Days 70-71 – The North Rim

We’ve headed to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim because we’ve both been to the South Rim. Walt very much wants to hike down into the canyon, at least a little bit. So a few minutes after 8 a.m., we’re headed down the Kaibab Trail. It’s 14 miles to Phantom Ranch, the traditional “midway” point for people doing a rim-to-rim hike.

We are neither doing a rim-to-rim nor going anywhere near as far as the ranch. Actually there are signs all over the place warning people that attempting to hike to the bottom of the canyon and back to the rim in one day is a very bad idea.

About 15 minutes into our hike, we stop at a nice outlook, our first great view into the canyon from the trail. It just seems so endless. Another hundred feet on and we come to a ranger perched under a tree.

“Hi,” she says. “Where are you headed today?”

“Just to the tunnel,” Walt replies. The tunnel is some two miles down the trail and 1,400 feet below the rim.

“That’s great,” she says, nodding approvingly. “Far enough in to get a taste of the canyon but still in the fun zone. Have a great hike.”

We have no idea what the “fun zone” is and we’re pretty sure we won’t be in it when it’s 95 degrees and we’re hiking back uphill. But if we’re approved to do what we want to do, that’s ok with us.

When we arrived at the North Rim yesterday, we just did a short 1-mile loop to Angel’s Point and back; it was too hot to hike more so we got a snack and listened to a ranger talk about the geology of the canyon.

Now that we’re hiking, we can really appreciate the different layers we learned about yesterday. We started at the top of the plateau with pine trees and aspens. Soon we’re in a rocky band with smooth, pale sand under our feet (and lots of mule droppings since a group of day-trippers is ahead of us) and no trees. Then we’re in the pinions and junipers and the sand underfoot is now dark pink.

Actually I wish the sand were just underfoot. It is so soft and dry that my lower legs have what I call a “grand canyon tan” – a dark pink/orange tint.

At only two miles – less than hour down from the rim – we’re at the Supai Tunnel. We can see the Redwall Bridge, another half a mile and 800 feet below us. Hiking to the bride still would be in the ranger-approved “fun zone” but we don’t see a need to go further. We have a long break, waiting for the two groups that came down on mules to head up so we don’t have to be passed by mules on the trail before heading back uphill.

It’s not our hottest, highest or hardest hike but it is ice-cream worthy although treats will have to wait until we get to our home for the next three days: Las Vegas.

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