Friday, January 29, 2010

Down into the Canyon 1/25/2010

When I found out that I was coming to Grand Canyon I knew that part of my journey had to include a hike down to the bottom. One of the many things that amazes me about this place are all of the biotic communities represented here, and the only way you can experience that diversity is to go down in the canyon. I am not a hiker so it took a lot of planning, preparation and research to get ready for this adventure- and then the day came. I plan to write about the hike and my time at Phantom Ranch in several different installments, so here goes.
Part 1: Bright Angel Trail, 9+ miles, 1/25/2010
I was so geared up with all kind of stuff(crampons, gaiters, walking sticks) that I was not familiar with until the sky dumped four feet of snow on Grand Canyon. I was actually supposed to leave two days earlier but the trails were so covered in snow that it wasn't safe. So I took a picture in all of my gear, while still in the apartment at Verkamps, to make memory of the beginning of my career as a hiker.
As I walked along the rim trail I was taken by how beautiful the Canyon was covered in snow, and honestly a little terrified that I was about to embark on my adventure alone. I paused for a moment, took this picture and reminded myself that there was a whole other world for me to see below the rim.
This is the trail head, check out the snow. I am not sure if you can tell from the photo but the narrow trail was flanked by snow that was up to my knees in some spots and as high as my thighs in others.Wow!
As I walked down the trail I was immediately taken by how textural it all was, the view from the rim is so expansive that it can be hard to see the subtleties of the rocks and trees. This site of this red rock jutting out from the snow over the trail was amazing.
Then I turned my head to the right and this is what I saw.

The trail travels down through several switch backs, helping you to gradually (still felt pretty steep to me) get down in elevation. At about 4,000 feet suddenly the snow is gone and soon you enter the oasis that is Indian Garden (about 4.5 miles down). Indian garden is a beautiful area with trees and plants and little streams passing over the trail. I stopped there and sat on a lovely bench to have a snack, slightly overwhelmed that I was not yet half way down. As I was leaving Indian Gardens I saw this tree, it was beautiful all on its own but then look at the view behind it.

It is hard to imagine that I was in a landscape covered in three to four feet of snow just an hour earlier.

I am very far from where I started. Standing in this spot it is crazy to think that I have come this far down and still have a far way to go.
My shadow in the sand. For now these are my versions of self portraits in Grand Canyon. feeling tall and strong and firmly planted in the earth.

These are natural patterns in the rocks. I could not believe how clear and crisp the black/grey lines were. The markings could not have been more beautiful had someone painted them.

Finally, the Colorado River and silver bridge, I was getting really close. When hiking down the Bright Angel trail you do not see the Colorado until you are close to the end- what a joyful sight.

The hike to Phantom Ranch took me just over 6 hours, it was beautiful and challenging and even at the bottom when my calves were so tight that I was walking more like John Wayne than myself (they call this the canyon shuffle, and everyone is doing it) I was so glad to be there. I cannot explain in words how phenomenal the transition is from rim to canyon floor, it is as if you are entering different worlds, one after the other. When I finally arrived at the main ranger station (my home for the first night), I just sat and soaked in all that was there, the beauty, the aching calves and the satisfaction that I had completed the first part of my canyon adventure.

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