The Grand Canyon is such a massive experience and place, our puny werds just barely help imagine it.
Jbob's great Grand Canyon diary Part 1 and Part 2 is an excellent start, please do read those, especially part one for pictures and much wider descriptions covering the almost exact same hike we took.
JBobs pictures show exactly where she and I went, especially the South Kaibab trail and the Bright Angel trail....I am unashamedly pinching/linking to Jbob's diaries and his great pictures...yeah, I know, I know...
His diary triggered my memory of the time I spent there once..and the gift of that memory still brings me joy.
It reminded me of when I was young and in love and all of that too....And thanks jbob for it...follow me over the cougar in the snow track to hear my little tale...
We, my love at the time and myself, were poor, young, in love, and hardy, and decided on the spur of the moment to go hike in the Grand Canyon in the dead of winter, February 1971.
What could go wrong? We had survived the the police riots in Isla Vista, so far, so getting away was tempting.
Life was hard and likely getting harder sooner as it was yet another destructive Republican Nixon administration hard at work breaking everything possible. We wanted to live a little before going back to our little jobs..so we took a week off to go hike.
I don't remember how we had a week off, maybe the company was closed because an order cancelled, something like that, but we had a short break and away we went in a clapped out school bus four wheel drive panel truck I had just repaired.
We arrived in late afternoon in an epic snowstorm at the Bright Angel Lodge, all but abandoned for the weather and winter, and decided to go down the south Kaibab trail after camping in the snow overnight.
That night, 8" fresh snow fell, and a mountain lion walked across my truck/van while herself and meself were in it..we never heard it, just tracks, right near Bright Angel Lodge, in the parking lot! Another gift....
The snow fall was still going on the next morning when we went out to the trail head..a very simple trail head, a gap in the rocks in the parking lot surround....iirc. Late next morning....yeah, I know...
We got about 300' down when the snowfall stopped accumulating on the ground. Looking up you could see the storm overhead, massive snow overhangs around the rim sometimes falling in a silent whoosh.
Snow turned to rain, rain to mist as it warmed as we got lower...on the inner rim a couple thousand feet below it was in the 60's and dry. In the inner campground upper 60's that night.
We went along to the beginning of the inner gorge river trail..and by now we were suffering as that mileage all downhill had shoved our feet into our boots and produced new and painful blisters, she was limping, I was pretending not to. And failing.
We still had managed to love the stillness and the vastness of it all, the view from summer up to winter will never be forgotten I hope. I think we heard our first Raven as well....
But still, what also grabbed there was the awareness that moving thru a landscape and being in a landscape are very different and tantalizingly overlapping experiences.
It's hard to be there when when yer dogs are barking and it's getting dark.
Too zen? ......yeah, I know, I know...
We then found, in late afternoon failing light, the river trail leading to the bridge. As we went along that blessedly flat trail, perched on the cliff above that muddy greedy relentless water, we heard the rattle and huff of something coming our way.
Around the corner 50' away came a small group of Bighorn sheep. They skidded to a stop, and for a millisecond we all went, 'oh frack me, now what?'
Herself and meself momentarily debated having to leap and swim rather than be knocked crapless by the several large rams at the front, now pawing the ground.
Then the lead Ewe went right up the 89 degree slope and so did all the rest , including tiny babies, and just like that they were gone, without effort!
One of the rams peeked slowly back over the edge to see if we were chasing them...message received sir, and have a good life thought I! Guide books say they were hard to spot and usually stayed far away, but here they were...a gift.
Whew! I couldn't have gone up that slope under any conditions except by rope and root, they just flew up it.
We were rich! Another gift...
We crossed the bridge with bugged out eyes, grateful to for the Phantom Ranch campground in the river bottom and the chance to get our poor feet out of the boots.
The next morning our feet were better mostly, so we went up the north Kaibab trail maybe 1/2 mile and went off trail up a dryish creekbed to the west, I don't know the name, but it intersected before the trail got very steep. It's walls were very very steep and the creek wound in a rocky serpentine canyon deep into the north inner gorge wall.
That canyon was really eerie and so off the trail..the bottom was very rocky, boulders and downed trees..then we came around one of several 90 degree bends and saw them on the wall ahead, just looking at us.
There were three large 15' tall figures on the rock, faint but distinct, they had long capes on and no necks, just a large round head and one eye iirc. There were no park service interpretive signs, no barriers, no nothing, and we could easily have missed them, footing being hard there.As to whether someone got up there recently and did this, I don't think so, no campground, no handholds, no graffiti. As to whether it was a natural shading caused by mineral deposits, or a natural mineral deposit enhanced
by someone recent or in the last 500 years...I just don't know. I saw them, she saw them.
We looked at each other, the five of us. Something silent was said.....
We camped again there by the river and started up the Bright Angel Trail late in the morning...yeah, not early...I know, I know...
By the time we got to Indian Garden camp site on the flat above the inner gorge, it was late, and several people were already camped there.
We camped next to some people with new packs, tents, buckskins, pointy snakeskin boots, silver, hats...and long well kept hair..about four youngish guys and an older Most Interesting Man In the World candidate. They immediately started to heavily flirt with my cheerful companion..it got a bit tedious and so we didn't get very much real conversation before we went to bed..without them.
Never did get their names, British except for the older American gent, their handler/agent, whatever. They were some British pop band and for the life of us we never did figure out which one..but they had been so offensive we didn't much care..I always leaned to teh Moody Blues or Pink Floyd, but I really don't know...or care, heh.
The next morning we got an earlier mid morning start, yeah, I know, I know......and we were grinding our way up towards the the deepening gloom of the snowstorm on the rim.
The Britisher fellas even had got an earlier start on us, amazing eh?, and pretty soon the trail was littered with shiny new gear and clothing, all top of the line, used once! Pretty funny really...and then we passed them slumped along the trail, all fervor sagged to the side along with them.
Somehow they had called up for rescue by mule, and soon enough here came the mules down trail, and later up the sagged out band fellas came riding up past us , not quite meeting eye contact. They had quit about 2000' down from the rim.
They and their tour bus and their Most Interesting Agent manager were gone by the time we got to the rim, and then we had to hoof it out to the truck parked at the Kaibab trail head in the snow..... but that was almost the best part, cause everything was sooooo silent as we walked along that remote desert snowbound road.
We saw a Great Horned Owl fly silently away as we got too near his hidey place...another Canyon gift.
I still have all the trail guides and maps I collected before we ever got there, I have never been back except to drive up to the rim once while driving for money across the country..also in a snowstorm in about 1978..and haven't been back since.
I mean to. I really do...
I blame Nixon.