no matter where you go, there you are

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Visiting the Grand Canyon in the middle of August is one word: hot. I guess its more than one word as it's also grand, breathtaking, a wonder of the world and so much more. But in August, the defining feature it that it's hot. Not only do you feel it, but the warnings all around the park in regards to the heat and taking care of yourself never let you forget it. And lucky for us, we were to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park smack dab in the middle of August.

Two of the main South Rim hiking trails that dip into the canyon are the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail. There's also the rim trail which is a few miles long and has numerous viewpoints of the canyon. As I'm all about doing as much as possible, we did just that, portions of all three trails.

Our first day we opted for the more modest South Kaibab Trail which was listed as less difficult trail for the best views. And it would be a good warm up for the harder hike the next day. Our turn around point was to be Cedar Ridge.

As the guide had said, it ended up offering better views than the Bright Angel Trail. The hike was really nice and not too hot. Shade was always preferable to sun but we started early enough in the morning that the midday sun was never a huge problem. I really liked Cedar Ridge and sitting on either side of it offered a spectacular view. You really feel like you're a part of the canyon and not just an observer from the edge.

After lunch we headed out to walk along the Rim Trail. I think we hiked 2-3 miles before deciding we were tired enough to hop on the bus back to our car. The Rim Trail is certainly an excellent option for those who aren't able to handle the strenuous hiking of the canyon trails. You get to see multiple areas of the canyon, you can see the Colorado River at a couple points and the camera opportunities are infinite.

On day 2 we headed for the Bright Angel Trailhead. This is the main trail down to Phantom Ranch, the National Park's lodge in the center of the canyon. It is not advised to hike down to the river and back in one day, and we weren't equipped to backpack down there, spend the night and return so we opted to hike to the Indian Garden stopping point and then return.

The hike down wasn't so bad. It's steep and a little harsh on the knees but not super stressful. The worst part was having to step to the side to let the donkey groups down, and then having to walk over the donkey poop in the middle of the trail. It's hard to hike when you smell donkey poop for at least one or two switchbacks.

Indian Garden was quite nice but for an ending point it offered no views of the canyon itself, because it's IN the canyon. The walls rise up around you and it's tempting to keep going down rather than turn around. We rested in a grove of trees amongst multiple groups of donkeys and people resting up before continuing on their journey either into or out of the canyon.

In terms of the heat, it lived up to the hype that's for sure. We left early as advised by the park so you avoid hiking in the high suns of the afternoon, but apparently we didn't go early enough because it was scorching by the time we were ascending back up. It took us 3x as long to get out as it did to get down which is torturous enough before you add the beating sun to the equation. But we took it in stride, one step at a time, one switchback at a time. There was little shade to hike in so we took our rests in whatever shade could be found. 

The Three Mile Resthouse was a godsend since we could sit on benches in the shade, recuperate and refill our water bottles. The only thing bad about it was that it reminded us we still had 3 miles to go before reaching the rim again. Given the heat, and the difficulty of the trail, this hike was all about our endurance and accomplishment of making it out alive.

In total, I think it took us 6 hours to get to Indian Garden and climb back out. We got back to camp around 2pm, ate food and sat down. We read books, soaking in the gorgeous weather and the elk wandering through the campground and didn't move again until sunset. I was sore to say the least!

No comments:

Post a Comment