Down the Grand Canyon

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The alarms rang at 5am. Tired, with eyes half closed we got ready for the descent. Only later we realized that Arizona does not obey daylight savings time and it was an hour earlier.

We started at the head of the North Kaibab trail and quickly started the descent off the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The temperature was in the low 70’s. Weronika accompanied Edek, Basia, and me for a bit and then sent us off. We continued the steep descent down the trail with thoughts of rattlesnakes, scorpions and 110+F temperatures filling our heads.

The trail changes dramatically as you hike along. First steep steps and switchbacks lead you 1500 feet through trees. Then, suddenly, the rocks turn red and the full view of the canyon ahead of us opens up. The path is steep and we can see where we will be in a few hours.

We hike along a path carved into the face of a cliff. Hundreds of feet directly below us is the valley bottom. The sense of open space is tremendous.

We pass Roaring Springs where a river literally flows out of the face of a cliff. The hike levels off and soon we pass the halfway point of our hike. The landscape turns to desert. Instead of scorpions and rattlesnakes we see ground squirrels and little lizards. However, the temperature keeps rising as the sun climbs up the sky.

At about eight miles we hike off the main trail towards ribbon falls. The small canyon abruptly ends at a small waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall is a green dome of moss covered limestone. Around it, eroded ledges in the sandstone. The water is crisp and cool. We cool off in its clear water and take a two hour nap in the cool shade, avoiding the cruel desert sun.

Refreshed, we put our boots back on and resumed our hike. The trail was now very gentle and the hike pleasant. The temperature continued to rise. Everywhere you looks were cacti with their bright red prickly pears. These fruit really live up to their name. Their tiny barbs make their way into your fingers, palms, lips, and one got stuck in my tongue. They are quite annoying and tough to remove. However, the fruit was sweet and delicious.

The hike was filled with smells, both wonderful and terrifying. From the perfumes of the pines, to the stench of mule droppings, to the subtle sweet aroma of ripe prickly pears, to the terrifying exhaust fumes of the hiker ahead of you. The olfactory landscape was as varied as the geological one.

Further on, the canyon narrows around Bright Angel Creek and the path continues amongst sheer cliffs. We arrived at the campground around five pm. The temperature did indeed reach 100F, but the hiking was strangely pleasant.

We pitched our tent and went for a little hike down to the Colorado River. Right at the banks, the temperature drops by what seems like 30 degrees. Even though we were hot, we dared not swim in the chocolated colored river as the currents were tremendous. Our short trip involved more climbing but offered fantastic overlooks over the mighty COlorado and the magnificent rock formations overlooking the cliffs.

When we returned we cooled off in the creek next to our campground and headed off to the nearby Phantom Ranch canteen for a beer and a snack. I fell asleep on a campground table underneath the starry sky and a bug net. The view of the starts was phenomenal. Basia and Edek endured the heat in the tent.

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