The attractively named “Swamp Point” high on the edge of the North Rim (no swamp, just a few mosquitoes) was our departure point back into the Grand Canyon after resting, eating and watching out for the endemic Kiabab Squirrel in the campground near North Rim Lodge.
Just below the trailhead lies Teddy’s (Roosevelt) Cabin. Apparently the great man stayed here on a cougar hunt – the cabin was built (and named) afterwards. From this piece of civilization our route headed into the wilds, sans trail, bushwhacking down Saddle Canyon and then Tapeats Creek.
After a few hours of that, the walls of the lower part of Saddle canyon suddenly rise up and form smooth alcoves above and slick chutes and channels under foot and we found ourselves sliding and scrambling down polished half pipes and overhangs into dark pools of water. By that time we were joined by a fourth hiker (Peter) and were able to assist each other, passing packs down the steep drops.
After the shady but steep narrows of Saddle Canyon, we joined Tapeats Creek which was dry and hot at mid day. But after a couple of hours of sizzlingly hot hiking with a few rests in the shade we thankfully reached pools of water, then flowing water and then to a roaring clear river which we had to cross numerous times.
Travelling through this terrain without trails is challenging and we took 12 hours to cover 11 miles that day, arriving at our intended camping spot near the junction of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River at dusk. We were welcomed by a large pink rattlesnake who slithered away and happily was not seen again during the night!
Next morning at 5 am we climbed up 1400ft to Thunder Spring, a gushing waterfall high up in the rock layers. We knew the day would be hot, so the early start maximised the comparatively milder morning temperatures (and beautiful morning light).
We rested for a couple of hours at the oasis-like Deer Creek in the welcome shade of cottonwood trees and descended the beautiful Deer Creek narrows before reaching the banks of the Colorado River itself around 11am. We were not alone: Deer Creek is a must-see side trip for river rafters.
We found ourselves a shady cave under some big boulders and tried to sit out the heat. The forecast at river level had been for 107 F (41.6 °C) that day and the next.
We passed the day reading, venturing out only occasionally to dip in the pool below Deer Creek falls and to talk the boaters arriving at the beach. In the afternoon we (Brian and Martina) decided that it was way too hot to enjoyably continue hiking down the canyon (an off trail route requiring boulder hopping on the steep riverside most of the way for 8 miles or so, we had done this in 2017 but in cooler temperatures).
So we hiked back uphill that evening and, with a 3.30am alarm the next morning we continued upwards when it was cooler, all the way to the North Rim on the scenic Bill Hall trail. About a 4,700 climb in all. There we got a lift with some friendly hikers from Idaho to the town of Hurricane, Utah.
Heather and Peter have hiked on (hardier than us!). We are hopping forward and with the help of a cooler weather window hope to continue our route into Zion National Park…meantime we are enjoying a decadent town stop!