Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 18 Early Morning Hike

"I'm amazed in the quiet ocean
I'm amazed at your wrong devotion
I'm amazed at what the people saying
I'm amazed by a divided nation
Like the middle of the earth I get disrupted"
- I'm Amazed by My Morning Jacket

My last day at the Grand Canyon. I have to drive back to Phoenix to meet some friends. So I got up early. Grabbed a couple of muffins and carton of milk and hiked west along the Rim Trail from the Bright Angel trail head. The sun was rising behind me which lit the canyon very nicely.
I hiked out to Powell Point, stopping along the way at Trailview Overlook, Maricopa Point and anywhere else that looked interesting. The Trailview Overlook supplied a great view of the Bright Angel Trail. 
The mules are heading down the trail. You can see (if you click on the picture, you will get it full size) the hiker stepping off the trail to give the mules the right of way. 
You can see the trail zig zagging across the snow covered canyon wall.Yesterday I hiked down past the bottom left edge of the pictures. I turned around just short of the Mile and A Half Rest House. Today I stopped between the Trailview Overlook and Maricopa Point to eat my breakfast. The wonderful views were available all along the trail and you can sit and rest on the edge just about everywhere. So I sat down with my legs over the edge and ate the greatest poppy seed muffin with the most incredible half pint carton of milk I had ever drank. It is possible that the view with the sun rising over the canyon had influenced my taste buds. Anyway, I heard a woodpecker in the tree above me. I stood up to get a picture. Then I saw a female bighorn sheep climb down onto a rock outcrop in the canyon. I couldn't believe my luck as she stayed there while I changed to a telephoto lens.
A little bit later I hiked right over where the bighorn sheep were grazing and took some more pictures.
The next stop was Maricopa Point. The views into the canyon just keep getting better along this hike.

Another half mile west on the Rim Trail and I was at Powell Point. I walked out onto the point and just stood there. Unable to move at first. Completely amazed. It really is impossible to describe the feeling. How would you describe looking at something that does not exist anywhere else in the world. Eventually, me being me. I started taking pictures, lots of pictures. Here are a few of them.

Look at this, god damn it. Even with something as big as the Grand Canyon behind me, I still look fat.
I was running out of time. I still had to check out by 11am. But I couldn't turn back now. So I jumped on the shuttle bus and got off at Mohave Point. I continued to be stunned by the beauty of this place. 
I had a hard time leaving each of these points. I was already planning my return trip here. Next time, I'm staying longer. I argued with myself , hey I'd been hiking alone for 4 days, about heading back. I won the argument and jumped on another westbound shuttle bus. I figured Pima Point was better than heading to the end at Hermits Rest because the bus turns around and heads back from there. Pima Point would give me 10 -15 minutes to take pictures before the bus got back. I love it when I win arguments with myself.
A quick shower and I'm off to Phoenix to meet up with some friends for a bachelor party weekend. I drove south out of the park and took the scenic highway through the San Fransisco Mountains. There were lots of people driving north into the mountains with skis & snowboards. Who knew you could ski in Arizona? I did meet up with Ian's party at the Library. It's a bar, the servers wear very short plaid skirts and white dress shirts, mostly unbuttoned and cleverly tied. Sorry, no pictures from the party. I gave up about 12:30am because I had been up since 5:30 this morning. OK, it had nothing to do with that, I just can't drink all night like those kids.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 17 Just Breathe

"Stay with me,..
Let’s just breathe" 
- 'Just Breathe' by Pearl Jam
There are no words to accurately describe spending a day at something this amazing. Trust me, the pictures do not capture the immense beauty or show the incomprehensible scale of what your eyes are seeing. I can only say to you what I was told by friends and family that have been here. This is a place that you must visit at least once in your life. I began my day on the Rim Trail near the Bright Angel Trail. The mules were lining up to take people into the canyon. I checked the trail but it looked very icy. Then I saw two guys walking up carrying ice picks. I decided to walk east along the Rim Trail to Mather Point. The following pictures were taken along the that route.
One thing I noticed, and completely approve of it, is the lack of fences and railings. If you want to risk your life to walk to the edge, feel free to do it. 

After lunch I decided to hike down into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. What could go wrong? It's Saint Patrick's Day. I'm Irish. I'm wearing green. 
UH-OH. I don't have crampons.
It's icy especially in the shade. So what, I continue on. I hope to make it to the Mile and a Half Resthouse.

The trail was dry in the sun, packed snow or ice in the shade and slushy in between. The one constant was the mule shit was everywhere. I almost made it to the Mile and a Half Resthouse. I turned around on the switchback just before it. ( I learned this the next day when I could see down into the canyon from the Trailview Overlook) My legs were getting tired and my knees began to ache from constantly trying to keep from sliding on the downhill sections covered with ice. I also began to worry about getting my old, fat ass back out of the canyon. I had hiked down about 1100 feet. So I rested, then headed back up.

Yes, I did make it out of the canyon without help from the search & rescue team. I stopped often early in my hike back up, then I surprised myself how easily the upward hike became for me. I took it slow, stopped to drink water and take pictures and suddenly I was at the top of the canyon. I met a lot of people on the trail. Some just said hello, some stopped to talk. One lady seeing my green Irish Baseball Association T-shirt said with a perfect Irish accent, "Oh me laddy, Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you." I did celebrate the day in the bar at the Maswik Hotel. I had three Harps beers and two slices of pizza. Hey, I'm just as much Italian as I am Irish.