Lost Creek Wilderness {November 2011}

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Backpacking the Grand Canyon {Day Three}

Day Three
I've read that the Grand Canyon warrants any hyperbolic language it inspires; I believe it now. My words cannot convey or express the countless images, thoughts and feelings dancing around in my mind: stunning vistas, dazzling colors, the silence and complete stillness of a desert night, nature's dominion, the passing of millions of years ... I can't help but think of the ancient people who once inhabited this place. They've left traces of their existence throughout the canyon, and we follow in their footsteps along trails blazed long ago. All worries and concerns fade, and your entire being seems to be one with this massive chasm.

At least that is how I felt as we hiked further down into the canyon, through layers of rock correlating to years of geologic change, diverse ecosystems, and specific natural processes. The rim of the canyon is vastly different from the bottom, near the Colorado River. We began our third day near the fourth or fifth layer of rock (Redwall limestone, one of the canyon's most prominent features) before reaching the Tonto Platform (comprised of Bright Angel shale/Tapeats sandstone, and marking the 'only break in a long jumble of cliffs and ledges'). This part of the trail is more or less flat, and extremely welcoming after the 'Cathedral Stairs', a series of steep switchbacks leading to the plateau. Here, we got our first view of the mighty Colorado.

Granite Rapids, a backcountry beach campsite along the river, was our goal for the day. The environment in the inner gorge is unique, and quite a change from the desert-like feel of the Tonto. In my mind, I compared it to Avatar world ...

Justin, Austen and Felix en route to Granite Rapids
We hiked for two miles down the drainage to reach our campsite. Along the way, we found a fossilized fern and a few other geologic features that the guys got pretty excited about (a conglomerate?) as well as an up-close look at some of the oldest exposed rock on the Earth's surface. The bottommost layer, Vishnu schist, is dark and contains intruding bands of pinkish Zoroaster granite - both formed approximately 2 billion years ago! Crazy, almost unbelievable unless you actually see it and experience the depth at which it resides.

This campsite was easily my favorite of the four, and I would definitely recommend it as a part of any itinerary along this route. Below are a few photos from the general site.

Visnu schist & Zoroaster granite

Granite Rapids {one of the larger rapids on the Colorado}

Tamarisk leading to our sandy, beachy campsite

A placid Colorado just after sunrise

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