Week 3: Exploring the Depths of the Grand Canyon

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Ribbon Falls

Saturday, August 17th

IMGP3429I awoke abruptly in my tent, nylon walls hanging loose and low, sun over the canyon walls as I laid there in my boxer briefs on top of my sleeping bag, sticky and sweaty from the sweltering desert heat.  But it wasn’t the heat that woke me.  Someone was standing outside of my tent.

“Good morning!”

My head jolted upward as I looked out the door of my tent.  “Good morning,” I replied in a haze, staring at the crease in the pair of khaki hot pressed pants of the bottom half that I could see of the man before me.

“Do you have your permit?”

“Ugh, yeah, give me a sec.”  I found my backcountry permit in my gear and brought it to the door of the tent.  The park ranger leaned down to grab my permit, getting more than he bargained for when he leaned down to see me in nothing but my boxers.

“Next time just leave it hanging on your tent.”

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I rose from my tent to greet the canyon wall towering before me, feeling well rested.  I busted out my camp stove, boiled some water and made two packets of oatmeal.IMGP3430

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After looking at my pathetic tent pitching job, I knew I had to reset it.  I walked around and found a better campsite in which to set up.

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My plan for the day was well laid.  A 6 mile hike from my campground to Ribbon Falls, where I would galavant beneath the falling waters and drink in the beauty of the canyon.  But first, I jumped in Bright Angel Creek so I could wash off the grime of the day before.

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The water was warm and clean.  Feeling refreshed, I was ready to go.  I took with me a 2 liter water reservoir backpack full of clean drinking water, and some iodine pills since there would be no filling stations on the way.  I also made sure to pack plenty of trail mix.

I crossed the bridge from Bright Angel campground to Phantom Ranch and began my hike.

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The weather was beautiful.  The sun was hot, the skies were blue and the clouds were big and fluffy.

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As I walked I saw more and more things that made me stop and appreciate my surroundings.

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Phantom Ranch

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I hit the trail marker and continued on my way.

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I crossed bridge after bridge on my way to the falls, which kept things interesting in what seemed like a never ending labyrinth.

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Telegraph towers were strung along the path, in what seemed like an ancient reminder of the way things were.  Except cell phones don’t work in the canyon, so that’s just the way things are.

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The further I walked, the more I felt like an insect.  I thought that this is what it must feel like to be an ant in the cracks in the sidewalk.  While in the canyon, you can’t help but feel insignificant.  There were a few other hikers on the path, but no more than six.  Each time I ran into one, I asked how much further it was.

“45 minutes,” replied the first hiker.  30 minutes later I ran into the second.

“About an hour.”  What?!  The responses kept up in this manner.

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With each corner I turned, it was like I was in a new place.  The canyon really takes on some unique flavors throughout it.  Even though it’s one big canyon, each nook and cranny has it’s own distinct characteristics, whether the rock formations, soil layers or just the views you get when you turn a new corner.

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Not long into my hike I could see a storm system forming over where I had come from.  Thunder and lightning started to crackle.  Eventually a light drizzle caught up to me.  When I finally made it to the falls, my drinking water was sucked dry and a warm rain was falling.  All in all it took about three and a half hours to get there.

IMGP3512I pulled out my camera and took a photo of my first sight of the falls, then looked for shelter.  Finally after finding a rock shelf, I ate some food and rested while the rain passed.  Soon enough, out came the tripod.

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As much as I wanted to shoot, the rain really limited me.  So I put the camera away and swam beneath the falls.  I was the only one there.  It was desolate.  The sound of falling water and thunder eclipsed everything else, except my own thoughts.  I sat under the rock shelf I found and meditated.

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After a while, I refilled my water reservoir with water from the stream and iodine tablets (to sterilize the water) and set off on my way.  The walk back was even more desolate then the walk there.  This time I was the only one on the path.

The walk back was draining.  The heat had gotten to me again, and after another three and a half hours or so of hiking back, my knee was in pain.  The last mile or so of the hike, I had to limp the whole way.

As I passed the marker for the Phantom Ranch camp site, I walked past some people playing volleyball.  A few more steps down the path and I ran into a woman, easy on the eyes, carrying a bag of laundry.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi.”

“How’s it going?”

“I’m not really sure,” was the only thing I could say.  After all, seeing this pretty girl with a bag of laundry in the bottom of the Grand Canyon immediately after walking past a volleyball game left me wondering if I was hallucinating.

We talked for a moment and she told me how people live in the Phantom Ranch at the bottom.  I was taken aback.

Once I got back to camp, I cooked up some food and relaxed, but not until I cleaned up the mess that the storm had left behind.
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I took some more pictures and just enjoyed where I was while the full moon illuminated the sky between drifts of patchy clouds.IMGP3565

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By ten o’clock, I crashed HARD.  In the morning, a long walk awaited me, one that I had no idea just how long it would be…

Check out the high quality photo album of my day hike to Ribbon Falls on Flickr.

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7 responses to “Week 3: Exploring the Depths of the Grand Canyon

  1. Pingback: Week 3: The Grand Canyon – Climbing Up the Walls | LIFE: REFORMATTED·

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