Day 6 (Second Day Of Hike)

Grand Canyon National Park

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May 20, 2006 We had a short hike today. We got up at 4:30am. Sand was in everything. The wind had blown the night before, and sand had gone everywhere. I got all of my stuff cleaned and packed, and Bob was boiling water for breakfast. I had a couple of packets of oatmeal for breakfast along with a blueberry muffin that was left over from the day before. It's been a long time since I've had oatmeal. I haven't been much of an oatmeal person for.. well... decades. In our personal food bags we had 2 packs of maple & brown sugar oatmeal, and 2 packs of baked apple & cinnamon oatmeal. I had a packet of each. I started with the maple and brown sugar and ended with the baked apple. It really tasted good! I'll have to investigate having more of that. I'm sure that the packets like that are high in sugar, etc.. but I'm guessing that it could be made in a pretty nutritious way.

We left a little bit after 6am. Bob said that we had taken too long to get ready for the morning. Have to speed that up.... We walked mostly along the river for half a mile or so (little ups and downs over rocks) until we hit the Popago rock slide. We regrouped right before the rock slide, and then we scrambled up the rocks. The order for going up the rocks was: Bob, Fabio, Nick, me, Lucky, Rachael, and Dave. This section was the most technically demanding section of the entire time in the Canyon. We climbed a couple of hundred feet, and while it wasn't straight up, it was at quite an angle. I think that Rachael's weight to backpack-weight ratio was making it a bit uncomfortable for her. Doing scrambling like that with weight on your back is interesting. If you think about it, you are supposed to stand up as straight as you can, and you are climbing up and over rocks, and you have many pounds on your back that are, if you think about it, trying to pull you back over into oblivion. Best to not think about it, I suppose. :)

We got up to the top, came down the other side (at a much more gentle slope) and continued along close to the river (within 50 foot vertical of the river). At one point we were close enough that I went and dipped my hat in the river. This was right next to a little mini slot canyon where I took a couple of pictures. I had taken my customary 6 quarts of water. About this point I decided that I didn't need that much, and got rid of a quart of water here. Every couple of pounds helps. After heading out again, we then reached a cliff over a dry riverbed (Popago creek). It was about 20 feet high. So, we took our packs off and 4 or 5 of us guys positioned ourselves at various places on the bluff and lowered the backpacks down, chain style. It's obviously possible to go down the cliff with one's pack on. When we got there, Bob had already been down the cliff and his pack was setting off across the riverbed waiting. When I took my pack off, the Gatorade bottle I had in the "cup holder" slid out and off the side of the cliff. After almost hitting Nick it went sailing on down to the bottom of the rocks. Got down there, and it was perfectly fine, if a bit scratched from its drop. I think of all the places I could have lost the bottle where it would have been totally and completely irretrievable, and I was quite lucky to lose it where I did.

Once everyone was down, we started up the creekbed. We walked up it quite a ways. This riverbed was in a pretty deep canyon that gave us a fair amount of shade, so we took a good break in the canyon while we were still in the shade. We then walked on up the creek bed, climbed up the wall of the canyon, and came back down towards the river along the top edge of the canyon we were previously walking up. Around a corner and we could see the sand bar where we were camping for the night. Nick and myself were in the lead at that point and we didn't actually realize the sand bar was our stopping point for the night. We stayed on the trail, which went along the river, but higher on the hill than the sandbar. We found a large shade rock/ bluff that we stopped under and waited on the others. Fabio showed up and went to the beach. Then Bob and Lucky went to the beach. They each walked down to the sandbar and started shedding packs, etc. Then Bob and Lucky came up and told us that we were actually at our destination for the day. We got in a little after 11am, so it was a pretty short day. After enjoying the shade for a while, Nick and myself decided to go on down to the sandbar. Nick backtracked to a spot where he could get down to the sandbar. I had asked Bob, and he said that the trail went on down and hit a drainage that we would be leaving out from in the morning. So, I walked on down along the trail until I got to that point. As I came down off the hill towards the drainage, there were actually man-made log stairs there. The logs were chained together with cable and each one was holding back a layer of dirt, in a general staircase manner. This struck me as significant because it was really the first man-made structure I had seen in a couple of days. From there, I was able to walk back to the beach.

For the hike down into the Canyon, I had my 100-400mm lens strapped onto my belt, along with the 28-135mm lens. The camera was in my backpack. For the second day of hiking I moved the 100-400mm lens to the backpack, and put the camera in a side pocket of the backpack so that I could get to it more easily. This allowed me to take a few more pictures than I had on the first day. Live and learn... Live and learn.

I saw a baby 8-10 inch-long snake today. Nick was walking along on the trail right in front of me, and stepped right over it. It looked like a rattlesnake. The rattles hadn't yet formed on the little guy, but you could see a black area right on the last 3/4 of an inch or so of the tail. It had a row of dark diamonds down its back. I did a little bit of research on the web after getting back, and apparently the snake gets its rattles a couple of weeks after birth, so this must have been a real young fellow. I dislike snakes. It was crawling across the trail and quickly moved off into the weeds. It really wasn't that big of a deal at the time. Whole thing lasted about 20 seconds and it was gone. I had read that not too many people see snakes, and snake bites are very rare in the Canyon, and virtually everyone that ever gets bit is actually attempting to play with the snake when they are bit. I won't bother going into the logic of trying to play with a snake when you are good 10-12 walking hours from help, but there you have it. Needless to say, Nick and myself didn't bother trying to play with this guy. Other than that, the only other wildlife that I've seen is ants, lizards, and a couple of different types of birds. Not a lot of stuff.

Bob had said before the hike started that days 1, 3, and 5 would probably be the tougher days, and 2, 4, and 6 would be easier. So far, day 1 was definitely harder, and day 2 has been somewhat easier. The breakfast selection reflects this as well. Easier days get boiled water for oatmeal. Harder days don't.

On the hike in yesterday, we saw several prickly pear cacti in bloom. The purple flowers are quite pretty. Also saw agave plants. Nick was continually mentioning their suitability for making tequila. Most of the agave appeared dead, but we saw a few that were green and clearly alive. Down along the river it is some sort of weeping willow type tree (See day 3) and a lot of weed that you would typically see on a sandbar back in the midwest. Last night there was also a thorn tree near the sandbar where we slept. Tonight we are camped next to some no-name rapids. There is a canyon across the river. Bob says he saw some a mother and child big-horned sheep come down it one year to get a drink at the river. Nothing this year, though.

Rachael thought she was getting too hot this afternoon. Probably a case of mild dehydration. For lunch today we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on our bagels. I had the peanut butter in my backpack, and that should make things a little bit lighter. More importantly, tonight's supper is from my pack. (River rafters going by right now. They have approximately a 6 year wait to get a personal rafter permit, and up to 3 years to get a spot with one of the commercial companies). So, having supper should make my pack lighter for tomorrow. I also started eating on the food in my personal food bag today. I've had a couple of granola bars, a caramel chew, and an orange. That should make things lighter.

Since lunch we've just lounged around and tried to stay cool. Nick did some studying. I'm going to have to get the little orange shovel before too long and go to the bathroom. My muscles were sore when I woke up this morning. They just aren't doing good things. Very stiff. I have a tiny blister trying to form on the side of my big toe. It shouldn't be any big deal. Fabio has a big blister (a bit larger than a quarter) on the side of his heel. It's not a pretty thing. He's limping around some. I'm sure it feels horrible. We'll get it taken care of tonight. I put tape on my mini blister yesterday at lunch, and again today when we stopped in Popago creekbed. I've seen several helicopters go overhead this afternoon. They look like they are a long, long way away. But, if they are at the level of the rim, they could be directly overhead and they would be a mile away.

Everyone is dreading day 5.

I did the little orange trowel thing. When you gotta go, you gotta go. The thought of going to the bathroom didn't really bother me. I'm just not crazy about the thought of carrying the used toilet paper out of the Canyon. Bob had thought that we would have toilets at the bottom of New Hance and then again at the bottom of Tanner trail. Nothing at the bottom of New Hance. I tried to cut back on my fiber intake a little bit before starting the hike. Bob had apples to give to everyone that wanted them on the morning on the first hiking day, but I went purely with oranges. For anyone that knows me, they know that I love apples. But, I didn't need to be all that regular while in the Canyon. I figured that I could deal with going a little less. So, I made it to day 2 before having to "use the little orange trowel". For urination, we just go directly into the river, or the sand right next to the river. That takes some getting used to, but the best thing to do is apparently to just go into the river and use the extremely huge volume of water going downstream to dilute everything. So, everyone just went downstream of camp for the evening, did their business, and assumed that there wasn't anyone upstream of us in the rest of the Canyon doing their own business. For non-urination purging, though, other work is necessary. There are a couple of group trowels that we use. They are orange plastic, and we use them to dig a hole 6 inches deep, at least 100 feet away from the river, trails, and drainages or creek beds. Then, you squat and do your thing, and keep the toilet paper in a ziplock bag that you can then carry out of the Canyon. For this particular orange-trowel event, I had scouted out a suitable spot that was a ways away from the river and did my business. I couldn't see anyone else from where I was at, but while I was taking care of business I saw Lucky and Bob walking up the beach (still a ways away). They might have seen me squatted down. If they did, oh well. It's part of the hiking code that such events have to occur.

Come to find out, Bob was actually moving camp to a site that was closer to the drainage we would be hiking up the next morning. The afternoon rolled on, and supper was chicken, broccoli, rice, and corn. It was quite good. I ate a lot of food. Since I had brought the dried food, I wanted to make sure that it was all eaten. Everyone pitched in to help. Dave definitely did his part, and I think Fabio even had a couple of bowls. The first night I don't think he had eaten as much, but by this point everyone was starting to get hungry, I guess. We had the standard "surprise" dessert, and I didn't end up with much of a trash load to carry out.

After supper, Fabio borrowed some matches from my first aide pack to sterilize a needle for some blister popping. He popped the blister and used a pair of scissors to cut away the skin where the blister was at. Fun stuff. I took a few pictures around sunset. I had picked a good place, and ended up missing part of the color because I was making Gatorade (from powder) at the time. David and myself had gone together on a container of powdered Gatorade, and I had started in on it. I'm sleeping tonight right next to some neatly layered sandstone. Rachael commented that it looked like a shelf, and I was using it as such. I like my comforts, I guess. Tomorrow is supposed to be one of the harder days. I have to remember to put slick tape on the blister I've got trying to form. Nick has been borrowing the tape each morning to tape up a couple of his mini blisters. Bats are flying around overhead looking for their nightly feast of insects. Go, bats! Right now Nick is reading some of the CPA study material. He has the 4th test in the series a few days after getting back from the trip. I tore a hole in my blue shirt today. It got caught on the backpack frame.

Today we hiked far enough out of the inner canyon to actually be able to see something other than the inner canyon. That was nice. Being down here next to the river is cool, and a heck of an accomplishment, but I've decided that the best views occur when you are higher. So, it's great to have seen both. I want to make sure that my camera is easily accessible for those times.

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