We decided to hike the North Kaibab Trail, which is the trail that will take you all the way down to the river (the bottom), and to Phantom Ranch, where you can stay the night. Not having tents, nor having booked a spot at the Ranch a year in advance (!), we couldn’t stay the night at the bottom. This is probably a good thing, since if there had been an opportunity to stay down there, I would have wanted to hike that far and neither of us is really in shape for hiking the whole day down into a canyon – a Grand one at that! – and the whole day back up again the next day.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but the North rim side of the Grand Canyon didn’t fit what I had in my mind. We decided on the North rim of the Grand Canyon because we were heading North in any case to go to Zion National Park. We’d heard that the South rim is a lot more touristy (the Grand Canyon literature says 90% of people go to the South rim and 10% the North), and that there is a glass plateau that you can walk out on at the North rim. Neither of these things appeared to be true, as far as we could tell. The North rim was packed – all of the parking lots were full or almost full, and there were people all over the place. And we didn’t find a glass plateau. We later saw a sign for the “Skywalk” of Grand Canyon as we headed past Las Vegas – so it must be near there.
But don’t get me wrong – it was beautiful at the North rim. Just, somehow it didn’t have the vastness that I envisioned, and I wasn’t struck with awe and wonder at the sight.
Before you close your browser and write me off as a heartless, jaded, shell of a human being, please know that I was struck with awe and wonder at Zion National Park. It is not that I am incapable…it was just that…well….the Grand Canyon at the North rim, was not what I had imagined.
All the same, our lack of profound sentiment did not stop us from hiking down the canyon 2000 feet and then back up again – a 4 hour hike.
I say 2000 feet because it sounds much more impressive than the 5.2 miles we covered there and back. 4 hours of steady hiking, except for occasional stops in the shade, and we got 5.2 miles. Sounds like nothing – but you just try it yourself and then come talk to me 😛
The further down we got, the more it started to look like what we’d envisioned. The trees thinned out, the canyon opened up, and we could appreciate a bit more the layers of time captured in the rock and the miles that it stretched out in space.
We saw a landmark off in the distance that we could aim for – a bridge over the river – and decided that we would hike that far and then turn back. At this point the other people on the path were few and far between. Also few and far between were the mounds of mule poop covered in flies. We never came across any mules, but we sure felt their presence for that first mile.
As usual, I was much enamored with the flora and fauna and captured everything I could with the camera.
We may or may not have seen a condor too. I don’t know. I have a hard time distinguishing between big-winged, soaring birds.
That guy bit me.
Well, ok, I was tired and I lost my balance and I ran into his spiky bits. Either way, ouch!
Finally we reached our destination, the bridge. I think this was about a third of the way to the ranch where you can spend the night. We still had to hike all the way back up, but we were feeling pretty good. On the way back up we played tag with a woman who was at first behind us, then we’d take a break and she’d be in front, and then she’d take a break and we’d get ahead, and so on. We stopped to chat at one point and she told us that she lives in Phoenix and has been hiking the canyon for 20 years. In the past she has hiked from the South rim to the North rim. She said she never gets sick of the view, and we could appreciate why.
Even though the North rim proved to be not quite what we were expecting, it was nonetheless amazing to see. It is hard to capture in words, and hard as well to capture in photos.
Next we headed further North towards Zion National Park – another beautiful and hard-to-capture experience!