Tuesday, February 12, 2008


This is a report of our October 1995 backpacking trip to Toroweap in Grand Canyon National Park.

I packed up at 1:00 am on Friday October 27, 1995. Marie and I flew from Salt Lake to Cedar City Friday morning. The man at the security check asked us “are you flying or walking?” as he passed our bags through the scanner. “Flying first, then walking,” I replied. Dad met us at the Cedar City airport. We drove to Toroweap: a remote section of the Grand Canyon located on the Western end of the park. It lies on the North rim of the Canyon at the end of an incredibly long dirt road. There is no fee station to enter the Park at this remote locale. We arrived at Toroweap around 3:00pm on Friday.
First we drove to the rim. What an awesome view! At this lower end of the canyon it is much narrower than at the more popular destinations up-canyon. The impossible depth of the canyon just grabs you at Toroweap! It opens suddenly in the middle of a barren plateau that you’ve been driving on for hours.
After viewing the edge we drove the short distance to Tuckup Road, a jeep road and foot trail that goes East--up canyon--along the rim. Since it is just a jeep road for two miles after which it turns into a foot trail we parked at the beginning of the road, humped our backpacks, and started walking. One of Dad’s friends had insisted to us that no permit was required for overnight use of the backcountry in the Park. He was wrong. However we were lucky enough to meet a park ranger on the trail who issued us a permit, thus making our excursion legal.
We hiked nearly to the end of the jeep road, passing giant boulders that looked like mushrooms as big as a house along the way. That night we camped on a slick rock slab within ten yards of the Canyon Rim. We enjoyed dinner as we watched the sun set behind Vulcan’s Throne: a cinder cone down-canyon from Toroweap. The next day we set off without our packs on Tuckup Trail.
Just where the road ends and the trail begins it crosses a shallow slickrock side canyon. I suggested that we go down the canyon a ways. We did, and it was a real treat.
The canyon bottom was a beautiful ribbon of flowing stone, punctuated with short falls. The falls provided the challenge (in finding a way down them). We had to incorporate stemming and reverse mantle moves along with boulder hopping and pocket and friction down climbing. The descent was pleasing and clean and aesthetic. The obstacles were frequent and just challenging enough to make it fun.
As we descended the canyon walls rose above us in sculpted and undulating forms of all shades of red, orange, white, gray and black. We were able to descend for an hour or more before our little side canyon began to open up into its Mother Canyon and to drop off much more steeply in falls of 100 or 200 feet, instead of the 3 to 10 foot falls that we had come down. It was impossible to go any further. We rested there in the shade of the side canyon; explored some splintered rock towers on the canyon walls; had lunch with our legs dangling over the edge; and stared down into the Grand Canyon below.
Going back up was a little easier for the most part, except for a couple of places where we had just jumped down and found it was not as easy to get back up.
Then we hiked along the trail for a bit (what there was of a trail anyway). Soon we reached the rim of a very deep and impressive side canyon that blocked our path. We walked up to the edge. It was a very deep canyon. Marie said “It looks like we’re on an over hang.” She and I went around to where we could see the place where we had been standing better. It certainly was an overhang! It hung out from the edge about 7 feet and varied from two feet to about two inches in thickness! We were lucky it hadn’t crumbled under our weight and sent us plummeting into the void! And Dad was still out on it! “Don’t go any further!” we said. “Why not?” he asked. We told him to come and see why not! He joined us and almost had a heart attack as he looked at where he had been standing. We stayed and took pictures of the overhang for a while. Then we turned around and headed back for camp.
When we got there we packed up and headed for the car. Then we drove the short distance to the Toroweap campground where we would stay that night. We got camp up just before dark.
The next day, Sunday, we did one more short hike in Toroweap (which couldn’t help but be disappointing after the awesome hike of the previous day). Then we headed for home. We stopped at Zion National Park to see the Kolob finger canyons. We wished we could hike up into them, but that trip will have to remain for a future day.
At one point during the trip I commented that it looked as if the Colorado river were going to cut straight through the Earth and split it in two. That won’t happen of course, but go to Toroweap and see if you don’t get the same impression that I did.

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