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Posts Tagged ‘South Kaibab Trail’

I’m not sure how it got to be almost April without a blog post, but I’m back! So much to catch up on, I’ve been traveling all over the place for work and play. For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

Looking down on the big pouroff

One of my recent adventures –  Jackass Canyon

I love taking my friends and family to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  While on a trip in Olympic National Park last year, I found out that my friend Grant had never backpacked in the Canyon before and I said I’d enjoy being the one to remedy that problem. Things lined up for me to hike into the Grand Canyon on my birthday, February 16th, for two nights in Clear Creek with a night at Bright Angel Campground on either side. We invited Ryan from Maine, who I’d met in Moab last year, and hoped for good weather.

Map-GC-Clear-Creek

The route we took – map courtesy of Wilderness Vagabond

We stayed in Tusayan and got a leisurely start after catching up at breakfast with my friend Li Brannfors, who Ryan (aka Guthook) had met on the Appalachian Trail many years ago. Temperatures had been unseasonably hot, yet there was a thick coating of ice on the upper parts of the South Kaibab in the shade of the chimney. Glad to have traction for the short distance, soon the trail was on the ridge in the sun. Always great to be back on the Arizona Trail!

Mule Train on the South Kaibab

Best location I can think of for my birthday!

 We timed it just right for the hike down, many parts were in the shade and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had on the Kaibab. Perfect weather for a birthday hike. So fun to see the guys react to the enormity of it all and ever-changing beauty of each turn of the trail.  Ryan was able to see the Guthook’s Guides Arizona Trail App that he developed in the field for the first time. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s such a game-changing resource for the AZT.

Kaibab Tunnel

We got a campsite by Bright Angel Creek, the cottonwoods were just starting to sport tiny green nubs. Ryan and Grant turned in after dinner, but not me- I had plans.

The moon was getting close to full and I took my camera and did my thing, visiting the beach and the bridges. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

Black Bridge at Night

 

Nighttime at Boat Beach

After a late night roaming the canyon and a leisurely start, we headed out to Clear Creek. I had only dayhiked a part of this trail while staying at Bright Angel. New terrain makes me giddy!

The CCC built the Clear Creek Trail to an amazing standard- it’s always fun to have people along who can geek out over a beautifully built wall or switchback. The trail passed the Great Unconformity- a place where over a billion years of time are missing between the Tapeats Sandstone and Vishnu Schist rock layers. Hard to wrap your head around geologic time, even when it’s staring you in the face.

The Great Unconformity


The Clear Creek Trail has spectacular views of many of the temples and buttes of the Canyon, but one stands above the rest: Zoroaster. It is one of  my favorite landmarks and the trail takes a tour around it. I must have five million pictures of that sexy Coconino-capped peak.

After Tontouring in and out of Bradley and Demaray points, we crossed Zoroaster Canyon. Then there was a traverse above the Clear Creek drainage that had great views of Wotan’s Throne and Angel’s Gate before descending into the canyon.

Photo by Ryan Linn

 

Descent into Clear Creek

We set up near the creek and the mice were almost immediately a nuisance. I did some photography before bed, the moon was so bright that it made the long exposures look like daytime.

The forecast was for a slight chance of rain at night and a 30% chance for the following day. The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, defeating any chances of sleep. Morning came and none of us had gotten much rest. We were supposed to have a layover day of exploring Clear Creek. That didn’t sound like much fun with the crazy wind. One day I’ll come back and explore upstream to Cheyava Falls- Grand Canyon’s largest at 800ft.  (only runs sometimes), and downstream to the sideways waterfall and the Colorado River.

Clear Creek Waterfall

Visiting the Clear Creek sideways waterfall while working on a river trip

A lone runner carrying a tiny pack visited our camp, having run from Phantom that morning. He said the winds were worse on the plateau. After a bit of small talk, we found that he was from the town right near where Ryan had grown up in Maine and that they knew the same people. Big Canyon, small world.

It was raining and still very windy. Unfortunate conditions for a layover. We decided to hike out and find a camp closer to Bright Angel to shorten up our next day. The winds were outrageous!! I kept getting pushed to the side, precariously close to prickly pear cactus and sharp-tipped agave.

 The hike back went quickly and we decided to stay on some ledges beneath Zoro in Sumner Wash which were mercifully out of the wind. I had a snack and took off to explore downstream before it got dark. I followed the canyon through the Tapeats and into the schist to pools in pink Zoroaster granite. There are few things I enjoy more than a new side canyon and this was a beauty.

Goat cheese, dehydrated olive tapenade, pepperoni and bacon

 

Zoroaster Temple

 

Vishnu Schist (black) and Zoroaster Granite (pink) pouroff

Did some night photography with Zoro before sleeping on a Tapeats ledge. The moon was outrageously bright and I had to cover my eyes to get any rest.

 The next day was a short jaunt back over to Bright Angel Campground and we took our time savoring the views from the Tonto Platform before hiking down into the canyon. The river looked like chocolate milk from the runoff of the recent rains. Early arrivals of spring wildflowers dotted the landscape.

  

Micro Chicken

The rest of the day was spent lounging about at the cantina, on Boat Beach and at the picnic table under the cottonwood by the turn into Bright Angel Creek.
  The last location was fascinating- it was Friday and a constant parade of backpackers and folks staying at Phantom Ranch streamed by. Grant is the owner of Gossamer Gear and was interested to see what kind of gear people were bringing. Needless to say, most of them did not subscribe to a lightweight philosophy and generally looked miserable as they came into the campground. I can relate, I was one of those people on my first hike down here  in 2001.

After the backpacker parade, it was time for stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, a welcome treat after 4 days in the Canyon. The guys went to bed and as usual, I hiked around in the evening, then went to sleep on my preferred place in the campground, the picnic table.

 The next morning we readied for our hike out and got the usual leisurely start after I visited Ranger Della to say hi. It was so nice and cool out and the hike to Indian Gardens was pleasant. We all converged on Indian Gardens for lunch and even though I ate plenty and was drinking lots of water, I felt way more tired than I should have.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The next bit to the 3-mile house dragged on and I told Ryan to go ahead and I’d meet him up top. I took a good break with my feet up and had some Emergen-c. That was the missing piece of the puzzle and I immediately felt better. It had been so cool that I’d not been keeping up with my electrolytes, which made me tired.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The rest of the hike was great, even on a Saturday there weren’t a ton of people on the trail, probably kept away by the solid ice on the trail above the 1 1/2 mile rest house. I reached the rim in good spirits and enjoyed hearing Grant and Ryan’s experiences of the hike out the Bright Angel Trail. We went to Li’s house where we were greeted with tasty beverages and slow-cooker chili. A great end to a fantastic time in the Canyon.

Can’t I just stay here? Photo by Grant Sible

This trip didn’t get me any miles toward my goal of hiking the length of the Grand Canyon, but any time in the Canyon is well spent. My next trip from South Bass to Hermit in April will close the remaining gap for me between the Tanner Trail and Elves Chasm. And in October, I will be hiking a month-long piece of the Canyon and I’m currently trying to figure out the specifics of where I will spend my time. I look forward to each and every step, no matter how challenging.

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A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

This spring, I have had the pleasure of helping Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails to “Walk off the War”. They had previously put vets on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail and this year expanded the program to include the Arizona Trail. Along the way, they scheduled events to connect with VFW organizations to help regain the sense of community and brotherhood that is lacking when veterans leave the service. I helped plan their schedule, put them in contact with my Gateway Communities and even got on the trail with them. They started on March 15th- to read my story about backpacking with them the first 50 miles into Patagonia, go to Page 8 in the ATA Spring Newsletter: ATANewsSpring15.

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

I really enjoyed being a part of the team that helped the two veterans, Shawn- who’s trail name is Greyhound and Josh, as they made their way up the state. It is always interesting to see the Arizona Trail through the eyes of someone else and I did what I could to help with logistics and make sure their town stops were enjoyable.

There was one piece of the trail that I was determined to join them for, and that was the Grand Canyon. No surprise there, it’s the crown jewel of the AZT and my favorite place in the world!! I was really looking forward to putting my guide hat on and showing them around. After numerous calls, we were able to secure dorm rooms at Phantom Ranch for May 10th, as well as dinner and breakfast. That meant that I could hike down with just my Gossamer Gear Type 2 daypack- how fancy!! We had breakfast with Wired, who was on her last couple weeks of the Hayduke Trail, and Li Brannfors, Arizona Trail Steward and accomplished long-distance hiker.

Shawn and Josh and me at breakfast with Wired, who's on the Hayduke Trail, and Trail Steward and long-distance hiker Li Brannfors

Greyhound, Josh, Wired, me and Li Brannfors

The morning was beautiful- it had rained and snowed for a couple of days before and the air was crystal-clear. A smattering of puffy clouds was the icing on the cake for one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever had into the Canyon. From the very first switchback on the South Kaibab Trail, Shawn and Josh were blown away by the outrageously fantastic landscape that is the Grandest of Canyons. There’s just really nothing quite like it and no picture or view from the top can prepare you for the layers of goodness contained within.

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

We blew right past Ooh Aah Point, too many tourists on this Saturday morning to stop and look. Instead, we found our own lookout point for reflection and photos. The Canyon was in bloom- wildflowers and cactus alike adding colors to the already spectacular layers of rock.

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Took a short break for snacking at Cedar Ridge and headed down, down, down into the abyss. It’s so much fun to see others see the Canyon for the first time- the excitement of seeing the Colorado at Skeleton Point, the views of the iconic temples of the Upper Granite Gorge, the wonderment of it all.

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

The guys got a little ahead of me while I was talking to another hiker and I ended up hiking from the Tipoff down to the river solo. The South Kaibab Trail, no matter how many times I’ve hiked it, always makes me giddy with delight. I was practically dancing down the trail, I was so excited to be there, descending into the ancient schist and granite. As I neared the tunnel and Black Bridge, I hoped that I might see someone I knew at the Boat Beach, but alas, there were no Arizona River Runners or Grand Canyon Whitewater boats to be found. I’ll be starting my river season next month and can hardly wait to call the Canyon my home for the summer.

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

I took a break at the river but soon it was time to make sure that I got to Phantom in time to meet the guys for dinner. Josh had steak and Shawn and I had their delicious veggie chili, with big squares of chocolate cake for dessert. I fondly remembered the Christmas Dinner that I ate down here a couple of years ago. After dinner, we went to the Boat Beach to hang out by the Colorado River and then to the Silver Bridge to catch the fiery sunset on Zoroaster Temple. It was so much fun to show Josh and Shawn around and get to catch up with them and hear about how they felt about their journey now that they only had a week left to go.

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

After a visit to the Phantom Ranch Cantina, the guys were off to bed. But I wasn’t done with the Canyon yet- I hiked out the North Kaibab to the Clear Creek junction and played with my headlamp and long exposures on my camera.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

I stayed up way too late and regretted it when we got the 4:30 am call for breakfast. Nothing like climbing out of the Canyon on no sleep, at least I was only carrying a daypack. After breakfast, we packed up and Josh and Shawn headed north on their last leg of the journey toward Utah. The North Rim was still closed for the season, so I hiked the Bright Angel Trail back up to the South Rim.

Accidentally hit a button I didn't even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

Accidentally hit a button I didn’t even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

I haven’t hiked out on the BA since my very first backpacking trip in 2002- I always take the South Kaibab. I figured I’d try it for a change. I spotted another hiker with an umbrella and got to talking to Meg, who works in the Canyon for the Park Service and lives at Indian Garden. She’s a fellow long-distance hiker and later in the day we saw each other again and she invited me up to her place for lunch. What a view!!!

Met Meg "Little Bug" who works for the NPS

Met Meg “Little Bug” who works for the NPS

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

The rest of the hike up was uneventful- even though the Bright Angel has water stops to make the trail easier, I still way prefer the South Kaibab. Topped out, grabbed some dinner in Flagstaff, and made the long drive back home to Tucson. Another great Canyon trip in the books!

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Four-o-Clock

Four-o-Clock

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Shawn and Josh made their way to Utah the following week and had their celebration in the Gateway Community of Page. I am so happy that I got to be a part of the first Warrior Hike on the Arizona Trail, the outdoors provides healing and time for reflection and it is great to help foster that journey for others. To donate to Warrior Hike, visit http://warriorhike.org/donate/.

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

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North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail

May 23-26

The Gateway Community of Tusayan, south of the Grand Canyon, welcomed me with a gigantic banner and a fun event at the Big E Steakhouse!

What a welcome!

What a welcome!

After a delicious pancake breakfast cooked by gracious host, trail steward and accomplished long-distance hiker Li Brannfors, I headed out. It was cloudy and as I got into the car, it started sleeting big, mushy drops. By the time I got to the South Kaibab Trailhead, it was clear overhead, but looked like the North Rim was getting pounded.

South Kaibab Trailhead

South Kaibab Trailhead

I was able to get a night at the dorms at Phantom Ranch and a permit for Cottonwood Campground for the following evening, giving me a light schedule of only 7 miles a day. I was looking forward to having time to lounge about in my favorite places on the way. I had been doing high mileage without much of a break and my feet were definitely feeling it.

I was so excited to hike into the Canyon, it is my favorite place in the world and I never get tired of exploring it. The Kaibab Trail is on a ridgeline most of the time and the views are spectacular. I was practically running down the trail, but took plenty of breaks at all my favorite viewpoints.

South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail

My mind wandered to thoughts of finishing the trail next week in Utah, and I thought to myself, “You should really be here now and appreciate your hike through the Grand Canyon”. Just then, a young man came up the trail wearing a shirt that said The Here And Now- how appropriate! He was from France and we had a nice chat before I continued on.

The Here And Now

The Here And Now

Pack mules at Cedar Ridge

Pack mules at Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge with O'Neill Butte to the left

Cedar Ridge with O’Neill Butte to the left

I am particularly enamored of the views of Zoroaster Temple, such an incredible landmark! The hike down was easy and went quickly. Despite clouds all around, I didn’t get rained on at all. I crossed the Black Bridge and made my way down to the Boat Beach on the Colorado River.

Black Bridge and the Boat Beach below

Black Bridge and the Boat Beach below

Me with Sumner Butte and beautiful Zoroaster Temple

Me with Sumner Butte and beautiful Zoroaster Temple

Black Bridge

Black Bridge

It was so fun to be at the Boat Beach with the rest of the day to myself. I dunked my feet in the icy river, then set up under a bush to take a nap. Just the way I wanted to spend the afternoon.

Feet in the icy Colorado River!

Feet in the icy Colorado River!

I checked into the dorm and went to dinner at Phantom Ranch. All you can eat vegetarian chili, salad and cornbread- topped off with chocolate cake for dessert! Went back to the Boat Beach and on the way visited and pet the mules in the corral. I had the most wonderful time stargazing and enjoying having the beach all to myself. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime, and we stop at Boat Beach just to fill our water jugs at the faucet, then go on with our trip.

I didn’t get to sleep until really late and the next morning was woken by the call for breakfast. I wasn’t eating at the ranch, so I packed my stuff up and headed to my next destination- Ribbon Falls. The North Kaibab Trail was full of rim-to-rim runners, many who were really rude. It was most unfortunate. I found a place to dip my feet in Bright Angel Creek and watched as people rushed by.

Love this place!

Love this place!

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek

I hoped that Ribbon Falls wouldn’t be too crowded, and miraculously, on a Saturday during Memorial Day weekend, only two parties visited during the many hours I spent at the falls. I just love this waterfall, no matter how many times I’ve been here, it’s always a treat- kind of how I feel about the rest of the Canyon. It rained on me for a little bit, just enough to be refreshing.

A great place to spend the afternoon

A great place to spend the afternoon

View from behind the falls

View from behind the falls

Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

Hanging garden on the side of Ribbon Falls

Hanging garden on the side of Ribbon Falls

Loud little fella

Loud little fella

Around dinnertime I left Ribbon Falls to hike the rest of the way to Cottonwood Campground. I found Michael E, a fellow thru-hiker, at the campground. It was so nice to have someone else to talk to who could understand the mixed emotions I was having now that the end of the hike was coming up soon.

The next morning I was out of camp by 7am and excited about my hike out of the canyon. Couldn’t resist dunking my feet at the waterfall by the trail, so I took a short break.

Trailside Waterfall

Trailside Waterfall

Purple Nightshade

Purple Nightshade

Michael caught up with me and we ended up leapfrogging the rest of the way up the trail. It was a perfect day, not too hot given that it was the end of May. The miles fell under my feet easier than ever before- it’s amazing what 700 miles of conditioning can do! I took a bunch of breaks for pictures and scenery and still managed to get to higher elevations before it got too hot.

What a trail!

What a trail!

North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail

Gaining Elevation

Gaining Elevation

Such a wonderful hike, each layer it’s own geological story. I’m always conflicted about which is my favorite- sometimes I’m convinced the Supai is the most attractive, then I think about how incredible the Redwall is, and then there’s the ancient schists that make up the Granite Gorge…

I crossed the last footbridge and started up toward the Supai Tunnel. Ordinarily, this part of the hike feels like it takes forever, but this time the tunnel appeared so quickly I was a little sad that my hike through the Canyon was mostly over.

Supai Tunnel

Supai Tunnel

Michael and I took a break at the tunnel, then continued the climb to the rim. Temperatures were great and fresh-faced, clean-smelling tourists in flip flops began to appear. I love the view from the Coconino Overlook and part of me wished that I could hang out and take a nap. Which would have been impossible, since it was a busy Sunday filled with tourists. Finally, one couple decided to take pictures jumping right near the edge and I took that as my cue to leave.

Me and Michael E

Me and Michael E

Micro Chicken loves the Canyon

Micro Chicken loves the Canyon

Coconino Overlook with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance to the right

Coconino Overlook with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance to the right

The last part of the trail is heavily wooded and shady and temps were perfect. I reached the rim and Michael was right behind me. I felt great that I’d had such an easy hike out, and had the rest of the day to relax.

Topped out at the North Rim!

Topped out at the North Rim!

As we were sitting at the trailhead, some guys hiked out, whooping and hollering about how awesome they were for having hiked out of the Canyon. Full of bravado, they turned to us and said, “It’s pretty great down there, you should hike it sometime!” To which I answered, “Yes, we came from the bottom too, but we started our hike at the Mexican border two months ago.” “No way!” they said, and then their faces dropped. “Well, I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishment till I heard that.” It was pretty funny.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing with my dad at my friend’s apartment on the rim and getting ready for the final week into Utah. It was bittersweet knowing that this incredible journey would soon come to an end. Thankfully I’ll be returning to the Canyon at the end of June to start my river season.

Here’s the link to donate to the Arizona Trail Association– every dollar goes right back into protecting and sustaining the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

View from North Rim Lodge

View from North Rim Lodge

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Original Post December 29, 2013

Post updated December 25, 2015

As Christmas neared, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. My husband was planning to visit family in Michigan for the holidays, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to have Christmas dinner at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

The Phantom Ranch Cantina- the site of so many wonderful memories and meals. It is a true oasis in the desert, offering thirsty travelers Lemmy lemonade and ice-cold Tecates. Many a trail tale has been told at these tables. The meals at the Ranch are fantastic, and you don’t have to be staying there to make a reservation.

Once I saw that the weather was going to cooperate, I called Xanterra and booked my Christmas dinner. Ordinarily there is a choice between a steak dinner and Hiker’s Stew, but for Christmas they were going all out with a turkey dinner.

After dropping Brian off at the Phoenix airport, I spent Christmas Eve in Sedona with my dear friend Kimberlie. She has hiked the Arizona Trail and Pacific Crest Trail and has an amazing story and blog at thenewnomads.com. Check it out, she’s awesome.

Kimberlie Tunnel Falls PCT

Kimberlie at Tunnel Falls on the PCT

So nice to not have to worry about hiking in the heat. I stopped by the Backcountry Office and got a permit for one night at Bright Angel and one at Indian Gardens. I had a leisurely start time of around noon. Oh, and here’s my hiking outfit, I was feeling particularly festive.

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire

I used my (matching red) Microspikes in the chimney and shed them once I reached the sun. It was fun to see and hear people’s reactions to my hiking attire. I got called Mrs. Claus by children on the trail. The sparkly red skirt I wore was a gift from my dad, who brought it from India. Speaking of Indians, I felt right at home- because Indians generally don’t celebrate Christmas, they were everywhere at the Canyon!

I got to Cedar Ridge and did a little photoshoot with the new Arizona Trail guidebook. It came out in December 2013 and I am so proud of the finished product. I brought a copy for the Cantina and the Ranger Station libraries. You can buy it here: http://www.aztrail.org/store/at_store.php

Here’s my bio:

AZT guidebook bio

AZT guidebook bio

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

So, I have some exciting news- I will be thru-hiking the Arizona Trail in 2014 as a promotion for the new guidebook, the trail, and the Gateway Communities! I will be starting at the Mexican border on March 14th and am scheduled to arrive at the Utah border on May 31st. Along the way there will be 12 events in the Gateway Communities where people can come together to celebrate the trail with food, music, and beer. I will be posting updates from the trail and people will be invited to hike with me for a day or two. Here’s the link to the Arizona Trail Trek!

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

I was getting ready to leave Cedar Ridge when a young woman, also wearing a Santa hat, stopped to take a break. Her name was Grace and it was her first time backpacking into the Canyon. We hiked together off and on throughout the day and I enjoyed her company. Ever the guide, I shared points of interest as we hiked.

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

Grace on the trail

The canyon was very different in the wintertime- summer’s angry heat and bustle gone and replaced by crisp air and a sparsely populated trail. I felt the familiar pangs of excitement upon seeing the Black Bridge, tunnel and Boat Beach below.

The Colorado looked impossibly cold and uninviting. In the summertime working for Arizona River Runners, I’m always drenching myself with the icy water to cool down. Today all that was going in was my hand. Yep, absolutely frigid.

Boat Beach

Boat Beach and the Black Bridge

Boat Beach all to myself!

Boat Beach all to myself!

I went to the campground to choose a site and ran into Ranger Della, who I’ve worked with in the past on GCHBA service projects. She has a Christmas birthday and her family was down visiting to celebrate.

Then it was time for dinner at Phantom Ranch. It was amazing. A buffet with a turkey and ham carving station, mashed and sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread stuffing, and three kinds of pie to choose from. All made even more delicious by the fact that I had nothing to do with the prep or cleanup. I sat with a very nice family, the daughter seemed to have been bitten by the Canyon hiking bug, it was fun to see. I predict many Canyon adventures in her future.  I am super-lame and left my camera at the campground, but here’s a pic that the family I sat with took.

Christmas Dinner!

Christmas Dinner!

I visited the Boat Beach at night for stargazing and then went to sleep atop the picnic table. It was chilly! In the middle of the night, I heard rustling which I thought was people getting ready for an early hike out. Only when I opened my eyes, there was a deer chomping the bush right next to me, its body six inches from my face!

Night visitor

Night visitor

The next morning I relaxed in camp for a while, waiting for it to warm up. Caught up with Sjors and Della for a bit, changed my permit to stay another night at Bright Angel. I forget what a draw this place has for me- once I get here I usually want to stay. Back to the Boat Beach for lunch, so nice to have it to myself. When we stop here on river trips there are usually 2 or 3 full trips milling about and we are in a hurry to fill up our water jugs and get moving through the Gorge.

Sleeping on the picnic table

Sleeping on the picnic table

In the afternoon, I wandered up the Clear Creek Trail for a while, until I could see the Coconino cap of Zoroaster Temple. Fall stays late in the Canyon and there were cottonwoods still shedding their golden leaves.

Fall colors in December

Fall colors in December

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

As the short winter day came to an end, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and wrote in my journal for a while.  After a fondue dinner, I contemplated visiting the Cantina, but couldn’t coax myself out of my cocoon.

I had a leisurely morning of deer-watching, journal writing and canyon-gazing. I thought about taking the Bright Angel out, but decided on the Kaibab once again. Besides, it’s the Arizona Trail! I took my time, stopping to chat with the mule packers, backpackers, and hikers and take pictures. There is something so special about hiking up through the layers of the canyon, each with their own story. Looking down upon layers that previously towered over you. The exhilarating feeling of seeing the trailhead at the end of a hike out.

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly...

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly…

Kaibab tunnel

Kaibab tunnel

South Kaibab Goodness

South Kaibab Goodness

The material items I’ve gotten for Christmas will eventually wear out, get lost or broken- but I will always have the time I hiked into the Canyon wearing a sparkly skirt and a Santa hat.

Want to read more about my trips in the Grand Canyon? Click here to explore!

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, we have released a lot of the animals that we raised since the summer. We’ve had a couple of out of season babies, like a group of baby rabbits and this little guy- a baby barn owl. It’s a couple of weeks old in the picture and quite noisy! We put it in with the adult owl so that it can get used to other owls. The adult is not amused. Thanks to all who donated to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this year!

Happy New Year!!
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Baby Barn Owl

Baby Barn Owl

What a face!

What a face!

And to close things out for the year, here’s a picture of my favorite Harris Hawk, who was sent to another facility to become an educational animal. Hope he’s doing well!

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

 

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First of all, the Third Annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Benefit was a resounding success! $1040 raised for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson- thanks to Sky Bar for hosting, the performers for donating their talents, and all who came out and enjoyed the entertainment. I’m waiting for pictures and will post when I get them.

I drove up to the Grand Canyon in March to do an Arizona Trail presentation for the Tusayan Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was held in the sitting-room of the Historic Kolb Studio perched at the head of the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon. The Kolb brothers were Grand Canyon pioneers- click here to read more about this adventurous duo. Definitely the best place I’ve given an Arizona Trail talk yet!

Kolb Photography Studio

Kolb Photography Studio with a camera pointed at the Bright Angel Trail

Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to try my luck at a walk-up permit at the Backcountry Office. It was the first wave of Spring Break traffic and I wasn’t sure what was going to be available. Although I have spent a lot of time in the Canyon, I have never done the popular Hermit-Bright Angel loop, so I asked about that itinerary. Surprisingly, there was a first night at Salt Creek, then a second night at Hermit Creek. What sold me on the itinerary was that Salt Creek is only one campsite, so I would be assured some solitude despite the busy season.

Salt Creek Camp

Salt Creek Camp

I was looking at a map the day before my hike and decided that instead of the Bright Angel Trail that I would take the South Kaibab Trail down to the Tonto Trail. I could see the piece of the Tonto Trail that goes from the Tipoff to Indian Garden while avoiding the crowds of the Bright Angel Trail. It would pose more of a challenge, at 16 miles instead of 12, but I was in the mood for a long day.

I could hardly sleep, I was so excited to go backpacking.  It has been WAY too long since I’ve backpacked in the Grand Canyon.  I have been spending all of my time in the Canyon in the past two years at river level. The last backpacking trip I took in the Canyon was my Point Huitzil trip in April 2011. Hard to believe. I’ve hiked in twice since, but rafted out, which is quite the luxurious way to do it.

Smiling in the Supai on the South Kaibab Trail

Smiling in the Supai on the South Kaibab Trail

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples

I started hiking around 7:30 am. There was ice in the chimney of the South Kaibab Trail and I was happy to have my Microspikes. The ice only lasted through the first switchbacks and was clear the rest of the trip. I was practically running down the trail, I was so excited to be back. I love the South Kaibab Trail, it evokes so many memories of my growing relationship with my adopted state. In August of 1994, my boyfriend at the time and I drove across the country in a red sports car from Chicago to move me to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. I’d chosen the school, sight unseen, because of its excellent Anthropology program. Never having been to the Southwest before, I had no idea what to expect. My first hike ever at the Grand Canyon was down to Cedar Ridge and it completely blew my mind. At the time I don’t even think I knew about backpacking down to the river or anything.

My first visit to the Grand Canyon- 1994

My first visit to the Grand Canyon- 1994

I returned for dayhikes with visitors, but was not able to do much more because I was very sick with fibromyalgia in my 20’s.  By 2001 I was having less frequent flares and some friends of ours got a permit for two nights at Bright Angel Campground in April. My hike down the South Kaibab was excruciating. Despite having tried to train beforehand, my knees were my weak point and I hobbled into the campground on borrowed hiking poles. My husband Brian and I made all the usual mistakes, carried too much, trained too little, and then he didn’t eat enough on the 10 hour hike out the Bright Angel and threw up the rest of the evening. I was sore for a week but wanted to go back. Brian did not share my enthusiasm, it was his first and last backpacking trip.

The South Kaibab is also part of the Arizona Trail, I hiked this passage with my brother Sanjay in 2008. We had an amazing four days together,  I wish we could do it again sometime soon. So much history with this trail.

My brother Sanjay and me

My brother Sanjay and me in 2008

It was interesting to see this part of the canyon from above once again. The river gives such a different perspective. There were a lot of people on the trail that were going to have a long, hard, hot hike up. It was hard not to be in guide mode. I reached the Tipoff and had a nice chat with a woman who is a ranger at Glacier NP who was having the same issue on her dayhike, trying to enjoy herself without going into ranger mode.Bright Angel Creek  and Campground

Temperatures had soared in the last couple of days and it was going to be hot on the exposed Tonto Platform. Luckily, I had my trusty umbrella, which is ideal for Tonto walking. I turned off toward Pipe Creek and began contouring on the Tonto, or Tontouring, as I have heard it called. It was easy walking toward Pipe Creek. When I reached the Pipe Creek drainage, I saw a beautiful juniper for my break time. There is no better smell in the world than a Grand Canyon juniper. I took a long break and ate and rested up before continuing on.

Pipe Creek

Pipe Creek

Twisted geology

Twisted geology

My next stop was Indian Gardens and the junction with the Bright Angel Trail. I decided the best method of dealing with the Spring Break crowd was a minimal-contact policy. Just fill up the water and keep on going. So many people, I was glad to get out of there. I met nonot from HikeArizona.com on the trail headed out from a Boucher-Bright Angel loop and stopped to chat for a bit before Tontouring over to Horn Creek.

Junction with Plateau Point Trail

Junction with Plateau Point Trail

I was feeling good as I made my way to the Horn Creek campground, which was full of people. I was glad that my permit was for the next drainage over, where I would have the camp to myself. The last miles toward Salt Creek were long and my feet were getting sore. My spirits were buoyed by a fantastic view downriver of Granite and Hermit Rapids.  I Tontoured forever around Dana Butte and finally reached the Salt Creek CG about 6pm. It had been a long but incredibly scenic day, surprisingly hot, but all the drainages had water in them for me to cool down.

Cheops Plateau and Pyramid, Brahma, and Zoroaster

Cheops Plateau and Pyramid, Brahma, and Zoroaster

I ended up hiking 17.3 miles that day, an extra mile added on because I thought I left my Mp3 player on the trail and backtracked for a while to look for it. I set up my camp and was so tired that I passed out for about two hours before waking up and eating a sandwich and going back to sleep.

I had a leisurely morning the next day, as I had only 7.2 miles to get to my next campsite at Hermit Creek. It was so nice to have Salt Creek to myself and I spent a while writing in my journal and relaxing before breaking camp and moving on. I continued on the Tonto toward Monument Creek and got to see some boaters running Granite Rapid. It was so fun to be able to hear their triumphant cheers from 1500 feet above as they all made it through without incident. I can hardly wait for river season to begin again. I am working six trips with Arizona River Runners this summer starting in late May, so soon enough I will be the one cheering as we go through the rapids.

Granite Rapids

Granite Rapids

I stopped in Monument to refill my water and take a break. I spent a bit of time checking out the dark sculpted schist narrows downstream of the trail. This is by far the best camp on the Tonto between Bright Angel and Hermit, the others are quite small and located in the back of mildly interesting drainages. There was a climb out of the drainage and a tour of the Monument, a tall Tapeats Sandstone pillar, before regaining the Tonto Platform. I got to see the same boaters run Hermit Rapids, one of the most fun on the river.

The Monument

The Monument

Monument Creek

Monument Creek

White boat in Hermit Rapid as the other two wait their turn

White boat in Hermit Rapid as the other two wait their turn

As I reached the Hermit Trail junction, there were lots of backpackers taking breaks tucked into various small shady spots and we chatted about itineraries and such. I reached the trailside corral and dropped my pack to go check out the old Hermit Camp ruins. It was a luxury camp deep within the canyon from 1911-1930, visited by fancy ladies and gentlemen via a mule ride. Visit this link to read more.

Historic Hermit Camp

Historic Hermit Camp

I reached the campsite in the creek and found a shady ledge to set up for a nap. There was a NPS helicopter circling around and I thought they might be looking for someone, but it turned out it was a Poop-copter flying in barrels for the composting toilet. After the excitement of the Poop-copter, I explored up Hermit Creek a ways, plenty of pretty waterfalls and small pools. I was still a bit tired from the previous long day, so I decided not to make the trek down to the river.  I’ll see Hermit Rapids plenty this summer, up close and personal.

Cascades up Hermit Creek

Cascades up Hermit Creek

It was a windy night and I heard people starting to stir before sunrise, most were getting ready for the big hike out. I made it on the trail around 7:30 am and Tontoured back over to the Hermit Trail junction. At the base of the switchbacks, I could see a boy scout troop up ahead and heard screaming. I prepared myself for what I might find when I came upon the group. There was a boy in front screaming at the top of his lungs, “MY FEET HURT! I WANT TO TAKE A BREAK! I HATE THIS PLACE!”

I caught up with the adult in back who happened to be the scoutmaster and I asked what was wrong with the boy. He said that physically, nothing was wrong- they’d checked his feet numerous times. This boy had been screaming like this the entire trip, any time that they were hiking. He’d done it all the way on the hike down and whenever they hiked. When they stopped for a break or camp, he was quiet. They tried to mitigate it by hiking for 20 minutes, then taking a break. And sure enough, when they stopped, the boy was quiet. I tried to give some encouraging words to him about the hike out as I passed the group.

I made it up several switchbacks and the Boy Scout troop started moving again. “THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVER!! I HATE YOU! MY FEET HURT! I WANT TO TAKE A BREAAAAAAAAAK!” The screams echoing off the canyon walls. To tell the truth, it was freaking me out, and I had to put on some loud music to drown out the sounds. I felt so bad for the whole group, days of enduring the screams and cries of one of their members while trying to enjoy their big trip in the Canyon.

Cathedral Stairs

Cathedral Stairs (different set of Boy Scouts from the screamer)

There was shade for the hike up the Cathedral Stairs, which weren’t as bad as I’d expected. I finally lost the sounds of the screamer once over the saddle. The long Supai traverse was really beautiful, I liked having some quality time with one of my favorite rock layers. I took a break about halfway through the Supai in a shady nook. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the Canyon, restored after leaving the screamer behind.

Fancy!

Fancy!

Top of the Cathedral Stairs

Top of the Cathedral Stairs

The sun hit the trail and it warmed up considerably. Thankfully I was headed uphill into cooler temps. I saw the first hiker in a while coming toward me. As he got closer, I realized he looked familiar. And then in what was the longest 15 seconds ever, I came to the realization that the hiker was none other than Jim Bartling- the “trip leader” from my disastrous Royal Arch Loop hike in 2010.

Now I get along with just about everyone, but Jim “led” a trip through Meetup on one of the most difficult and technical routes in the Grand Canyon without doing the proper research or even having a route description with him. Thankfully for the group of 11, I had pored over countless pictures, trip reports, and route descriptions, bringing 5 different sources with me for the route. The trip was a nightmare, and Jim proved again and again that he was a terrible navigator, had no sense of group dynamics, and wasn’t physically prepared himself to do the trip. He put a lot of people in danger and then after the trip talked a bunch of crap about me to other hikers. Here he was, my trail nemesis, leading a big group into the Canyon once again.

“Jim?” As he hiked past me all he said was “Yep.” I wish that I had some witty retort to report, but all I could say was “Shit.” There was a long line of people hiking with him and I let them pass. I couldn’t help but say to them, “You guys all with Jim? Good luck with that.” I can only imagine what Jim said about me that day to his group. If you’d like to read all the juicy details of my trip gone wrong, visit my Royal Arch Loop writeup.

Micro Chicken on the Hermit Trail near Lookout Point

And now, to lighten the mood- Micro Chicken on the Hermit Trail near Lookout Point

More than a little irritated by my chance encounter, I hiked on toward Santa Maria Spring. I took a long break in the cool little structure and refilled my water. After the spring, clean-looking dayhikers started to appear on the trail. The trail construction in the Coconino was fantastic, tight, long cobblestones underfoot. The last bit of elevation before the rim was tough, but thankfully it had cooled considerably and I just took my time. I topped out at the trailhead among the flip-flop clad tourists and answered questions about where I’d been and where was the rest of my group. It always makes me think of all the people who see the Grand Canyon as a thing to cross off your bucket list, rather than a place to explore again and again. I guess I’m just lucky that I live so close and even more fortunate that I now get to spend my summers on the river.

Almost there!

Almost there!

It is full-on baby season at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, we’ve got countless bunnies, baby quail, a goofy pair of Black Crowned Night Herons- enough to keep two shifts of volunteers more than busy! Thanks to all who donate toward their food and lodging.

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Baby Quail

Baby Quail

Black Crowned Night Heron

Baby Black Crowned Night Herons

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I recently got the chance to spend 11 days hiking in the Grand Canyon. The first part of the trip was a five-day, 46-mile Royal Arch Loop off of the South Bass Trailhead in the western part of the park. I am still going through the myriad pictures and videos for that trip and will post about that soon. I hiked out the South Bass Trail on October 11th, got dropped off at the South Kaibab Trailhead in the main part of the park and hiked back down to participate in the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association Service Project at Cottonwood and Bright Angel Campgrounds. In addition to my work event, I managed to hike up to the North Rim and back out the South Rim, completing my first Rim to Rim to Rim over six days.

Starting down the South Kaibab

Day 1- After hiking out the South Bass Trail in the morning to complete my Royal Arch Loop, I got dropped off at the South Kaibab TH at 3:45 pm to hike back into the Canyon for the annual GCHBA Service Project. I had a spot waiting for me at Bright Angel Campground and a stew dinner reservation at 6:30 pm. Food and beer have never been a greater motivator, and I flew down the South Kaibab, which was in fantastic shape. After Skeleton Point, passed this guy who you could tell thought he was a big tough guy for coming up the South Kaibab. As I came practically running down the trail wearing a full backpack, smile on my face, loving the moment, he said, “Bet you won’t feel so good on the way up.” To which I replied, “Actually, I’m hiking back in, I’ve already hiked out today- have a great hike!” When I got down to the Black Bridge, I took a picture to check my hiking time and was shocked to see I’d made it down in 2:02! (for comparison, the first time I hiked down the South Kaibab in 2001 it took me over six hours and I literally limped into camp.)

Black Bridge across the Colorado River- a.k.a. the way to the stew dinner and Tecates

Now that I had 45 minutes until dinner, I went over to the campground and was happy to see Ranger Della. I told her that I was supposed to stay in the stock site, and she told me to wait a minute and see if she could get me the River Ranger Residence instead. It was my lucky day for sure because instead of sleeping near the mules in the stock site, I now had an entire little house to myself at the bottom of the canyon. Shower, phone, laundry and a bed that were all going to feel so good after having been out for 6 days already on the Royal Arch Loop. But first- my stew dinner and a couple of icy Tecates.

Day 2- I started up the North Kaibab to meet up with the rest of my group at Cottonwood CG for the work event. The past five days of hiking had caught up with me and I was tired, but thankful that I had one of the easiest pieces of the GC ahead. I got to the Ribbon Falls turnoff and took the creek over to the falls. It had gotten really warm, so I decided a siesta on the flat rocks above the creek opposite the falls was in order.

Ribbon Falls from the Siesta Spot

After a short nap, I continued to Cottonwood where I checked in with Ranger Bil Vandergraff and met the rest of my work crew. Later, we made our way over to our lodging at the Pumphouse Residence, also known as the Aiken House, where I was greeted by our house mom with a icy glass of lemonade and some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. I chose to sleep under the stars rather than in one of the bunkhouse beds.

Hiking up to Cottonwood CG

Day 3- We hiked over to Cottonwood to work on various maintenance jobs at the campground with Ranger Bil. I got to see some brand-new Arizona Trail maps that will be on display in the corridor campgrounds- it’s about time the AZT was signed through the park! Talked to Bil about creating and installing signs that give the mileage north to Utah and south to Mexico. He said- you build it, I’ll make sure you can install it. Sweet! After working at Cottonwood, we commuted back to the Aiken house.

Ranger Bil Vandergraff briefs us on what we're doing for the day- Amazing House Mom Pat is on the left.

Brand new fancy AZT signs that are at the trailheads and campgrounds- it's about time!

Love this fall right below the North Kaibab Trail

Day 4- We had a free day and five of us wanted to hike the Old Bright Angel Loop. We got up to find that there had been a pipeline break and so we had to switch to backpacking mode at the house and carry up all our water from the creek. We went up the North Kaibab and got to see some spectacular stands of maples and aspen.

Five hikers, fresh and ready to take on the Old Bright Angel Loop

Up the North Kaibab Trail

Chris Forsyth and the McCumbers (cutest couple in the Canyon) take a snack break at the Eye of the Needle

North Kaibab below the Supai Tunnel

Supai switchbacks

Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

Loving the fall colors!

Mmmmm...Golden Quaking Aspens...

Yay! We walked up into fall!

Video of the fall colors:

When we reached the trailhead, it was already 12 pm. After a comedy of errors involving trying to drive over to another trailhead for Ken Patrick Trail that looked like a shortcut but wasn’t, we realized to start down a trail notorious for routefinding issues with so few hours of light left was a terrible idea. So for our Plan B, we hiked along the Transept Trail toward the lodge and went for pizza, beer, and ice cream. Way to salvage the day!

The shortcut that wasn't any shorter.

Crap! Back at the trailhead again, no Old Bright Angel Trail for us today.

Views along the Transept Trail

Pizza, Ice Cream and Beer make for a great Plan B!

I even managed to get us a ride on the employee shuttle for the two boring miles back to the trailhead. Three of our group sped off to see how fast they could make it to the Aiken House, while I hung back with Russell and enjoyed the hike down, especially the last 45 minutes in the moonlight. The Aiken house is where Bruce Aiken lived and raised his family from 1973-2006 while tending to the pumphouse and painting in his free time. His kids used to have a lemonade stand for passers-by. I remember reading that Mary Aiken had to hike out the 4.7 miles/3600 ft elevation gain up the  North Kaibab Trail from her house while pregnant to deliver her children. The youngest of their three children, Silas, has now returned to his boyhood home and is working seasonally as a ranger. It was really interesting to talk to him about growing up in the Grand Canyon. Silas also gave us a choice of postcards with his father’s paintings- I chose one of Ribbon Falls that looks like the perspective is from my siesta spot from a couple of days earlier. One last night spent sleeping on the helipad.

The front group is down on the switchbacks before the bridge

Night Snake

Not a bad view at all...

Day 5- After helping with some maintenance stuff at the Aiken House, we had the rest of the day to hike down to the River Ranger Residence where the group would spend our last two nights. On the way, we explored Wall Creek up to the first waterfall, which was about an hour in. Gorgeous canyon- the narrows and waterfall are wonderful- it’s definitely one I’d like to spend more time in. It was also nice to be somewhere that the Rim-to-Rim runners weren’t anywhere nearby. As this was the last weekend before the North Rim closed, Rim to Rim runners were all over the place. A strange breed indeed. I cannot think of anything less appealing than rushing through the Grand Canyon.

Russell on his deck he built for the firehose at Cottonwood CG

Heading into Wall Creek

Wall Creek Waterfall

After Wall Creek, we realized that if we were quick about it, we’d have one hour at the cantina before it closed for the afternoon. Like I said before, beer is a wonderful motivator and we rolled into the cantina exactly at 3pm. Three of us chose to sleep in the Bright Angel CG rather than over by the ranger station, and after setting up our stuff, we went to the Boat Beach. Two guys showed up shortly after, Ethan and Josh, and I asked them where they were hiking to. They replied that they were thru-biking the Arizona Trail. I told them that it was their lucky day because I absolutely adore helping anyone trying to complete the AZT and I hadn’t adopted a thru-hiker for fall yet. So now instead of a thru-hiker, I get to help two thru-bikers!

Taylor was carrying some wonderful things in his giant pack

Russell, Taylor, Ethan, and Josh

Day 6- We worked all day with Sjors at BAC, hacking the grass out of the irrigation ditches. Not the most fun job, but a necessary one. Plus, you get to hear Sjors’ stories, which are always great. We were back at the river ranger residence for lunch and one of the guys offers me a popsicle for dessert. A popsicle in the Grand Canyon!! We talked about how funny it would be to stand at the black bridge and eat it, but none of us were that mean. After working in the afternoon, Chris Forsyth, the leader of the service project, took me and Russell on the Old Miner’s Route up to the Tonto and down the South Kaibab. So cool to see an historic trail. One last moonlit night at the boat beach and the service project was over for another year.

Digging out the irrigation ditches at Bright Angel CG

Chris eating a tangerine popsicle at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Lunch break at the River Ranger Residence- Chef Norm Gagne is in the grey shirt

Beginning of the Old Miner's Route

Tread worn into the rock

Chris points out features to Russell

Phantom Ranch is the green area to the left

View down to the saddle

Looks like I went to a photo studio and picked the "Grand Canyon" backdrop

Chris looks at the Tapeats exit break up to the Tonto

Majestic light in the Canyon hitting the South Kaibab Trail- click to enlarge

Cairn where the Old Miner's Route meets the Tonto

Sunset from The Tipoff

Day 7- After cleaning up the river ranger residence, we started the hike out on the South Kaibab. I was hiking with Russell, a contractor from Texas, and Taylor, a hiking guide from Phoenix. I have never had a more enjoyable hike out of the canyon before. We were totally taking our time, stopping for scenery breaks and chatting with people hiking downhill. Right before Skeleton Point, we stopped for a snack and Taylor pulls out a metal platter and slices a bunch of summer sausage and cheese onto the platter for hors d’oeuvers. We offered it to another hiker coming uphill, and he didn’t even crack a smile. I, on the other hand, could have died laughing.

One of many snack breaks on our hike out the South Kaibab

Tiny Asian lady: "I want to try on your rucksack!"

Taylor Branch serves up hors d'ouevers in style!

It was unlike any hike I’ve ever had coming out of the canyon- instead of being happy that we were almost at the top, we instead were sad that the whole thing was going to be over soon. We made it out in a leisurely and enjoyable seven hours and I completed my first rim to rim to rim. There was one last wonderful surprise left- when I unpacked my backpack upon arriving home, I realized that my dear friend Chris had slipped a brand-new Golite Chrome Dome umbrella in my pack. Awesome.

I appreciate a shapely Butte

Dude, Bro- this is sweet!

A final goodbye to a most amazing place

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a Harris Hawk that we’d had since it was a juvenile. After assessing its ability to fly and kill live prey, we recently released him back into the wild.

Harris Hawk is hungry!

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