and I recalled that the bypass to the west is along the bench well above the Coconino. Thus we knew that we were at the place to go up on the bench. George built a small cairn. There is no sign of a deer or sheep trail along here as one would expect in the western Grand Canyon.

As you reach the place where the lower formations are covered by slide material, for safety you should go high. Jan crossed a very exposed place with steep and crumbling rock and clay, but George and I went high and came down. The bank that reaches up to the top ledge at the lower part of the bench is now only a yard wide. One wonders how soon erosion will remove all possibility of getting down here.

There are numerous seep springs in the Hermit Shale and the ice effects in the bed were the bonus for coming at this time of the year. George got so excited about this ice over the falls that he shot off 20 pictures of color slides.

When we reached the Supai in lower Tanner, we had to decide whether to stay up on the rim or go down the bed as far as it seemed feasible. George and Jan wanted to try to et to the river just east of the mouth of Tanner while I was more interested in going over and out via Hot Na Na. We settled for going down the bed for a short way. I was leading and stopped when I came to a place that probably is possible. One bypasses a drop by walking down a rather steep slope in the sandstone. I wasn’t sure that my shoes would grip it safely. The other two weren’t up with me and didn’t get to use their judgement. If we had gone down here, we might have gone upriver on some ledge to where George thought he had seen a trail up from the river. As it was he and Jan went back and followed the Supai rim out upriver from the mouth and then couldn’t get down. They went back up Tanner.

We spent 3.5 hours getting from the car down to the narrows in the Supai where we ate lunch. Then it took me over .5 hour to get back up, follow the Supai rim and reach the angle above the river. Even with a couple of detours to get around two notches, I reached Hot Na Na from Tanner in 80 minutes. Then walking seemed easier than it had from Salt Water Wash to Tanner. However, I had only a few views of the river itself, but I did get a couple of pictures of Sheerwall Rapid. I also got a good view of a sharp rock sticking up from the bottom of the river about a quarter mile downstream from the rapid. The flat rock where I landed while on my air mattress trip through Marble Canyon was covered by a foot of water. This is at the upper end on the right.

When we came down from the bench at the middle of the Toroweap to the bed of Tanner Wash, George and Jan were in front, and they followed the route that Shough, Packard, and I had used in 1968, slightly to the south near the bottom of the slide. There is a hard place here, about 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom. I tried going north and down. About 200 yards to the north I could walk down. I was behind at the start but I was ahead when we reached the bed. I would always do it this way in the future. I left a one rock cairn on a high boulder in the bed for a marker.

There were a few birds in evidence in spite of the winter day, juncos, ravens, and I saw one owl.

One can go up Hot Na Na without any major bypasses, but there are numerous places in the bed where one has to bypass big rocks. At times it seems like an advantage to stay up on the talus material to the side. When Norvel Johnson and I came down through the Coconino, I had thought that a bypass to the east was necessary around a small fall. I recall now that in 1969 we went right up the bed here, and I did this in the bed again.

This time I left the bed of Hot Na Na when I first saw a sheep trail going out to the east. On top I headed for where the Page highway would come down to the plain. I crossed numerous Navaho truck roads and more valleys than I had thought possible. The bare hillsides were good walking, but on the level the snow was better than the mud where the snow had melted. I went southeast and reached the rim above Tanner before I got to the final fault where the sheep can cross Tanner, where the truck was parked. Arriving at 5:40 p.m. I was only about ten minutes behind George and Jan.

Lower Tanner, in the Hermit, can be counted on for water at any time of the year. At this time Hot Na Na also had a little running as well as quite a bit of ice, But I don’t think one can count on finding it there.

When I passed the southern one of the two caves on the east wall of Hot Na Na, I could see the pile of owl guano from clear down in the bed of the wash.

It had been a good hike of nine hours of actual walking plus about 40 minutes for resting while eating. I was gratified to see that I can still take that much exertion.


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