|Hiking||11.22 Miles|| 10 Hrs 7 Mns ||1.78 mph|
|4,775 ft AEG|| 3 Hrs 48 Mns Break|
|I worked all Spring Break, but decided to take the day off on Friday for a quick overnight and Saturday hike at the GC with the family. Well, turned out my wife and oldest daughter had to work on Saturday, and my youngest daughter had a soccer tournament. So, it ended up being a father-and-son outing, instead. |
We stayed at the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan. After checking in mid afternoon, we headed into the park for a visit to the Yavapai Museum and to get a Picmimic of at 1963 photo of my Dad, with my son (who shares the same name)-- [ photoset ] . Thanks again to @Hippy and @Chumley and others, who played along and helped track down the precise location.
After photos and a quick tour of the museum, it was out to Grandview Point to check on trail conditions for our hike the following morning. Found a tiny bit of ice and remnants of a little snow on the upper reaches of the trail, but nothing that required any traction devices.
We stayed and watched the sunset, before heading back to Tusayan for dinner. Ended up eating at the Pizza Hut inside the IMAX theater building, and decided on the spur of the moment to see the film. $12 per ticket for 35 minute film. It was not bad, but probably won't go see it again. My favorite part of the place is a huge wall-sized map of the entire canyon with call outs for various historical events in the canyon's "recent" history with western civilization.
After the movie, we hit the hay, as we planned an early start the next morning.
Alarm went off at 5 a.m. Ate a quick breakfast, readied our day packs and then set out for the Grandview Trail. Had to scrape the frost off the windshield, but it actually wasn't as cold as I anticipated. Upper 20's at the TH. I was layered up, which felt nice at the top, but within a mile I pulled off a thermal shirt and stashed it along the trail, as I knew I would not be needing it.
We dropped below the rim 15 minutes before sunrise, and enjoyed watching sun pop over the eastern edge of the rim as we descended the cribbing-supported switchbacks. Those first two miles are like hiking down a slippery slide--2,000-ft drop. At one point, it seemed there were 10 or so long, steep, cobblestone covered switchbacks right in a row. It is quite the stair-climber on the way out. I can see why they recommend extra caution on this one when it's covered with ice/snow.
Just before we reached the old stone cabin on the mesa, the first remnants of the mining operation appear to the right of the trail. Signs all around the on-mesa portion of the mining operation warn of radioactivity in the area. The mine remnants are not particularly exciting in this area--an old addit, and a couple of remnants of what look like they used to be vertical entrances that have been imploded and now just look like relatively shallow holes in the ground. The more impressive mines are to be found below the mesa to the east, on the way to Page Spring. More on that later.
Just within a 1/4 mile of the first signs of mines, and at the base of the "horseshoe" lies the remains of the rock cabin. Lots of cans, nails, and other remnants of old mining life scattered around here. We explored the campground area in the area east of the cabin. There are some really nice sites, many with makeshift wind breaks, suggesting that it's often windy here. The sweetest spot, IMO, was a place right near the edge of the drop down to the next canyon level. Talk about a great view from your tent door!
After wandering around the campsites a bit, we headed to our primary destination--the Cave of Domes. I didn't realize earlier that you can actually see the cave entrance quite clearly, from Grandview Point itself. Anyway, we arrived around 9 a.m. and spent the next 3 hours exploring.
A quick duck under the entrance deposits you into the front room, where the cave register and a few bone fragments await. Off to the left are a cool set of 4-5 columns and a good-sized area covered with fascinating, small bubble-shaped formations.
There were no balls of string at the entrance, as other logs have noted, but I agree that the cave (or at least the primary parts) are not that complicated in terms of risk of getting lost. In general terms, the cave goes straight back with one large arm jutting out to the right at a very obvious flow formation. To be sure, there are several spots that require some belly crawling and inching through tight spaces, but for the most part, I wasn't ever worried that I didn't know how to get back.
There are several humps or "saddles" that you must navigate. It seemed that most of them offered a route you could go underneath instead of scrambling over the top. The one exception is the saddle before what @hippy dubbed the "Grim Reaper." It took a little doing to get up to the top of it, given the slick rock and lack of good hand/footholds. Then, getting down the other side presented a similar challenge. We had brought some rope and a sling, and found a very convenient anchor point at the tip of the saddle to tie in for an easier descent (and scramble back up on the way back).
After the Grim Reaper, there seemed to be more belly crawls and we got to a section that spidered out a bit and each area we explored seemed to bring us back to where we had been, or forced us to chimney up to various "domes." We concluded we had reached the "end," though we didn't find the second register, so perhaps we'll make another go of it next time .... Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed the cave, and had it all to ourselves. After we exited and were having lunch at the entrance, another pair of hikers arrived, but other than than, no on in the vicinity.
After lunch we climbed back up on the mesa and explored out tip of the west branch of the shoe. Nice views along that stretch, including a view down to Hance Rapids, as well as up to Desert View Tower off to the East.
We contemplated descending the shoe to the Tonto and around and up from Cottonwood Creek, but decided we spent too much time in the cave for that side trip, since we had to get out and drive back down to Phoenix that night.
Instead, on the way back, we decided to take the "short" side trip down to Page Spring. It is indeed not that far, distance-wise, but involves a 600 ft drop in elevation on a more primitive trail, so it's not an easy little jaunt. Along the way, though, are three other mine openings to check out, including what I assume was the primary shaft of the Last Chance Mine. The two big ones still have cart tracks in them and a fair amount of mining remnants lying around. The third has a small opening and is signed as a protected bat habitat. They are all grated off, with the bigger ones allowing you to go in about 30-40 feet to get "a taste."
Page Spring was cool to see, with the pool at the bottom so clear that it was hard to tell it was full of water, absent the droplets hitting it and creating miniature ripples.
With the sight-seeing done, it was on to the work of the day--climbing up and out! As anticipated, it was quite a calf-buster, but we loved it, and the changing views along the way, courtesy of the afternoon lighting and shadows on the Canyon walls and drainages.
It was rather "breezy" throughout the day, and especially as we neared the rim. Yet, with the hard work of the climb, I remained comfortable with shorts and a long sleeve shirt.
We hit the rim around 4:40 pm and headed into the village with high hopes of a hot shower at Mather Campground, only to find services shut down due to a water issue. Even the Maswick Lodge bathrooms had no water in the sinks. So ..., we headed to Tusayan and for face and hand rinse at the Wendy's, before grabbing some grub and embarking on the scariest part of the trip: letting my permit-wielding son drive us back to the Valley. (just kidding; he did great )