The Grand Canyon
22 Sep 2007
|Bugger all sleep last night due to young people enjoying themselves on a Friday night, and the trains. Still, I can cope. And soon owe were off to the Grand Canyon. The weather gradually worsened as I drove, but held off. When we got there we went straight to Mathers Point to look over the rim into the Canyon, and what can I say? I felt speechless, and it took about three days to get over that. The Canyon is hundreds of miles long and several wide, about a mile deep - with a few thousand feet drop at most places on the rims - and mostly a pinky red colour, with a lot of grey. That's the factual bit.
From the rim you are both looking down at the biggest thing, and at the same time miniscule compared to it. It is vast, sublime, and still, and has quite an impact on everyone as far as I could tell. Definitely an experience not to be missed. Saying that, as usual I got more out of it when there were less people around, but with hundreds of miles of rim to look over, that isn't difficult. Almost none of the postcards and few of my photos seem to catch the sheer scale, you will just have to take my word for it until you can see for yourself.
So we pitched camp - near the rim and the various amenities - and then wandered around the rim near to us, as the weather got worse and worse, first rain, then fog, then a full-on thunderstorm with torrential rain. Glad we weren't on a day trip, as many were!
A grim night, and really cold this morning (we are at over 7,000 feet, and can feel the
thinner air). I still don't like camping! So we drove a short way to pick up a bus along the Western side of the Southern Rim to Hermit's Rest, and then walked the 9 miles or so back to Canyon Village along the Rim. There were some frankly scary bits, drops of a few thousand feet, but the sky has cleared a bit and the views are consistently unbelievable. We overheard a ranger saying that only about 5 out of the annual 5 million visitors a year fall over the edge. Once we got back to the car we drove out to little known Shoshone Point, incredible views and very few people.
Today was the big walking day. We got a couple of buses to the top of the South Kaibab Trail, one of the main cross-canyon rim-to-rim routes. Erica came with me for about an hour as we went down a steep track into the canyon, and then I left her to walk back up while I continued down the Kaibab Trail almost to the top of the Colorado Gorge, and then went west up the Canyon along the Tonto Trail, never seeing another person. This was a good stretch as much was level, so I could goggle at the views without risking my neck. And then the hard bit, up the Bright Angel Trail from where the Tonto Trail hit it at Indian Gardens, up an up for thousands of feet back to the rim . I loved the walk no end, much of the time no-one else but me, unreal views and physically demanding but enjoyably manageable. The Rangers had told me it should take 9 hours without rests, and I did it in 6 with numerous camera stops, so felt quite smug. One of the best hikes I have ever done, right up their with China's Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Had some interesting chats while waiting to meet Erica at the top of Bright Angel. Many Americans are very friendly and open and will talk to anyone. I-raq is a big thing here, and nearly everyone I talk to appears to have kids over there. They don't all support the war by any means, but generally do support their soldiers.
And then, despite feeling rather shagged, as it was a full moon, we went back out to Mathers Point to see the Canyon by moonlight. Still amazing. We 'rescued' this lost New York Jew we found there who was under the illusion that he could get a quick bus from there to his planned stay in Sedona (a 100 miles away). We took him some place he could at least stay, and had ourselves a very early night.