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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Arizona :: Grand Canyon w00t!

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Just another weekend.

I’ve been wanting to do this hike for years. After all, it’s one of the most iconic sites in the US and it’s a much different hike than what I’ve done in the past! So with my hiking boots in one hand and sleeping bag in another, I made my way down to Phoenix to climb up and down the canyon.

I knew I was going towards a desert-like environment, but the view from the plane was the exact opposite:
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Now these would be a challenge! (not ready…yet)
The road trip to the Grand Canyon was very rich with visuals for this Canadian girl. I’ve travelled to so many places, but I haven’t visited Arizona since I was a small child and I had no recent memories of the landscape…

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My friend was amused (and soon tired) of my incessant questions…
The cacti: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to it as cacti” – C

The “mountains” (some looked like giant piles of dirt): “What’s that pile of stuff?” I ignorantly asked, thinking it was a landfill

And the Native American culture "Where can I get frybread?!” (I never ended up getting any >_<

Anyway, after a 4-hour-or-so drive we camped on the grounds and woke up early the next morning to start the hike.
“In the middle of July? Are you crazy?!” – stranger at the supermarket

We scoured the map beforehand, and based on the heat, not knowing each other’s level of fitness, and availability of water we chose Bright Angel
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We descended all the way down to the Colorado River, and I’m proud to say that 30 km later we made it back up to the rim well before sunset and with water to spare!

I kept stopping to take in the changing landscape. At first, the path took us down a well-trodden and dusty path that offered fantastic views of the canyons. The sun was beating hard, and I was glad to have a camel-back, courtesy of C…I was only sorry that I was not wearing my contacts (and therefore no sunnies) or my trusty Australian wide-brimmed kangaroo hat.
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Occasionally, we had to hop out of the way of unpleasant smelling puddles from donkeys, donkey-pies, and…donkeys. Perhaps the first third of the trail should be called Donkey Canyon.
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Past the 3-mile house, we found ourselves at Indian Garden where we stopped for a break. I chatted with some of the other hikers, and they cautioned against going down to the river and making it back on time without a light…but we were confident that if we were mindful of our time, we would know when to turn back if we needed to. I’m so glad that we kept going!

From reddish dusty paths, the route beyond the gardens were filled with cacti, shale (or what I think looked like shale), and creeks. It was an unexpected contrast from what I was expecting:
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If you continue beyond this, a close up view of the canyon is just as impressive as the view from the rim
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GrandCanyon-3The path evened out, so we knew we were getting close to the end of the trial…so exciting! Despite all the warnings against going down to the bottom and back up, we were careful with our planning and were close to our goal!
We made it to the river in surprising time, and I was very glad that we reached it when we did – the sun had reached it’s peak and I felt my arms baking in the relentless sun, so it was a fantastic time to enjoy lunch in the shade.
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Of course, the way back up was much harder than going down – the storm clouds started to roll in and we shivered when the booming thunder began…I was reminded of my habit of getting caught in the rain (typhoon on Mt. Fuji, lightning storm while paddling down Grand River, and a never-ending rainfall when portaging in Algonquin…) as we tried to hurry along. Poor E could not understand why my stubby legs couldn’t keep up with his – but I’m experienced enough to know my limits. It started to rain, but instead of being miserable it was welcome as the clouds tempered the sun…and after 15 minutes it stopped. Yes! Rain win!
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We hugged and high-fived when we reached the top! It was great when we started to see the change in the trial again and we saw some people casually walking down, who were only intending on reaching the 1.5 mile house. And, please don’t feed the chipmunks – my goodness were they tubby!

We celebrated that night with sausages cooked over a campfire and Greek omelettes the next day in Flagstaff, at Campus Coffee Bean. They had a great selection of teas and the Greek omelette was a good choice with potatoes, brown bread, and gyro meat. I didn't want the feta cheese, but they wouldn't let me substitute it for another veggie - what's up with that? Most places don't let you do that, but isn't cheese much pricier than a handful of mushrooms?
Oh - and random fast food fact: In Australia, Subway has beets, while in the US there was avocado! Yum!
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We dropped R off, while C & E hurried back to Phoenix, L & I hit the road for another adventure…:-)

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