Grand Canyon Day II
previous stories here.
This was a pretty cool adventure I found myself on. It started a little earlier than planned since the giant black birds that surround the camper’s area were loud and up early. It was the second night in a row for me sleeping on the ground; the night before had been at the Petrified Forest and quite surreal with absolutely clear skies and not a sound to be heard.
The sky at the Grand Canyon was clear too. I suspect that happens a lot in Arizona. One neat thing about the canyon is that there are trees surrounding it. Somewhere in that dry desert there is a line above which trees can grow. I reckon that the line is about 7 thousand feet, and each time I approached that altitude trees started to appear. It had happened in Colorado, the day before in Flagstaff, and once again as I approached the park. One important thing to remember is that the canyon is very deep, nearly a mile, and it takes quite a height above sea level to allow it to have carved away so much.
I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal on my portable stove. It was nutritious and warming although I didn’t need the heat as much. It got cool at night but not cold, and would spend the day in shorts and a t-shirt. This was partially due to not traveling that day and another part due to having only dirty laundry. One of my goals would be to find laundry service.
There is really so much to tell about this particular day, so let’s try. I was in the far eastern part of the park on the southern rim. The view was amazing to the north, although a thick haze diluted it a little. Overnight the canyon had filled with the smoke of a forest fire on the opposite side. When the temps cool that smoke falls and fills up all that volume. It detracts from the seeing but not the overall beauty of the place.
I decided to ride west to the main headquarters and also “town” center. On any given day thousands of people would come visit our largest natural landmark, and it became quite a sight. As I rode I took every overlook and snapped a lot of photos. That is every overlook allowed. Due to the high volume of people some places only permitted bus traffic. You had to park your car or bike back at the ranger station. That was somewhat frustrating.
The canyon is so immense one can hardly believe what others say. And there is no good way to appreciate its size or wonder except by going there yourself. Everyone should go there at least once in his or her life. GO. When you do go you’ll probably notice what I did, that English isn’t the only spoken language. I heard French, Russian, Chinese, and many other languages. People really do come from all over to see it.
I made my way through the overlooks talking to people when I stopped. One couple was riding their beemer motorcycle from New Jersey to California for a job. They had taken the long route and were enjoying their sights. He planned to fly back upon completion and she take another route. We kept in contact for a few months after meeting. Instead of going through the middle of the country like planned she headed a more southerly route through New Orleans which was recently devastated by hurricane Katrina.
I met other people too. At the laundry mat there while waiting I got into a discussion I will never forget. On the left of me sitting, waiting also, was a shorter man with big round eyes and glasses. CNN was on the news, and a clip about birds as pets came on. The newscaster spoke of how they behave around people and that they could even communicate with owners more than just repeating words like parrots can. Something prompted me to speak up negating that comment, and I found myself against a wall. This man to my left started telling me about his pet bird, saved from an accident outside and brought in to recuperate. The bird was a songbird and I cannot remember more except for the extraordinary story this man was about to tell me.
His bird could tell him things. It would dance in a pattern or sing a song when it wanted food or out of the cage. He said he knew what the bird wanted. About this time another fellow came up on the right. He was much taller than either the first man or I with a long neck, narrow head, and long nose. He wanted to tell me a similar story of his pet birds. This is when I started to realize something was wrong here. This fellow on my right actually looked like a bird, and when I turned left I realized that guy too shared features with our feathered friends. I was trapped between bird brains!
Believe it or not this was one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had. It was impossible for me to not smile and laugh when I came to that realization. They must have thought I was crazy, but the sci-fi channel couldn’t have written this story. And it’s all true.
I made it through though, and once the laundry and I were clean again and I had eaten my lunch, I made my way to the visitor center to look around. A ranger gave me some advice as to which trail to hike, and from there I took the shuttle to the remaining overlooks I couldn’t before.
The trail I planned to take was called OooAhh or something similar, named after OooAhh point. It took hikers far into the canyon without much elevation change providing quite a nice vantage point. The point was only about one mile or less down the trail but it was steep, and in the middle of July quite hot. I had a liter bottle empty from lunch that I planned to fill at the trailhead. Someone had told me there was potable water there for hikers. Upon arriving however there was a different story. Some volunteer was at the top of the trail and told me not to go. He said it was too hot, and he had rescued people already that day. I almost believed him, but didn’t. He gave me a water bottle to carry so I’d have enough even though that one was empty too. This was right before telling me that there was no available water and begging me not to take the trail, and even if I had two full bottles of water it wouldn’t be enough.
some of the hike
Well, it turns out he was just bitter, and there was water after all. So I started down taking pictures all the way now carrying two and a half liters of water, far more than I needed, on that great trail. The trail itself was quite nice and well kept. I saw people both coming up and going down. To those coming up I asked the line my dad always used in those situations, “is it still there?” They must have though I was crazy on top of stupid carrying all that water.
I reached my destination without knowing. All views there are amazing, no one really better than the other and walked farther down till I found some wayward hikers. These fellas had broken the rules. Dave and Kevin were their names. They and some friends of theirs had traveled from New Mexico to hike across the Grand Canyon in one day. That included about 12 miles down and 14 miles back up on the other side. This was strictly forbidden. They had long since run out of water and only barely made it to the shade where I found them. Salt was crusted on their faces from sweating so much, and they looked pretty near if not past exhaustion.
At this point quite willing to help out a fellow, and much greater hiker, I was pleased to share my vast quantities of water with them unloading my burden at the same time. They were thankful, and allowed me to accompany them on the way back. They were very happy to hear it was only another mile plus some to the top. Some of their friends had already finished the hike and promised to return with more food and water. Some friends hadn’t made it so far, and they would have to wait for them to catch up. I cannot remember their whole stories, but somewhere along the way everyone ran out of water, and a lot of extra hiking had to be done to help those people out.
So, after making friends with a squirrel and rehydrating, we headed back slowly. They were as interested in my story as I was theirs. And there was plenty to discuss. Along the way we met their friends coming back with Gatorade, and we rested again, one of the many times. Finally the group reached the top, and we parted ways. I rode the shuttle back to my bike and then headed east again toward my tent. On the way I stopped to see how they were doing. The last group of their friends had finally made it to the top, and everyone was safe. I said my goodbyes quickly because a ranger threatened to give me a ticket for parking there, and I dashed off to try and make it to camp before dark.
I think it was ramen soup that night for dinner and much lonelier than the night before. My buddy Leon had ridden on, and the camp was quiet. It was a wonderful day I’ll never forget. I was tired and went to sleep with a smile on my face.
There were many great photos from that day. The rest start here.
Thanks for reading.