Leaving the river
Just over a week ago I hiked out of the Grand Canyon with nine members of the Mountain Maniacs. Thank heavens it was warmer then! By eight am we had had our last meal at the Phantom Ranch canteen and stowed our stuff in our packs for the ascent. We hiked single file past the sparsely occupied Bright Angel Campground where a young boy raised both hands and waved. The metal suspension Silver Bridge swayed and bounced with our weight, while the Colorado rushed dizzyingly below. On firm but silty ground again, the trail followed the river west towards the moon hanging tenuous above a temple peak. The air was crystal clear, and the sun rising behind us struck the high peaks with a holy light. Turning north the Bright Angel Trail crosses a couple of small streams. Hopping clumsily rock to rock I teetered and slipped, and both feet plunged into the icy water. Luckily my Keens kept my feet dry. The switchbacks climbed steeply through a v-shaped gorge where water seeped and trickled over the rocky walls. We huffed along to a dramatic overlook and crossed into another riparian canyon. Here the gurgling Garden Creek bubbled past ancient cottonwood trees and meadows of dry winter grass. A single bird called an eerie whistle and I thought of Odysseus and the Sirens who waylaid him. However when we stopped to look and listen, the wind was frigid, so we kept going up. At Indian Gardens all ten of us crammed around a picnic table to eat our lunches, shivering and stamping our feet. We novices put on more warm layers, but the experienced hikers knew what lay ahead. The trail crossed a plateau where the sun warmed us. Then we started up the switchbacks that would lead to the rim, in about three hours! We climbed, one foot in front of the next, then stopped and enjoyed the vistas until the cold pushed us on. At one point we put on our yak traks as the trail was coated with ice. To the very last switchback, I enjoyed every moment of the trip. The immensity and stillness of the canyon have created a sense of peace that even now permeates my being. The great news is that just yesterday K and L made the calls necessary to reserve our spots at Phantom for next year! Yahoo!
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