Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grand Canyon -- Below the Rim

Friday morning, Day 2, came early, and I was not too enthused about getting out of bed. Craig had decided that we should hike the first part of the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon. I was feeling lazy and a little hesitant after hearing a lot of warnings from people who had walked too far down and then exhausted themselves on the climb back up. We finally got going and after figuring out how to use the shuttle bus to the trailhead, we started down the trail a little after 9 a.m. It was a cool morning with cloud cover -- thank God! The beginning of the trail was a steep descent by way of switchbacks through a narrow canyon. The views were breathtaking (and so was the trail -- ha!).

About halfway down through the tight switchbacks, we both noticed a frozen figure underneath a rock overhang up ahead. Dark-skinned and dressed in a large hat and layers of odd clothing, the figure almost looked like a petrified man. We were slightly freaked out as we approached. It turned out to be an older (Eastern) Indian woman dressed in traditional clothing with pants underneath. She looked like a Bernie type figure (Weekend at Bernie's), propped up in a standing position against the canyon wall. As we passed, we said 'Good Morning', but there was no response -- no facial or body movement. I really wanted to take a picture, but I always miss the really good one's because I don't want to be rude. But I told Craig on the way back up if she was still there, I would take her picture and he could take her pulse.

Once through the switchbacks, the trail continued with a slightly more gradual descent. Several times, large ravens flew overhead. Their wings make an audible noise like scissors slicing through the air. Very strange. We stopped at several points along the way to drink some water. Each time, one of these creatures immediately approached and usually stood on hind legs and begged. I never feed them because it's against the rules in national parks. Besides that, I was always taught as a kid if a squirrel approaches it's probably rabid. (We didn't have tame squirrels in Oswego, Kansas. Probably because no one FED squirrels!)

After about an hour of steadily descending through the canyon, we reach Ooh and Ah Point. The views and drops were breathtaking. We definitely stopped here to smell the roses. Notice who else is admiring the view!

After hanging out for 15 or 20 minutes, we decided that this marker would be a good place to turn around and start the climb back up. I didn't want to risk overdoing it. In February, I had an almost 911 experience hiking South Mountain in Phoenix, so I'm a little hesitant to go balls to the wall and test the equipment. (Especially in a location like this!) We also knew the trail was fairly steep all the way back.

Craig took the lead. We took short water and photo breaks on the way back up and really had no problem. We stopped here to take one more shot of the view down because the tight canyon was just ahead.

We looked for Bernie at her spot in the switchbacks, but she was gone. I always miss the good shots! By the way, she didn't appear to be in any distress, or we wouldn't have left her on the way down. I'm guessing the rest of her group went on from there and she had just claimed that spot to admire the view. But she was spooky! Here's one more photo looking up in the tight canyon.

I forgot to mention these signs and the subsequent land mines that litter the trail. I can almost smell it as I write. Ha! They run the famous mule trips down these trails. The photo of the mules is at the stables up above on the rim. I bet they love their day off!

We were back at the trailhead about two and a half hours after we began the hike. And no worse for the wear except for the fact that our feet hurt. If we ever hike in the Grand Canyon again, we'll definitely wear hiking boots. The rocky trails really beat up the feet in running shoes. My dogs were really barking!

We both regretted after the fact that we didn't go further down into the canyon. But hindsight is 20/20. We definitely plan on a return trip to do more hiking. And we both agree that we'd never really 'seen' the Grand Canyon before. Going below the rim was very enlightening. It's hard to describe, but hiking down made both of us feel like we were a part of it this time. The experience just isn't the same from up on the rim. I think being down in the canyon gave us a better sense of how vast it really is. And also how small we are!


jeanie said...

That was really adventurous Beck ! Thanks for taking us along. I love reading your blog in the morning. This is the time I miss Bob's board with my fellow early risers.

Jamqueen said...

Awesome photos! There are so many interesting places to see in the USA!

Jenny said...

Great photos, once again. Glad you got away and that you had such an incredible hike!

Sounds like something we all need to do once in our lifetimes!

Beck said...

Jeanie, I miss that board too! And thanks all of you for the compliments. Jenny, I'll see you tomorrow!