Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grand Canyon - North Rim to Cottonwood Campground

We walked over to the North Rim Trailhead for the traditional group photo.

Kelli, Ramesh, Raj, Nirjal, your intrepid hero and Nirmal who had just flown in from Indonesia a couple of days before. With jetlag, poor Nirmal didn't know whether he was Arthur or Martha. 

We filled up our water bottles. The National Park Service installs similar water facilities at multiple locations on the South Rim.

The entrance to the North Kaibab Trail.

I've taken a lot of photos which I have posted here, warts and all. The real purpose of this blog as well as all the other blogs is to give you a sense of what it is like to do this Rim to Rim walk. We were told that only 20,000 people do this each year. That's not many people considering the millions who look down from the rim each year.

Kelly, our guide. Sometimes she would lead, but more often she would be at or near the rear to make sure nobody was falling behind.

The North Rim has lots of trees.

Every time we turned a corner, I usually took another photo. I had a 7 gb SD card.

We also shared the path with the mules that carry people down into the canyon for a few miles and more importantly, carry them out. The weight limit is 200 pounds and so this was not an option for me. I had to walk.

The Canyon has many layers and you gradually pass from layer to layer. The top layer is the Kaibab layer with the Toroweap layer beneath. For more on the layers, look at this link. The huge vertical drop is the Coconino Sandstone layer which you can see in virtually all photos of the canyon. Since Coconino is is one of those impenetrable US names like Potomac, I immediately thought I would rename it the Cococabana layer.

Taking a rest. By now, our feet, legs and knees were aching.

It's elementary, but switchbacks handle even the steepest slopes.

Coconino Viewpoint. It's right at the top of the Cocinino layer and about three quarters of a mile from the trail head.

Kelli prepared lunch for us. I seem to remember there was pita bread, avacodo, sprouts, cheese and other  stuff that makes a lunch. It was very welcome.

The finished product. It didn't last long.

Kelli brought along a gel which you rubbed on your hands to clean them prior to eating.

We proceeded further down the trail and after a while we stopped for water. The mule train then appeared.

We came across a volunteer Park Ranger who came from Baltimore. He sprayed Narjil as well as the rest of us and it really felt good.

As we went further down we came across the mules and their riders. Getting back to the poo on the path, my theory is that the mule train driver blows a whistle once and the mules all let go with the liquid. Two blasts on the whistle and you know what's coming.

Already there was blister trouble and so treatment was underway. Going down hill is incredibly hard on your knees and feet.

The temperature was quite pleasant. It rises as you go deeper into the canyon.

The Supai tunnel.

Nirmal the showoff. After flying from Indonesia, I'd do the same.

The tunnel roof.

By now you get the feeling that a human is so small compared to nature.

It is incredibly tiring going down hill for so long. Numerous rests, water and food help you keep going.

More stairs. They are agony, going up or going down.

Somewhere about here, we met a girl of about 19 or 20 slowly climbing out. She was a day tripper and looked so worn out, forlorn and miserable that I asked her if she was ok. She said that the others in her group had left her behind. Presumably she got out of the canyon, but I hope she never has anything to do with her 'friends' again. As we met  other people coming up the train behind her, we asked them to make sure she reached the top. The canyon can be a killer. You stay with your group and your group stays with you.

The path is usually about six feet wide but now and then it narrows.

These flowers are quite common. I have no idea what they are.

Possibly the Hermit Formation.

An agave plant. 

In  the late afternoon sun, the red in the rocks intensified.

The bridge over Bright Angel Creek near Roaring Springs. By now, most of us were running out of energy.

The lengthwise boards are for the mules so that they can't see the water beneath. Without these boards, the mules would refuse to cross.

Narjil conquers the bridge. Have you guessed that Narjil and Nirmal are brothers? A touch of exhibitionism must be in the genes. I'd already worked out that I was going to enjoy walking with this group.

Water pipe from Roaring Springs. The water from these springs is fed to all the campgrounds on the trail.

It quickly became apparent that Raj was the athlete of the group. He practices karate and was obviously in shape. Only Raj and I had done any serious training. The others had good intentions but work had got in the way. I was relieved in some ways. Because of my age, I was concerned that I would be with a group of trim taut and terrific athletes and that I would hold them back. I didn't have to worry.

We never needed an excuse to stop for a rest.

By now it was getting to be late in the afternoon. The shadows were deepening.

At time the path is narrow and the drop is significant.

Looking down to a switchback.

The path is rougher than it looks.

Have you ever walked a path that looked like this?

This was sheer murder to cross. By now my feet and legs were aching.

The falls at Roaring Springs. We could have walked over to get a closer look but it was getting late and we needed to get to the campground before dark. The truth is that we were buggered. There was no way we were walking over there.

The creek as it flows down towards Cottonwood Campground.

A welcome site near Roaring Springs. The design is simple. The toilet is on the top floor and the poo etc falls into a container on the ground floor.

Rangers Hut just above Cottonwood Campground.

By the time we reached this bridge, we were all absolutely exhausted. Well not Kelli. I think I saw her doing handstands. Her pack was approximately twice the weight of our's but then again, a couple of weeks before, she had done a rim to rim to rim in three days. Just to get herself in trim.

We definitely used our poles here. Poles are very useful going downhill or in tricky situations. They reduce the pressure on your knees when you go down steps or steep hills and they help you keep your sense of balance. Falling over with a backpack on is not an option.

These flowers almost looked like cotton balls.

A corral for the mules.

We finally arrived at the campground. Because we arrived late in the day, the better spots were already taken, but Kelli found us this one which was fine.

The big grey boxes store your food etc so that the squirrels don't get at it. The Park Service provides them but you have to leave them empty in the morning.

While I had a single tent, the others shared two double tents. Kelli erected them and showed us how to get our blowup mattresses and sleeping bags ready. Kelli didn't want to carry a tent so she slept on the table.

A finished double tent. A fly was optional but it was so warm that none of us wanted one.

If you click on the photo, you can see a rattlesnake directly under the door of the Park Service Office.

Ramesh cools his feet in the creek. We all did this for a short time but the water was so cold that we didn't linger.

My single tent. There was plenty of room for me.

Kelli prepared dinner but night had fallen JRI had provided headlamps and we used them to illuminate our food. It still tasted good.

The food was served into the yellow triangular bowls. I seem to remember it was some sort of small pasta with manderins and cranberries, high in carbohydrates and it tasted pretty good. There wasn't much left and Kelli encouraged us to eat it up because everything that is packed into the canyon has to be packed out.

Think about that for a little. Everything that goes in has to go out.

1 comment:

  1. The photos are spectacular!! And my feet got sore simply reading about your descent!!