Thursday, January 30, 2020

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip and a Visit to Sedona, January 2020

A Day in Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is on the way to Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. In fact, Sedona is about halfway between the two points. When you have the bulk of a day to use up it would be a terrible shame to skip visiting this unusual quirky home of red rocks, canyons, forests, artists and their galleries, and the purported source of odd energies and vortices that influence the world in unusual ways. Toss in the fact that Joni, Doug, and Lil have never been there and Andy and I have not been in quite some time (12 years for me) and how can the chance to visit be reasonably passed up. Andy pushed us to be on the road not long after sunrise. I know I felt a bit of resistance to that but he was right to squeeze out the most of our time. It just felt like a push given the so-so sleep I think we all got mostly because when someone was awake someone else was asleep sawing logs with great enthusiasm. When we arrived at the Creekside Cafe for a hearty breakfast we were all ready for a good morning wake-up meal.

It was overcast but the day did promise to clear and temperatures were expected to push up to around 63F. That struck me as rather warm given Sedona’s elevation at about 4,500 feet above sea level. I wasn’t complaining. Just surprisingly warm. The plan was to have breakfast and then visit the Hike House gear shop and go from there with some gentle hiking, visits to galleries, visits elsewhere, and dinner before driving the remaining 2 hours to Phoenix.

Visit Hike House if you are interested in hiking the area. The staff we talked to clearly know the area and if you need gear I suspect you won’t go wrong buying from them. So a stop there can bear some good fruit both economically for them and for hikes for the visitor to tackle. It did for us.

I am pretty sure we did not visit the Church of the Red Rocks in 2008. In some ways it is not actually that interesting a building. It is a bit chunky featuring a spare design sense in the building and in the iconography. The setting is the important thing here. The red rocks of the cliffs the building nestles in sitting above the town of Sedona which sprawls out below showing off some spectacularly large homes that don’t necessarily fit well into the high desert scenery. It is worth a quick visit to absorb the scene. Under the right conditions I can see that helping inspire religious fervor but I think you’ll do better finding that somewhere in the canyons and rock formations where, with luck, fewer gawking tourists will be present.

Finding such spots can be a bit tricky. Our first try at Cathedral Rock was met with a trailhead parking lot that was full. After a quick return to the heart of town we tried a different location: Fay Canyon. Sucess. I won’t say it was not crowded but it wasn’t overwhelming either. By now, early afternoon, the skies had cleared and the temperature had pushed past 60F. Families were out with children of all ages and some dogs for good measure. It is an easy flat hike to the main rock formation people come to see in Fay Canyon. You could, and people do, explore washes that intersect the main dusty reddish-brown dirt trail that winds through juniper, manzanita, occasional cactus, and much more including slender trees with a deep rich red-brown smooth bark and small leaves that really catches even my eye (perhaps, according to Mom, madrone. Manzanita makes more sense as I look more into it. ). It is an easy walk into the box canyon that effectively ends a bit over a mile in at a rock formation that you can scramble up to gain some wonderful views of the surrounding area. I was able to do it with some effort even though I did not have a trekking pole which certainly would have helped ease my way back down though likely been a hinderance on the way up. Even with numerous other people and dogs milling about you can easily get a sense of the beauty of the place as you look out on the verdant (for the area) scene of flora, seasonal (not flowing now) stream, red rocks, and big sky.

There is a natural arch perhaps 0.2 miles off the main trail. Lil really wanted to see it. I was curious. We thought the others would be too. That was a mistaken belief and in hindsight I certainly should have known better right away that Andy would have waited at the unmaintained trail junction had he and the others any plan to go to the arch. By the time I was convinced they were not going there I had no way to get in touch with Andy and by the time I did have a signal (and he got the message) we were likely on our way back. We cost the others an hour. You have to worm your way through the unmaintained trail through a short wash, encroaching brush including cactus, and eventually scramble up through rocks ascending close to 200 feet to get underneath the arch where the best view of it can be had (well so some think). People also worked there way farther around and climbed atop the arch but that was not something we would attempt. Was it worth it? The arch is pretty and views into the box canyon are great. But it is a tough bit of walking especially if you lack depth perception. I am glad we did it; annoyed with myself for not realizing the others did not and then not just turning us about when we did. But, perhaps it really did work out for the best as our visit later to Boynton Canyon had a particularly Sedona-esque treat which we surely would not have had if we had gone there an hour earlier htan we did.

In 2008 we tried to go to the Boynton Canyon Overlook (my name) and got mixed up and explored deeper into Long Canyon. I suppose we misread the map-sign. We certainly misread it this time but only went an extra 0.2 miles out of our way. When we found the overlook we also found a Sedona resident there handing out what he calls Hearts of Sedona. Heart-shaped rocks embued with “special energies” from all over that you can use for healing. Part and parcel of the mixture of new age, mysticism, native American, and Eastern-inspired meditation beliefs that infuse many people’s beliefs here. Take it for what it is worth: belief is, after all, in the mind of the beholder. This fellow has been coming to this overlook with its two prominent rock formations, Kachina Woman and Warrior Man, for almost a decade.

I will diverge a bit here to share my opinions on Sedona vortexes (which exist elsewhere too if you believe). I do not think you need anything special to describe why a place affects people in certain ways. We , as a species, consider certain things beautiful. It is part of our nature. That nature is influenced by personal experience which is affected by those around us from closest family to the culture surrounding us. An external “divine” presence is not required. In fact I would argue that could detract from the place as how can something divine by definition really have anything in common with bits of consciousness that are as ephemeral as we are when compared to the size of the universe physically and temporally. It is enoiugh that forces of nature have sculpted places that we can then in our thoughts and feelings imbue with a sense of grandeur and wonder. In this respect Descartes is certainly on the right track (“I think therefore I am”) in discussing how we define our world by our existence. Others clearly disagree with this view calling upon something external to create the universe in a knowing fashion that we will find pleasing. To my mind that adds unecessary complexity and even a touch of hubris to the world that just is not needed. But some believe that way and that informs how they view the world for good and ill just as my beliefs do for me.

The walk to the overlook, a level spot between Kachina Woman and Warrior Man (are these names new age modern names co-opted from native American people who lived here or are they original to those that came before the white man? A quick dip into Wikipedia notes Kachina are spirits in the religions of various Native American peoples: supernatural beings that represent aspects of the natural world. ) is an easy one. I am pretty sure the flora changes here featuring more pines. More forest-like. But the red rocks, infused with their iron ore, still dominate. Look out to the east and you see Kachina Woman, west Warrior Man, south Boynton Canyon, and north modern urban sprawl. It is a juxtaposition of natural and human-made worlds that is jarring and a little sad in that the latter so clearly is just plopped down without regard to how well it fits in. Add insult to injury: it is loud with sounds of working engines and perhaps construction.

I suppose it is this combination of worlds that draws people in and inspires some to believe in things like vortexes of power. I am not denying places have special qualities just that we as thinking beings aware of our world and our place in it are the ones that create the special qualities. In so doing people like the flute player with his Hearts of Sedona add a special bit of character, an elan, to the place. He seemed sincere. He cares about the place and people. His concert played from atop Warrior Man was enjoyable and could be enjoyed superficially or deeply depending on how you feel about the man’s beliefs and your own. After all, for most of us music definitely brings forth deep feelings when it is the right type of music in the right setting. I do not agree with the player that it is our hearts that will save us and our brains that doom us. I think hearts, in the context of the emotional center as he likley means it, can be very shortsighted and destructive and it is our minds and consciousness that are what make us what we are both good and bad. Emotion alone is too close to mere instinct which is unthinking and merely reactive.

Can you tell the time spent in Boynton Canyon was time well spent? You can argue that Lil and my argue-ably greedy decision to visit the arch lead to the group getting to experience something only a place like Sedona with its combination of natural charm, artistic communities, and mishmash of people and beliefs from conventional to more esoteric could provide. We all got something from the experience and I do not think a vortex was required to make it happen except in the sense that people create a vortex with their beliefs that are influenced by the physical place that existed before we got there and should exist after humans have changed in ways we cannot determine.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the more commercial, influenced by the artistic, side of Sedona. I had a chnace to drop into the Melting Point studio and gallery which is where Jordan Ford works. He is the artist who created the glass bowl with its intricate tangerine sandblasted patterns. I bought the piece in Tucson and it was nice to have a chance to meet the man behind the work. We also visited other galleries just to see what was there. In at least one case I saw a black and white photo of a cactus alone in the desert that while nice doesn’t hold a candle (Andy agrees) to the photo I snapped in Cataline State Park. Is that our taste, bias, or is my photo really that much better? I guess I will never know. This was a good way to wrap up our time in Sedona before dinner at a Mexican restaurant (Javaina something) and the final 2 hour drive to Phoenix and the airport for our red-eye flight home.


Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:13:18 PM

Possibly manzenita. Wonderful color and an intriguingly smooth feel when touched.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:13:18 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:31:33 PM

I had to work to reach this point at the base of the pointing tall rock. Having a trekking pole would certainly have helped me get back down. Photo by Andy (I think).

--January 20, 2020 at 12:31:33 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:37:12 PM

Andy and I are sure happy at this spot with some fine views. Photo by Lil.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:37:12 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:35:17 PM

Another view of this fine spot with Ken and Lil. Photo by Andy.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:35:17 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:12:29 PM

It’s so different here: lush with trees. A cactus, prickly pear for sure like the one that zinged Lil shortly after I took this picture, appear now and then but trees rule here. Over it all are the iron ore infused rocks.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:12:29 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:27:05 PM

Almost there. I did get a bit closer. Pretty much right under the arch. But, I think the view is better from here. But not as many echoes.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:27:05 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:33:24 PM

We are happy at the arch. Take a break. After all, the trip is only half done. Gotta go back down.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:33:24 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:36:21 PM

I think the arch is more obvious from below but here you also hear odd echoes from voices near and far. Photo by Lil.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:36:21 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 3:01:00 PM

Kachina Woman is one of two major promontories rising above the land. Warrior Man is behind me. Boynton Canyon Overlook has some fine views. It is a very Sedona-esqe spot.

--January 20, 2020 at 3:01:00 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip and a Visit to Sedona, January 2020

Day 4 - Up and Out

At 05:30 there is not even a hint of light in the sky except for a half-full moon that at this point as I type this I am not sure I actually saw.. Like everyone else I was concentrating on packing up my bit of camp. Even if you try and sort things out the night before it takes longer than you might think to pack up camp. But around 06:38 we had the place cleaned out, bathroom breaks seen to, and packs hoisted on our back. Headlamps were flicked on and we ventured out into the dark.

At some point as we approached the Silver Bridge a slight lightening to the sky could be seen. Still just a hint of the sunlight that would brighten the sky though not our path. As dawn approached we actually had views of the Colorado River: a deep emerald green with flecks of whitewater under a pale pale sky surrounding by rocks of shades of brown. If you treat it right it can be a special time and certainly helps make up for getting up before 05:30. The River Trail is easy hiking. It is sandy with some rocks thrown in to keep you honest. But even with low light we made good time. In time we reached the new-seeming privy building that marks the junction of the River and Bright Angel Trails at the mouth of Garden Creek. You take your special treats where you find them (and avoid using a WAG, Waste Alleviation and Gelling, Bag).

Bright Angel Trail gradually ascends crossing Garden Creek several (5 for us) times. Unlike South Kaibab Trail which is exposed and provides constant views of grand vistas of rock formations here you work your way up a canyon which seems to have flora bursting out everywhere. It isn’t quite that lush of course but you are bound to see and hear more than you do on the other Corridor Trails. It is a lovely change of pace and scenery reminding you that the Grand Canyon is far more than a deep gorge in the ground forged over timescales that are hard for most people to easily comprehend.

On a human timescale you come to an old mine shaft just before reaching the switchbacks of the Devil’s Corkscrew. Andy stuck his head in and thought it went back a few dozen feet and from my vantage point the entrance did not seem all that much taller than Andy himself. I am sure a bit of research would tell us what ore, if any, was hauled out here. In mines on (really above) the Tonto Platform uranium was gathered and they managed to pollute the groundwater to a degree it is unusable in much of the area between Indian Gardens and Monument Creek. At this hole into the cliffs there is no real sign of anything going on or much indication it ever had.

Up and up. The trail winds along the cliff walls at an increasing grade but still modest compared to South Kaibab Trail. Views begin to open up back across the canyon from whence you have come. Sunshine glints off distant canyon walls but will never find its way to where you are standing at this time of year. You get a workout.

When the Corkscrew ends you start to think Indian Gardens is moments away. After all, the trail levels out some, Garden Creek is streaming off to your right and it is more lush. But it is deceptive. Without checking a map I am pretty sure it is the better part of a mile to the actual Indian Gardens. But we got there in due time. I was invaded by water from Garden Creek. Unavoidable really. I am quite sure Lil has never felt so much relief as she did when she took her backpack off at the picnic table we occupied a few hundred feet above the privvy building and potable water spigot. To be sure it was a bit on the chilly side with a modest breeze and no sunshine falling upon us to warm us up but the hour or so most of us spent there was pleassant and gave us a chance to re-arrange gear so we could all make the remaining climb out of the Grand Canyon safely.

Up we go. The trail steepens as it goes. The switchbacks are excellent and the footing is quite good but you can’t help but get tired. You are ascending. I suppose the air is also thinning as the climb continues so perhaps that helps explain the steadily rising heart-rates we all experienced. Up. Up. Up. As we neared Three Mile Resthouse the temperature seemed to dip from a high around 47F to 43F. Small patches of snow began to appear. Off in the distance, seen by sharp-eyed types, a mountain goat moved about. A raven cried from high above. We hiked on taking breaks as the need to do so required it of us.

By the time we reached One and Half Mile Rest House I suspect Doug and Andy had nearly gained South Rim (turns out they hit that point not long after we probably left the rest house). The patchy snow had merged into a nice blanket. It wasn’t deep anywhere. Even on rocks where it could easily pile up it was just an inch or two I think. On the trail it certainly was just an inch or so deep. Crunchy snow. Traction aiding devices were put on and they certainly provided a bit more security. I don’t think the trail was actually that icy in most places but had it drizzled a bit and the temperature dropped the trail would have been wretched to walk upon. As it was the snow added a sense of stark beauty to the canyon as we worked our way through the twists and turns of Bright Angel Trail past imposing rock walls of varying textures and colors.

As we neared the rim a few more trees and plants became visible. They have more places they can grab a root-hold in. Evergreen of some type. I couldn’t see the needles to say what they are. Just pretty. That is enough (or has to be). RIght around 16:00 with a breeze blowing and the temperature hovering around 40F LIl and I passed the Bright Angel Trailhead. The Rim Trail beckoned and we marched down the windy path with views of the Grand Canyon yawning out to our left. I think we would have enjoyed them more had we had a bit more energy to spare but we were tired and ready to be done. WHen you tack on the Rim Trail the hike from the Colorado River is about 10.5 miles long with that last stretch between One and a Half Mile Resthourse being the steepest bit and most tiring.

Joni popped out not long after Lil and I did and Doug and Andy had been out for well over an hour by this time. Eventually we all found each other at Bright Angel Lodge and settled in for a post-hike dinner. I wish I could tell you it was the best meal we had all eaten. While I think Doug enjoyed his trout and Lil and Joni liked what they had (forget now) Andy and I were very much let down by our burgers. Why bother to ask how you want them cooked when the kitchen is going to blast the meat until it is well past well-done status. Oh well. Next time I will try the pasta or maybe go someplace else like the Maswick Lodge which is reported to have good pizza.

Thus ends the official Grand Canyon trip. It wasn’t what we had planned but we adapted and improvised to make the trip work out. I think even with that caveat people had a good time. Maybe they learned things about themselves they did not know. I am sure many good memories were created over the past 3 nights and 4 days in the Grand Canyon. we have a whole day left to play with and since Sedona, in all its quirky glory, is on the way to the airport we will spend the bulk of the day giving ourselves a whirlwind tour of the home of the red rocks.


Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 7:13 AM

Sunrise is still 20 or so minutes away. Hints of blue are appearing n the sky and the Colorado River is becoming deep emerald green.

--January 19, 2020 at 7:13 AM. Colorado River Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 7:21 AM

8 minutes further west and that much closer to the mouth of Pipe Creek and the start of Bright Angel Trail. Their is that much more light colors ng the day. It’s lovely.

--January 19, 2020 at 7:21 AM. Colorado River Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 7:25 AM

Looking to the west just a little before sunrise.

--January 19, 2020 at 7:25 AM. Colorado River Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 7:51 AM

Standing by the mouth of what I believe is Pipe Creek watching this tiny waterfall pour towards the Colorado River. It feels like the creek should be wider. After all, I believe it has water from Grden Creek in it too and the water source is a perenial one and was vital to native American, Havasupai, life for centuries.

--January 19, 2020 at 7:51 AM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 8:34 AM

Andy stuck his head in this mine shaft. It goes back a ways before either stopping or vanishing into darkness.

--January 19, 2020 at 8:34 AM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 8:59 AM

Find the group. Doug is in the lead, followed by Joni, Lil, and finally Ken. Photo by Andy.

--January 19, 2020 at 8:59 AM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 8:59 AM

Grand Canyon is more than just the the portion the Colorado River flows through (Granite Gorge in this area I believe). It really is best to think of the Grand Canyon as a complex of formations - a mountain range in reverse (Kaibab means “reverse mountain” in Paiute dlanguage I believe).

--January 19, 2020 at 8:59 AM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 12:50 PM

What a treat. Lil (not shown), Joni, and I got to watch this mountain goat for a time. Once I knew where to look I was able to enjoy the animals presence too. Later others, I don’t think it was the same one, would be spotted by people.

--January 19, 2020 at 12:50 PM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 12:53 PM

In the area of Three Mole Rest House. It is cooling down and patches of snow are appearing.

--January 19, 2020 at 12:53 PM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Nearing South Rim. The snow has blanketed the trail since One and a Half Mile Rest House. It is a clear, crisp, afternoon. We are working hard as we climb through this area that actually has ponderosa pines and other large flora in it.

--January 19, 2020 at 3:30 PM. Bright Angel Trail, Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken  Jan 19, 2020 at 3:48 PM

At the upper terminus of Bright zangrl Trail. Photo by Lil.

--January 19, 2020 at 3:48 PM. Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, AZ, United States


I don’t have exact numbers but from our campsite located near the northern end of the campground it is about 10.5 miles to the vicinity of the main lodge on South Rim.

  • The River Trail accounts for about 1.25 miles of the distance. It’s a level trail with a sandy path of easy travel.
  • Bright Angel trail gradually ascends towards Devils Corkscrew which is about 1 mile from the River Rest House (my name). In the area around Indian Gardens the grade eases again for a time. Grade steepens as you pass Three Mile Rest House. While the steepest bit of trail is near South Rim footing on the whole trail is superb with far fewer big steps than you find on South Kaibab Trail. Bright Angel Trail is far shadier too which contributes to it feeling easier even though it can be quite steep gaining 2,000 feet over 3 miles from Three Mile Rest House. Total length is right about 8 miles.
  • The last mile is on the Tim trail. It does climb very gently on hard dirt and eventually pavement.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip and a Visit to Sedona, January 2020

Days 2 and 3 - January 17 and 18: Around the Colorado River

After retrieving the wayward twosome (not truly wayward as we knew where they were) the group changed plans to err on the side of prudence and safety. We all stayed put. We relaxed. We ambled over to the cantina at Phantom Ranch. Some would check out SIlver Bridge and learn they like it more than the Black Bridge because even though it wiggles a bit too people can see everything including the water swirling (though one prefers not to see swirling water) below through the graying underfoot. It was a quiet day to recover and enjoy the great wintertime weather.

The following day, that is to say today as I type this, would be a repeat in most respects For me the single big event was a hike with Andy a couple of miles along Clear Creek Trail. It is likely a good thing we never tackled it with the group. Granted once you conquer the climb to the Tonto Plaform it is pretty level going for seveal miles before descending again. But still... It is tougher going. We hiked perhaps a half-mile beyond Phantom Overlook which is still well short of the Tonto Platform. We had a lovely day hike to a bit beyond Phantom View (overlook). A sheltered nock in the cliff wall served us for lunch before we would work our way back down to Bright Angel Creek, Phantom Ranch, and eventually the Black Bridge.

Across the surging Colorado River passing beneath in emerald glory to start the climb up the sandy step-laidened South Kaibab Trail to where it joins the River Trail. Don’t breathe too deep or you’ll wince on the smell of mule feces and urines. Joy. Not.

The River Trail is generally level as it contours around the cliff wall above the Colorado connecting the Black and Silver Bridges and at the farthest point Bright Angel Trail at the mouth of Garden Creek. While some loose rock exists the footing is generally easy. The river views are lovely.

We closed our loop by crossing the Silver Bridge and returning to the campground. A lovely hike. Back with plenty of time to get ready for dinner and an early bedtime. After all, we intend to be hiking out of here around 06:30.


Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 09:58:51

Joni and Doug had a rough night at their emergency campsite at the Tipoff. They experienced winds that were easily near gale force (and maybe more) strength throughout the night. WHen Andy arrived around 08:40 he felt gusts that were around that strong. They survived. They were greeted by a morning that while windy was still pretty. Photo by Joni.

--January 17, 2020 at 09:58:51. , ,

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 11:33:02

Joni leaving the pavilion at The Tip-off. But hoot by Andy.

--January 17, 2020 at 11:33:02. Williams, AZ, United States

!Photo taken January 17, 2020 at 11:33:02

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 10:32:56

Good morning sunshine. Andy is zipping up to the Tipoff where Joni and Doug are. Lil is trying to catch a bit of sunshine though it really will not touch our campsite for some time yet.

--January 17, 2020 at 10:32:56. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 10:41:56

Sunrise was over an hour ago and it is still prettily colored against the high cliffs to the north. Just because the sun has risen does not mean its warmth can be directly felt at camp. That is still at least an hour or so away.

--January 17, 2020 at 10:41:56. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 10:56:43

Standing on the northern footbridge that crossed Bright Angel Creek. (Left) looking north towards Phantom Ranch and the NOrth Rim (admittedly not visible); (right) we face south looking downstream along Bright Angel Creek.

--January 17, 2020 at 10:56:43. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 14:52:35

Doug, Joni, and Andy showed up at the campground around noon. Lil and I were embarking on a stroll to the Black Bridge. The clouds have faded from the sky and it is wonderfully comfortable now People may be tired but the day is shaping up nicely and chances to learn a bit more about where we are abound especially if you take time to read the information signs posted along the trail.

--January 17, 2020 at 14:52:35. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 15:06:23

Here come the mule-riders. They only cross the Black Bridge and we had to scamper off the bridge to let the mule train pass. I believe they were all heading to a night at Phantom Ranch.

--January 17, 2020 at 15:06:23. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 15:21:31

People have lived in this area for over 1,000 years. The remains you can see here are from anceint native American homes. Between the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek you had ample chances for agriculture, fishing, and hunting. When the heat would grow too be too much shifting locations to the North Rim would be done.

--January 17, 2020 at 15:21:31. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 17, 2020 at 16:18:29

Not the best snapshot but you get the idea. The mule deer that make the area around Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River home certainly don’t care that peole are about. I am as close as you might think I am. Joni is closer. This fellow just munched his way through the grasses at the entrance to our campsite. Maybe some mineral salts where there too from urine.

--January 17, 2020 at 16:18:29.

Photo  taken  Jan 18, 2020 at 11:52 AM

I wonder if this is the same mail carrying sack that I put a postcard into back in February 2002. Photo by Joni.

--January 18, 2020 at 11:52 AM. , ,

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 12:15:28

Andy and I are taking a dayhike up the Clear Creek Trail. I am near the junction of Clear Creek and NOrth Kaibab Trails. Looking towards the north and upstream along Bright Angel Creek. Near the Clear Creek Trailhed I gaze upstream along North Kaibab Trail. It is a brilliant sunny afternoon - just fine for a dayhike to somewhere.

--January 18, 2020 at 1z2:15:28. ,

!Photo taken Jan 18, 2020 at 12:27 PM

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 12:27:36

Clear Creek Trail is an unmaintained trail. At least unmaintained compared to the main corridor trails. It is much more akin to what you would think a trail should be. Full of rocks to step over. But really the footing is decent as the trail climbs pretty steeply towards the Tonto Platform still more than 1.5 miles distant in all probability. You can start to get a sense of the intricacy underlieing the geology that is the Grand Canyon as you look out across the chasm Bright Angel Creek flows through.

--January 18, 2020 at 12:27:36. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 12:38:01 l2

I think this is a yucca. Maybe it is even a Centgury Plant that isn’t ready to bloom. Standing alone and tall in this place along the Clear Creek Trail.

--January 18, 2020 at 12:38:01.

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 13:02:50

Look down past my right elbow and you can see the buildings of Phantom Ranch some 600 feet below where I am sitting at Phantom Overlook. I actually think more interesting views appear later but this wider flat spot is a good place to sit and soak in some splendor. Photo by Andy.

--January 18, 2020 at 13:02:50.

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 13:33:41

After picking a spine out of my shoe that was just embedded enough to poke me each time I took a step I found this spot. Look southeast (here) or southwest (not shown) and you can easily see the River 900 feet below. Our lunch and turn-around spot is not miuch farther along the trail. We are still a good ways from the TOnto Platform which is where, not too far along as I recall, where my “heebie jeebie” spot was. Not going to find it this time around.

--January 18, 2020 at 13:33:41. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 16:08:59

Andy calls photos like this one “Find Ken” for obvious reasons. Look hard, I am not sure the splash of beige and orange will even be visible. I am there walking along the River Trail. Look center-right along a lighter tan line of rocks that travels horizontally across the photo. Photo by Andy.

--January 18, 2020 at 16:08:59. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 18, 2020 at 16:24:07

The Silver Bridge. Mules do not walk across this one. Guess they don’t like the grating or lower railings. SOme people probably don’t either as you can watch the water of the river swirl on by below.

--January 18, 2020 at 16:24:07. Williams, AZ, United States

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip and a Visit to Sedona, January 2020 Day 1 -January 16: South Rim to Bright Angel Campground

What a day. With our flight being delayed we did not even reach our hotel in Bellemont until around 04:00. Three hours of sleep and we were getting ready to depart a bit after 08:00 and out the door around 09:00. Andy likes to squeeze a lot into a little time which can be a good thing but not always. A calorie-rich , no doubt unhealthy, breakfast at McDonalds and then we drove through the lightly snow covered terrain of Northern Arizona at 7,000 feet above sea level through forest of what seemed to be evergreens (pines, firs) to Grand Canyon South Rim. It was turning into a lovely day. Perhaps a bit cloudier than sunny but surprisingly warm for mid-January at 7,200 feet above sea level. Certainly in the low 40s by the time we parked the car.

With one thing and another we did not set our feet upon the South Kaibab Trail until about 13:20. We had chatted with the handful of other people on the shuttle bus including two Frenchmen who planned to trail run down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel (about 16 miles total distance and a gain and loss of about 4,800 feet each) in five hours. I bet they did it. My Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwestern 3400 got some of its first suite of positive comments. Too bad Lil is using it instead of me. But it is the right choice given the gear she could use.

At the top patches of snow covered the rim, ice and snow covered the trail, and out beyond the canyon yawned open in its many colored hues of various rocks, curves of cliffs, towering formations, and a cloud laced sky that was steadily becoming less cloudy.

It is an immense vista and I do not really know how to properly describe it. If I had the technical expertise I could tell you about what you see and how the rocks change as you look down into the depths of the canyon and back into geological history. I don’t. There is also a quiet about the place broken by human voices and other man-made sounds but beyond that it can be incredibl silent. At this time of year sounds of life are limited. I am sure I heard more birdsong in Tucson last week than I have yet heard at the rim of the canyon or down here by Bright Angel Creek just a short distance away.

At the rim even the South Kaibab, which is considerably more exposed to the glory of solar radiation than Bright Angel Trail, has its share of snow and icy bits. We strapped on traction aiding devices of various sorts and struck out down the winding switchbacks. Views opened up as we went down. Now and then day hikers who went to check places out perhaps even a few who had gone all the way down trudged passed us climbing up and out. Two mule trains carrying supplies (luggage?) came on by too. We kept on.

Of course, Oh Ah Point elicited all the ohs and aha you could want. A little while later the expanse of Cedar Ridge enticed us to shed our packs and take a break to soak up sun, rest the legs, and just enjoy the views. We were all but alone - our group of five. It was about 15:00 when we left once more.

Down and down. Through shady bits and sunshine. Through hot spots (Lil) and tiring legs (all). The group spread out. Andy and Joni pulled ahead while Doug, Lil and I trailed behind. When I got to Skeleton Point I talked with a couple (German man and French woman) who were out for the day and definitely enjoying themselves as they got ready to turn around and head back up from Skeleton Point. When Lil and Doug caught up we continued on down into the Grotto (or is it The Box) where you can really get your first good and proper views of the Colorado River raging below. When you see that it is hard to recall that pretty much every drop of water in the river is spoken for by people and the vast majority (if not all for all intents and purposes) never really makes it to the Gulf of Mexico.

Breaks to tend feet and let legs rest. Doug was really feeling the strain. The leukotape Andy and I gave Lil was doing its job saving her hotspots. But it was slow going. But in time, just after official sunset I think, Lil and I reached the pavilion at The Tip-off. The Tipoff is on the Tonto Platform which is a great expanse of generally flat land broken up by washes and side canyons that runs scores miles on both sides of the canyon. We found Joni waiting for us. Andy had pulled way ahead and by this point probably wasn’t all that far from the campground. Doug eventually came into view. Struggling. He decided it was safest to just camp at the pavilion and Joni who was not quite as bad off as Doug but not doing well decided to stay with him. I got them sorted out with extra water and Lil and I saw them settling in before we pushed on ahead and down.

The sky was darkening and soon headlamps came out and were flicked on. Our pace slowed down. Way down. Lil was struggling herself so we took several breaks as we worked our way down the broad trail. Extra tall steps appear often enough to be irksome but they really do not hold a candle to other trails I can think of like Sweatwater and Kong’s Canyon in Saguaro National Park. we plodded on. It is about 2.5 miles to the campground and it took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover that distance. We pulled into camp just a bit before 21:00. Spent.

But after a hot meal and getting tents set up with the good help of Andy (once filled in by me about the changes) Lil crawled into her tent and passed out. Andy and I were up later but by 23:30 I crawled into bed too and lay there while Andy snored and Lil made tiny sounds too.

What a day and night.

PA final note: while setting up my Tarptent Bowfin 1S Andy ccaught a huge splinter from the long carbon fiber tent pole. It just shredded in his hand. Getting the splinter out , and being sure it was all out, was a real challenge. I am pretty sure I could not have done it had I been solo. This was a major materials failure. The next day as Doug and Andy inspected the pole Doug got a splinter from a different spot on the pole. Tarptent will be replacing the pole with an aluminum one but perhaps there is something about this type of carbon fiber that is problematic for tent poles. I realize carbon fiber is used in other pole-like structures including fishing rods and trekking poles but I suspect it is used in different ways. I will be leary of carbon fiber poles, my Bowfin still has a small two-piece one, in the future].


Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 15:10:03

--January 16, 2020 at 15:10:03. Grand Canyon, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 16:00:20

--January 16, 2020 at 16:00:20. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 16:29:41

--January 16, 2020 at 16:29:41. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 17:13:33

--January 16, 2020 at 17:13:33. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 18:17:46

--January 16, 2020 at 18:17:46. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 18:50:13

--January 16, 2020 at 18:50:13. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 19:09:30

--January 16, 2020 at 19:09:30. Williams, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 16, 2020 at 20:21:26

It has taken a bit more than two hours to get to this point, the black bridge, from the tip off. We are almost there.

--January 16, 2020 at 20:21:26. Williams, AZ, United States


7.3 miles with a screw up following a lovely river path instead of the right trail into Bright Angel campground. A good 4,800 feet descent.
weather: Cloudy and then sunny with enough clouds to make the sunset nice and orange. Sun high temp easily upper 60-Second with a low in the 40s.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Douglas Spring Trailhead -> Bridal Wreath Falls -> Douglas Spring Trail -> Three Tanks Trail -> WIld Horse Trail -> Garwood Trail -> Douglas Spring Trailhead Loop

Tradition. Our family does not really have traditions. We celebrate Thanksgiving but that is really as far as we go. But over the last several years we have ended our visits to Tucson with this hike so perhaps it qualifies as a tradition for us. It is our hike to Bridal Wreath with a little extra thrown in that may or may not make it tougher.

The sun was bright in the clear blue sky at 09:20 and the air temperature was 43F and warming up fast. It was enough to bring on the layers but once we began ascending the just over 1,000 feet, after a level stretch, along switchbacks layers came off. We have always found going up the switchbacks preferable to descending them. The ground is hard dirt with plenty of stone steps thrown in and occasional rocky bits so it feels like a lot of work especially going down. It is for this reason we go back a different way (which may not be easier as far as steepness goes at times but might feel that way).

The trail winds its way into the mountains and we have always seen people on it. Today was something special: near hordes. Several dozen people at least including one large group of young children out on a program sponsored by the National Park. When you have lots of people sharing the trail, all speaking with carrying voices, it affects how you feel about your journey. For me it detracts from the hike. Perhaps this was happening because we were hiking on the weekend. I’ve not checked back in time to see what day of the week we visited before. I am sure we have never seen so many people.

Maybe that press of people was what caused us to put our heads down and climb up the three stretches of switchbacks that compose the bulk of the ascent in at most 2 miles. We crossed a bit of flowing water (a first for that spot) and found one of our favorite spots on some slanting slickrock that drops down to where water frequently flows loudly but in small amounts. A fine place for a break even though a group of 4 was down by the water talking too loud.

We crossed a few more bit of standing water before reaching the side trail that leads to Bridal Wreath Falls. One year ago when we were here the stream was flowing well, as usual, but we also saw substantial patches of snow. No snow this year; but much more flowing water. When the waterfall came into view we could see three streams flowing off the cliff. Most times we see one stream and sometimes that stream is a weak one. The water that pours down the falls works its way through the rocks towards a water course where the stream is. This year we saw far more water than we usually do and it was pretty to see. Of course, it affects everything around. Grasses were more aboundant and the trees seemed fuller. Some grasses were even flowering.

We did not stay that long. Often we have lunch at the falls but we figured the hordes of people that we had left behind would catch up and we did not want to be part of that scene. Our return trip would retrace our steps for the first half mile or so to the Three Tanks Trail junction. This is a trail that see far less traffic than Douglas Spring Trail. It is narrower, has foilage that is well on its way to encrouching on the trail, and probably actually has more loose rocks though the footing is still quite good. For the next 0.5 miles we wound our way, gradually climbing, into the desert scrub leaving the highway of Douglas Spring Trail behind. Quiet except for the sounds we made, and the buzz of cactus wren, the caw of a raven, descended upon us. We found a nice place for lunch with an excellent view and settled in to enjoy ourselves.

It is at this point that I sometimes wonder if we are making our lives tougher. The trail descended for about a mile dropping about 500 feet before reaching the Steel Tank. While it doesn’t have the big steps and switchbacks of Douglas Spring Trail it does have rocks. It feels like a slow going route though people with normal vision can zoom down without much trouble. This trail passes Steel Tank (which I have photographed before) and eventually two other dug-out cattle tanks that I am not sure I have ever seen. We paused again at Steel Tank and noted that the wash still had water flowing in it but there seemed to be less water than there was several days earlier.

After we leave the Steel Tank the trail continues to descend but the steepness moderates quite a bit. You drop about 250 feet over the next 0.7 miles. The rocks ease off too. Along the way we encountered two people coming up trail on horseback. I wonder if that is an easier way to travel. I am sure you get warm wearing all the clothing you must when riding a horse. On the other hand, beyond working your legs to stay on the horse it seems like it should be less demanding. But I bet I am wrong.

Turning on to the WIld Horse Trail we continued to gently descend towards the desert floor where we would eventually pick up the Garwood Dam to return to the Doughlas Spring Trail. Here it is easy going on the desert floor for the last mile or so back to the trailhead. A lovely day.


Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 11:20:21

Bridal Wreath Falls is flowing really well this time.

--January 11, 2020 at 11:20:21. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 11:43:08

On January 4, 2019 there was a sizable patch of snow here. However, while snow was present Mom and Dad were actually dressed pretty much as you see them here. Mom was wearing one layer less: shirt sleeves.

--January 11, 2020 at 11:43:08. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 12:12:56

Lunch time. We have about one mile to go to the Steel Tank and it will be all downhill from here: about 500 feet.

--January 11, 2020 at 12:12:56. Vail, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 11, 2020 at 14:19:08

This staghorn is bearing fruit. At least I think that is what the yellow parts are.

--January 11, 2020 at 14:19:08. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 5 hours 25 minutes with 52 minutes in breaks including a nice 20 minute lunch.
Tital Distance: 7.3 miles with 1,100 feet of ascent and 1,100 feet of descent. The footing is good but on Douglas Spring Trail you climb switchbacks with large steps and some rocks. On Three Tanks Trail it is rockier but probably even at the worst less steep though it does not feel that way at times.
Weather: Sunny (what else). Started out around 43F but rose to an air temperature in the low 60s with a baking-in-the-sun temperature around 74F.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Two Short Hikes

Today we were expecting our coldest weather of the trip: a high around 55F with clear skies later in the morning and on. Instead of doing one lengthy hike which would keep us out in the potentially “almost cold” we decided two shorter hikes with a nice restaurant-style lunch between them would be the way to spend the day. It was a great decision on our part.

Hike 1: Canyon Loop Trail, Catalina State Park

The skies wre mixed-up clouds and some sunshine. At 09:20 when we hoisted our packs in the parking lot of Catalina State Park the clouds dominated but they were far from impressive. The air temperature was around 44F and some of us bundled up as much as it was possible to bundle up. We crossed to the start of the trail and right away found something different from our last (and I think first) hike from a year ago: flowing water. A nice set of stepping stone spanned the water and we all made it across without any real incidents of water invasion. At this point the trail turns south and then northeast quickly ascending a hard packed, easily trod, path. When you gain the top you can look down and see the wash full of water. Lovely.

As we walked the clouds moved across the sky and the sun made appearances warming us as it became visible. This is a lovely trail and with the dramatic sky and lush foliage it is well worth the visit. We are clearly in an area with plenty of water resulting in a rich floral (not at this time of year) environment. In time the trail turns towards the rushing water below, an actual stream, and you can take either the step-free horse trail or follow at least 70 steps down towards the water. We took the steps.

I think the water was prettier this year than last year. But I am sure that is because the sun was glinting off it from time to time. I suppose we had as much trouble with the stream crossings, all 3 to come, this time as last year but it may have been a tad tougher as I think the water was higher. It isn’t really hard as such; just watch your step as you go from stepping stone to stepping stone. Perhaps dogs are smarter than we are; they just walk right across and get their feet wet without a backward glance. We saw at least a dozen dogs on the hike. I wonder if the really tiny ones get carried across. One small black one with nasty sounding breathing issues surely would be nearly submerged had it crossed on foot.

By the time we returned to the car the temperature had risen several degrees and the sun was definitely taking over much more of the sky. It felt comfortable. It was a lovely way to end the hike. We saw a lot, heard plenty, and enjoyed the easy loop hike.


Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:22:51

Last year when we hiked the Canyon Loop Trail this wash was free of water. This is right at the start of the trail (actually I suppose it may technically be before the trail actually starts). Mom is making her way across on this mid-40s F mostly cloudy morning.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:22:51. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:23:43

It is my turn to make the flowing water crossing. While Mom and Dad are bundled up in most all of their layers I am wearing just my shirt and windshirt and am pretty comfortable. I did suffer a very slight water invasion at the end of my crossing but it is hardly worth mentioning.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:23:43. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:50:04

The clouds are slowly giving way to the sun. Mom and Dad are heading down the trail towards its eastern-most point where we will descend down to a stream via at least 70 steps.

--January 10, 2020 at 09:50:04. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 09:52:41

Just a bit further down the trail. How many shades of purple can you see in this photo?

--January 10, 2020 at 09:52:41. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:03:35

Mom and Dad at what I suspect must be a seasonal stream.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:03:35. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:06:01

Ken at the same seasonal stream. As you can see the clouds have moved away, that is east, from here. Photo by Judith.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:06:01. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:19:09

I believe this is our final stream crossing.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:19:09. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 10:24:49

Saguaro cactus can be truly majestic and when the sky co-operates the visual appeal skyrockets.

--January 10, 2020 at 10:24:49. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes with 19 minutes in breaks
Total Distance: 2.3 miles (loop) with 165 feet ascent and 165 feet descent. Much of the ascent , if going counterclockwise, happens near the start; the descent on the rough steps down to the seasonal stream. Footing is superb.
Weather: The air temperature was in the mid 40s to start and rose to over 50 by the end of the hike. When the sun was shining upon us it felt warmer.

Hike 2: Cam-Boh Trail -> Ironwood Forest Trail -> Picture Rocks Wash -> Ringtail Trail Loop in Sagauro National Park (west)

After a lovely lunch at First Watch we headed out to Saguaro National Park Western Mountain District to explore a new set of trails in Betty Leavengood’s Hiking Tucson guidebook (we have the the fourth edition). It was 12:50 and the clouds had vanished from the sky (almost anyway). But with the steady breeze we didn’t quite feel comfortable removing some layers. The trail system is on the other side of the road: a busy road with a curve by the parking lot. Crossing is not the most enjoyable thing (and coming back is worse).

The first half-mile or so is on deep sandy ground. You will get sand in your shoes unless you are wearing gaiters. Deal with it. We did. We hiked through high desert scrub. Unlike many of our hikes this one seemed to have a larger number of birds, many of the same species, singing across the land. I wish I could say what the birds were.

We left the sandy ground for firmer surfaces of dark ground and rocks. Sometimes this type of terain reminded me of what we found on volcanic lands in the Canary Islands. I’m sure there really is no similarity it just felt that way at times as I skirted through pointed rocks. In due time that terrain would change again and we found ourselves leaving the Ironwood Forest Trail, which does have Ironwood trees growing along it, to enter another sandy wash.

Picture Rocks wash supposedly has some colorful rocks and while a hint of pink appears now and then I can’t say I really noticed it. Sadly we all failed to spy the petroglyphs but based on what we read later in the guidebook they may be hard to spot even if you know where to look. A half mile later we found the cairn that marked the Ringtail Trail. The park has done a good job with trail signs but they don’t have any marking the Ringtail Trail or the Ironwood Forest Trail. It would not be hard to miss your turn.

Climbing out of the wash we returned to the top (such as it is) and wound our way through the last 0.5 or so miles of trail hearing the road grow ever louder. In time we dropped down into another sandy stretch to complete the last couple tenths of a mile of the loop back where we began. It may not be the most exciting hike we have done but it appears that the park has created numerous trails in this area so we have plenty to explore.


Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 13:29:23

I think Picture Rocks mountain is the prominent one you can see in the center. Perhaps when the light is right it is more picture-esque.

--January 10, 2020 at 13:29:23. Tucson, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 10, 2020 at 14:19:44

We spent a good half a mile in this wash. Off to the east are the remaining puffy clouds.

--January 10, 2020 at 14:19:44. Tucson, AZ, United States


Total TIme: 2 hours and 10 minutes with about 10 minutes in breaks though I thought it was more than that.
Total Distance: 3.5 mile loop hike with200 feet of ascent and 200 feet descent. The beginning 0.5 or so miles is on sandy ground as are the last 0.3 or so miles. The 0.5 or so miles of Picture Rocks Wash are, of course, sandy too. Everything else is hard dirt with some rocks strewn here and there.
Weather: Sunny with cumulus clouds hanging out way far to the east. The air temperature was probably in the mid-50s but it felt a bit warmer than that when the wind was not blowing.