Tag Archives: hiking

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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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

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.

We made it.

Getting to the Window in the Santa Catalinas is a challenge, mostly because of the 4000 foot elevation gain. In the past two years Diane and I have made three previous attempts, all of which were aborted because we simply either ran out of time or energy.

Today, we left very early in the morning, and because we are right now in very good shape, made it with little trouble, completing the entire hike in just under eleven hours. Some pictures below the fold.
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First day caving in Nevada

It is late and I have to up at 5 am to head to another cave tomorrow, so there is no time to give a detailed update of what happened today

However, here is a quick summary. Our goal was to find and map a rarely visited and difficult to find cave. After four miles of hiking and a lot of wandering across some pretty spectacular mountainsides, we failed to find the cave. However, we did locate two other small caves, which we surveyed, and then, on the way back to the vehicles, discovered a previously unknown cave of some size with significant formations. This was quite exciting, as the cave was clearly virgin, never seen by humans before.

We hope to return to explore and map it later in the week. Once again, I will get to go where no one has ever gone before!

Tomorrow will probably be as long a day as today, so I probably will not be able to post a more detailed report until Saturday. Stay tuned.

Santa Catalina Mountains – hike to Romero Pools

An evening pause: A hike to Romero Pools in the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside Tucson, Arizona. The hiker in the video calls this one of the toughest hikes he’s ever done, but it is only 5.6 miles round trip, with only a thousand foot elevation gain. Compared to most of the other Santa Catalina hikes, which routinely require elevation gains of 3000 to 5000 feet, this one is easy.