Added 22 December 2007

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Sunday, 7 October 2007, Grand Canyon

We drove up to the South Rim the day before our day of entry into the back country. That gave us time to explore the rim a bit, get some last minute information from the Backcountry Office, and experience some creature comforts before becoming creatures of the canyon. We took the opportunity to spy some of our trails from above as well. And of course, we took the opportunity to share a meal together that didn't come out of a bag. (A note on this and following pages, hover over pictures for photo captions.) This page is best viewed at 1280 X 1024 resolution, though it does fit (just barely) on 1024 X 768 resolution.

Monday, 8 October 2007, Grand Canyon

When the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., Shan pretended not to hear it. After a tiny bit of coaxing, she was up and moving. By 5:30, we were out in the Maswik Lodge parking lot waiting for Steve, Marisa and Tina to arrive so we could walk down to catch the 5:45 shuttle to Hermit's Rest and the Hermit Trail trailhead. I figured that that particular shuttle would get us to the trailhead right around sunrise. It was a chilly 40 degrees when we stepped outside, well up from the overnight low of 24 degrees.

Unfortunately, the others were running slightly late. When they arrived at about 5:35, Shan and I jogged down to the shuttle stop to try to hold the shuttle, but it was already gone by the time we got there at 5:47. So we had to wait about 30 minutes for the next shuttle. The jog down to the shuttle warmed me up to the point where I dumped my outer two layers and just kept my long sleeve shirt on, though I soon put my fleece back on. I never ended up needing my shell again for the duration of the trip, so I needlessly lugged an extra pound or so around the canyon.

Sunrise occurred while we were on the shuttle, which never stopped long enough for me to hop off and take pictures. We arrived at Hermit's Rest shortly after seven o'clock, made last minute bathroom stops, took a few pictures, and hit the trail at around 7:30. We then made a number of early stops as people had to shed layers. We also had to make an emergency stop when Tina's water bladder started leaking profusely where the hose attaches to the bladder. I've had the same problem before, and amputating the stretched portion of the end of the hose fixed the problem, and we were hiking again. It meant Tina was a little low on water though. Then we had to stop again at eight o'clock for Shan to eat breakfast. With her thyroid medicine, she can't eat anything until that time, which is somewhat of an inconvenience for her. It also meant a "forced" break every morning. The breakfast break was more welcome on the days that we started hiking at dawn because it came a couple hours into the hike. I'm not complaining in either case though, because it's always good to stop, look around, and absorb the surroundings.

After the breakfast/snack stop, we moved at a more steady pace, soon arriving at Santa Maria Spring, complete with shade structure and rocking chair! Presumably both are left over from the days when the Fred Harvey Company lead tourists down to Hermit Camp. While Tina filtered a little water to recover what she lost in a water bladder hose incident further up the trail, I checked out what turned out to be an old stone outhouse built up against a large boulder below the trail.

I was warned during the planning stages of the trip about having to navigate across rock falls across Hermit Trail. We only encountered a couple of them, and each was far less dramatic than the visions that had been planted in my mind. I was expecting extreme mass wasting events hundreds of yards wide. I don't think any were so wide that I couldn't throw my pack across it (with some exertion, of course).

Apart from a few brief stops here and there to admire the view or have a little snack, we also stopped at Lookout Point and Breezy Point before stopping for lunch near the top of the Cathedral Stairs. I found the Hermit Trail to be in better condition than I expected, not to mention easier to follow than expected. After hearing many dire warnings about the conditions of the so-called Threshold trails, I had built up concerns about what we would find. That's not to say that Hermit Trail isn't really rocky and, in many places, steep, but my fears were unfounded. Shan however, had some druthers about the trail. She has pronated feet, so rocky trails are difficult for her to remain stable on. A few times her ankle gave way causing severe, albeit brief, pain. That alone became my fear as we descended the trail. Fortunately, not long after the rockiness of the trail began to overcome her, the trail condition improved significantly and she had little problem for the rest of the trip. All things considered, she did exceptionally well, as did the rest of the group. My wife is definitely a trooper, and goes through a lot for someone who loves hiking, just without a heavy pack, and without having to sleep in a tent at the end of the hike.

As we got to the bottom of Cathedral Stairs we ran out of shade, and hiked the last bit in the early afternoon sun. The trail had flattened considerably and was much less rocky though, so we made good time.

We rolled into Hermit Camp at around two o'clock and found that all of the sites were taken except for the group site. Since I had put in for the group site but couldn't get it, I figured someone would need it, so one of the other small groups must have been using more than one site. Instead of trying to muscle some space amongst the other two groups, we set up camp across the creek in an unofficial spot right on the creek. It was a tight fit for four tents, even with Steve on the opposite side of the creek, and we had a number of people moving through our camp to access the canyon upstream from us, but it was really nice being right down by the water, and we had decent shade.

There weren't any adequate places to hang our food, so I rigged up a line over the huge boulder that loomed over our camp site. Warnings abound about the voraciousness of the local ringtails and rodent populations, so we came well prepared to protect our food. All food was hung and placed in RatSacks or other rodent proof containers.

After getting camp set up, I grabbed my camera and ended up wandering upstream a bit. My little excursion really whetted my appetite for further exploration of the canyon. Crimson monkey flowers abounded amidst scattered waterfalls and pools filled with bracing, clear water.

I would have stayed out until dark, but at around five o'clock I figured Shan would be getting hungry so I headed back. Sure enough, when I got back to camp, I heard, "Hi Honey! Ready for dinner?" Since I had been gone longer than planned, I hoped she was at least as happy for my safe return as she was for dinner, though that's likely wishful thinking on my part.

Soon everyone was sitting around camp eating and chatting. At the first hint of dusk we were visited frequently and persistently by a very bold mouse. We had to keep a close eye on our food as we sat there and ate. As soon as we were done, everything went into the rodent proof containers and got hung.

I was a little surprised though when people started turning in to bed before eight o'clock. I wasn't even slightly tired. So after tucking Shan in, I grabbed my field guide, notebook, and Irish tin flute and hiked up the creek a ways. At the outset of the journey, I'd hoped to find inspiration for some poems, so upon locating a nice rock outcrop high above the creek to sit on, I pulled out my notebook. I soon came to the realization that it is not easy to put the canyon into words that have not already been spoken a thousand times over. I then traded my pen for my flute, hoping at least to entertain the canyon, and thus return the favor it offered me by revealing it's wonders.

In the end, even my musical offering seemed too small to give so I yielded to the will of the canyon and merely sat, existing, smiling. I finally decided to turn in for the night sometime after 10:30.

That night I slept poorly due to stomach problems, and unfortunately kept Shannon up with me as an unwanted consequence. The stomach problems continued to vex me at night throughout the trip, and a little during the day.

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