Tuesday, May 11, 2010

South Kaibab Trail into the Grand Canyon

Quinn, Calvin, and I drove up to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff on Saturday morning.

From Flagstaff there are two roads up to the Grand Canyon.  We went up the counter-clockwise way to the south rim.  On the way we passed a reservation and people in the tribe has wooden stalls set up where they were selling rocks and art. We didn't stop, because we were hungry and wondered why on earth they didn't also sell sandwiches and cold drinks?

Instead we ate lunch at the cafeteria by the historic lookout. Quinn was tense - he didn't know what what Calvin would do when we got to the edge.  Already, at the petrified forest, Calvin ran off towards the cliff.  And since Calvin always wants to "show strong" whenever he sees a fence, he didn't want to put him down, even though the the fence was reinforced with a chain-link fence. 

Calvin wanted to go up the stairs in the lookout tower so I followed him up. There was a big gift shop in the first floor with travel books and t-shirts and hats. I was impressed with the tower. I was made of stone and the walls were covered with old Indian paintings and legends.

I was going up the stairs in the middle of the group of twenty Germans wearing Harley Davidson jackets. Calvin was getting tired and he and Quinn started fighting with each other when Quinn tried to carry him up the stairs. Calvin wanted to run around, and Quinn was still worried about him plunging down the stairs or over the railing so the trip into the tower ended in tears.  But luckily Calvin was ready for a nap, and as soon as the car was moving he conked out.

I just finished working my way through a travel writing course, the idea of writing a travel article was close to the front of my mind.

I was nervous. Everything was different than I thought it would be, and I had no idea how I could possibly take a picture that no one else had taken or say something original about this place that everyone in the world comes to see. I mean, everybody had their cameras out, and were taking pictures from every angle possible on the lookouts. I just looked at the Canyon and thought, "Whoa, it's big."

It was also a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.  The surface at the bottom was more varied and the walls deeper than I thought they would be from pictures. I was fascinated by the repeating zig zag of the layered walls and the mind boggling distances.

When Calvin woke up from his nap we decided to take a short hike down South Kaibab Trail. Man, I've never been on a hike with such strong warnings on the trailhead. These hikes were all labelled "difficult"and they warned that "Everything that goes down must come up" and that people shouldn't try to go all the way to to the river in one day, unless they want to die.  Then they showed a newspaper clipping about a marathon runner who thought that it was 17 miles to the river (when it was really 27) and she tried to go all the way there and died of dehydration. I think the reason people die and have to get rescued so often is that it's so easy and fun going down.  And it's beautiful and inspiring so people just go traipsing down down down without a care in the world.  Then when they turn back, and ran out of water, it's really steep and hot.

But we weren't gong to go that far.  We had Calvin in a backpack and Calvin and I had been promised ice cream and we intended to collect. So we started down the switchbacks at the beginning of the trail - they reminded me of an open air version of the beginning of the Carlsbad Caverns hike.

This was probably the most spectacular hike I've ever been on.... which begs the question - where are the pictures? As soon as I got onto the trail I was ready to start taking pictures, but my camera wasn't around my neck or in my bag. Nuts, I thought, I left it in the car, just when I could be taking some really terrific pictures.

The more we walked the more annoyed I was at leaving my camera.  I asked myself a question that I've asked many times in the past.... Could I be any more absentminded? Unfortunately, a few minutes later I realized that the answer to that question is yes. I didn't just leave it in the car, I left it on the car.  I put it on the roof of the car while loading Calvin into the backpack and it was sitting there on display for anyone to steal.

And who wouldn't want to steal a camera in that situation? It would literally take a saint to find a nice camera at the Grand Canyon, and want to stop sightseeing to go find a lost and found. I had to sit down and put my head between my legs for a minute. GAh!

Then I tried to just pretend that I never had a camera to begin with.  You know, just take in the landscape and forget about writing stories or trying to sell stock photos or making my blog look cool. Just forget about all that and absorb the beauty directly into my soul.  Very Zen. It sort of worked.

We hiked all the way down to the first day camp rest point.  There was a little building on a platform that jutted out into the canyon. We both hoped that it was a snack stand, but it was a two-story outhouse. I wonder how they empty the tanks.

Finally Calvin got to get out of the backpack and run around. It's funny how little kids can be in the middle of a huge canyon and be completely obsessed with the little slope of dirt by the outhouse. In a few minutes he was covered in red sand and acting like his barbarian self, trying to pick up and throw big rocks.

I think we walked the right distance.  It was a good workout going back up, but nothing that we couldn't do. If you ever go to the Grand Canyon, go on a hike.  You get the best view.

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