Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Grand Canyon in Spring, Part One: I could walk forever



As soon as I dipped below the South Rim, all of the knots in my life seemed to unravel. Even though I was carrying five days worth of food and plenty of water, I felt as though I could float like a dandelion seed through space and time into the inner canyon. There's something about hiking all day that seems more real to me than anything else. As soon as I put on the pack, I'm not an "older lady" to the twenty-something dude on the trail. I'm not someone who increasingly feels trapped in what is admittedly a secure job and financial situation, but one that is harder and harder to go to each morning. I'm monkey bars,  my trail alter-ego, a sprite in a hiking skirt, and honestly? I could hike forever.

Day one, looking okay. Thinking about keeping this side braid thing. It doesn't get caught in my pack like two braids. 

The air sizzles on the Tonto Plateau. This is the place I will spend five days, many, many hours alone in the remote and waterless escarpment above the Colorado River. I both love and fear it; when I deposit my tent and belongings at Indian Garden and day hike along the eastern section, I find a secret plunge pool off the trail and some light reading. Staying alive here is so tied to water.

A secret plunge pool in Pipe Creek.

Probably shouldn't have borrowed this book from the IG "library". I kept thinking, "The last people to see her said she was headed west on the Tonto Trail. She never showed up at the campsite."


The next morning, some campers next to me decide that getting up at three am is the way to go. They pack loudly, encompassing the next two hours to talk and slam things around. I am reminded of what I hate about the Grand Canyon: you are required to camp in designated sites, and most people congregate around water. If you want to be truly alone at night you must choose a dry camp or scramble down faint routes. So it's an early morning, and I hike through the dawn on Tonto West, towards Monument Creek.




The Tonto Plateau is not flat. It curves and bends and inches around deep chasms: Horn Creek, Salt Creek, Cedar Spring. It can take two hours to reach a point you can see just around the bend. You can't count on a fast pace here. But I have all the time in the world to reach the slow ribbon of water that snakes down to Granite Rapids, and hours to sit with feet in sand, watching rafters plunge through the silty, cold water of the Colorado. There are only two other groups camped at Monument, and as darkness falls at seven, everyone retreats to their tents.

Monument Creek is pretty awesome.

Stars burn holes in the sky. Two nights and I am already changing. I think about this: staying in the canyon for days and days, well past my exit date, following the Tonto west until I run out of trail.


Granite Rapids

To Be Continued...

12 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your post! So keep writing : )

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  2. Your writing. So good. Love it! I read that book a couple of years ago and my takeaway was that since I'm not a 20-something male who wants to pee off the edge of the canyon, I should be pretty safe. :)

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    1. Ha hahaahahahaha! That was what I gathered too but they also emphasized how dangerous SOLO HIKING was. Which I was doing! Oh well. I survived.

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  3. Nice photos! Now I REALLY want to hike the Grand Canyon. Gotta move it up on the ol' bucket list.

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    1. I think March and April are the best months. December was pretty nice too, a lot quieter, but more freezing!

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  4. I love how quickly trips like this make the outside world melt away. Excited to hear more!

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  5. Such a lovely surprise to find you here away from the snow. I am enjoying the read!

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  6. Marre, one of the women in my long-time women's group here in Michigan (The Taupe Sisters) left Michigan on March 12 to hike in the Canyon over the next week or so; her name is Sally Burroughs and she's with a few other women--they probably aren't the noisy packers! Sally has hiked all of the Applachian Trail, over a period of years; hiked in Scotland; etc. It would be something if you actually met in the Canyon.

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  7. Dan said looked similar to what we hiked in yesterday except our rock formations were much smaller. He also asked what kind of tent was in the picture.
    Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

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    1. It is a big Agnes fly creek ul 1. Best tent I have ever had.

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    2. Thanks Mary. I'll have Dan check those out too.

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