Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grand Canyon

15th June 2012

Woke up with first light at 4.30am and dragged our sleepy arses out of bed and onto our new pushbikes. Determined to see the sun rise, we threw a few things into backpacks and headed off. Unfortunately the Grand Canyon park people haven't grasped the idea of providing good bike signage so we got a little lost and didn't quite make it to the rim in time. Still, we saw the sun just as it topped the ridge and got to watch the canyon filling with colour.

It is rather grand.

You can't really describe the sense of immensity, the distance is so great that your eyes tend to flatten out the perspective. It's pretty freaky looking down, though, especially near some of the unfenced steep drops. I had a few attacks of the heebie geebies in places.

We stood on Mather Point, the most popular lookout here, and watched the sun come up, along with a swarm of japanese tourists. They went away after a while so we had a bit more space, were able to do the obligatory National Lampoon's Vacation “look”.

After that we decided to ride to the Kaibob Trailhead and hike down a short way. We didn't have a big water bottle or sunscreen but we had muesli bars and the sun wasn't very high anyway because it was about 5.30am. Also, they provide water at the trailhead, which is nice.

Our new bikes from Walmart were fairly rickety and I had to put up with the horrible narrow seat that came with it (could only put one cheek on it at a time) but they did well enough. The ride along the rim is quite spectacular and all paved so lots of fun.

The altitude here is pretty high – 2100m above sea level. As we discovered, you get puffed really quickly and it's harder to ride or walk. So we took it relatively easy.

Halfway along we came upon a small flock of deer. They weren't shy and didn't flinch when we hurtled up to them. Took some video, carried on. Also saw numerous tiny squirrels. And one very angry Swedish woman who was berating her partner as they walked along the track.

Got to the trailhead, drank far too much water and started down into the canyon. The trail had a lot of switchbacks at the start and was gravelly in places so you had to watch your footing. Also had a lot of mule poo. The view was spectacular and got better once we got to Ooh Aah Point, our destination. Took lots of photos, watched a squirrel, got a bit of vertigo and generally enoyed it. We headed back up when the number of people walking down increased. Wasn't too bad a climb, got back at about 9.15am. Cycled back to the RV with a short stop at the visitor centre. The whole place is very spread out and built up, able to cater to the millions of people that come here. Shuttle buses drive you around the place, lots of parking, shops and restaurants. Just outside the park there's a major town with McDonalds and Imax theatres.

Mather Campground where we're staying is fairly dusty with a lot of pine trees but rather pleasant. Very busy, of course and you are camping right next to people. We had to move the truck from one spot to the next because I couldn't get a consecutive booking. No problem though.

Luke did the washing, I went to bed and had a very large nap during the heat of the day.

We lazed around in the afternoon and decided to have dinner before heading off to look at the sunset. This was probably a mistake as we were a bit late in getting away and naturally became instantly lost on the non-marked bike tracks. We had intended to ride out to Hopi Point but the road involved a massive hill that was pretty hard going in the high altitude.  By the time we made it to a viewpoint the sun was almost gone. Very pretty, of course. We were looking down on Bright Angel Trail, the first path into the canyon, originally forged by the Indians. In the 1920s it was privately owned until the National Parks wrestled it off the bloke who was charging $1 per visitor. The trail runs along a major fault line that bisects the valley.

We both agreed that we'd like to try the hike down to the river. But you have to book a year in advance and be well prepared for it. One day.

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