Day 7: Grapevine Creek
June 17, 2004
Grapevine Creek was our next destination. The stretch to Grapevine, about 15km, was also known to be a walk lacking in shade, so we decided to repeat the routine of getting up at 3:30am and raising camp early to avoid the toughest sun hours. This, by the way, is known to some local Rangers as lizard hiking. We had our second rattle snake scare, as Elisabeth again had the misfortune of spotting a snake under a bush near our tent. This time we decided to bag a picture of the thing. Ha, got you! When packing, we realized that somehow we had managed to consume most of the emergency water we had carried all the way from Indian Garden. We had little more than our 3 liter day rations each with a common emergency deposit of 3 liters left. This was enough to carry us to the beautiful Grapevine Creek, a canyon system by itself within the greater Grand Canyon. Exiting the Tonto plateau into Grapevine, we could see at about 400m of depth, a small flow of water maybe of 30cm in width of water surface. As we progressed toward the head of the creek, this flow was diminishing until there was no trace of water to be found upon our arrival at the head of Grapevine Creek. This creek is listed in the maps as a perennial source of water. Indeed, it seems to be so. Access to the lower parts of the creek, however, is difficult. Scouting the area and seeing no possibility of accessing these sections of the valley, we decided to scout forward to reach one of the springs that the Rangers had said was almost guaranteed to have water.
Thirty minutes later we arrived to a lush small creek that ended with a 300m drop over the main course of Grapevine. Lots of green trees and bushes surrounded a small trickle of water. Cautiously, knowing that water means rich fauna and that this leads to snakes, we set up a collecting water station at the trickle. Quickly we managed to collect about 4 liters which we consumed immediately to quench our thirst. The trickle rate, though, decreased in the span of a couple hours from about 4 drops per second to about 4 drops per minute. The heat of the sun made the water evaporate so quickly that there was no possibility of collecting enough water to cook and to hike the following day.
This was the direst situation in which we found ourselves in the whole trek. We decided to split at this point so that one of us stayed babysitting the trickle and the campsite while the other two set out back to Grapevine Creek to scout again for possible ways down the creek to reach the lower sections of the valley and gather some water. It was 5pm so the scouting team had three hours to cover a thirty minute hike back and forth and to descend as much as needed to filter and collect enough water for the night and for the next day.
At 8pm, right at dusk, the water collecting team managed to reach camp with about 9 liters of water, most of it filtered and some unfiltered water for cooking. We rejoiced in the discovery and celebrated with a fulfilling feast of ramen, dried food, chocolate mousse and several rounds of cognac.
The location of the camp was surrounded by trees and bushes and we did not want to approach the lower parts of the creek because they were a bit too close to the cliff. Therefore, we decided to sleep on our mats next to the stove, close together, and try to cope with the many crawlers that were incessantly stirring in the bushes around us.