The Grand Canyon part I

At the small lodge of Jacobs we joined forces with Heather whose three hiking partners have all left the trail for various reasons. Good to have more options when it comes to the point where we have to draw lots about which member of the expedition to eat when we run out of food, for we were now heading back out on a pickup truck to the tough part if the trail: the Grand Canyon!

The Arizona Trail (AZT) a “proper” trail to follow

But first the trail keeps following the AZT on the plateau up to 9000 feet altitude through aspen (still mostly leafless), fir, spruce and pine forest with open alpine meadows in between. Winter is only just retreating here.

Snow melt and springs galore!

We reached the edge of the Grand Canyon at Nankoweap on our second night out, camped early and started our 6000 foot descent at dawn.

Down the Nankoweap trail
Nankoweap trail
The final descent,  now in the desert and 5000 feet below the rim but still going strong despite the 30C heat
Prickly pear paradise (this is only one of 5 flowering species we saw)
Agave utahensis var kaibabensis
Nankoweap creek meets the Colorado

We camped that night at the bottom of Nankoweap canyon on the shore of the Colorado Rivet itself with high winds whipping sand and river water at us. We were not alone however as there were two big motorised commercial river boats moored on our beach with about 25 clients. A private boat trip with 6 small rubber rafts was moored in the next bay downstream. In the evening we walked up to a viewpoint and afterwards chatted to the private rafters. They were a group of friends, relatives and aquaintences from all over the US. Their figurehead “Uncle Dave” was very welcoming and, once we had sourced a life jacket for each of us, invited us to travel 9 miles down river the next day with them..

Our generous river rafters packing up in the morning
Heather and Martina head down the river with boatman Brian (Big Dill)

After a fun (and wet from rapids) morning on the river with our boater friends, we got off at the Little Colorado River confluence with the Colorado and said our farewells.

View of the turquoise blue Little Colorado Rivet
Collared lizard posing by the trail

Our target for camping was Lava Canyon rapids and the trail stayed high above the river on balcony ledges until we got there. The wind was back and buffeting but at least helped keep us coolish in the 30C heat. We chose to camp in a dense grove of trees that provided shelter from the wind. When it got dark and the wind abated we sat on the beach for a while. Our rafting friends were camped opposite us on the other side of the river

Camping at Lava Creek (left bank)

Because the mid day temperatures are 30°C and more, hiking starts at dawn now (5am). The best time to hike for beautiful light as well!

Hiking at first light
The River is a green corridor
Tributaries to the Colorado form deep canyons that the trail follows until we can cross them, making our route very wriggly
Lunchtime cup of tea cooling in the Colorado
Heather uses a lunchtime stop to rinse her hair
Afternoon hiking towards the bottom of Hance Rapids, our next campsite
Meeting up with our boating friends again at Hance rapids where they moored and we camped too. We were invited to their evening campfire circle and dinner.
Dangers of the Hayduke
Hiking up to the South rim via Hance Creek, Horseshoe Mesa and the ….Trail
Gaining hight on the trail and changing vegetation zones – Sweet smelling vetch
Topping out of the Grand Canyon on the South rim after 6 days, dusty but happy!

After 5 nights and 6 days hiking we arrived at the South Rim on May 11th. Fresh food, showers and rest beckon! Next we will hike back down into the canyon bottom and up to the North Rim to continue our hike…..