Dustin and I got to the trailhead at 9am, packs full of water, electrolyte beverages (powerade), snacks and turkey sandwiches. Our goals: Page/Miner's Spring, Cave of the Domes (just to have a glimpse inside), and the end of the western leg of Horseshoe Mesa. We started the descent down Grandview in good spirits. It seemed like time flew by until we reached the junction with the trail down to Page/Miner's Spring. On the steep descent to the spring, I could feel the constant impact on my knee taking its toll, and I was glad we were nearly through with most of the steep downhill hiking. The ascent back up to Horseshoe began to look more and more like a pain in the butt.
We reached the spring and spent a few minutes relaxing in the shade, snacking, sampling the cool water and chatting with a fellow dayhiker. The climb back out to the mesa was easier than we expected. I was able to set a nice steady pace and the climb was done in no time. Once back on the mesa, we set out north on the Grandview Trail once again, this time in search of Cave of the Domes. Dustin commented on how much energy he still had, which we would find humor in later in the day.
By the way, the wildflowers on this trip were outstanding. That multi-day precipitation event we got earlier in the week really let the flora put on a show. Down on the mesa, the cacti stole the show, especially the purple blooms of the hedgehog cactus. The prickly pear also displayed their more muted yellow tones, while the reds on the little barrel guys (yeah, I'm no botanist)also caught my eye.
Going off memory, I knew the turnoff for Cave of the Domes was in larger wash in the middle of the mesa. We hit the wash and turned left at a well-defined trail. Of course, this trail wasn't well defined enough for me to notice when in turned toward the northern branch of the drainage. We wandered off the trail and down the southern branch of the drainage until we cliffed out and turned around. Descending back up I notice the northern branch of the drainage and we headed that way, within moments re-discovering the trail, which intersected with a more well-worn trail that I think most people use. We were soon at the cave entrance, but with no flashlights. A group of four other hikers were entering the cave so we followed them into the first room, getting glimpses of the chamber as their headlamps jumped around. As they disappeared into the abyss, our eyes started to adjust to the darkness. We hung out for a minute or two and then returned to the hot Arizona sun.
It was pushing 2 o'clock, so I set a pretty swift pace out to the end of Horseshoe Mesa. We found a nice ledge to sit, snack and enjoy the views before heading back up the hill. The views were totally unbearable, I was absolutely unimpressed. Just kidding, it was awesome, definitely one of the better viewpoints I have come across. We only sat a few minutes before heading back.
The walk back to the springs trail junction was fine, but as the Grandview began climbing up into the Supai Group, we could definitely start feeling the fatigue push its way into our minds and bodies. Of course, the Grandview takes a roller coaster ride for about a mile, ascending and descending 30, 50, 75, 100 foot sections over and over. We weren't even to the real climb and we took an unplanned rest to rehydrate and regroup.
Our pace slowed to a crawl as the trail steepened toward the Coconino Saddle, and breaks were taken often. Stopping at the saddle worked out well however as we had blown by it on the blistering descent earlier in the day, but were given a second chance to enjoy a very nice resting spot. As the shadows grew longer and some wispy clouds rolled in, and mid-afternoon light show enhanced the epic views, making the ascent, however painful, still enjoyable. A massive ridge cast a great shadow over the trail, and our pain was also eased by the sudden lack of direct sunlight. The Indian Paintbrush also benefited from the open shade, which allowed their brilliant reds to glow without the burden of being washed out by the sun. Stopping for photos became a good excuse to catch the breath.
When we finally took the last few steps up the outcrops of Kaibab Limestone, it was a moment of glory. Neither of us is in terrible shape, but the ascent out of the canyon on this day definitely was a challenge. It was Dustin's first hike below the rim, and I think he had an epiphany for what it actually takes to complete the adventures he is lusting to do. For myself, it is a reminder that once my life isn't absolutely insane, I need to get myself back to the level of fitness I have achieved the last couple of years. It was a great day at the Grand Canyon every which way you look at it, if not completely exhausting. I was asleep in my tent on the Coconino Rim by 8:30 that night.
||Wildflowers Observation Substantial