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WEEK 44 2005

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Saturday 5 November 2005

Saturday - on vacation.

Update posted: [11-16-2005]
Not a lot to report here. Dave and I stayed at a hotel in town - the same one my brother and I stayed at during our trip to the Meteor Crater a couple of years ago - rested, and had a nice day exploring Flagstaff.

Friday 4 November 2005

Friday - on vacation.

Update posted: [11-16-2005]
This was the day for the hike out. It is about 9.6 miles on the Bright Angel Trail, via Indian Gardens, and pretty much all uphill. We'd planned on a first light start, but actually started walking an hour or so after that. But it went well. The first couple of miles were along the river, and then turning uphill along a creek. It was a good shady walk, with a nice (much needed) rest for lunch at Indian Gardens. We finally got to the top at about 4:00 pm, for an average speed of about 1.5 miles-per-hour. Since the first part of the days hike was a low altitude and nearly level I'd put the uphill speed at 1.0 miles-per-hour. About what I expected.

at the top of the bright angle trail
At the top of Bright Angel Trail. That's me on the right, with Dave on the left, looking
like an old prospector (sans donkey) in a hat he borrowed from his son.

Thursday 3 November  2005

Thursday - on vacation.

Update posted: [11-16-2005]
Wednesday night we made our own dinner. Dave had brought along a new stove, an Esbit, which uses a solid fuel pellet roughly and inch square, that boils about two pints of water. It worked very well, and we simply added boiling water to pouches of freeze dried food, and in a few minutes had tasty meals. The food packs say the 700 calorie pack "serves two". Not if they've been hiking all day!

After eating we walked about a bit, and attended a little park ranger show. Ranger Lorie was a ball of fire. Just a little bitty thing she had the energy of two or three normal people. The talk that night was on wildcats ( AKA mountain lions, catamounts, etc). These are all over the US, though they are solitary creatures that need a lot of range. Only fairly recently has their importance as the predator at the top of the food chain been recognized, and only very recently (ten years or so) has any effort been made to study their presence in the huge Grand Canyon.

The stars, from Bright Angel Campground, Wednesday night, were amazing. There was no moon, no natural lights, and the fairly low altitude at the bottom of the canyon meant that the retina(s) is fully oxygen saturated. I lay there, looking up, trying to tease out the constellations from the mass of overhead sparks. There's the Northern Cross, there's the Great Square in Pegasus, there is Cassiopeia, there's there''s the Andromeda Galaxy, a naked eye object.

We'd set Thursday aside for day hiking - we should have allowed several days for that. We did a quick reconnoiter to the base of the Bright Angel Trail - our way out - and a loop trip along the Colorado River. 'Colorado' actually means 'red in color' and that is what the river used to look like, full of suspended red silt, before the upstream dams were created. It's hard to feel the canyon when hiking with a heavy pack and worrying about footing, but sitting on the river bank, dabbling my feet in the river for a couple of hours, that seemed to let some of the immensity of the place sink in.

foot dabbling in water

Dinner we'd reserved beforehand, at the Phantom Ranch, and it was a wonderful stew (and a couple of beers). Afterwards there was another nice nature talk by Ranger Lorie, and a good nights rest. Sadly the high haze was back, so the stars were not so striking.

Wednesday 2 November 2005

Wednesday - on vacation.

Update posted: [11-14-2005]
We roused ourselves early, checked out of the lodge and stashed our extra belongings in the truck. After a quick breakfast we grabbed our packs and caught the shuttle bus (free) to the South Rim head of the South Kaibab Trail. Here I delayed us a bit by putting on my knee brace and some warmer clothes, and then we headed down. (See next weeks POTW) There had been a surprising number of people on the bus with us, twenty odd, all for this trail. Dave and I were really the only true backpackers, however - most of the rest had day packs, or even just fanny packs, the rest of their belonging being brought down via mule for overnighting at the Phantom Ranch.

So it was nice delay - with their advantage of ten minutes and light weight supplies they all pulled rapidly ahead and Dave and I had the trail to ourselves. It is a good trail, well maintained, and despite a constant stream of mule trains, not too odorous.

Mules, I think, don't destroy a trail to the degree horses do. It may be that they are quite a bit more sure footed. On occasion I would see places where the hoof prints in the sand, four of them, would all fit inside the perimeter of a large dinner plate.

Dave on the switchbacks
Dave, on the switchbacks.

The GC is amazing. The size, the vista, the color - it's all out of scale. Brown rock, red rock, green rock, layer upon layer upon layer  - blue skies, white clouds, and down at the bottom, the murky green of the Colorado river. Amazing.

dave, on the south kaibab trail
Near Skeleton Point?

It was a good trip down. Nice weather, that being sun with just enough high cloud to keep it cool. The rock layers are several hundred feet thick, at a minimum, so with a grade of 1:8 or so it would take about a mile to walk through each layer. The rock composition, and the change in altitude, means that the plant growth changes as you descend. There is a lot to look at!

The trail sides, while steep, usually aren't precipitous. There are a few spots where the CCC blasted it out of a vertical stone wall eighty years ago, and a misstep would probably ruin your day, but it just adds to the fun of the trip. By about 3:00 Dave and I had reached the river, averaging a bit over one mile-per-hour, including rest stops and lunch. It was WARM at the bottom - probably in the 60's or 70's - but despite our delight at arrival we skipped dipping our feet in the water and bustled across the Black Bridge, along to the the Bright Angel Campground, and started setting up camp. At this time of year, and in the bottom of a canyon it gets dark quickly, so we just got our things laid out, and it was night.

the Colorado river, from the Black Bridge
The Colorado River, from the Black Bridge.

Tuesday 1 November 2005

Tuesday -  on vacation. The I-40, and maybe a small chunk of the old Route 66, are the path away from here.

Update posted: [11-14-2005]

My friend Tim suggests that I was being particularly lazy in not posting my trip pics. Well, he knows me well, and he's probably right. But I was very tired when I got home, and there was some sort of bug at work as well, I think. So, here were are, a week behind the times...

We took the I-40 to the Grand Canyon. Not a lot to say there, except that the small chunks of  two lane on the State Highway 58, from just west of Four Corners, to Barstow, are still two lane. From Barstow to the Arizona Border the I-40 was fine - weather was good, visibility was good, and so on. It's 70 MPH posted, so people did about 75 or so. The time it takes to get to the Arizona border is always a surprise to me. In Arizona the speed limit jumps to 75 for both cars and trucks - but while the semi's sped up from roughly 60MPH to perhaps 70MPH the average car/truck/suv driver just bumped it to 78 or so. So, good driving.

At the Grand Canyon entrance we were required to buy an entrance permit, for $20. You would think, having prepurchased a Back Country Hiking Permit that we would be permitted to enter the park, without paying, so as to actually use it, but not so. Oh well, it's a pittance. We obtained a parking spot almost immediately in front of the Bright Angel Lodge, checked in, had dinner, arranged and sorted our gear, and had a great nights sleep.

Monday 31 October 2005

Monday - It's about 470 miles from here to Grand Canyon Village, on the rim. So, about an eight hour drive, taking into account brief stops for gas and food. We've reservations at the Bright Angel Lodge for Tuesday night, then start hiking into the depths on Wednesday. Wish us luck!

map, Lancaster Ca to Grand Canyon Village, AZ
It's 466 miles, according to Yahoo! maps.

Sunday 30 October 2005

Sunday - running about, trying to get ready for the hike(s). Each is about three days, with an extra day of supplies. in case of bad weather (rain). The Grand Canyon is significantly warmer at the bottom than at the rim - while the Bright Angel Lodge might experience freezing this time of year, the Bright Angel Campground, next to the Phantom Ranch and nearly a mile lower, would only get rain. A similar situation exists with regard to Hualapai Hilltop and the campground down at Havasu Falls.

Picture of the Week
Old DiMaggio place in Martinez

Photo Notes: Joe DiMaggio, of baseball fame, grew up in Martinez, Ca..

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