Lost Creek Wilderness {November 2011}

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Backpacking the Grand Canyon {Day Two}

One of our first, and most striking, views of the canyon {from Hermit's Rest}
Day Two
At this point, less than four hours lay between us and Grand Canyon National Park. Because we were so anxious to get on the road, we didn't even bother to cook a decent breakfast before leaving Sand Island. Within minutes, we were driving through Monument Valley -- if you've seen Forrest Gump, or Disney/Pixar's Cars, the photo below will be quite familiar to you --
The classic road photo of Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau that stretches across the state lines of Utah and Arizona and lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation. It is characterized by stratified sandstone buttes and red mesas, some of which have crumbled into bizarre and absolutely awesome formations. Even upon a first viewing, the place seems strangely familiar - most likely because it's image appears in all possible forms of media (from films and aged photographs to holiday brochures and postcards) as an iconic and enduring vision of the American West.

From here, we crossed the border into Arizona ... The Grand Canyon State Welcomes You ... and followed signs to the South Rim. Last year, I visited nine National Parks (several of them more than once) and two National Monuments. The typical fee to get into a park is $25, and an annual parks pass costs $80 ... so ... I'd say that I got my money's worth by investing in the pass. Unfortunately, you only get one calendar year out of it (unlike my dad, who paid ten dollars for a senior pass that is good for the rest of his life). The Grand Canyon marked the beginning of a new year of exploration for me, so I bought a new pass. Anyway, the point is: it's well worth the money if you know you'll use it. And why wouldn't you?

The photo at the top of this post is one of our first views of the canyon. It's unreal; it looks more like a representative pastel painting of something that exists in this world rather than something that really does exist. I wanted to look out at the vast landscape, the curvaceous canyons within the massive gorge itself, for hours. But, we were about to embark on something even more amazing - essentially a journey through time on an impossibly incomprehensible scale. 

It was past 1:00 by the time we found our way to the backcountry office. The ranger was impressed with our proposed plan (four nights starting at Hermit Creek campground and ending at Indian Garden campground) as well as our knowledge of the Hermit/Tonto/Bright Angel trail system. He was concerned that we wouldn't make it to Hermit Creek by dark (8.2 miles down from the rim), and gave us permission to camp anywhere we felt appropriate along the way. Wow. So, we chose Lookout Point (about halfway down to the Tonto Platform) and watched a beautiful sunset while toasting to an unforgettable experience with a Dale's Pale Ale. Shortly after, we cooked dinner, hung our food on a nearby tree - to deter rodents - and fell asleep. Kind of. At least for Justin and I, it was a cold, miserable, shivery, uncomfortable night. Lesson learned: Never, ever decide to leave your sleeping pads in the car at the trailhead; Never!

Sunrise from Lookout Point {campsite #1}

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