We Take a Rest Day

Phantom Ranch canteen, a good place to rest

As I said in the previous post, I did sleep, but the sore knee began to stiffen and hurt. The sore toe also began to swell and hurt. I could feel it all every time I tried to reposition myself in my sleeping bag. These pains are common reactions to this hike to the river, which is why there is a planned rest day, so called, which oddly consists of more hiking in the gorge. That little bit of less strenuous movement is supposed to keep muscles loose and functioning. We had breakfast, grabbed our water bottles and headed up Bright Angel Creek.

They aren’t pretty. They didn’t feel good either.

These feet did not fit into the hiking boots too well, but my camp shoes were wearable.  The pace was relaxed and the terrain basically flat, leaving me lots of time to snap photos and look around. We were travelling a beautiful gorge – I think the guide called it “the box” because of the steep walls on either side.

Testing the depth and strength of the current.

The trail went fairly gradually for a couple miles on the right side of Bright Angel Creek, and then we saw another gorge on the left side with its own smaller creek. The plan was to cross Bright Angel and explore the intersecting gorge and Phantom Creek. It promised a waterfall and swimming hole. However, the Bright Angel was running so swiftly that none of us liked the idea of trying to cross it.  Our guides looked for a place to cross but decided it was too risky. We might not have drowned, but could have gotten banged around on the rocks. (And the water was FREEZING!)

Granite, sandstone, schist, river rock, cactus… textures of the canyon

I always notice texture in nature, and there was plenty of it to notice. I took pictures of every interesting rock and plant I saw because they all just had the flavor of the canyon that I wanted to remember.  We were charmed by a little mule deer who kept showing up around camp too.  We stopped at the canteen again and sat around talking and making sure we didn’t get dehydrated.  The canteen and the other buildings of Phantom Ranch were designed by Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter (click here to read more) and are nestled around BA Creek.  In its heyday, Phantom Ranch had fruit trees, a swimming pool and other up-scale features for its more important guests. This tree is one of the few remaining fruit trees. Can you guess what it is?

Starts with a P

Later in the day we went down to the Colorado, to the Boat Beach and got wet – some more than others. It was very cold as well, but refreshing. We visited the Silver Bridge, which we would travel out on the next day.

Brother Robert and I – he got wet, me not so much.

The wind was picking up around dinnertime and some of our tents were actually being blown around. Storms were forecast and temperatures were supposed to go way down. Surprisingly, the bad weather skirted around us and what we got was some gorgeous views of the moon and clouds instead. We all went to sleep early so we could break camp at 4 am and get started on the ten mile hike out to the rim.

Moonlight in the canyon

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

To be continued…

Colorado River

Colorado River – I have a huge poster of the Grand Canyon, a gorgeous picture, that I bought on that first, brief trip past the canyon. Since then I’ve learned that it’s actually the book cover of “Time and the River Flowing” by Francois Leydet. The book is full of photos of the canyon, and quotes and stories from its explorers. The “river flowing” is the Colorado River, and I thought I should know something about it before the hike.

Beautiful pictures with quotes and excerpts from those who have written about the river from the conservationist viewpoint.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by facts and numbers about this river, because there are so many. Here are a few that I found informative:

  • It’s one of two major rivers that cross the southwest of our country, the Rio Grande being the other one.  
  • It’s part of amazing scenery everywhere it runs as evidenced by the 11 national parks that it goes through.
  • It starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where 90% of its water is snow melt, the rest coming from tributaries along the way.
  • It’s a very managed river in that there are many dams, reservoirs and claims on its water for irrigation of crops.
  • By the time it passes the surrounding crop areas in Mexico, on its way to the Gulf of California, every bit of its flow has been apportioned. The last 100 miles are dry most of the year.
  • There has been much controversy surrounding the building of dams and restriction of the flow. ” The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Theodore Roosevelt
  • It used to have a delta and tidal bores much like other larger rivers.
  • It provides the water needs for 40 million people in towns and cities along its course.

The Colorado River was one of the forces creating the Grand Canyon. It’s mind boggling to view the depth and breadth of this chasm and realize that the water, way down there at the bottom, was responsible for this wonder of nature. It took a long, long time. I found this quote that illustrates just how long it took to form the many layers of rock, compared to the time the river has been doing its work.  

  “if the two billion years that have elapsed since the creation of the schists of the Inner Gorge were telescoped into a single day, each minute would represent about 1.4 million years. If the schist formed at 12:01 am of that day, the Paleozoic Era began about 6 pm and ended three hours later. Shortly after 11:00 pm the Mesozoic rocks were eroded away and the Paleozoic strata were uplifted. The Colorado River began to carve the Grand Canyon sometime between 11:45 and 11:58 pm. The entire span of human existence has occurred in the last minute before midnight. “

A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon by Stephen Whitney p.242

I’m told the river is cold, swift and has lots of exciting rapids. We will get to hike along it, perhaps wade in it a little on the day we explore the bottom of the canyon. I can’t wait to see it.