Sunday 4/6/2014: Travel PHX to PIT
Nancy and I woke early and enjoyed an uneventful trip back to Pittsburgh. Wonderful to be home.
Grand Canyon Musings
Besides the shower and the toilet I especially missed trash cans.
Pooping and peeing in the wild gets old.
Backcountry hiking in the Grand Canyon is like visiting another planet. The landscape is spectacular and the terrain foreign.
It’s amazing what you can get used to (i.e. heights) and many things look scarier in pictures.
Trail food doesn’t have to taste bad, it can be delicious (although it’s a lot of work. Thanks Vangie and Julie!)
I learned how to treat water, use a wag bag, treat blisters, and leave no trace.
A trip of a lifetime.
I’m looking forward to a casual summer of hiking and camping. No need to carry 40 pounds up and down and in and out, thank God. The goal was to train through the winter and it worked! Ready for summer fun, but already thinking about the next adventure.
Grand Canyon – been there done that.
Saturday 4/5/2014: It was as cold as usual overnight but I added my emergency reflective blanket and was warm for one of the first nights albeit clammy. Reflective blankets don’t breathe!
I woke early for the sunrise but the morning clouds didn’t cooperate.
We got on the trail at 8:30 with just three miles to cover this day, but they were all up — 2,500 feet up. The trail meandered up the rim with a combination of rocky terrain, open dirt, log steps, and paved stone we called the Apian Way.
Ironically the stone pavers were very difficult although I was glad not to be slipping and sliding in loose dirt and rocks. It was steep, steep, steep. The Cathedral of Learning steps were good training, but it was still exhausting. Some areas were very narrow and exposed. The week of hiking trained us to focus on the trail and put one foot in front of the other. What’s that Christmas song? By the end I felt like I was in the last few miles of a marathon, so tired but still going. As I approached the rim, I met more hikers heading down and tourists meandering down the trail. It was helpful to have someone to talk to and they all assured me I was almost there ;-). The euphoria of reaching the top was delightful. Onlookers asked me all about the trip and I felt like a rock star. This is the hardest physical accomplishment I’ve ever done and I have great personal satisfaction on completing it successfully.
We enjoyed a snack and retrieved our cars from Lipan Point. I was scared even driving out to Lipan Point it’s so exposed. No wonder I was afraid last week to start the trip. I couldn’t imagine how we’d get down off that rim without ropes. We caravanned to Maswik Lodge and enjoyed a celebratory lunch. I’m sure we were less ravenous then most groups. Our trail food was delicious, nutritious, and abundant. What a wonderful group we had to share the week with. Everyone was friendly and kind, quick to help anyone in need. The trail conversations made the miles easier and the aches and pains tolerable.
Nancy and I hit the camp showers for a luxurious hot shower with shampoo and soap, aaaaaaaah. I don’t think I’ll ever get all the Grand Canyon red rock and sand out of my hair and nails let alone my pack and camping equipment. We headed to Phoenix for an uneventful drive to catch an early flight to Pittsburgh. It will be good to get home.
Friday 4/4/2014: It was another cold night in the 30’s. I put all my clothes on again and was still cold. It warmed up quickly for breakfast. Another delicious breakfast of eggs with mixed vegetables and cheese along with an English muffin with jam. It included a side of home fries and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just kidding. We continued to climb, covering four miles and gaining over 1,000 feet. We made it to our campsite, Horseshoe Mesa by lunch and were able to set up camp in ideal conditions.
Lunch was bean salad on tortillas with cheese and chocolate wafer cookie, yum! We took a side trip to a cave on the edge and rested until dinner. Everyone enjoyed the relaxing afternoon and sunshine. Unfortunately the breeze picked up and the sun went behind the butte so the temperature dropped quickly and we were all bundled up again. Dinner warmed us a bit with bean stew over mashed potatoes.
Even the veggie straws survived in the packs! Early to bed hoping to get up early for the sunrise. We’re finally above some rims to see it rise and not just wait for it to spill into the gorge. The usual sunrises were watching it paint the canyon walls and reach lower and lower until we were finally in the sun.
I slept well enough despite the cold and rain. I swear it was freezing rain and since there was snow on the rim it may have been. I ended up wearing most of my clothes to stay warm.
Fortunately the sun came up bright and strong and dried things out before we packed up. Breakfast was oatmeal with fruit compote, delicious. We picked up the Tonto Trail to Hance Creek. The trail was a steady climb and tough on the feet. This is the first of three days to climb out of the canyon. We stop regularly for first aid on blistered feet. Moleskin and duct tape do wonders to ward off worse problems.
I’m a pro at moleskin donuts and by the end of the trip my feet have actually healed. Amazing! We continue to eat well with rice cakes and almond butter for a morning snack and triscuits, hummus, cheese, and lemon wafers for lunch. I learned all the tricks of the trade for packing food for a backpack. Surprisingly the crackers and cookies are still intact. We hiked trails on the edge of the inner gorge that just days ago would have scared us. It’s amazing what you get used to. Our camp beside Hance Creek is the best yet, not much sand, no wind, and not as cold. We had time to relax in the sun and get water from the creek. Dinner was pumpkin soup, curry rice with vegetables and rice and quinoa chocolate for dessert, spicy and delicious. The moon is just a sliver and the starry night is spectacular.
Today was the trip I had hoped for.
The wind howled all night and I slept fitfully. Nancy heard a creature at our tent and in the morning we discovered a mouse had eaten through the food bags stored in Tyvek and a mesh “rat sack.” Plenty left for us though. Breakfast was 10 grain cereal with dried fruit. We continued on the Escalante trail by the river to Red Canyon. At one place, near Papago Canyon, the Colorado River rushes against a rock outcrop. To bypass the outcrop, we climbed up a short rock face. Our rock climbing practice came in handy!
Soon after we had to descend a huge rockslide. Everyone’s nerves were frazzled. With 35 lbs on my back I think it was as frightening as sky diving, but I made it!
This photo doesn’t do it justice. It is three times this size and we had to climb down backwards like a ladder. Without knowing where your feet were going it was nerve wracking. We went in threes so that we didn’t cause a rock slide onto another group. Nancy and Cathy and I made it slowly but surely with Janis as our guide since Vangie had already taken the first group down. Phew
A late lunch of tabouli with peanuts and wasa crackers followed. After all the adrenaline of the terrain it was short hike to camp after lunch. Rain started at lunch and continued to sprinkle until camp setup. It’s amazing how quickly the tent goes up in the rain. It let up in time for a late dinner of potato leek soup, ravioli with vegetable sauce, and fruit compote. The rain started again as we headed to our tents. The rain, wind, and cold is putting a damper on the trip, literally.
Don’t forget to check out the photos on the link at the right.
Tuesday 4/1/2014: We slept well and started the day with hearty oatmeal with apples. This was my last day of kitchen duty for a couple days. Phew. That every meal KP was busy and exhausting.
We hiked the Escalante trail up and down, in and out of side canyons along the river. The wind returned with a vengeance. It gusted up to 60 mph pinning us to ledges until it abated. We snacked at an Indian ruin but the wind made it difficult to enjoy.
Although the wraps with almond butter and wild berry jam were delicious. Lunch was in a secluded side canyon so we enjoyed a respite from the wind along with dried okra, Melba toast, cheese, and hummus. Our mileage probably doubled with the head winds we fought all day. Camp is along the river again so no need to carry extra water. Nancy and I had to move our tent because the sandy beach poured in through the screens. Dinner started with split pea soup and veggie chili with sweet potatoes. Chocolate pudding and biscotti for dessert. The wind forced everyone to their tents right after dinner. Hoping for an uneventful day tomorrow.
Another tiring day.
Monday 3/31/2014: We didn’t sleep well because it was so cold. We had all our clothes on and still couldn’t stay warm in our sleeping bags. Julie estimated it was in the 30s. The morning was cold but we enjoyed homemade granola with strawberries and milk. We descended the final 3,000 feet into the Grand Canyon, arriving at the Colorado River early afternoon. The route was rocky and you had to watch every step. With sore legs from yesterday it was challenging to continue to lower yourself and your 35 lb pack down the trail. The views of the river as we descended were amazing.
We soaked our feet in the cool river, aaaaah. Lunch was cheese and crackers and dried cherries. We saw some rafters go by while at lunch for their first rapids.
Oops we had a morning snack of crackers and apricot jam. Yum! We continued along the river west on the Escalante Route for three miles over undulating terrain to our camp along a quiet sandy beach. Total mileage was approximately seven miles, four challenging downhill miles followed by three rolling miles. This was our first time to get river water and sanitize with tablets. It was windy again so the tent is filled with sand since it blows in through the screens. Is sand good for exfoliating your skin? Dinner was pasta with spicy sauce and vegetable soup. Dessert of dried bananas and raisins. Early to bed tired and sore. Threatening rain. Hopefully not.
Sunday 3/30/2014: We met and caravaned to Lipan Point leaving our rental car at Grandview for next week when we pop out of the canyon. The wind was blowing 40-50 mph today with a wind advisory. Panic set in at the Point just imagining being on a trail on the canyon wall with those winds.
The trail turned out to be manageable albeit rocky and steep. We were surrounded by scribbles and small trees. Think McConnells Mill with 1000 feet down per mile at the beginning. We backpacked into the Canyon four to five miles and down 2,000 feet. Lunch was a delicious cheese sandwich on a bagel with spinach, cucumber, and mustard as well as dried mango and chocolate for dessert.
We’re spending our first night about halfway down the Tanner Trail near an overlook, providing expansive views of the Colorado River and enormous, colorful walls of sandstone and limestone by day and unobstructed views of the starry sky by night. Tent setup was interesting with gale force winds. We ended up with a little tent city called a tent bomb sharing stakes and ropes to one lonely tree. Dinner was roasted brussels sprout, asparagus, and cauliflower soup, taco salad with chips, beans, rice and avocado. We even had chocolate mint cookies and hot tea. The temperature dropped quickly when the sun set and we all climbed into out tents. It’s cold and I am tired.
Saturday 3/29/2014: We started the day needing air in the car tires and Nancy was kind enough to fill the tires while I watched the car sensors register the fill up.
Then we had a busy day as tourists. We enjoyed a Geological walk with an excellent park ranger and learned all about the geological history of the canyon.
We toured the classic El Tovar hotel and the Kolb Brothers studio with their adventures filming the canyon. After lunch and a nap we walked the rim trail and rode the shuttle out to Hermits Rest enjoying all the spectacular views along the way.
Be sure and click the link to see the photo stream. Tonight we met our group and reviewed the logistics of the trip. It looks like an eclectic mix from Vancouver, SF, NY, and Oregon to make for a good week. We meet tomorrow morning to caravan to the trailhead. I won’t have cell service until we climb back out of the canyon next Saturday. I’ll continue to blog and upload a new day each day next week. You can enjoy my trip with me in time delay!
Friday 3/28/2014: Travel PIT to PHX, drive to Grand Canyon via Jerome & Sedona
Left home for the airport bright and early for a 7 AM flight. Steve dropped us at the curb and wished us safe travels. It’s good to be on our way.
The hiking poles made it through security, barely. The tall, intimidating TSA agent at the Xray machine felt the poles in my carry on as he pushed them into the machine. He held on and asked, “Are these hiking sticks?” When I answered yes he shook his head and said I couldn’t take them on board. I pleaded that everything I read said they were allowed and could he ask someone else. He called over a supervisor who sent them through the machine. The bag and poles got a visual inspection and passed! The trick was the rubber tip covers without them the poles are not allowed. Phew.
Picked up Pat and Ruth from Oregon and headed north. We stopped for lunch in Sedona and enjoyed the sunshine and warmth. The drive to the canyon was a good preview of the terrain. Easy drive and arrived at dinner time for our first view of the canyon. Makes us all nervous for the trails! Check in, dinner, showers, and bed. It’s been a long day.