16 August 2012

California & Grand Canyon Adventures, Part 4, Day 3

If you need to catch up on our California & Grand Canyon Adventures this summer, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!

After watching the sunset the night before, we woke up early (4am) in order to drive to the shuttle and ride it over to the South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge in order to get hiking before 5am so we could watch the sunrise during our hike.  This worked out for numerous reasons.  There were barely any other hikers at this time, asides from a few others trying to get all the way to the bottom, and the mule tour (which was full when we tried to book it), it was only us the whole way down.  It was quite steep, but not too slippery.  It was also narrow enough that we didn't walk side by side, but not scary narrow.  That being said, I could completely understand how someone could get too close and loose footing and well, go over.  Anyway, I really enjoyed the sunrise, even more so that the sun set.  It was clearer out, so we got to see shadows and sunbeams, there wasn't a crowd, and it was nice and cool out (another reason to leave as early as possible).
 It was pretty neat getting into the canyon, a completely different experience than just walking the rim.  From inside on this trail, we could see little tiny people far, far away on the trails below us.  Walking down was pretty easy, the trail winded back and forth, but I knew it was going to kick my ass on the way up, but, being a trail of huge rocks, there were plenty of places to stop and take a water break, and some even in the shade, regardless of the time of day due to the winding trail.  Leaving so early, it was cool enough for us to hike in pants/tee shirt/sweatshirt.  By 7am or so, when we started heading back up, I was so glad I had a pair of shorts on underneath my corduroys. 
 It doesn't look like we are even IN the canyon in these photos, but I swear we were.  It's just SO FREAKING BIG.  The picture below, we had hiked about 1.5 miles and 1,000 in elevation.  We turned around here at Cedar Ridge.  It would have been nice to walk another 1.5 miles down to Skeleton Point, but we weren't prepared or equipped for a mile hike.  6 miles doesn't seem like a lot, but in May at the South Rim, a person goes through a TON of water, and when you are tired and turn around, you have to walk up. Up. Up. Up.  Nowhere else to go!
 On our way back up, not only did we start passing plenty of tour groups, but we also caught an up close and personal look at Condor #84.  Condors are considered one of the most rare birds in the world and the largest land bird in North America.  By following that link, you can get information on all the Condors the Fish & Wildlife Service have tagged during the Condor Re-introduction Program.
 The climb up kicked my ass.  The first half of the hike up was the hardest, and this part, the last 15 minutes or so, wasn't so bad.  Take a look, I tracked the trail below.  I'm so dang out of shape. Sheesh.
After we emerged from the depths of the canyon, we took the shuttle to the next stop, Yaki Point.  We were the only ones there, so I laid on the rocks on the edge and baked in the sun for about 20 minutes, until the next shuttle came.  I could have stayed there forever napping.

We ended up doing everything we wanted at the Grand Canyon, so we decided to skip staying another night, and start heading back to California.  First, we needed to get clean.  There are laundry and shower facilities just outside of Mather Campground, so we definitely took advantage of that.
 We packed up shop and headed back to Lake Havasu.  Once we got there we walked down to Chabones for Happy Hour where we indulged in appetizers and adult beverages.  Aaron got chatty with some retired military guys next to him, the old dudes were arguing over whose branch of service was better.  Naturally, Aaron and the Salty Old Air Force Guy below hit it off and chatted about who knows what.  A few hours later, and Salty Old Guy bought us both round #93,982.  It's a good thing our hotel was crawling distance away.  Salty Old Guy was awesome.
 And, well....that's about how our day went.  The end.

Check back for Day #4 of our adventures!

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14 August 2012

California & Grand Canyon Adventures, Part 3, Day 2

Let's get going onto Day 2 of our vacation to California and the Grand Canyon.  After a half decent continental breakfast in Lake Havasu, we headed off the the Grand Canyon.  About 4 hours later we arrived to our destination.

When we first arrived, we did an initial drive around to check out the South Rim and Grand Canyon Village. We parked near El Tovar (planning on having dinner there later) and walked along by far the most crowded part of the rim trail.  It was like tour guide central all up in there.  We wedged ourselves through the tourists and made our way to a couple of amazingly old buildings (early 1900's) that seemed to be barely hanging on to the end of the cliff - Mary Colter's Lookout Studio and Kolb Studio.  

After a few hours of ooo'ing and aahh'ing, we were hot, hungry, and tired so we checked went to El Tovar for noms.  It was a pretty neat lodge atmosphere with the restaurant and pub nearest to the edge.  We actually didn't even realize the pub served food AND you could sit outside until after we ate in the restaurant.  The restaurant was pretty nice, but it was so gorgeous out, we would have definitely opted for a smaller menu to sit outside.  We were seated near one the huge windows, which made our experience really nice.  Below was our view. 
Our food was decent, it was a lot of food, and knowing we'd be walking around and camping and driving a lot, it was really nice to have a sit down, relaxing, quiet meal.
 We then checked out the area near The Grand Canyon Visitors Center.  Lots of sitting around going "oooooh" and "aaaahh", and that was totally okay.  I could sit for days there.  The only thing that would make it better would be to have a hammock to lay on.
 It was getting late, so we headed to check into Mather Campground and setup so we could go watch the sun set at the rim.
Something that we heard from nearly everyone we knew was how amazing sunsets at the Canyon are.  It was pretty hazy later in the afternoon, so although it was very awesome and beautiful...I think the haze covered up some of the colors.  And please, don't get me wrong...it seriously was so freaking amazing.
 Aaron has been obsessed so disciplined in teaching himself Kanji (漢字)1.
He did put his phone down long enough to watch the sunset with me.
 It was amazing how hot it was during the day (approx. 90°F) and how cool it got as soon as the sun set (approx. 40°F).
I'll be continuing this California & Arizona series, but in the meantime, check out Part 1 and Part 2!

1 Kanji (漢字):  Chinese characters used in modern Japanese writing.  Hiragana and katakana are also used.  There are 5-10 thousand Kanji characters, and Aaron is focusing on learning the basic 1,000, which, if successful (and I have no doubt), he should be able to read things like menus, signs and newspapers when we arrive in Japan.

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