Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grand Canyon

Day One: 9.3 Miles
Day Two: 11.5 Miles
Day Three: 9.3 Miles
Total Miles: 30.1

Well, neither of us had been to the Grand Canyon. We did the research and planning. We got turned down twice on our permits and finally they gave us the go ahead. You basically hike when they tell you to. The first time we put in, they said that 800 other people put in the same day.

We left after work and flew out of Nashville. Our second flight out of Dallas, they waited until we were all on board to tell us that we were on a maintenance delay waiting on a part. Good ole airlines! A little late, but we made it to Phoenix Arizona. We were just talking about the cactus and Lora had said that she has never seen the old western stand up cactus other than on TV. Well, she had to wait until we got to the airport before she got to see one. They were everywhere in Phoenix. On the bus, we sat next to a guy from Phoenix. He said that the people here were alot less friendly than we were used to in Tennessee. Everyone we met was friendly.

We got in our rental car with a sweet 92 degrees outside and headed North. The further North we went the higher the elevation and cooler the temperature. We stopped in Flagstaff for dinner. A little later we stopped again. This time because one of those friendly policeman wanted to talk to me. Something about the speed I was traveling did not match that of the speed limit sign that I passed. He let me off with a friendly chat and a warning.

The last fifty miles from Williams to the Grand Canyon felt like eternity as we were waiting in anticipation of the Great View. After we went through the gate of the park and finally made it to the visitor center the sun was getting ready to set. We hurried to the rim as you cannot see the canyon until you are literally standing at the rim. WOW............WOW.........WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As far as you can see, the canyon just keeps going. There is no end or other side. It's like looking over the ocean. Then you look down. WOW! As the reality sets in, you notice that you are incredibly small and insignificant. You also wonder how the hell you are going to be able to hike down to the bottom of this mammoth hole. We scanned the cliff walls for any sign of trail. None! You could see tiny ant sized trails running down at the bottom of the canyon, but nothing on the walls. We stood in awe as the sun set down over the rim.

We found our campsite in the Manther campground and set up camp in the dark. The stars were wonderful and the night was only interrupted by the other people making noise in the campground. The next morning as soon as we saw a sign of light we were up and packed. Talk about excited and nervous. What were we going to see?

If you have a permit you can drive to the trailhead of the Hermit trail. They never gave us the code to get through the gate so we waited until a bus was coming and got the code from them. When we got to Hermits Rest, the trailhead, we met some people from North Dakota. They were actually from Minot so I got to do some reminiscing with them about the great Air Force days. They took our picture for us before we headed down the trail.

The Canyon was nothing like you would imagine. There was green everywhere with plants growing all over the rocks and flowers of every color growing everywhere. We saw a million lizards. We saw squirrels, chipmunks, Birds of ever kind, and lots of cactus of different types.

The trail dropped very steeply for the first mile then went along the canyon wall. You could only see the trail in front of you for about thirty yards tops at a time. It curved around the walls and there was a surprise around every corner. Sometimes you would catch a glimpse of it along the wall across from you or below you. You were walking anywhere from five to twenty feet from the cliffs edge as you wandered. That safety distance was steep down hill as well. The drop offs were anywhere from 500 to over 1000 foot drops. You could see the Tonto trail level of the canyon way out in front of you, but when were we going to go down?

We came to a shelter at Santa Maria Spring. It's a little hut in the side of the cliff with a trough that the spring ran into. Good resting place for the climb back out. There was one spot on the trail that I looked everywhere and we had a clear shot of the trail. I told Lora this was a good spot to use the bathroom. She got behind a bush and I was going off the side of the cliff. I looked down the cliff and a guy was looking back at me. The trail switched back under us. Oops! I told you that you couldn't see the trail.

The next major downhill drop was at the Cathedral Stairs. Steep switch backs and we dropped and dropped. Then the trail winded down to the Tonto trail. Everyone we passed were friendly to us and everyone spoke English. Up on the rim you couldn't find an American if you had too.

Finally we got a glimpse of the Colorado river. The Colorado river was in a canyon of its own. It's 950 feet down to the river off steep cliffs. If you were rafting, and we did see rafts, you would never see the whole canyon unless you did some hiking.

The next two and a half miles to Monument Creek on the Tonto trail was more like rolling hills. The heat started beating us during this section and there was no place to go for shade. We did find one spot where two rocks were leaning on each other with a shadow that we took refuge in.

The trail dropped into the creek gorge and we got to see the Monument of Monument Creek. A large stone tower that stands in the middle of the river gorge. From here it was right close to camp. There were two girls in camp already that were hiding in the shade of the canyon. There was a three seated toilet at the campground that was interesting. We set up our tent and I put my tarp over it to try to get some shade. We cleaned up in the creek which felt really good and relaxed for the evening. There was only one other group of campers that came into camp that night. The night cooled off and we got to enjoy the stars. No campfires allowed in the canyon.

The next morning we left the tent set up and hiked down to the Colorado river. It had a nice sandy beach and with the rapids right there it made waves come up on the shore. Yes, we had to get in. It was cold. It was very pretty down there at the river, like a little paradise. After we got our water fix we hiked back up to camp and then took the Tonto trail further East.

The day warmed up, but the wind kept us cooled off. Sometimes it almost blew us off the trail, but most of the time it was a gentle breeze. We headed past the Cedar Spring campsite which wasn't hitting on much and on to Salt Creek campground. The Salt Creek Gorge is beautiful and rugged. We ate lunch in that area and then hiked on to the furthest edge of the Salt Creek Gorge. We decided that this was far enough for one day and headed back to camp. On the way back we got to see some white and orange spots on the river below which were rafts.

When we got back to camp we got to relax in the gentle gail force winds. Later that evening there was another group of four that came in and camped on the other side of the campground. That night we got rain off and on all night long.

We got up the next morning and headed out. About the time that we got to Hermit trail it started to rain, but didn't rain long. It was breezy and cold on the hike out. Some of the hikers we passed were telling us about the snow and hail they had on the rim. Sure enough we got snowed on. The last mile out of the canyon we had to step it up because we could hear thunder and didn't want to get caught on the side of a cliff in a storm. After we got up to the rim it cleared up and we could look down into the canyon and see where we had hiked. We did the tourist thing and then headed back to Phoenix for the night.

The next morning we flew back to Nashville and drove home.


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