Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Backpacking in the Grand Canyon

We recently realized just how many National Parks we have visited this summer.  With all that going on, we couldn't leave out the Big One.  The Grand Canyon is one of the first National Parks I ever visited, and one where John spent a lot of time guiding trips while at Texas A&M.  We came here for our honeymoon and have enjoyed every moment spent near and in the canyon.

With our 15-year anniversary coming up, it seems appropriate to be here now.

Never can get enough of this kind of scenery:

As we have been playing around with overnight backpacking trips and carrying the big packs lately, we decided to spend a couple nights down low, not far from the river.  The lady at the backcountry office gave us some excellent advice and we opted for the Hermit Creek campground.

We started out midday Sunday, not exactly an ideal time to head downhill into the sun, but what the heck, we can always use a little heat training.

Starting down the Hermit Trail:

Love the colors, greens and reds and light browns:

Something of a highway in the first part, nice stone work:

Beautiful little Santa Maria shelter, nice and cool and with benches even:

Awesome rock formations:

Last shade before the final descent down the Cathedral Steps - seems like a good place for a nap.  Yes, John can easily sleep here:

Junction with the Tonto Trail:

We actually timed our arrival at the campground quite well, as the sun had just dropped behind the rim and the temperature was quite pleasant:

A wonderful surprise - a little waterfall just below our campsite!

We were also super lucky to be the only ones there the first night, so with our choice of sites we went with the lovely spot under some overhanging rocks:

The next morning we did a leisurely hike to the river down the fun side canyon:

John playing around with a bit of canyoneering practice:

Another nice waterfall:

Giant chunks of geology:

Checking out some highly reflective flakes, possibly mica:

At the Colorado!  Waiting to see if any rafts show up...

Checking out the Hermit Rapids:

Prints in the mud, initially it seemed like a large bird but then we started thinking maybe hooves:

Hey look, a flotilla!

Most of the boats were dory-type rowboats with one oars-person and several passengers.  The boats went way up and down, bobbing along through the rapids.  Super cool to watch!

Heading down the river:

More folks going for a ride.  Fun to watch, and we may have gotten lucky on the timing.

While John was climbing around on the rocks above the river he noticed a bighorn sheep watching him from up high - the head on the top left (hard to see).  At the same time, I spotted what we think was a condor soaring way up in the sky, so that's what John is looking at in the bottom right of the picture.  It was far enough away to make any photo attempts quite pointless.  Still, capturing the sheep was neat:

One of the cutest cacti ever:

Crazy little snake swimming in the creek, what?

The next morning we had a very brief moment of sunshine, well it was way high on the canyon wall for a couple minutes, spectacular:

The rest of the day was mostly cloudy, which was just fine with us since we had a long climb back out of the canyon.  It didn't stop me from taking pictures, but they aren't quite as amazing.  The Cathedral Steps area where the trail will be taking us:

Looking back down toward the Hermit Creek side drainage and main river canyon:

Fun rock features up high:

More excellent scenery:

Some kind of agave/yucca plant with a nice shape:

Prickly pear cactus with purple pears:

And almost to the top...

A wonderful camping experience, thank you John for an excellent couple of days!

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