Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Grand Canyon - South Kaibab Trail Hike

We got up at the crack of dawn to try to make it to Grand Canyon for the sunrise. It's about an hour drive from Flagstaff, where we stayed. I had no idea what time it was, but we maybe had 4 hours of sleep, and we both were tired, and not quite awake before we had to hit the road again. After throwing our belongings to the car, we realized, we took way too long to get ready, and there is no way to make for the sunrise unless the car grows helicopter blades...

                                          [morning light somewhere around mather point]

For those who know me, and that's nothing to be proud of, I was super determined to get us there on time, and got our little rental Versa to almost fly... literally, the wheels didn't touch the road, I drove so fast... No one else on the road. My eyes were peeled to the windshield, and Tim was checking out the sides of the road for deer. Do you know what happens when you hit a deer going 95 miles per hour???

And that was exactly the question police officer asked me, when he pulled me over for speeding, oh, roughly 3 miles away from the south rim of GC... at Grand Canyon Village.  As he was checking my paperwork, we sat on the side of the road, watching elk grazing in the morning rays of rising sun...

[someone camping in the background]

I got away with the warning, lucky me. He liked my polish last name, and kept talking about how great polish pistols are, and how he had a few in his collection. We might have talked about pierogi's, at some point also... I don't even remember... This was my second out of state speeding citation, and let's face it, there is nothing safe about speeding, so I am definitely more cautious about it. 

We made a quick stop at Mather Point, to compare the views from last night, and shortly after got on a shuttle to Yaki Point to hike part of the South Kaibab Trail. Since none of us ever hiked in Grad Canyon, we didn't know what to expect, we had about 5-6 hours for the hike, and after that long drive back to Phoenix.

[squirrels are always begging for food, not afraid of people. btw we did not feed the wild life]

I was surprised to see so many people at the trail head. And vast majority of them was completely not prepared for any sort of hike wearing flip flops, having no water, or children running around the trail, like it's a playground - one wrong move and you can fall down the canyon wall. I would never let my kids be so careless. Safety first. I don't know what was I expecting, but definitely not this. The first mile down to Ohh-Ahh Point was quite busy and almost annoying. It got better as we descended to the lower elevations. 

[after the initial switchbacks of the south kaibab trail, getting close to the ohh-ahh point]

The day was very windy. Very windy. I still have the dust in my Canon 24-105 L lens... I also wore scarf on my face, to avoid gusts of dust in my nose and mouth... The morning was cold. We came prepared, wearing layers. We both had over 3 liters of water with us and good amount of trail food. We were ready to explore below the rim...

Our hike down South Kaibab Trail lead us to the Skeleton Point, we thought of going further down, but it was getting late, and what goes down must come back up. Since hiking down seemed easier than going up - we didn't know how long it would take us to get back up to the rim. Skeleton Point is about 3 miles down from the rim and about 2,000 feet in elevation change. 

[few switchback right after ooh-ahh point]

We passed Ohh-Ahh point, filled with tons of people, scrambling to get pictures. Over a mile down the trail, we stopped and had lunch at Cedar Ridge. What a perfect spot, with beautiful vistas of green, red and yellow canyon walls. We spent good 45 minutes enjoying amazing views and warm sun. 

[cedar ridge viewed from the trail, hut with the restrooms]

[looking for a lunch spot at cedar ridge] 

[found it... not so bad, right.?  chipmunks and squirrels were keeping us company, not pictured]

After the lunch break we headed down by O'Neal Butte to the Skeleton Point. As we descended the canyon opened up with more breathtaking panoramas. Trail went through this flat patch, it reminded me of a forest meadow, filled with tons of dessert flowers. The end of the meadow marked the Skeleton point. From the west we could see the bed of Colorado River, wining its way through the canyon. That was our last stop before we headed back up.

[the meadow, it was so amazing to see all this vegetation growing in the dessert]

 [another view of the meadow]

One thing I have to say, that trail was packed with ignorant people who had no idea about hiking, safety or trail etiquette. I was stunned how many unattended children run up and down the narrow trail, all it takes is one misstep and you're done.

 [the view from skeleton point, colorado river and the green in the valley is the phantom ranch]

Once back on the rim, at Yaki Point, we waited for the shuttle bus to take us back to the parking lot. We got to our car, and immediately took the dusty clothes off. Changing into clean wardrobe made a big difference. We surely were sore. Picked up a coffee shop dinner before getting back in the car. Four hour drive ahead of all of the sudden sounded like an impossible chore. Phoenix seemed so far away. And it was getting dark. After a hike like this last thing we wanted is to drive.

We loved the experience in Grand Canyon. It was short, but sweet. We got the experience the rim, and the canyon. Not all the way at the river, but it was still great to see how different the Grand Canyon is from the inside. The colors, the rocks, vegetation, fauna and flora. The dusty wind blowing in our faces and the quick change of temperatures. The only thing I would change is to hike all the way to the river, stay down in the canyon for a day, and hike back up the other trail on day three. Maybe even do a rafting trip down Colorado River, but for that I would need to do some more research, as some of the rapids look little frightening.

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