Grand Canyon 11/05

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A day's hike through geological millenniums...

End of the hike, top of Bright Angel trail

I had an opportunity in conjunction with another trip to take a day's hike in the Grand Canyon. This was my first experience hiking the Canyon, so I wasn't certain of my limits. The only thing for sure was that before the end of the day I would have to climb back up the canyon just as far as I went down. So, armed with lots of water, Powerbars, hiking boots and my GPS I headed out for what became a wonderful trek of over 6 miles. The weather was nearly ideal - sunny, cool 45F at the rim (6800') and low-60s with a gentle breeze down below (4000').

I hiked the well-trodden Bright Angel trail, setting out from the top of the south rim at about 10AM. The trail follows the Bright Angel fault line, switching back and forth along the southern canyon wall. I passed through formations of kaibab limestone (270 million years old), toroweap limestone (273 million yo), coconino sandstone (275 million yo), hermit shale (280 million yo) and supai sandstone (315-285 million yo). Visible just below that was redwall limestone (340 million yo), made red by iron seeping down from the supai layer.

Afternoon sun lights up the North Rim

The view was stunning in every way from the very beginning. Each layer was clearly defined as I started my descent. The shift along the fault line further defined the contrasts. The top layers of limestone had plenty of vegetation growing on them (first three pictures above). The first picture above also shows the the black Kolb Studio building at the top left which is right at the Bright Angel trailhead. The second picture above has the "battleship" formation at its center, which also appears in several pictures below from different levels of the hike. Continuing down, there's a rest stop with bathrooms at the 1.5 mile spot where I added a second pair of hiking socks and took a short water and Powerbar break (fourth picture above).

I was certain at that point that I still had plenty of energy and water to continue farther down and my boots, pack and clothes were all working well. The scenery seemed to shift with every turn as I continued my descent (first two pictures above), eventually finding a pace that made the hike seem completely effortless. Time flew by over the next miles. Just past the 3 mile point, I stopped at a little clearing off the path with a remarkable 360 view. The remains of an old cable car system that was used to bring supplies down to Indian Garden (3800') spanned the hillside. I dubbed this my 'supai siesta spot'. For GPS adventurers, the exact coordinates of this location are N 3603.963', W11208.100'.

 

Looking down and across, I could see the valley, the Tonto Plateau and the north rim off in the distance (third picture above). Looking back, the four geological layers I had hiked through were clearly defined (fourth picture above, also showing some of the cable car system remains). To my right was a nice ridge view framed in trees and shadows (fifth picture above). To my left was the "battleship" formation viewed from below its center (first picture below).

I stayed in this spot for some time eating lunch and enjoying the view. At that point I had to make a decision either to go on to Indian Garden at the 4.7 mile point where fresh water was available or to turn back. The mid-afternoon sun was starting to hide itself behind the ridges and I wasn't sure how much harder the climb up would be than the hike down, so I decided to turn around and head back up.

 

Ascending past the 3 mile rest stop (second picture above with the "battleship" toward the right) I was rewarded with my first picture of the afternoon sun casting its glow over the canyon (third picture above, which also shows a mule caravan ascending the pathway ahead). Even though the path was the same, it seemed the view of the layers was more profound in some spots heading up (fourth picture above). Ascending through the 2 and 1 mile spots on the trail, the setting sun cast a brilliant light and shadows on the north rim (first and second pictures below and large picture top of page right, all viewed over the "battleship" formation). The last mile up to the trailhead offered darker foregrounds with even more north rim colors, as a haze began to develop in the distance (third and fourth pictures below). I arrived around 4:30PM back at the Bright Angel trailhead - somewhat tired, yet exhilarated from a most remarkable day (large picture top of page left).

Home Up Boston 5/01 Grand Canyon 11/05 Hawaii 11/00 Hawaii 2/08 and 3/08 Hawaii Big Island 9/13 Maui & Kauai 12/12 Kauai 10/14 Key West 12/06 Key West 12/09 New York City 12/04 Orlando 12/02 Pacific Northwest 4/02 Philadelphia 8/02 San Francisco 12/05

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