Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Day Two -- Shaking Muscles
If Day One was all about fear and anticipation, Day Two was all about muscle exhaustion. Anyone who thinks it's easier to walk downhill than uphill has never done a seriously long downhill hike. It's a killer.
I already knew this but was kinda shocked all the same.
We went down the South Kaibab trail, which is reputed to be steeper, if a bit shorter, than the more normally hiked Bright Angel trail. It's about 8 miles from the trailhead to Phantom Ranch where we spent the night in hikers dorms, but it's also nearly 5000 feet down in elevation and it's the down that'll kill you.
At least if you're me.
I used walking sticks on this hike for the very first time and let me tell you, I'm never hiking anything with a change in elevation without them again. Can't tell you how helpful they were when descending steps that were at times up to 2 feet high. I suspect hiking those trails at the end of the season is a little rougher. The trail seemed pretty washed out and there were places where it was hard to get a reasonable step up or down.
But boy, the views. There are some sweeping views of the entire canyon from this trail that'll take your breath away. There's actually a point called "ooo aah point", but I never did figure out which point it was, because frankly I oooed and aahed just about every time I remembered to take my eyes off my feet for a moment to remind myself where I was.
The change in temperature over the course of the day into the canyon was pretty spectacular, too. I could've sworn it was below freezing when we started out, but I heard later that the low for that day had been 43 degrees F at the rim. Sure felt colder, but there was a wind...
By the time we reached the bottom it was so freakin hot. No idea the actual temperature. Let's just leave it at freakin hot.
I did okay that day until about the last 2-3 hours of what, for me, was about a 7 1/2 hour hike. The muscles in my very musclely legs were shaking so hard I could barely stand whenever I stopped to take a drink or snap a photo. I had a few scary moments when my left leg threatened to give out on me when I landed funny... but no disasters.
In fact, the only blisters I got on the descent were on my hands... More on that tomorrow.
After finally reaching the bottom, we spent the night at Phantom Ranch which really is pretty fabulous. They have dorms of 5 sets of bunkbeds in each, and each dorm has a SHOWER and TOILET and SINK. (and yes, they were welcome enough to deserve capital letters.) We had an amazing family style steak dinner and barely stayed up to hear the Ranger talk at 7:30 pm. Shouldn't have even stayed up that late, given our 4:30 wake-up call the next morning.... but more on that tomorrow.
This last photo is one of the first full views of the Colorado River during the descent. My thoughts while taking this? "After walking straight down for 5 hours I still have to get all the way down there? You've got to be kidding me!" The patch of green off to the right is Phantom Ranch.