Archive for October, 2015
I made reservations at Trailer Village at the Grand Canyon a couple of months ago so we pressed on after 3 nights in Flagstaff.
This is the third time Jeff and I have been to the Grand Canyon. Our first trip was after a sales conference in Scottsdale about 7-8 years ago. It was December and we only had a few hours to explore. So we hit the South Rim and the restaurant in the Village at Bright Angel Lodge.
Our table was overlooking the rim with spectacular views. Our brief time was enough to create a longing to come back to spend more time at one of the Wonders of the World.
And that’s exactly what we did last year (2014). A group of us from Arkansas trained for about a year in order to do the Rim2Rim (And Rim2Rim2Rim), crossing the Canyon from South Rim to North Rim via the Bright Angel trail and the North Kaibab trail. You can read all about the experience here.
After completing such a hike we were left with wanting more. So here we are. At the Grand Canyon. Planning another epic hike into the bowels of the canyon.
This time we wanted to start and finish on the South Rim so we chose to go down the South Kaibab trail to the Colorado River and up Bright Angel…for me (Rim2River2Rim). Jeff on the other hand wanted to do a double, so he started at Bright Angel down to the river then up South Kaibab. Then, turn around and head back. (Rim2River2Rim2River2Rim)
The plan was for Jeff to leave at 1am and get to the South Kaibab TH by the time I was starting my hike at 6am.
We arrived at the GC on Thursday hoping to do our hike on Saturday. But thunderstorms were predicted and the hike was called off for the day. Then Sunday…Monday…Tuesday…Wednesday. We had rain, rain and more rain, hail and wind gusts until the weather finally broke the day before we were to leave.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into a 10-15 hour hike, especially when the canyon had some of its water sites shut off
due to repairs. Water, nutrition, extra socks, moleskins, headlamps, electrolytes filled our slim running packs.
We had prepared as best we could and the hike was finally on!
Jeff left at 1am sharing that at some points in the hike he stopped on the trail, turned his headlamp off and just took in the stillness, the quietness, the moon and stars in the canyon. Not another soul around. Totally unplugged. Just him and the trail.
I met Jeff about 7:30am halfway down the South Kaibab. What a refreshing face to see! We got to share our experiences up to that point and enjoy a snack before heading our separate ways…him going up…me going down.
The day before the hike I wasn’t feeling up to doing the 18 miles of Rim2River2Rim. So my plan was to hit the Tonto Trail off the South Kaibab which heads west to the Bright Angel trail…cutting off 1000’ elevation drop/gain and 5 miles. But I took my first 10 steps on SK and I new I had to make the full journey down.
I am so glad I chose the longer route. The dramatic cliff views made green and lush from the week of rain. Trickles of water were flowing out of the rocks. Such a fresh smell in the air. It’s all too grand, broad, high, and vast to take in. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough!
While hiking down I heard a clop, clop, clop sound up in the hills above me only to see my first mule train carrying supplies down to Phantom Ranch. The mules are bred for their solid disposition and sure footing to take packs and people below the rim. Though they had moved out of sight, I could still hear the clopping down below as they continued on.
The SK trail is narrower than BA trail and a little more worse for ware. The mules have worn a steady path into the trail, sometimes 12” deep. And with the recent rains had created a couple miles of deep puddles and sticky mud to navigate.
After 4 hours I made it to Phantom Ranch, 4600’ below the South Rim, to rest, eat and fill up my water bottles. An hour later Jeff had made it back down and joined me there.
I stayed long enough to dip my feet into the Bright Angel Creek before starting the steady climb back up and up and up.
The BA trail is the least steep of trails out of the canyon. From last year I knew that I was in for a hike at the Devils Switchbacks. I was dreading them from the moment I left Phantom Ranch. I remembered them to be numerous, steep and grand. But Jeff and I arrived at Indian Gardens to realize that we had already hiked them. My mind had made them dramatically different than it actually was…to my great relief!
Things look incredibly different when you hike the trails from a different direction. Last year I hiked down the BA trail. This year I was hiking it up and I couldn’t remember most of the trail. Everything looked new. Like I had never hiked this trail before. It was a completely different perspective!
For 4.5 hours we hiked switchbacks with heavy legs and heaving chests as we climbed to higher elevations until we finally crested the top. The glorious, level, finally stop moving, TOP!
The Grand Canyon is one tough hike. But I think the majestic views; the grandness of it all feeds the senses to a point of a natural high that carries you along the trail, one foot in front of the other.
I’m not going to lie…my legs and chest hurt for days. But my memories of this epic hike will last me a lifetime, which should more than cover my momentary pain.
Grand Canyon. I WILL be back!
PS…We were once again camping with our friends John and Becky and also Paul and Nina of WheelingIt. We had fun with Happy Hour and a grilled pizza night…in the rain…which will make for good story telling in the future.
While we were hiking Paul and Nina were gracious enough to keep Sam for us. It was hysterical to see Sam and Polly together. They were like two long lost pals who where on their first date. I’ve never seen two dogs kiss each other. No, really. They were actually kissing each other. Polly giving Sam sideway glances. Sam sitting as close as he possible could to Polly. It was all so amusing!
Sam had a great time with the WheelingIt crew. I hope we can return the favor sometime soon!
Jeff, Sam and I left Humphreys Peak TH from the Arizona Snow Bowl following a smooth trail that took us through a field of glowing aspens. But the smooth trail was short lived as we quickly entered a hole in the tree line and the trail quickly turned rugged and rocky. It was an ankle turner almost the entire way and Jeff rolled his and launched himself over the side of the trail, only to be stopped by a small tree. That. Was. Close!
The internationally known Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has wrapped up and what a spectacular event it was!
We made a B-line to Albuquerque to take in the splendor of the Balloon Fiesta and IT IS SPECTACULAR!
From Dumas Texas we made a 2 hour drive to Ute Lake State Park to camp for two nights. This is a dry, barrow campground overlooking the very nice Ute Lake. Evidently this is a great spot for birders and fisherman alike. The lake is shallow with a lot of reeds and grasses along the banks. What is brown and desolate by day turns to an incredible glow of oranges, yellows, blues, purples and pinks when the sun hangs low.
The sites are packed gravel, super long and have great separation. Each site has a covered patio with picnic table, fire pit, grill and lots and lots of goat head stickers. Sam enthusiastically jumped out of the camper ready to explore his new surroundings and was stopped in his tracks with paws full of stickers.
If it were not for the goat heads we would have stayed a bit longer. But after two days we decided to move on.
Our next stop was just 20 miles down the road in the little town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tucumcari mountain is an isolated mountain in a sea of brown dessert that was a landmark back in the 1800s for those traveling west from Arkansas to California.
We camped at the nastalgic Cactus RV Park, one of those original destinations back in the hay day of Route 66.
Jeff and I made it back to Arkansas. We had 10 days to attend our nieces wedding and prepare for our long awaited trip out West. We are now on the road to Albuquerque completely exhausted from our final push to get out of town.
Every time I am away from Bentonville for any length of time I go back with a new appreciated for my city. It’s beautiful, it’s clean and it’s familiar.
Jeff and I made a quick run out to the lake to check on our cabin. It’s a place that my soul connects to and I always get a little weepy every time we pull away to drive back to town. Even when we stayed there every weekend it pained me to leave our little Bella Cottage on the shores of Beaver Lake.
But as much as a I love NW Arkansas I know that our next adventure awaits in the land of burning sunsets. One look at those expansive views and mountain trails and I will be filled to overflowing with food for my soul. I love the West too!
While in Bentonville we received our shipment of Solar Panels from AM Solar. They arrived two days before we were to leave, which didn’t leave us enough time to completely hook up our system. We ordered four 160w panels that Jeff mounted on the roof of the Domani (one arrived broken)and two 100w panels that we will either mount on the roof or use as mobile panels on the ground in shady situations. That’s 840w of juicy power…once we are all hooked up.
Jeff researched batteries and found NorthStar Battery in Springfield Mo that offered to donate two batteries for us to test out on the open road. They were originally designed for marine use and NorthStar is interested in some feedback for RV application. Sure. We will try out your big batteries!
The hardest part of this Solar installation so far was trying to lift the 150lb batteries (each) into the basement of the RV. We used a little ingenuity and backed up the truck right up to the bay door to slide them into place. The batteries can be installed upright or on their side, making installing in the right spot easier.
Jeff installed our Victron 3000w hybrid inverter graciously donated by Technomadia. Victron is coming out with a new Solar Controller but it is on a slow boat from China (literally). It’s the last piece of equipment we need in order to complete our system, so here’s hoping it arrives soon.
In the mean time, we started our westerly migration. We tried to leave Arkansas by noon on 9/24, but by the time we squeezed in our last family visit and reloaded the RV we pulled out of the driveway about 4pm. We thought we could get through Fayetteville before rush hour hit but we completely forgot about BBBBQ.
Bike Blues and BBQ started this week which is the 3rd larges motorcycle rally in the country. It is held every September to the local non-motorcycle riders frustration. There are around 100,000 motorcycles that crowd our roads and 300,000 spectators that call NW Arkansas home for 5 days. It’s loud, it’s crowded and we were stuck in the middle a sea of motorcycles pulling a RV.
We made it through Fayetteville without running over any hotwheels and headed to Oklahoma City for our first stop over. Jeff’s college swim coach lives there and we parked our rig in front of his house before moving on the next day to Dumas Texas.
We stayed at the Dumas (Texoma) City Park Campground about 1 ½ hours North of Amarillo. We found this campground on our All Stays App that was an awesome surprise in such a small town. It ‘s free (donations accepted), level, has 30/50 amp hookups, dump station and water available.
It’s your basic chip and seal parking lot adjacent to a nice park with picnic tables, grills and restrooms. There is a train track very close by, but compared to our train experience in Elkhart Indiana the train noise is tolerable. The campground was only meant to be a “quiet” place for travelers to get over night rest, so they ask that you only stay 24 hours. There were two other people here when we arrived around 5pm, but by 9pm there were 12 rigs total. Most all campers had moved on by 10AM.
We normally would not have even gone to Dumas Texas, but Jeff had entered the Texas Tumbleweed 100 Bike Ride that is held in Dumas. It’s part of his Ironman Arizona training before the big day in November.
Since Jeff’s ride will take around 7 hours our plan is to rest for another night here in Dumas (with the cities permission) before continuing our trip west. We are going to camp somewhere between here and Albuquerque for 4 -5 nights before pulling into the Balloon Fiesta dry camping lot this Friday.
See you next time from Albuquerque!