On our third day at the Grand Canyon, the weather finally lifted completely to reveal the beauty and sheer grandness of the canyon. And we were ready for some serious hiking!
One recommendation I’ll make if you have any interest at all in hiking in the Grand Canyon– buy a book! Don’t rely on the folks in and around the Grand Canyon Village to give you much by way of accurate and knowledgeable information on trail conditions, good/bad trails, distances, and places to purchase/rent equipment for your hike. Sure there are rangers around who can help, but they are mostly preoccupied with all the other guests, it’s hard to get in and have a real chat with any of them (even during slow season). And there is the back country phone line, except its line only gets answered Mon-Fri from 1-5pm (when you’re not on hold) and if you want to head out on Monday morning and are calling for trail condition reports on Sunday afternoon… well, you see the quandary here. Now don’t get me wrong, the folks who work in the Village are SUPER nice and helpful! They love to chat with you and are willing to give you all the information they have. The problem we found though is that the Grand Canyon Village is designed mainly for the casual tourist who is mostly interested in guided tours, mule rides, and shopping. While all of these things are completely awesome, they aren’t necessarily what we aim to do when we travel.
Luckily I had bought the Lonely Planet’s guide to the Grand Canyon (side note: I have an amazing collection of books from places we have traveled, will be traveling, want to travel… it’s really kind of awesome and I’m the first person our friends come to when looking for travel books. I like to hook folks up!). This book provided more than enough information on trails, what to expect in the various seasons, and where to find certain trails that the Village didn’t really advertise. It was great!
We took our longest hike on the South Kaibab trail. Originally we were going to do both the Bright Angel and the South Kaibab (along with a few other lesser known trails that I’ll save for revealing on another trip to the Canyon), but weather made us lose a full day of serious hiking and we had to choose the best of the two. We went with SK because it’s higher (about 7200 ft vs 6800 ft above the floor), has less shade (perfect for the winter) and it’s easier to see the Grand Canyon views through the entire trail. It was pretty near impossible to get any trail condition information the day before our hike and I was getting a bit frustrated. But Mike was beyond amazing about the whole thing and he knew my determination to get on the trail no matter what. So he set us up for an early day and decided we’d be heading out regardless of the weather. “We can always turn around if we have to” he said. And, of course, he was right.
The next morning dawned, we ate a good breakfast and then headed out to the shuttle bus stop to catch a shuttle to the SK trailhead. We couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves as we boarded the bus in 8ºF temps only to find NOT. ONE. OTHER. PERSON. on the bus for the morning hike.
The weather was calm, the sun was shining, and we had my pack, our Under Armour long johns (do they even call them long johns anymore??) and our cramp-ons. We were ready! The trail ended up being much easier than I expected. The cramp-ons were a nice addition as the temps started to rise the lower into the canyon we got and the snow turned to ice turned to slush. We didn’t have to go too far down before the snow was gone and we were walking in mud and, eventually, dry ground. The day was absolutely spectacular and the lower we got the more people we began to see (heading out of the canyon). I’d say all told, on our trip down we saw about 1/2 a dozen folks headed up. Talk about a nice, private hike in one of America’s most visited scenic spots!
These next two pictures make me smile every time I look at them. Here we are with the Grand Canyon herself right behind us, and what is Mike concentrating on? The rock layers! He was so enamored with the layers of sediment, solid rock, and minerals he couldn’t stop studying the patterns. He even gave me my own personal education on the history of the geology of the Grand Canyon. And, I have to admit, I became just as fascinated as he once I knew what to look for in the rocks.
South Kaibab was a blast! On the hike back up we started to see a lot more folks making the trek down the trail. Most were headed to Ooh Aah point (about .75 miles down), which is a perfect destination for a quick and fun hike into the canyon. Mike and I are already planning our Rim-to-Rim hike for 2012. We’ve got the basics laid out on the trails we’ll take and now it’s just a matter of nailing down the dates and deciding how much time we’ll be able to spend in the Inner Gorge while sneaking away from Life’s Responsibilities (i.e. kids, careers, obligations… fun adult things like that ). But I have to admit, we are both chomping at the bit to get back out there, hit the Inner Gorge and spend some time camping and exploring the floor of the Grand Canyon.
Next blog entry is going to be about exploring Red Rock Canyon area. Beautiful country, for sure.