- 15.7 miles - After a breezy 44 degree night under the stars outside Tusayan, I entered the park early enough for it to be free and soon headed down the South Kaibab. Taking a break out on the Cedar Ridge end point, I let the Canyon sink into my brain for a bit before heading down to Phantom Ranch for lunch under a shaded picnic table. From there I continued up North Kaibab to Ribbon Falls, only to find it temporarily closed for a Zuni ceremony. I had to wait just around the bend from the falls with a guy named Randy from Macon, Georgia, who had been there 29 years ago with his brother. We lay on our backs in the shade, listening to the songs reverberate off the natural amphitheater overhead for an hour before we were allowed to finally enter.
Their creation story describes the first people emerging from the cave at the base of moss covered travertine monolith, and I personally can't think of a better place to call sacred than where we stood. I ducked into the cave, climbing to the window and poking my head out, the cold water a curtain in front of my view of the canyon beyond.
Cottonwood Camp was only another 1.5 miles, so I set up camp and had dinner, returning for a sunset walk to the falls for some moonlight/LED photography. I can't say the pictures turned out very well, my sensor and LED's are too small and the falls are too big, but it made for an interesting adventure.
- 8.6 Miles - After a morning trip to the falls, I cruised down North Kaibab to Phantom for another wonderful lunch under the shady tree before watering up (170 ounces) for my first trip up Utah Flats. The first half was like climbing a sand dune with a heavy pack, and Piano Alley was like climbing up a huge pile of (you guessed it) pianos with that same heavy pack. I found a nice flat spot at the saddle just southwest of the red rock basin, set up camp and soon was wandering around checking out the area. The small knoll just northeast of Piano Alley commanded awesome views in every direction, and I hung out there for the sunset.
- 10.5 Miles - I had planned to bag Cheops Pyramid at dawn, but...
1) From where I stood, the southern ramp looked gnarly. My awesome wife K and I recently celebrated 25 years, and I'd like to be around to go for Gold.
2) My left heel, already sporting a whopper moleskin, did not like the look of that long off-camber talus approach one bit.
3) Bagging Cheops would mean I would miss the Golden Hour of light at the Utah Flats red rock basin.
Suffice to say I had a blast meandering around the sculpted forms with my new camera before breaking camp and heading back down. Another lunch at Phantom, this time under the shade tree just east of the stables near the silver bridge. From there it was up the Bright Angel, where I chatted up a group of Mung people in custom black silk uniforms (
), as well as joining Tom (Illinois), and Jenna (Tennessee) for the walk up to Indian Gardens.
At camp I met future HAZ member Roger from Phoenix, who had also planned his trip around the full moon. He was up for the trip out to Plateau Point for the sunset/moonrise, so we headed out and had a great time. After the sun went down, we had the place to ourselves, the conversation and beverages flowed. (simply mix Vodka with Indian Gardens water, add Smuckers Natural Concord Grape Jelly, shake vigorously until dissolved, and enjoy. Pretty Smuckin' good). The full moon walk back was the perfect last night in the Canyon.
- 7.5 Miles - Roger headed out for a 26 mile dayhike to Granite Rapids (yeah, he'll fit in here on HAZ just fine), and I bopped up to the 2 mile switchback to access the Battleship route for my first trip there. Once again, my pack, though getting lighter, still made this less fun than it could have been. I carried it as far as the chimney, hoping it would be safe from critters for a few minutes while I went up. The climb was great, solid rock, little exposure, and a great summit. After taking in the scenery, I headed down, finding my pack undisturbed , and returned to the Bright Angel. The rim arrived soon, and I celebrated another safe return with the two Pyramid brews I had in my truck (still cool!), sitting below the edge along the Rim Trail by the Worship Site.
A perfect trip. As always I'm torn between wanting to return to the same amazing places, or exploring new ones. Cheops looks much easier when viewed from the south, and someday I'll return. A dayhike from Bright Angel camp seems like a better way to do it.
Till then, I'll hike around Phoenix, and have some great adventures. But in the back of my mind, the Canyon will always call to me, a timeless sacred place that my words, my pictures, my videos will do no justice.
P.S. Not that I don't try. http://youtu.be/5O1toDCfdxI