Busy weekend

Trip Start May 06, 2012
Trip End Oct 17, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My most recent weekend was the most action-packed that I've had so far. Things all came together to make it a busy, fun and exhausting two days. That means long entry, to make up for all the other boring ones.

On Monday, I went on a day trip to Lake Powell in southern Utah with a group with the rec center. It was only a few miles into Utah, but I'm still counting it as a Utah visit, the first time I've been there. We stopped by Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona before heading to the lake and were treated to an amazing view. The Colorado River loops back on itself in, well, the shape of a horseshoe, and looking down into the canyon from the edge of the rim you can see the entire curve laid out in front of you, with blue and green waters and boats full of people enjoy cruising the river. Due to the echos, you could also hear the people talking and laughing from the bottom of the canyon, which was pretty cool even though you couldn't tell what they were saying. After hiking back to the van, we continued on to the lake and spent a couple of hours at Lone Rock Beach. It was marvelous. The water felt wonderful after having been living in the desert for a month. We just splashed and laid around in the water and threw a Frisbee around, enjoying the contrast of being in a huge lake while surrounded by sand and rock cliffs.

Tuesday was intense. I hiked to Plateau Point with a group of friends -- Lyndsi, who I met a week or two ago on the Shoshone Point hike, Terrance, a friend of Lyndsi's who I met on the hike, and Gwen, Stephanie and Katelyn, three girls from China/Singapore, who I was also meeting for the first time -- six miles into the canyon. Now, a 12 -mile round trip may not seem like a huge undertaking, but what you have to remember is that six of those miles are back up 3,000 feet of canyon, following a steep trail through switchback after switchback under a burning sun. As I said, intense.

We started our hike at 2 a.m. I was a bit dubious when Lyndsi, who arranged the hike, told me we were starting that early, but it turned out to be quite a good idea. The hike down in the dark was fun, even though we couldn't see any of the canyon. Even though there are no street lights and very few other lights in Grand Canyon Village, there is still enough ambient light to affect star viewing, and as we went down into the canyon the sky got darker and we could see a ton more stars. We could even see the band of the Milky Way stretching across the sky, shining out almost the clearest I've ever seen it. Terrance said he even saw a couple shooting stars, but the rest of us were unlucky with our timing and missed them. The hike through the dark reminded me a lot of my hike on the Abel Tasman trail in New Zealand, which is high praise from me since that remains my favorite thing I've ever done.

A side note: on the way down, we met two other people hiking at the same time we were, both coming up. One was a man who told us he had been hiking for 20 hours. He was going from rim to rim to rim, all in one go. Craziness. That's all I have to say.

The sun started rising when we had gotten off the cliff-side and were on the mostly level track leading through Indian Gardens and out to Plateau Point. While I almost always dislike sunrises because it means I've either stayed up all night and now the night's done or that I've gotten up early enough to see it, both unpleasant prospects, this one was pretty good since I didn't feel tired at all and it was neat seeing the sun peeking over the edge of the canyon. All the rest of the hike to Plateau Point, the rising sun gave great lighting for photos and made for some amazing views, with sunbeams poking through clefts in the canyon walls and the light playing on the cliff faces. We reached Indian Gardens shortly after sunrise and rested there for a little while and refilled our water bottles. Indian Gardens is a camp ground and rest point inside the canyon and is unique in its vegetation and atmosphere. It's covered in cottonwood trees and has a stream running by it, so it feels completely different from the rest of the canyon and surrounding area, even those areas in the forest on top of the canyon. Instead of pine and juniper trees with needles, you have these huge, leafy cottonwoods that cover the area in shade. It feels like you're just walking through the woods, rather than along the bottom of a huge canyon. I really enjoyed that area, both in itself and in the juxtaposition with the rest of the area's environment.

After Indian Gardens was an easy 1.5-mile hike to Plateau Point. The point was an experience. The way the canyon is shaped, there is a wide, relatively flat bottom -- the plateau that gives the point its name -- then there's another narrower gorge in the middle of that in which the Colorado River runs. Plateau Point is at the edge of that first wide, flat area and looks down into the gorge at the bottom to the river. So you could turn one way and look over a cliff and see the river rushing below, and the trail that leads down to it, and you could turn around and then see this huge desert plain stretching back to cliffs in the distance. It was a really cool landscape, and we rested at the point for a while, wandering around to see different view points and taking photos. Eventually, though, we had to head back.

This is where Lyndsi's plan to start at 2 a.m. worked out, because when we set out from Indian Gardens it was still fairly cool. There are signs all over the village and canyon recommending that people during the coolest hours of the day, and I'm glad we did. The hike back up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it was still very tough. Even though the distance between each rest point was about the same, a mile and a half, as we got higher it seemed like that distance was stretched out longer and longer. The last stretch to the top, as Lyndsi said on the way, was the longest mile and a half of my life. It was made worse by the fact that my water somehow started leaking in my bag, so for the last three-quarters of a mile or so I didn't drink anything. I eventually got to a point where I decided to just plod along slowly, one step at a time, and not stop until I reached the top. That actually worked out pretty well, because it didn't tax me very much, and while the others hiking with me were going faster than I was, they were also taking rests, and I ended up getting to the top a few minutes before they did. Slow and steady really does win the race, I guess, even though we weren't racing.

We ended up getting back around noon, making it a 10 hour hike. It felt sort of surreal, because ever since the sun had risen, we had all said it felt like it was mid-afternoon or so, and we kept doing double takes as people wished us good morning as we passed them. That's when starting at 2 a.m. worked out, because we had all day to rest and relax and recover and more re- words. Now, a day later, I'm feeling pretty good. My legs are a little tight and I have a couple of blisters on my heels, but overall I feel no worse for wear and I have a sense of accomplishment. Now when I look into the canyon from the rim and see the tiny spot in the distance at the end of this long arm of land stretching out over the river, I can say,  "I've been there," and remember the hike. It was most definitely worth it, and I look forward to doing it again.
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