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Grand Canyon Slalom TR
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First a disclaimer - having not slept worth half a damn in a week and am too tired to think straight, so this may not make a ton of sense.
This cobbled-together and entirely random trip came about with my friend Ryan in Texas getting a bonus from work which he promptly spent on his very first backpack, sleeping bag and stove. Of course, with all this shiny new gear to use, next came the urge to put it to use. With absolutely nothing to hike around where he lives, we talked it over and decided he'd fly out to LA and we'd drive to the desert and find something to backpack for a couple nights. Eventually, we talked it over and ended up with the Grand, deciding it was worth the risk of no walk-in permits being available.
So last Wednesday, I ducked out of work early to pick him up at LAX, then pointed the car east for about 8 hours until we were in beautiful northern Arizona. There had been some unseasonal snowfall the week before, blanketing Williams in a foot or two and reminding me of Colorado. The road to the rim was icy and elk-infested but, despite our sleeplessness, we made it to the hotel safely for about 4 hours of horrible high-altitude caffeine-amped sleep.
I got up before dawn and put on my layers, scraped the ice from the windshield, and drove to the backcountry office to make sure I was first in line to try for a walk-in permit. In my sleepless confusion, though, rather than go to the actual backcountry office, I decided that the office must be in the visitor center and waited for two hours there in the 20 degree air, instead of where I should have been. This turned out to be a stroke of brilliant luck in the end.
while killing time, I watched the sun come up on Mather point. A group of Korean tourists joined me, then all but one left. We sat in the silence for about a minute when the man suddenly sung the opening bars to "Danny Boy," without a hint of accent, then turned to me and said, heavily accented, "take picture?" So I took a picture of him with his camera and he hurried off to join his friends. It was, to say the least, a little strange. The only thing I can think to make any sense out of it is that he thought I was a tourist from Ireland (the red beard and all)... but even then it'd be kinda strange.
Finally, the visitor center opened with me standing eagerly at the door, where a disarmingly beautiful ranger told me I was in the wrong place. Swearing to myself and thinking I'd screwed the entire trip, I hurried to my car to drive the 2 miles to the actual backcountry office.
The office was empty, save for a ranger on the phone just finishing up his call as I walked in. I asked, without much hope, "do you have any corridor campsites open tonight or tomorrow?" He pointed at the phone, "that was someone just cancelling for Bright Angel tonight, how's that work?" It worked perfect. Turns out it was the only available spot - if I'd been there at opening, there would have been nothing open and I would've left dejected.
So I hurry back to pick up Ryan and we hop the shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead to start our hike. The first half mile or so of the trail was extremely icy and snowed-over so it was a very slow and slippery beginning to the trip. Once we cleared that stretch we made very good time and were at the Bright Angel campsite cooling the six pack of IPA I'd carried down in the creek.
I had never hiked South Kaibab before and, now that I have, I don't know that I ever want to bother hiking into the canyon on another trail. The views were absolutely spectacular, with a much wider field of vision than Bright Angel or North Kaibab. It's a steeper trail and there's no water on it, so going back up wouldn't be quite as fun - but the descent was just mind-blowing.
We drank our beers, ate some pasta, napped, read, took a dunk in the Colorado, watched about thirty mule deer slowly pass through camp, browsing on the trees, chatted with the ranger, then at 8pm walked to the Phantom Ranch cantina for some candy bars and cold drinks. On the way, we saw a fox brazenly watching us from a few feet off the trail (turns out the foxes in Phantom Ranch have been coming up with rabies lately... so that may explain it). The bats were out like I'd never seen - shining your headlamp upward would reveal about 20 bats per minute.
The next morning, we woke up late (no sense starting early for such a long hike), had a breakfast of pasta and pop tarts, then started up Bright Angel. For the first half, we tore up the trail, making it to Indian Garden without so much as a water break. From there, we slowed down a bit, but still got out of the canyon by about 2pm. Bright Angel was icy for about the last 2 miles, but going up proved to be a lot easier than down. On the way out, we saw a California condor circling the trail for a couple passes before heading out over the canyon and out of sight.
Once out, we had a huge meal at a cafeteria, then drove to Flagstaff for a dinner of Del Taco and a long soak in the spa. Saturday morning, I drove Ryan to Phoenix to catch his flight home, killing some time downtown at some weird Irish bar/restaurant chain called the Tilted Kilt where the watressess all look like models and dress in slutty scotsman outfits. Turns out some big NCAA game was being held next door, so the place was packed and rowdy. Then I dropped Ryan off and an hour later met my wife at the arrivals gate for phase 2 of the trip.
From there we drove to Prescott to check it out as a potential place to live. Not much of a story there, but we absolutely loved it. I *may* need to call my Maze trip in a month off to instead spend the time looking at houses... I think we found a winner.
Then yesterday we drove home, getting in extremely late. And now here I am at work, tired, sore and grouchy. God help me if I don't sleep 14 hours tonight.”
“Sounds like a good trip, Pepsis.”
“yeah, despite being short, rushed and restless, I think it was well worth it”
“That's a great spontaneous trip! I've only seen the north rim of the canyon, I'd love to go back and hike in. Oh and "Danny Boy" is just infectious, the guy probably couldn't help himself..”
“it's worth going in for sure. After doing it once, I said to myself, "that was great... but I really don't need to do it again." But by the next year I was missing it so much that I *had* to go back... then I skipped it last year and it was driving me crazy - so I'm glad to get back in there.”
“pics are up!
last edited: 3/27/12 8:13:03 AM”
“yay! a trip report!
and nice pics!
i'd almost forgotten how beautiful it is there at this time of year”
“thanks guys! Normally I'd put a little more work and thought into the trip report, but I'm still too tired to brain properly...”
“It's a good TR. Thanks for sharing.”
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