The train arrives at GC at 11:45Am and after retrieving my bike, riding around the area for a while, then climbing the hill to the visitors center, it was already 12:30 or so. I ditched my bike along side a fence (locked up of course) and started hiking east along the rim side trail. When I started out, thought I’d just walk a couple hundred yards and return for my bike. Never did though. View is so spectacular, with so many places to stop and take pictures that I sort of dismissed the bike idea. This is a trail to walk so as to not miss all the various scenic opportunities. If you zip by at 5-6MPH you’ll miss a lot. I didn’t think about all this when I’d brought the bike. Two miles later, I caught the shuttle bus back to the visitors center and wandered around there for a while. Did wander around the visitors area before my hike. Love these old buildings.
Then off on my hike along the rim.
See those blocks with placards on them? They have geologic information about the age of the section you’re walking on. Very interesting reads. Another reason to not bike this trail. Unless you can stop and stand on the ground straddling the bike. I have to get off.
Back in the mid ’70′s I came here with my college backpacking club. Around 25 people. It was March and there was 6″ of snow up on the rim where we pitched our tent. Then we backpacked down into the canyon and spent 3 nights down there, first on one of the lower plateau, then at the floor alongside the Colorado. Down in the canyon, it was in the 70°F range during the day, but dipped down to the 30′s at night. Early mornings were very cold, but with hot coffee and some scrambled eggs and ham, it was great. And it rained several times. I remember that a couple times the rain was so heavy, with a rain white out, that our group stumbled off the trail it was so hard to see. Heavy, cold rain. Really a great thing to do, at least for me, as I was prepared and comfortable with my gear.
Even back then, an overnight hike into the canyon (not just a day trip) had to be reserved a year in advance. Might be two years in advance now. We had a couple of late comers that got to take some dropouts reservations but a couple more who didn’t and they stayed up on the rim. That worked out as some of our group weren’t all that excited about hiking into the canyon after looking down from the rim traded their spots with the people that didn’t have reservations. That did give us some camp watchers though, so we didn’t have to break camp and stow everything in the parked vehicles. That was lucky because we had everything all set up after 3 exhausting days of hiking. The last portion of which is 4600′ uphill. We took the South Kaibab Trail down into the canyon and on the way down, I did a stupid thing. I tried to keep up with the recent former Eagle Scouts who were part of our group. South Kaibab trail is steep and rocky and after pounding downhill at high speed with a 70lb pack on my back, my knees were really protesting. The 3 days in the canyon were a struggle from there on and it got worse and worse. The climb out on Bright Angel trail was torture, in fact I left on the hike out around 3 hours before the group, but they passed me anyway. And I got to the rim an hour after they did. But, it was a great experience. Because of that trip, and subsequent trips, I know better then to come here in the summer. Packed with tourists, hotter then hell. It’s up in the 100°F-125°F range down in the canyon and 80′s to 90′s up on the rim every day. Now consider hiking in that heat with a 70lb backpack. No shade, little water down there. You’d have to be pretty dumb to schedule an overnight hike into the canyon between May and October. The FS has to rescue an average of 250 hikers a year from down in the canyon. Most from heat exhaustion during summer hikes.
The above photo is the Colorado River. Looks green from this distance but when you get down there next to it, it’s brown and muddy looking. Swift nearly the entire year. Roiling. Dangerous. If I recall, there was only one campsite down there appropriate for a large group like ours back then. It’s very pleasant though, especially after a hard hike to get there. From there, we considered hiking up to the North rim and having the vehicles come over from the South rim to join us but only 4-5 people did that. The rest of us wanted to take a different route back to the South rim then we’d come in on to see more of the canyon’s geology.
Those of you who saw my pictures of Copper Canyon last month, will notice how much more spectacular Grand Canyon is.
Along the rim trail, there are many places where anyone can wander right over to the edge. You stumble and trip, you take flight, gravity assisted. Happens every year to around 10 people on average. In their defense, the view is very inviting. And wanting to get closer to it would be natural for many. I enjoyed several breaks sitting on dangerous overlooks myself.
After the hike, I took the shuttle bus back to the visitor center. By then, it was getting late so I didn’t have time to hike the Western route of the rim trail since the train headed back to Williams at 3:30pm. Contented myself with wandering around the old center, into the hotels and shops. Rode my bike a little ways down the trail but kept a close watch on the time. Crowds were fairly light so didn’t have to much trouble biking on the trail.
I think I’ll stop here since there are so many pictures. Next post will be the train trip back to Williams and more travel.