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Sunday, October 12, 2008

There's A Reason It's Called Grand

View From the South Rim

As promised last week, I'm going to try and provide a look back at some goings-on from the last 18 months, during which time I was on a blog hiatus. In May, 2007, one of my closest friends and I hiked to the base of the Grand Canyon and back. Let me say, if you have a Grand Canyon down-and-back trip on your "Things To Do Before I Die List" and haven't yet - Don't Put It Off! And if it's not on your list, add it right now. Stop reading the blog and add it right now. I mean it. This minute. Why? There is no better way to experience the Grand Canyon than to be in it - to have it wrapped around you, to live with it for a day or two, to watch the sunset and the sunrise change it. Over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year - about 10% hike into the Canyon, and even fewer go down-and-back. You want to be one on those people.

In case you don't get to the Canyon though, here are some highlights from our trip.

Julie and I arrived at the park thinking we were prepared for anything (if you've read the related previous blog entry, you know we had scorpion anti-venom). However, we were not prepared for Mr. Park Ranger Guy to say...

...did you pack for the snow?

The answer of course was "No." It was ok though, because temps are about 20 degrees cooler at the rim compared to the floor and we were not staying on the rim for long! Still, when we started out (I think around 6 a.m.) it was nippy! In fact, the hike down the Kaibab trail (steeper than the Bright Angel but with the best views it's the recommended way down) was weird weather-wise. After several hours, it warmed up enough but the wind was unusually strong. We validated this with seasoned hikers passing us a various points on the way down.

At one point, where the switchbacks were tricky, I realized that we could be blown off the trail (and down of course). As the switchbacks well, switch back, there is little canyon wall to block the wind and it was whipping back and forth. It was impossible to predict if a gust was going to blow you towards the canyon wall (a help) or away (definitely a hurt). But this was five miles down, so basically it was scary if we went on or scary if we bailed and went back up. So, on we went. To give you a taste of the wind, here is a picture of me crossing the swaying bridge over the Colorado river to get to Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor.

Crossing the Colorado

We spent the night in a cabin at Phantom Ranch and ate at the cantina. We got showers (running water!) and listened to a nature talk. There was also Yahtzee! and despite my having never ever won a game of Yahtzee! I won. Such is the power of the Canyon. We enjoyed the company of fellow hikers but I got quite tired of the "we saws". "We saw scorpions." "We saw condors." "We saw Big Horn Sheep." Julie and Jean had pretty much seen just squirrels. I had envy in my heart. I said a prayer that we would see Big Horn Sheep the next day as we hiked out. I prayed we did NOT see the mountain lion that had been spotted earlier in the month.

By the way, although it rained that night at the Phantom Ranch, the only snow was at the rim, and melted by noon.

Phantom Ranch Cabin


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