Road trip: Grand Canyon


hoover-dam-jeep-rubicon-road-trip

First stop on the drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon was the Hoover Dam, of course. An engineering marvel indeed, not least because it was completed 2 years ahead of schedule. The Dam produces more than 4 billion kWh annually for Nevada, southern California, and Arizona.

After a brief lunch break, we were off to the Grand Canyon. We stayed in a tent site at Mather campground. I was surprised at the number of people for the time of year, but the campground was well maintained and the staff was helpful.

Brian took care of the campfire duties. Here he is getting things going on the first day while I caramelized some onions, my camping specialty. Worth it if you have the time, I promise.

mather-campground-grand-canyon-national-park

The next day our goal was simple: hiking. We chose the South Kaibab trail down into the canyon. We only had the one day, so we opted to go about halfway down, a 6 mile roundtrip with 2,000 ft elevation change in either direction. The views along the ridge were spectacular.

south-kaibab-trail-grand-canyon

As we descended, we ran into a few mule teams ascending from the canyon floor. You can get a mule tour to the bottom and camp for the night before coming back up. It looked like a slow, hot ride, but still a cool experience I’d like to try sometime.

grand-canyon-mule-train

We had no mules, so we were on our own for the rather intense hike. Brian dubbed this a “reverse hike”; unlike our outing in Yosemite where we went up first so the easy part — coming down — was at the end, this time we descended fast and easily and then had to climb back up a few hours later. It’s the climbing back up part that will get you.

We turned around at Skeleton Point. I didn’t ask how it got its name, but there was an unexpected view of the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. We stopped for a snack to regain our energy for the epic trip back to the trailhead.

grand-canyon-skeleton-point-colorado-river

We made it back to the top with water to spare and not so bad off. According to my training watch, we burned more than 1000 calories, all said. At the bus stop near the trailhead we were greeted by a herd of elk who were moving in on the water spigots. The one on the left here didn’t want to share and kept grumpily chasing off the others. He didn’t seem to mind people turning on the water for him, though.

grand-canyon-kaibab-trailhead-elk

That night we had glorious showers, did laundry, and settled in for a delicious dinner by the campfire. We headed off to bed early, hot water bottle in hand to help against the cold. We were up at 5:30 the next morning to catch the sunrise from Mather Point.

For the second time in my life, worth it.

grand-canyon-sunrise-south-kaibab-ridge

The ridge in the foreground is the one we had climbed the day before, which was a nice addition to the scene as we watched the sun come up over the canyon wall.

After the sun was sufficiently up, we were sick of the cold and headed back to the campsite for an extra hour of sleep and then packing up. By 9 am we were leaving the Great Outdoors for the Open Road.

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