Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Unbelievable Grand Canyon

August 17, 2013
Day off in the Grand Canyon South Rim

OH MY GOSH!!  I know already that this post and pictures will not do our day off in the Grand Canyon justice, but I'll try.  To start the day we got up and watched the sunrise from the rim.  It was absolutely breathtaking.

A good group of us had initially planned on hiking all the way to the Colorado River at the bottom, but as the morning got later and we still hadn't even found the trail head yet, we decided to do a different trail that would take us to a plateau.  A lot of other people on the trip had already decided that they would hike the Bright Angel Trail, so they were ahead of us when we started.  We started the day around 6:30am and were definitely not the first on the trail.   The view from the top was incredible and I couldn't believe that we were actually going to hike down into it.

The path down is maintained so we cruised down the first few miles, trying to divide our time between looking down at the path and looking up at the amazing site all around us. It was remarkable how quickly the switchbacks took us down into the canyon.  Looking up you couldn't even tell where the path was that you were just on, but looking down you could see the levels of switchbacks that took you down into the canyon.

Bright Angel has a few different water/rest/bathroom stops along the trail at various mile markers that we stopped at for snacking and refilling our waters.  At the second stop a few people turned back and 7 of us continued on.  The hike was amazing becauseg
fvvvc you had a different view of the canyon both in front of and behind you at every level of the trail.  When we got to the Indian Garden, one of the trail checkpoints, we ran into the earlier group that had just turned around.  We had already come about 4 miles and it would be 4 miles back up the canyon.  We debated for a few seconds whether to turn around or to keep going and we quickly decided to keep going.  For most of our morning hike we had wonderful cloud cover that kept the temperature down so we weren't dying of heat yet.  The 1.8 miles out to the plateau were over a flat desert meadow and then it let you out onto a rock plateau that overlooked the Colorado River.  The river was probably about 1000ft below.  We spent a lot of time out there soaking in the views and the unbelievableness of where we were.

For about 20 minutes we were out there by ourselves--it was unreal.  None of us wanted to leave but we knew the longer we waited, the hotter the 6 miles would be that we still had to climb to get out of the canyon.  Walking back, we were looking at the canyon thinking, there's no way we're climbing out of that!  

It was about 100 degrees walking back to the canyon and starting to climb.  We stopped at every water stop and refilled/snacked/rested.  We kept each other going by continually telling stories, switching the topic every now and then.  As we reached the final checkpoint on the way up the canyon, about 1.5 miles from the top, the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped, and it began to rain.  Before we knew it, the light rain turned into a torrential thunderstorm!  It was amazingly intense--we couldn't keep from watching the lightning strike inside the canyon.  It was kind of scary but also awesome at the same time.  By the time we made it to the top, the winds had picked up considerably, the rains were coming down harder and horizontal, and the lightning seemed to be right on top of us.  Inside the canyon, the thunder echoed off the walls making it sound even more menacing.  

When we finally made it out, we ran to the lodge that was at the top of the rim and went to their restaurant to warm up and eat some real food. We all could not believe the unreal timing we had had all day.  The cloud cover in the morning, the plateau to ourselves in the sun, clouds coming back, and then getting to experience the canyon in the rain before it get really bad.  Getting back to the campsite, it was hard to describe to people what they missed out on when they turned around 1.8 miles from the plateau, but we realized they would never understand so we didn't even try.  That night we had another bonfire and sat around enjoying everyones company.  Camping, despite things getting a little wet, was a real success and a lot of fun.  I definitely want to come back to the Grand Canyon and do the full hike to the bottom.


  1. Replies
    1. When you get back from your trip, listen to Ferde Groffe's "Grand Canyon Suite" and think of the thunderstorm as you listen to it. I thoroughly enjoyed going down into the canyon with you, even though it was vicariously.