Monday, November 16, 2009

Day One in the Grand Canyon – Tanner Trail to Palisades

Thursday, November 12th, the alarm went off at 5:45am. We had plenty of time to do last minute packing, pull on our two pairs of socks to prevent blisters, eat our continental breakfast and meet at the Jeep at 7am. I stepped outside to check the temperature to discover a brisk chill, perfect for hiking and looked down and scored a pair of gators that some hiker had lost in front of our hotel.   Once at the Tanner trail head, we were blasted with a cold wind as we started down at 8:15am.  Luckily once we got going down, we were semi-protected from the canyon walls reducing the wind force and I warmed up enough to take off my jacket.

John and I freezing at the top before the descent down the Tanner Trail.

I forget how grueling a trip in the canyon is. For some crazy reason before the trip I thought only coming up will be hard.  WRONG!!  Going down is very tough and my thoughts swing like about like a pendulum swinging to "this is great" to the other extreme "I don't know how I could possibly think this is fun or enjoyable". It is 8 miles down to the Colorado River at which point we will eat lunch.  8 miles….piece of cake.  As a runner I equate miles into number of minutes it takes me to run it.  8 miles at a 10 minute mile is 80 minutes.  I can run 8 miles.  I can run non-stop for 80 minutes.  Hiking from 7400 feet  to 2000 feet for 8 miles with a backpack on is completely different than running. Each mile rather than taking 10 minutes takes 30 minutes. In an hour, 2 miles of ground is covered. 

One of the many beautiful views. My camera doesn't do it justice.

Taking a brief break.

John looking like a stellar backpacker  

The last mile for me to the river was incredibly hard, my legs ached and I felt like I was finishing the last 2 miles of a marathon dragging the wall with me.   With half a mile to go, I had to stop and take a rest.  Using the excuse that I had to pee, I dropped my pack to get a couple minutes of rest.  Finally, after almost 5 hours of hiking I arrived at the Colorado River.  I’d love to say I did a little jig to celebrate checking off my life-time list “hiking to the bottom of the canyon” but I was too pooped to do anything. John and I sat next to the river and munched on our lunch, consisting of trail mix, dried veggies and dark chocolate M&M’s.

The Colorado River at Tanner Rapids

45 minutes later we hoisted our packs back on for the final 3 miles on the Beamer Trail over to Palisades Creek.  This trail more or less follows the Colorado River.  The less part is when you have to climb back up, balance on a narrow ridge and continue the hike. Actually there are many spots where we “balance on a ridge” but it is all part of the experience and it really wasn't that bad. The three miles to Palisades Creek went much easier after the rest at the river and food.   One of the cool things about hiking the Grand Canyon is the changing of the rocks.  Up towards the top is regular forest dirt, then there is white dirt, red dirt and green dirt from the Kaibab shale.  The rocks are more varied than the dirt changing quickly with the scenery and within steps of the next color, size and shape.   When we got to Palisades Creek we had trouble locating a camp site, even though there were supposed to be multiple ones there.  Eventually we found one and although it was a little squished, we set our two tents.  We did find another site, which happened to be only about 100 feet from us, but I didn’t stumble into it until the two days later when we were leaving.

Our camp site

Our gourmet dinner was lasagna with meat sauce.   Chef John boiled water, I pulled out the oxygen pack, water was added and 13 minutes later dinner was served!  Of course we had hot tea also with our meal.  Michele and Scott provided the extravagant blueberry cheesecake, which was by far the best dessert for that weekend.

The view from our campsite

We did have a discussion on the number of miles that first day. The park service says its 8 miles to the Colorado but others show 9 miles.  Who do you believe?  The government or other hikers?  Based on the assumption that it takes an hour to go two miles, the mileage of 9 miles is probably more realistic.  With the 9 miles down to the river and the additional 3 to Palisades, our total mileage for the day was about 12 miles.   Boy, would I sleep well.  I think we made it to 7 pm before retiring for the night.  Besides getting very hot and practically climbing outside of my sleeping bag to cool off, I slept great and didn’t get up until 6:30am.

More Pictures of the Canyon


Croughwell said...

I have never been to the Grand Canyon. It's Beautiful!

joyRuN said...

Beautiful pics - sounds like a grueling hike that was well worth it!