Monday, August 24, 2009

Grand Canyon

A late summer trip to the Grand Canyon turned out spectacular as we embarked on a journey destined to have many great memories.

Even with new technology such as texting, ipods and laptop movies, we managed to take in the scenery on the road trip to the Grand Canyon.
Pictured here is day 3 of a 25 hour drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon after a couple of overnight stops in Texas and New Mexico.

While stopping for lunch at the Homolovi Ruins State Park in Arizona, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Our "entertainment" during the break was an Indian Warrior Dance from the Hopi Tribe.

Viewing the Homolovi Ruins in Arizona.

A Hopi Indian performing a Warrior Dance

A local lizard checks out the view...

The "formal picture in front of the state park sign"

My first view of the Grand Canyon. Notice the clouds in the distance... actually smoke from a wildfire started by lightining days earlier.

A fisheye lens captures the vast canyon but still cannot do it justice...

A photography studio right on the edge of the canyon...
Location, location, location!

On our second day at the Canyon, we hiked down to the Colorado River on the Kaibab Trail which is 7.0 miles long and elevation from 7260 ft above sea level to 2840 ft.

Starting at 4:45am, we hiked by flashlight which is suggested by the park rangers so that we hike in the cool morning hours. Hiking between 10 am and 4pm is regarded as unsafe due to the heat and no water supply once you begin hiking until you reach the bottom.
Pictured here is the sunrise at "ooh-ahh" point.

The experience of hiking in the Grand Canyon is incredible with an overwhelming sense of history and the geologic creation of the canyon, viewing layers of rock dating back to 1.8 BILLION years ago.

The trail on the way down is steep and you can't help but think what if I were to trip and fall? Not to worry... most parts of the trail is a gradual drop off and not a straight drop to the bottom. Also, due to the traffic, including pack mules and horses, the trails are in great condition.

My camera was around my neck the entire hike, wanting to take pictures at every turn. Needless to say, most shots of the family are from the back end. The kids were usually just little specks in the picture since they were always so much further ahead.

The switchback trails seemed endless on the way down. Notice the kids on the trail in the center-left side of the picture... if your eyes are good enough to see the little specks!

The Colorado River with rafters taking a break on the shore...

We camped at Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Canyon. What is there to do after a gruelling hike in the morning? First of all, you cool off in the creek. Just jump in! Most people will spend the rest of the afternoon in the creek since it is so relaxing. Once you get out of the water and away from the creek, the heat is so intense....

... as you can see by the thermometer it is over 140 degrees in the sunlight, 115 in the shade. When the wind blows, it feels like a hair dryer on your face and you dry off completely in 20 minutes. Another option to cool off is a cantina at the ranch! Yes, there is a ranch at the bottom of the canyon called Phantom Ranch with a restaurant where we got iced tea and lemonade, sat in the a/c for about 1-5 to 2 hours just chillin and watching the crowd come and go as they came in off the river rafts or from the trail to quench their thirst.

Afterwards, we walked back to the Colorado river and were suprised to find out the water is ice cold. Naturally too fast to swim in, but we couldn't put our feet in for longer than 30 seconds at first. It's cold because the source of the water is from the bottom of the reservoir above the dam. Ice cold!

A lazy afternoon of trying to recover from the hike down (a beast on the calf muscles and knees)
Camping was easy, since most everyone just sleeps in the open on a pad and maybe a sheet. No bugs, except for scorpions, snakes, mice.
The moon was full that night and a nice view of the canyon walls lit by moonlight as the bats flew within a few feet of the ground, (even though there were no mosquitos for them to eat. ) After the moon passed over, the stars were incredible.

Of course all good things come to an end with the start of the hike out of the canyon. Leaving the campsite at 4am, once again hiking in the dark, we ascended on the Bright Angel Trail. This trail has another campground midway, called Indian Garden Campground. The ranger told us if we get there before 9 am we would be able to make it the rest of the way in the morning. Hah! I was the slow one in the group and what was normally a 6-8 hour hike, took us 12 hours!
Still, I stopped frequently to rest, drink water and take pictures.

Several mule trains and horse trains passed us on the way. Notice the dust kicked up on the dry trails.

A view of the South Rim from Indian Garden Campground.

The Bright Angel Trail has water stations at the Indian Garden Campground, 3 mile point and 1.5 mile point. This is the 3 mile point where we stopped to recoup some energy for the rest of the hike.

"Lets go! Only 3 more miles to the top...."

A Kodak Moment

After hiking the trail, you get a much better appreciation for the view from the top and what we accomplished.

A lookout telescope with labeled notches to explain what you are looking at...

While driving back, one of our stops was the walmart in Roswell, NM
Try explaining that to the kids!

Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns...

So, why would anyone want to hike down 750 ft a day after the Grand Canyon? It's just another incredible sight to see, so different from the canyon and so beautiful. Besides, you take the elevator back up.
After exploring the cave, we stayed to watch the bats take their night flight. Sorry, no pictures of the bats since cameras, cell phones and anything electronic is not allowed and strictly enforced at this event.

Our only problem on the trip....
One flat tire. Thanks to the Texas State Trooper, Officer Johnson, for his help, we were quickly on our way, via a stop at New Braunfels, TX and a dip a Schlitterban Water Park.

Now it's back to school, back to work, back to normal!

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