My daughter and I arrived at the Stone Door Ranger Station at noon on Saturday but were too late. All of the interior campsites within range of the Stone Door trailhead were already full. Alum Gap, Saw Mill, and Hobbs Cabin, all were closed. Seems like a lot of people had the same idea we had. "What about Stagecoach?" I asked. As far as the Ranger knew, it was still open. So we walked back to our vehicle, and, after approximately forty minutes of drive time, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the park at the Savage Gulf Ranger Station. Fortunately, there were plenty of campsites available at Stagecoach. So Plan B, which had been Plan A up until about twenty-four hours earlier, was now in effect. As I was filling out the permit, I heard the Ranger say that Dinky Line Campground was now closed, the only other campground in the park requiring a somewhat significant hike to reach.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:30 p.m., we were finally on the trail. Yes, another late start. This seems to be our standard operating procedure here lately. We moved quickly through the first 1.2 miles of the Savage Day Loop to join the South Rim Trail. A half-mile later we were standing above Savage Falls, which was flowing at a pretty good rate, thanks to all the rain we had in the first half of October. From here, we made the short climb to the rim where we would cover another 4.3 miles until reaching our campsite. The South Rim Trail has a number of spur trails leading to overlooks of the Savage Creek Gulf. Many of these had limited views due to foliage blocking the line of sight, but some were clear and offered magnificent views into the gulf.
View from Step Down Overlook
View from another overlook
The clouds started moving in and the wind picked up on the second half of our six-mile hike to camp. When we saw a couple of guys filtering water without backpacks, we knew we were very close to camp. Of the ten sites at the campground, only about half were occupied. When I noticed the site I camped in a couple of years back was not only available but was also away from most of the other campers, I jumped on it. It's a cozy site with room for little more than a tent and a small stone fire ring. Trees offer seclusion, but they're small enough so that the sky is open above. When the clouds cleared out shortly after supper, I could look up and see the stars. That's what makes all the effort which goes into backpacking worthwhile.
I was in no hurry to break camp
We loaded our packs and hit the trail around 9:30 a.m. Headed back the same way we came in, we decided we would hike the remainder of the Savage Day Loop before exiting the trail. Moving apace, we were enjoying a snack at Savage Falls by 11:00 a.m. A backpacking couple we caught up to on the trail was nice enough to let us pass, and that helped us with our time. It's a wonderful thing when people play nice on the trail. Trail etiquette isn't necessarily a given.
Savage Creek, just upstream from Savage Falls
Water rushing in Savage Creek
We crossed Savage Creek and turned left on the Savage Day Loop Trail to hike it clockwise. Up on the left a little way is a spur trail offering a clear view of Savage Falls. A half-mile later the trail passes through Rattlesnake Point Overlook, which provides a good look into Savage Gulf. The rest of the loop trail makes for an easy, wooded hike back to the ranger station. Upon exiting the trail, we dumped our packs in the truck and enjoyed tuna salad and crackers at a nearby picnic table. This was an enjoyable outing. Our total mileage for Day 2 was 8.8. Combined with the 6 miles from the previous day, our 2-day total was 14.8 miles. We were tired but not exhausted - a perfect way to introduce my 14 year-old daughter to the joys of backpacking in Savage Gulf.
Savage Falls, as seen from the Savage Day Loop Trail
Rattlesnake Point, three years after taking the picture which
serves as the backdrop to the blog title at the top of this page