Day 7 (Third Day Of Hike)

Grand Canyon National Park

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May 21, 2006 Got up about 4:10am today. No oatmeal today. For breakfast we had cereal. Basic operation: Put some powdered milk in the bowl (until Bob says, "Stop") and water, and stir it up. Then, add cereal. We had two different types of cereal. One of them was a granola type cereal, and the other was closer to corn flakes. Both were good. We got out of camp and started on the trail at 5:20. So, we trimmed about 20 minutes off of the morning routine. Bob and Rachael (and Dave?) headed out a few minutes before the rest of us. Not much before, though. The first part of the hike was uphill. Similar to what Day 5 will be like, I think. We went a ways up the creek bed and then climbed out of the bed and seriously uphill. We went up and around about a hundred foot high "water" fall. (No water in it, of course, but you could see how it would look really amazing if there was actually any water.) This put us back in the creek bed, but it was mostly solid rock above the waterfall. Below the waterfall it had been a mix of solid rock and river rock. We kept climbing up, up, and up. Had to climb up a bluff at one point that was 10 feet high or so. We made it up on top of the Tonto platform and kept climbing up. Eventually, we made it up to about 1,100 feet above the river.

As an aside, the overall hike worked like this: Hike down in (day 1), hike along the river (days 2-4), and hike out (days 5-6). For each day we were "hiking along the river", we weren't actually hiking "right next to the river". At some points, you literally have a rock wall a thousand feet high that is right next to the river. So, you can't be right next to the river. The river itself is 45° warm and flowing anywhere from 4 to 30 mph depending on where you are at, so walking along in the river isn't an option. So, for each day of "hiking along the river" you basically climb up a drainage, get on top of a plateau, and then get back down in another drainage and back to the river.

Back to the story. For most of the climb we were in the shade. Shade: good. Sun: bad. We hit the sun for a stretch in the middle, but then got behind "the point" (Bob's term) which gave us some shade. It also gave an absolutely spectacular view of the river. The river winds around at that point. Spectacular view. I took pictures.

From there we started a really long leg. It was basically winding around the north side of a hill. The river was 1,000 feet below us to the left, and a hill going way up on our right. We were going up and down a few feet at a time over rocks. Some of them were rather large. The trail wasn't real wide, and we were pretty close to the edge several times. The sun was beating down on us. Bob and Lucky left me behind as the leg continued on. Two times during the leg I took a micro break. Just long enough to lean on a rock in the shade and catch my breath and drink a swig of Gatorade and grab a handful of GORP. Eventually I caught up to Bob and Lucky resting next to a large rock in the shade. I don't think they had been there too long. A bit later, Nick rolled in, and said he figured it would be a couple of hours. Fabio then rolled in, and 90 minutes later, David and Rachael. I think that Rachael let fear become a factor. She's doing fine. A real trouper, in fact. My hat is off to her. But, she's afraid that she'll fall, and it is slowing her down. But, they made it. We were resting under a large rock for shade. A pika mouse was hiding under the rock. (Bob later discovered that it was a bushy tailed woodrat [neotoma cinerea]) Other people got pictures. I didn't dig my camera out. While my camera was a lot more readily available than on day 1, it was in my backpack which was a good 10 feet away from where I was resting, and I just wasn't in the mood to go get it. I had learned after the first day, though, that my legs really don't like long rest breaks. They enjoy resting for about 10 (maybe 15) minutes, and then they start stiffening up. And once they get stiff, it makes starting out again somewhat uncomfortable. So, I started trying to get up every few minutes and move around a little bit on my legs to keep them from getting stiff. In hindsight, one of these exercise sessions would have been a terrific opportunity to get my camera. Oh well.

Once everyone got there, we rested for a while longer and then headed out. We worked our way along the hill top. We stopped at a couple of points to look for a marker that the map said was there, but we never actually found it. We were slowly descending, and we found ourselves at another point right over Unkar Creek Rapids that was great for pictures. The river wound around a couple of corners and we were right over a bluff that was probably two or three hundred feet over the river. We could see across the river to a low lying area right on the other side of the river that contained a lot of old Anasazi Indian ruins. You could see the remains of some buildings and various hiking trails that the rafters apparently use when they stop in there. The one benefit of being in a raft is that you could easily get to the north side of the river. From this point, we had to decide where we wanted to spend the night: We could stay right next to Unkar rapids, or we could go on upriver around the bend and camp next to a bird sanctuary. That option had the benefit of making day 4 a little shorter. We chose the bird sanctuary, and come to find out, that was wise. Had we camped at Unkar, we would have had to climb the hill who's top we were on, just to go back down to the river the next morning. (Probably an extra mile) So, we saved ourselves a hill climb. We couldn't legally camp in the bird sanctuary, though, so we had to be careful where we set up.

On the way down to our campsite, we went by the remains of an old cabin. It had been there a long time, and was situated a couple hundred feet above the river. We came down off that hill, and down a drainage (Cardenas Creek), and we were at camp. That particular hill was interesting. It was covered with smooth river rock. Most of the rock that you see above "river level" has sharp-ish edges. But for some reason, the rock on that hill was all smooth, as though it had been in a river bed at some point. This is one of the fascinating things about being in the Canyon. You see rock mangled, jumbled, and situated in bizarre ways that you just don't see anywhere else.

Once we got to camp, we did the standard stuff: filter water, find shade, etc. It had been cloudy off and on all day long. The hikers we had seen from Las Vegas on day 1 in the Canyon had said that a cold front was on the way. Perhaps this was it. At any rate, we didn't complain about the shade. Shade is a wonderful thing. Even though it gets over 100° each day, if you are in the shade, it really doesn't feel that bad. I found a rock next to the river and laid down on it for a while and generally took it easy. I washed my clothes, which was also a standard camp duty. Each day after hiking, I would "wash" the previous day's shirt, shorts, and underwear, and the current day's hiking socks. Then, I put them in a tree to air dry, and had somewhat clean clothing to wear the next day. "Washing" basically consists of taking two pieces of clothing, or two sections of the same piece of clothing, and rubbing them together in the water. Nothing perfect, but better than nothing, also. We had some rafters that came by. In fact, some of them tried to stop and camp. Bob apparently told them that the beach wasn't big enough for the both of us, and that they should go around to corner closer to where our other campsite would have been, had we decided to camp there.

Bob has been making a habit of "going for a swim" at some point in the afternoon. This gives him a chance to wash up a little bit and at least get rid of the outer layer of dirt. Bob and Lucky were jumping in and out at one point this afternoon and I hopped in for a quick dip and my journal ended up going for a swim as well. I had been really careful to always remove the journal from my pocket before getting in the water, but I forgot this time. After realizing what I had done I slowly went through the journal page by page and tried to separate any pages that were sticking together. The journal doesn't lay as flat now as it did, but the writing appears to all be legible and didn't suffer any serious damage. Thank goodness I used a pencil instead of a pen.

This campsite has a much different feel than the previous two campsites that we've had. The other two sites had tall cliffs very near them. This campsite feels a lot more open. No abrupt cliffs nearby, and you feel as though you can see a lot more sky. It is a bit marshy around for the bird sanctuary. Not marshy from a standpoint of having water sitting around, but the vegetation seems thicker. There are more bugs here than we have had the previous nights. The bats should be happy.

The variety of rock in the Canyon is amazing. In the wash where we are, you see every type of rock that has slowly made its way down over time. You see pieces from each layer of the Canyon sitting next to each other in the drainage bed. Sometimes, you see rock that has fallen as a whole piece to the bed, and then continued decaying at that point. I saw a piece of sandstone, probably a cubic foot or so. The top of the rock had decayed from erosion in such a way that it kinda looked like desert cracking from water. Each little piece was probably a square inch, and I knew that, as a human, I could rub my hand across the top of the rock and rub away all of those small pieces, returning the rock to simply looking like a normal rock. But, no one had done that! In all the years that humans had been in the Canyon, no one had done that. I certainly didn't intend to. "Leave No Trace". It's an amazing thing to be in the Canyon. You see a rock slide, and you have to ask yourself, "Did that happen yesterday, or did it happen a hundred or a thousand years ago?". Who knows.

We had pesto and peas for supper. It was, as always, good. Rachael had dish cleaning duty. She seemed to choose that night for cleaning since the dishes didn't have meat. But, she had a rough time of it since the pesto had so much olive oil. Apparently that stuff doesn't clean well without soap. The food was, as always, good. Bob shocked us with Oatmeal Creme Pies for dessert. By this point in the hike, it was getting rather difficult to identify the dessert item without actually biting into it. Lucky had a bad apple. It was partially cooked from the heat of the Canyon, but not in a good way. I tried taking a few pictures at sunset, but we didn't have a real good sunset. It was cooler overnight than it had been, and the wind was blowing more. Before dark it had clouded up pretty well.

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