Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

Park Service warning sign

When I posted here on Behind the Black that Diane and I were on our way to the Grand Canyon for our annual hike to the bottom, one of my readers, Keith Douglas, commented that he and his family would be there about the same time. In trying unsuccessfully to meet up, at one point Keith mentioned that his two kids, aged 24 and 23, were proposing they hike into the canyon. Keith emailed me to ask, “From what I read, hiking into the canyon and out is not recommended for a one day activity. What about halfway and back up? Can that be done in an afternoon? It seems pretty hot.” I responded,

Though one can hike down and up in one day, this is not recommended for most. Usually you need to be in very good condition and young. It also helps if you are a long distance runner. Hiking down to Indian Gardens [about two thirds of the way down] can be done as a day trip, but if you don’t hike a lot it will be an intense and long experience. Also, having the right pack and gear is essential! People who go carrying a one liter bottle of water and no hat are guaranteed to suffer.

I didn’t tell them they couldn’t do it, or that they shouldn’t, or that it wasn’t possible. I simply outlined some of the basics for doing it, and let them decide what to do.

Keith answered, with humor, “Thanks for helping me talk my kids out of a hike down.” He later added, “I read a hiking guide on the nps website. It seems to be designed to discourage canyon hiking rather than prepare novice hikers.”

In one sentence Keith encapsulated the problem with almost all of the advice the Park Service gives about the Grand Canyon.
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Heading to the Grand Canyon

Diane and I are about to leave for our annual trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This trip will be short, down on Saturday and up on Sunday. As usual, the trip will be grand (pun intended). I should be able to post tonight and on Sunday and Monday, but I will be traveling and will have other priorities (like enjoying myself). Even so, I might post something on our trip, especially considering that this will be second trip in a row to Phantom Ranch where the water system is broken and, though there is drinking water, there will be no showers. More details to follow.

Back from the Grand Canyon

Diane and Gang on the Tonto Plateau

Diane and I just got home and are in the process of catching up. Posting shall resume this weekend, maybe tonight! Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised that even with my absence, my thoughtful readers (even ones I sometimes disagree with) have been keeping things lively here with some intelligent debate. Kudos to you all!

And as always, the Canyon was what it always is, magnificent and awe-inspiring. The picture on the right shows us hiking on the Tonto Plateau, about 4000 feet down from the rim but above the Colorado River 1000 feet below. If you look real close you can see the tiny figures of Diane and others on the trail.

Back to the Grand Canyon

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Diane and I are about to leave for our annual hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Though I might be able to post during the drive north today and from the hotel on the rim tonight, from Tuesday until Thursday I will be out of touch with the world of computers, a welcome break that I do need periodically.

Unlike previous trips, this time we are going with a bunch of friends. Last year I obtained a reservation for a 10-person cabin at Phantom Ranch in the Canyon so that we could all be together. Should be a lot of fun!

Out of the Canyon

We exited the Grand Canyon on schedule at about 1:30 on Thursday. The hike out this year took one hour longer than last year, mostly because we took longer breaks.

As always, the Canyon is a sublime place, hard to describe to those who have never been there and unnecessary to describe for those who have. We hiked in, did an 11 mile hike the one day we were at the bottom, then hiked out today.

Posting will resume but will remain light until I return home on Sunday night.

Doing the Grand Canyon Right

The Tonto Plateau

The one thing about the Grand Canyon that attracts hikers is its intimidating nature. People feel challenged by its large size and depth, and want to prove to themselves that they can do it.

The irony of this to me is that it is that intimidating nature that generally causes most people the most problems. People worry about the climb out. They worry about the heat. They worry about the lack of water. And they worry about vastness around them.

All of these things — the climb, the heat, the lack of water, and the vastness — must be dealt with. Each has caused the death of many visitors. Each could kill you if you are not prepared. In fact, one or all of these factors are probably the primary causes behind all of the approximately 300 rescues that occur each year at the Grand Canyon.

Yet, none of these factors is actually the biggest obstacle for most people trying to climb in and out of the Canyon. Instead, it is the worry about these things that causes people the most difficulties.
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At the rim 2

We have returned from inside the Grand Canyon. We hiked out on Tuesday, doing the climb up in what is for us record time, arriving at the rim at 12:30 pm after 7 hours of hiking. We were down at Phantom Ranch for two full days and three nights, doing some really spectacular day hikes each day. I will post some further details, with pictures, once I get home.

We are still touring about here in northern Arizona and will be until Sunday. Right now I am sitting in the patio of the motel at Grand Canyon Caverns, about two hours west of the national park. This morning we drove down to the Colorado on the Hualapai Reservation, using the only road on the south rim that reaches the river. This weekend I will be participating in a long term cave dig project here at this somewhat famous commercial cave. The dig has been going on for years in cooperation with the cave’s owners. This will be the first time that I will contribute to the project.

At the rim

The Grand Canyon from our motel room

After a 5.5 hour drive we arrived at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and checked into our hotel. You can see the view from the window on the right. Not very spectacular, but then, you don’t spend much time in a hotel room on trips like this.

Tomorrow we take the shuttle bus to the North Rim, where will spend another night in the lodge there. On Saturday, we hike down on North Bright Angel trail, and will stay in a cabin at Phantom Ranch for the next three nights, doing day hikes from the bottom of the canyon on Sunday and Monday. We will hike then up on Tuesday, coming up Bright Angel trail to the south rim, completing our first rim to rim hike. Once we check out of our hotel tomorrow, we will be out of contact with the internet until we return to the south rim. I hope the world doesn’t fall apart in the interim.

This will be Diane’s third trip to the bottom, and my fifth. I can’t express how happy I am to be back. This is truly one of the grandest spots on Earth.

Want to learn something of the geology of the Grand Canyon?

Want to learn something of the geology of the Grand Canyon? The Geological Society of America has just published a special volume of papers, with the introductory and afterword [pdf] chapters available online.

Those two chapters provide a very good layman’s summary of the geological state-of-the-art of the Grand Canyon. Very worthwhile reading if you plan to hike down in the near future.

The Obama administration announced a federal ban Monday on new mining claims affecting a million acres near the Grand Canyon.

The Obama administration announced a federal ban Monday on new mining claims affecting a million acres near the Grand Canyon.

As much as I love the Grand Canyon and want to protect it, this ban has little to do with the canyon itself. The land involved surrounds the canyon, and is in remote areas that tourists never see. And though the Obama administration claims this is to protect the waters of the Colorado River, none of the mining would take place anywhere near the river.

What this ruling illustrates is the left’s fear of doing anything. They prefer to shut everything down, on the remote chance that something might go wrong, even if that wrong might be very temporary and fixable. Following this philosophy, it is not surprising that the economy has been in the doldrums for the past three years.