So after a quick breakfast the next morning we headed off on the Escalante Route. I had mild worries about routefinding, since the route is not maintained, but these were utterly unfounded- the Park Service should just name it the "Escalante Trail" and get it over with.
Here are Sam and I shortly after kicking off, with the long bench to last night's camp at Tanner Beach in the background:
You can't actually see Tanner beach- it is over the dune.
After a couple of miles of beach walking we climbed the first rise to overlook Unkar Rapids. A bit further along the ridge and we could look thusly:
Once you hike up the hill off the beach it is five miles to the next reliable water, by accessing the Colorado River at Escalante Creek.
Here's another Mark-photo, looking back at me on the ridge west of Cardenas Canyon:
Cardenas Canyon is over the ridge to screen-right; the canyon that you can see on screen-left is unnamed, and enters the Colorado just below river mile 73.
It quickly became clear that despite hauling by far the most weight, Mark was also by far the fittest of us and tended to lead by quite a bit. Sam tended to walk sweep, leaving me in the middle.
Here's a look back at that ridge:
Another nice shot down-canyon:
Further along, here's a look back at Sam, trailing:
We got to Seventy-Five Mile Creek, and made a bit of a wrong turn. Instead of descending in the canyon to the Colorado River we continued on the bench on the far side of the creek. After a mile or so it became clear that this wasn't the standard route. There IS a way down off the bench directly to the mouth of Papago Creek (which was our goal for that day), but it looked hairy and poorly-marked. So instead we backtracked to do what we should have done- we descended Seventy-Five Mile Creek.
Here's the upper reaches of Seventy-Five Mile Creek:
We should have descended the creek bed, in the canyon. Instead, as you can see, we crossed onto a social trail on the western side of the canyon and kept on trucking. At about the time that we turned back Sam clued Mark and I in to the fact that he had been vomiting and having multiple episodes of diarrhea all day. He thinks he had managed to keep a whole liter down, once, thus explaining his lagging.
Hmm. He did look a bit pale and dry. Bad juju. We couldn't even blame it on the water, since that was the first day we drank treated water- the entire previous day we were drinking and cooking with the tap water we had loaded before heading out. So it must have been something he ate pre-hike or something.
Walking down Seventy-Five Mile Creek looks like this:
The creek was dry. There were a few puddles in shaded spots, but nothing to rely upon.
And here is our camp at Neville Rapids, at the mouth of Seventy-Five Mile Creek, after that frustrating backtrack:
Water is available from the Colorado River.
There was a party of rafters camped just below the rapids so Mark walked down to them and asked if they could take Sam down to the rangers at Bright Angel Campground if he hadn't perked up by morning. They were quite happy to. Sam got some recently-expired Immonium, some Pepto Bismol tablets, and worked on keeping something down. He managed to eat some dinner.