Saturday, January 30, 2010

North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls

1/26/2010 I woke up this morning with the canyon shuffle in full swing-just imagine me sliding my feet, not really picking them up at all, in about 6 inch movements- really funny to watch. I know this because as I shuffled along I was able to observe my fellow hikers in the same situation, we all laughed as we tried to make our way up the stairs to the canteen. But, talk of a waterfall was too much to resist so I headed up the North Kaibab to Ribbon Falls.

Part 2: North Kaibab to Ribbon Falls , 12.5 miles round trip, approx. 6 hours

At the trail head were at least 30 mule deer, what a way to start the hike. They just slowly step out of your way, well, until this guy- he just stood on the trail, I bet I waited about 5 minutes, just watching him and then finally he strolled away. They are called mule deer because of the large ears that move independently.

Bright Angel Creek runs through Phantom Ranch and along the North Kaibab trail, it is a beautiful stream with rushing waters, the sound was wonderful as I walked. The trail is over to the right of the stream in my photograph.

This section of the trail is called the box because the canyon walls are so close together.

Even within the vast expanses of the canyon there were so many intimate textures and objects that caught my eye. I found it so amazing that in such an enormous place the little things still had so much visual power. I thought the textures of this decaying wood were absolutely beautiful, I took several photos but this was my favorite.

Petroglyphs and pictographs are not uncommon at Grand Canyon- this is a place steeped with history and the lives of people. On my hike I found a modern day petroglyph- left recently by I hiker like myself- though only days old it still seemed like an interesting human mark on billion year old rock.

This portion of the trail was actually a man made bridge over low rushing water- it was beautiful with the tall yellow rods growing on either side. I was able to walk the path and run both hands along the growth, which was much taller than me.

This is Bright Angel Creek rushing over rocks, brilliant in the middle of this dry canyon. There was a sense of safety in being able to hear the the rushing waters, I never felt lost as long as I could here that sound.

Walking along in a world of reds, browns and greys and suddenly I see this brilliant green growing on the shade side of a large boulder. Green, rust and mint colors covered just one side of this large rock, so beautifully designed that it could have been a painting.

OH! and then there was Ribbon Falls. I could see it from a distance and it was spectacular, a thin "ribbon" of water cascading into open air over the cliff's edge. I was mesmerized as I got closer, but then suddenly the trail seemed to end. Ranger Steve was telling me just the night before to be sure that I took the trail behind the falls so I felt certain that I was missing something. I looked for several minutes and still couldn't find it, so I climbed I tall rock (to get a better view) and had lunch. As I sat there alone, in the midst of a beautiful waterfall, 6+miles from the last person I had seen, reading a topographic map, I realized that I was truly as far from my day to day life as I have probably ever been- and I felt suddenly very motivated to find my way to the edge of the falls. I climbed down from my rock and found a way through water and over boulders to the edge of Ribbon falls and the beauty of it took my breath away an yet again grand canyon brought tears to my eyes. You can't see it in this photo but there was a rainbow in front of the lower portion of the falls- the falling waters and the brilliant colors were even more amazing in the rigid rock landscape.

The trail behind the falls was easy to find once I made my way to the waters edge. the view looking through the falling water was profound in such a dry landscape.

Still behind the falls I was enamored by the large moss/algae covered rock that the waters first landed on. It was the enormous living, bright green mass in the midst of all the red rock, talk about complementary colors.

Silhouette/Shadow portrait at the falls. I started to think of these as my own temporary/digital petroglyphs ( like the modern petroglyph pictured earlier), a digital mark in this prehistoric landscape. What you can't see in the photograph is that the shadow of the waterfall was rushing by me to the right, a constantly moving shadow.

View from the far side of ribbon falls.

Heading Back to Phantom Ranch. You can see the path of the trail by following the creek through the canyon.

Another intimate path, within the wide canyon floor, surrounded by growth- I was taken by how rough/hard/abrasive the plant life was- it would have to be to survive in such a harsh environment.

This last photo is of Phantom Ranch, sitting in front of the Canteen (were I stopped to get fresh drinking water)looking out through grass and trees at some of the cabins, a beautiful place.

The hike to Ribbon Falls was phenomenal and I would do it a thousand times more, even with the calves of fire! In that 12+ mile hike I only saw one person, but I also saw mule deer, a big horn sheep (a lucky glance to the right), ravens and a variety of other birds. There were all variety of plants that I have never seen to include the Agave, which I am now a smidge obsessed with.
I had dinner in the canteen that night- yummy veggie chili and delicious salad ( I had been eating food I hiked in, good, but nothing like real cooked food and fresh green stuff). I was so hungry that I am pretty sure I was eating with two hands, I don't think I elbowed anyone in my flailing attempts to cram food in my mouth. Met some really great people at the dinner table- all of us in the same state of awe, exhaustion, canyon shuffle and sense of community and instant friendship- some pretty spectacular folks. It is at dinner that I met Karen and Cyndee and they became I big part of the rest of my time in the canyon.
I had to walk a half a mile or so to my new home at the River Ranger Station after dinner, and let me tell you- Grand Canyon Dark is really different than the dark at home. I carried my head lamp which illuminated approx. 10 feet in front of me and thought awfully hard about the cougar sighting in the area a couple of nights before- I realized quite abruptly that I have never been trained in the art of dealing with a cougar-WHEW! I have probably never been so happy to get inside.

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