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I took a long weekend break from National Park sightseeing and explored the region of desert east and south of Phoenix. Donna is willing and able to try a short backpack hike and I’ve been looking for someplace that would be fun but not too extreem. I don’t want her first hike to be freezing cold, or a struggle up a mountain carrying a heavy pack.  I’m not saying that she will have a hard time backpacking – she walks two miles everyday and is in better shape than I am – just that to see what it is all about dosen’t have to involve marathon distance and mountain climbing. 

I found a nice loop trail south of Superior, AZ that follows part of the Arizona Trail for a few miles and winds along the Alamo Canyon on one side.  It should be warm enough this time of year, and the terrain is relatively flat. Even though the landscape is void of forest, the canyon and unique vegitation should make for an interesting place to hike. 

I continued on to Catalina State Park where I paid too much for a place to park. I’m thinking of getting an electric heater to justify the price Parks are gouging campers in this economic portal. And I could have used one – the temperature in Tucson this morning was 38 degrees. 

I spent most of the day Saturday at the Pima Air and Space Museum.  There is so much to see – almost every plane made in the United States was represented – it would have taken several days to see it all. A lot of the information people around the displays were pilots and it was kind of neat to talk with them. 

Right now I’m in Kartchner Caverns State Park for the night. I’ll take a look at the cave tomorrow and see if it is anything I would be interested in. Then it will be off to see Saguaro NP and look at a lot of big cactus. 
    

 
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Daryl and I awoke just before dawn at our campsite in Grand Canyon National Park. We breakfasted on oatmeal and granola and prepared our backpacks with the lightest gear we had.  I was using my ultralight pack and Daryl left his tent behind in order to save a couple of pounds. Today was the start of our lifetime, adventure hike from the canyon rim to the Colorado River, returning the next day on the grueling 4400 foot climb back from the depths of the canyon floor. 

We drove to the backcountry parking lot where a shuttle bus took us to the South Kaibab Trailhead and deposited us along with about 20 other hikers at the start of our backpacking adventure. It was sunny and cool with a forecast of warm, dry weather for all but the tail end of our hike. All the hikers, including us, swung packs to shoulders and paused for photos before decending on the narrow path that leads into the canyon. The date was November 7, 2010.  

There are two main trails that lead into the Grand Canyon, and surprisingly, both paths are quite different.  Most people hike down on what is called the Kaibab Trail and return on the older – more famous – Bright Angel Trail, forming a semi-loop of sorts.  The 8 mile Kaibab Trail follows the ridges of the canyon, traversing open cliffs and exposed walls.  The views are always expansive and panaramic.  The drawback to this trail stems from the fact that hikers in summer weather will find little shade and no water along the entire route. The Bright Angel Trail, on the other hand, follows a natural side gorge along the Indian Garden River and most of the scenery is limited to the walls that tower above the trail. Both routes are quite beautiful, abundent with breathtaking views, awesome in shear expanse,  and formations even the imagination cant rival.

Going down is hard on the knees. Both Daryl and I had our knee braces on and I think they helped. I use treking poles to take some of the shock of downhill pounding away from my knees and I think that helped also.  My leg muscles are sore today from the workout, but that will go away in a few days with no lasting effects. It was a good workout and nothing near as streanous as the Sierra Nevada hike. I’ve decided that never again will I go backpacking with the premis that we need to get done and be back by a certain time.  

I had imagined the campground at the canyon floor to be a quiet little area of a few tents and hikers, but it was more like a mob of humanity, mostly young people, a little roudy but polite just the same.  Hikers seemed to trickle in all day until every campsite was occupied and the daily quota of 90
campers was reached. Rangers told us that before the days of permits, there would be as many as 800 hikers all compressed into this small campground. The impact was just too great. Now they are very strict and check permits religously. 

Daryl and I chose a campsite with a little isolation from the rest and made our beds for the night. Daryl was just sleeping under the stars, but I can’t do that and need a tent for protection from things that crawl around in the night. It was still early afternoon so while Daryl took a nap I put on crocs and waded in Bright Angel Creek. Afterwards, we sat and watched hikers dribble in to the campground.  It was interesting to me that a few of the backpackers were young females hiking alone. You hardly ever see that in the wilderness. I guess this would be be considered a community hike – like the AT – where there is more comfort with a lot of people around.     

Later that evening, we listened to Ranger led programs about the CCC and Bats. They were quite informative and interesting. In between times, we enjoyed a fine Mexican backpack meal which we devoured with great gusto. Both of us were quite hungry.

The night was fairly warm. The low altitude and protection from wind kept us snug in our camp.  Early the next morning, rude flashlights and banging pans from the camp next door, woke us to pre-dawn darkness.  We cooked some oatmeal for breakfast, competed for a turn in the restroom, packed up, and were on the trail by 7:30.

It was a tiresome hike back out but we both expected that. Our packs were lighter with less food and water and for a couple of miles the trail followed the river, sparring us the assent until our legs warmed to walking. The miles slowly fell behind end eventually- after quite a few rest for me – crested the rim at about 2:00 pm. There we were met with a cold wind and swirling ice crystals. 

It was a great hike and a wonderfun experience, something I had long desired to do but never imagined I would have the oppertunity to do. Thanks Daryl.             

 
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The Grand Canyon, one of the seven wonders of the world, beautiful, awe inspiring, take your breath away magnificent… blah, blah, blah. Now, take that same canyon, put on a backpack and hike from the rim to the Colorado River, decending along a narrow path that drops almost a vertical mile to the canyon floor – then you’ve got something.  That’s Daryl’s and my plan for Sunday. Mondays plan is to hike back out. If I can’t make it, it wil one heck of an expensive helicoptor ride to the top. 

While visiting the park last week, I stopped by the backcountry permit office for some information. Amazingly, they still had a couple of spots avaliable for canyon hikes this weekend. It has always been something I wanted to do and the time seemed right. I was a little apprehensive to go down by myself so I called Daryl to see if he could fit it into his schedule. Everything looks good for our attemp. 

I have been hanging around Flagstaff for the last few days, exploring the sights and staying at camps in the National Forest. Today I saw Meteor Crator and Walnut Grove National Monument. I enjoyed both places. Tonight I will drive back to GCNP and reserve a campsite for the next part of my adventure. Stay tuned.   

 
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After spending two nights of freezing temperatures in the low twenties, I headed south to lower altitudes and warmer weather in a place everyone knows – Zion National Park. Nothing about this park is like I remember it, and it has become so commercialized it’s not even near one of my favorites. Even on the last day of October, the crowds are awful. I can only imagine what it would be like on a summer weekend. 

Like Bryce Canyon NP, Zion has a huge city just outside it’s gate with miles of gift shops, motels and resturants. Most days in the summer you can’t even find parking in the park and shuttle buses are the only way to enter. Even the road through the canyon is only accessable by shuttle in the summer. 

I found a BLM site just outside the park where I will stay for a couple of days.  From there i will drive into the park to hike some of the trails and read about the history. 
 

 
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Last night I camped at a primitive BLM campground outside of Capital Reef NP in the Dixie Nat’l Forest. This morning I drove through some of the most extreem country I have ever seen. The road to Bryce from follows the ridge of a mountain for a few miles between Boulder and Escalante, UT known as the Devils Backbone. The road is on top of the ridge, no guardrails, and 1000 ft straight down on BOTH sides. It even unerved me a little.

Tonight I am staying at Bryce. I will do some hiking tomorrow and catch up on cleaning. Outside of the park is all built up with all sorts of touristry things. I found a laundry and also an honest to goodness shower place- not that I need it or anything;)

 

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