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Adventure Log

The Colorado Plateau Pt. 2

Kaibab National Forest and the Kanab Creek Wilderness


Rainbow Rim Trail

U.S. Forest Service Map at Rainbow Rim Trailhead
Riding Rainbow Rim Trail.
Watch the edge.
Rainbow Rim Overlook
Aspen grove on Rainbow Rim Trail.

Jump Up Creek

Sometimes you have a bad feeling or a premonition about a journey or place. I’m not sure if it was the rugged drive from the central Kaibab plateau, the lack of life in this particular area, or our collective lack of knowledge of the landscape, but when we packed our bags for this backpacking trip, I had an uneasiness and doubt that I don’t commonly feel at the beginning of a remote trip. The plan was an out and back to the lower valley, and courtesy of a Backpacker article, we knew of two springs that were approximately 4 miles apart, aiming for the second as our destination. We found the first almost immediately, about 1/4 mile into the trek, and then found ourselves struggling to pick up the trail. A moment later, some USGS workers showed up and directed us to simply hike down the dry creek bed to get to the next spring, though the last time any of them had attempted this was roughly 5 years prior.

Jump Up Creek Wilderness

We set off down the valley—the temps increased and the vegetation got scarce. There were no signs of other people, no footprints, no marks, nothing.

Cacti on rocks at Jump Up Creek Trailhead

The valley undulated like a long snake and you could never see beyond the next turn or two, approximately several hundred feet. The packs wore at us, and we did our best to conserve the 2-3 liters of water we each had with us.

Standing with fully loaded pack in creek bed.

We worked our way down through different layers of soil, but the increasing heat and ever more red rock brought Dante to mind.

Alien-like eroded red sandstone.

We reached mile 4.5 and took a good look around. There was little sign of a spring, only a few damp rocks on one hillside, but following them upward brought no sign of a visible stream no sound and no pool to speak of.

Queue quiet internal panic.


Simple Calculations:
A = Accessible Basic Needs for Wilderness Excursion
B = Brutality of Wilderness Excursion
T = Time between points of resupply for variable (A)

Fig. 1: if A >= (B x T), you are likely having fun.
Fig. 2: if A < (B x T), you might die.

Panic Mode >> Survival Mode

Half depleted of water at halfway point, plus slower rate of return trip, means we are squarely in Fig. 2. Factoring that the human body can survive and act long, but not very long, without water, and that virtually all of our food supply was dehydrated, the decision was made to leave immediately, and only set up camp if nightfall proved the journey back impossible or too dangerous to wait.

Standing in dry creek bed, with crestfallen expressions.
The turnaround point.

Signs of doom followed us out, scorpions, warm coyote dung, slips, falls, cuts and bruises. Nightfall, dehydration and overexertion.

Scorpion on trail.

In a moment of rapture, we reached the upper spring, still flowing clear and fresh, and we filled up all of our water supplies and then some and hiked back out to the trailhead, where there was a cabin we had acknowledged but largely forgotten about.

Bags dumped, food cooked, ibuprofen taken.

Historic two-room cabin in desert.
The Jump Up Creek Cabin, used by exhausted and battered humans from the early 20th century onward.
Rug inside of cabin.
Makeshift beds inside of cabin

Morning came and so did relief.

Sunrise over mountain from outdoor toilet in the morning.
Heres to #scenicbackdrops