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Day 14 :: October 03, 2004: 08:04 PM

Friday, October 1st, 2004
Day Fourteen

We managed to have a very cosy night and it turned out the temperature did not fall below the mid- thirties. Tonight may be different though. The clearing of the skies promised for days is still a little slow so now at 8pm we have the most fabulous clear sky, but during the day the weather was more mixed so the ground has not warmed up much and now we have the most gorgeous, crisp dry air and the stars are amazing.

After laying on the picnic bench looking at the stars, spotting planes (many) and satellites (5) and meteors (2) I decided to come in and type so Mike could play with fire and make lots of smoke…a roaring fire will warm us up ready for bedtime.

(We just discovered that the night vision scope I bought him is really great on the Milky Way…)

Anyway…to today.

We got up fairly early for us, had breakfast at the Market Plaza, came back and prepared for our day and left before 9 for the shuttle buses. It took 3 of them to get us to where we wanted to go. We decided when we got here we would like to walk the rim trails. These are fairly easy hikes along the top of the canyon. In some places the walks are even handicapped accessible. The canyon changes how it looks throughout he day. What you can see depends on the light in the sky, of course, but also the amount of pollution coming in from Southern California, Southern Arizona and from Mexico. Visibility can be as much as 100 miles or as low as 18 miles. Judging from the shadowy shape of Mount Trumbull, 60 miles away, our visibility was mid-way in the scale. In addition as you walk you twist and turn in what you see and so there are different shadows and light plays from the clouds and the sun.

We had thought we would take the shuttle to the end of the trail at Hermit’s Rest and hike back. If it rained or got too hot or we were tired we would hop back on the shuttle at the next stop. Not so easy! The buses stop at different stops in each direction, or not at all and in the end it made sense to walk towards Hermit’s Rest. We got off the bus at Hopi Point and set off. At this point the trail becomes stony and rough quite quickly. We walked along through the trees, beside sheer drops down to the Canyon bottom – not quite to the Colorado ( red with dissolved clay from all the recent rain) as that is always out a way from the South Rim ( but very far from the North Rim.)

In the 1.9 miles the trail drops 10000 feet. It is slow walking—there are overhanging tree branches that snatch your sunhat, and tree roots and loose stones at your feet – but the scenery is, of course, fantastic.

We walked/ looked/ drank our water for almost 6 hours, several times meeting back up with the shuttle bus route and the people who were not walking. In the whole time only 10 people – four couples and 2 individuals were going the other way. It was a really peaceful hike.

1.2 miles before the end of the trail there is a shuttle stop and several people obviously decided they would do the end of the trail on foot. I felt vaguely irritated at them…I mean, we had walked miles along that rim, drinking the water, eating the salty snacks, raising the legs for part of each hour to compensate for the high altitude, being so obedient and now here they were waltzing around in front of us as if they had been walking all along…we passed several of these couples, one pair I could not stay behind: they had designer jeans on with the sharpest creases in them I have ever seen – it’s HIKING for heaven’s sake! We ended up doing the last part of the trail in the fastest time because I had been wanting to get that restroom for hours, they sure were not going to beat me to it!

It reminded Mike and I of an incident years ago, when we used to vacation as a family in North Yorkshire, staying in a cottage in Sinnington which belonged to my pastor. We did not have a car and so we would walk miles to get shopping and on the days we did not need to shop we would walk miles for pleasure. Our oldest 2 daughters were often dragged 15 or 20 miles in a day while the youngest wallowed in her stroller…anyway, on this occasional we were going to Lastingham.

Opposite the tiny ancient stone church where St. Cedd or Chad (they were brothers I believe) or maybe both are buried, there is a pub with a garden and we would eat there.

Lastingham is in a steep valley and as we came down the hill a man passed us in his car. Then, as we tottered down the hill we saw him stop the car by the side of the road a few hundred yards before the pub, put on his hiking socks and boots, pick up his backpack and a hat and a long walking stick and “hike” to the pub! By the time he got there he was comfortable and eating his food. Just as we were leaving, up he got walked to the, changed back to his other clothes and drove on! After all these years – nearly 20 I guess- I still wonder what all that was about!? It created much amusement anyway.

No tarantulas today, to Mike’s disappointment. Every time we come back onto the site there are mule deer around, large female deer, sometimes with a young one. They have enormous ears. Very cute. We saw swallows and swifts in the canyon and lots of ravens, nothing more exotic – it is very hard to see a condor but it would have been fun. Some interesting plants though. And last night the coyotes were making such a racket; one was quite close to us.

After that we decided to take a short trip out of the park to nearby Tusayan as I had seen advertising boasting of an internet café. In fact there were 2 espresso internet cafes in only about 20 businesses just outside the Park but one had no wireless and the other one had wireless but no-one knew the access code. That is the third time that has happened – the connection is there but not the necessary information! So hopefully, tomorrow, Saturday, we will find somewhere to upload all three days. The lattes were excellent though so the trip was not a total waste of time.

We came back to the campsite had a quick look to see if the sunset was great on the rocks, but it was not – the cloud had come in at the last moment again, there were a few spots of rain and a rainbow but not in the canyon. So we went back to the campsite, where Mike made an excellent dinner and I gazed at the sky…

As for our upcoming plans: we still have a little of our rim route to do, going in the other direction but just 2-3 miles and we have a couple of days here yet. Tomorrow we think we will take a day trip out of the Park as we suspect Saturday will be a busier day and we have been spoiled by having so much space to ourselves.

Long term our plans keep changing. We had intended going to the North Rim, which closes very soon for winter. We had also considered going to Las Vegas as a contrast. I don’t expect to like Las Vegas, loathing gambling as I do, not liking shows and being uncomfortable with a lot of commercialism but it would be incredible to see all this opulence in a desert. I have always thought it would be such a waste to go there/ spend that time and money on something I don’t think I will enjoy. To fit a day of it into this trip seemed ideal. What we think we may do one day, though, is fly to Las Vegas to do the pleasurable things we did not have time for this trip. That way we see the place at the start and end and in between we hire a car and go to Zion and Bryce National Parks (so many people on this trip have told us we will love them) and The North Rim of the Canyon. Having made this decision has allowed the last week to be far less stressful. We leave here Monday morning and will head to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert for a night, visit anything else we like in the area or start to wander back to New York State, a route taking us some 2300 miles and several states. We have a goal in mind for getting home but don’t intend to be bound by it. We have to be back for the Tuesday after Columbus Day for work, anything before that gives us time to unpack and unwind…



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