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JOMEL Adventures Positivity (def): "Anything other than being in the office."

The Grand Canyon, Aarizona

USA | Wednesday, 30 April 2008 | Views [918]

The drive to the Grand Canyon from Monument Valley was a little scary to say the least. The wind was howling and the sand was beating against the side of the car. Most RV's had to pull over and wait it out, but we saw a number of crazy motorcyclists still on the road, covered up from head to toe. We pushed on but Jo had a very strong grip on the wheel and had to direct the car to one side to offset the wind. I tried to capture the sand storm on camera but the photos didn't do it justice. We couldn't see more than 10 metres in front of us and the car took a good beating. After that drive and Monument Valley the car was full of sand, and we were a little worried about the engine. Our temporary license plates also took a beating and we found it hanging by one bolt when we stopped, but at least we still had it.
We stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona to pick up some supplies as we were told it was a great town. Can't say we saw anything special about it, but granted we were only there for a couple of hours.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon late in the afternoon and people were everywhere. It is a very popular place and the south rim is very developed. But with that development comes luxury. We camped in Mather campground at the top of the rim that night and absolutely froze! It got well below zero during the night and the sleeping bags we bought at REI were not made for those kinds of temperatures. Despite wearing pretty much all of the clothes I had I still froze- it was not fun. We were suddenly very acutely aware that spring in the states is not warm like in Australia. Actually it doesn't really get warm until late June!
Next morning, Thurs 1st May we made a bee line for the backcountry office as our application to camp for 2 nights below the rim sent 4 months earlier had been rejected. As it turned out the backcountry office was choc-a-block but we waited our turn and the ranger was very helpful. He gave us the option to hike down a more difficult and much less used trail, rather than waiting in the queue system for a few days to go down one of the main corridors. We jumped at the chance and were due to set out very early the next day. For the rest of that day we wandered along the top of the south rim. It was really cold but the sun was out, the sky was clear and the view was SPECTACULAR! Very impressive! Despite the masses of people and development it is definitely a must see if travelling the US. The sheer size of the canyon is amazing.
Freezing the next morning Friday 2nd May we packed up at 6am and set off to meet the ranger who was driving us out as close to the Waldron trailhead as possible. We would have no such help on the way back and would have to add the extra 3 mile firetrail walk to our trip. After talking to the ranger at length about Alaska and the evolution of the Grand Canyon possum we finally set out a little after 7am. Less than an hour into the walk we realized our mistake. We wore way too many clothes as it was freezing when we started out, but the walking warmed us quickly and we ended up carrying a lot of extra clothes down the canyon (and then back up again!) which could have been avoided, making our packs lighter and smaller. The views were stunning and we only passed one person as we hiked the 12km down the Waldron trail to meet the hermit trail. We felt like we had the canyon to ourselves and it was breathtaking. The best advice I could give is to avoid the main corridors down the Grand Canyon. There are many other trails which are much less frequently used and offer amazing hikes- though they tend to be a little tougher for this reason. The first couple of km we dropped dramatically in height and the switchbacks were steep with lots of loose rock to slide on. They call this a black trail (equivalent to black ski runs) and we were not looking forward to it as the last part of our hike out.
After a couple hours the trail eased a little to blue but we started to struggle with the weight of our packs. We were too prepared and had too much food and water....but better to be overprepared right? The wild flowers, deer and hundreds of lizards we saw made up for the sore shoulders though.
We made it to the bottom of the canyon in pretty good time and arrived about 1:30pm. We were camping for 2 nights at Hermit Creek. There were about 8 other people also at the camp site so we sussed out a little sandy spot on the river and set up camp after having a refreshing swim in the cold creek and a chat with old mate who hung with us while we had a cup of tea and told us all about Vegas. I slept incredibly well and was warm during the night for once as it is pretty hot down the bottom of the canyon.
The next day we were feeling the muscle fatigue a little so didn't push ourselves too hard and just walked the 3 miles along Hermit Creek to the Hermit Rapids where we sat for a couple of hours and swam in the freezing Colorado River at the very bottom of the canyon. The water was too cold to stand in for long but we had to do it for bragging rights! It was a stunning place to sit and look around. We set up camp slightly up river that night at a better spot. A large group arrived and had lost 2 of their group memebers so there were a few dramas until they were all reunited.
On Sunday morning we began our hike out early around 7am. With our packs a little lighter than the hike down we made good progress but it was really hard going. But even so we managed to make it to shade before the sun really started to heat up the canyon and thus managed to avoid a lot of the heat. We saw a group of deer bounding around the canyon- right near us and many more flowers and lizards. The scenery was just as beautiful on the way up but we kept the photos to a minimum as we had captured much of it on the way down. The steep inclines were tough but we took it slow and steady and managed to climb our way out by 2pm. The last 2km of switchbacks were an absolute killer though and we thought our calves might snap from the strain we put on them! And finally we made the 3 mile walk back along the fire trail to where our car was parked....but our spirits were a little diminished as we were absolutely exhausted! So first stop was the pub all smelly and sweaty for a big feed and a beer. Then we decided we didn't want a 5th night of camping where it would again be freezing at the top of the rim so we drove straight to Vegas and checked in at a hotel old mate had told us about...the Gold Nugget. We decided we deserved a hot shower and comfy bed for one night after all the hiking we had done.

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