After the Switchbacks

Trip Start Jul 02, 2007
Trip End Jul 06, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The long, rocky downhill of the switchbacks didn't last more than a mile or two before we had reached flatter land. Glancing back up to the parking lot, it seemed unimaginable that we had walked down what now looked like a sheer cliff. Not only was the grade of the trail decreasing, but the terrain around us had changed, too. Red clay and sand surrounded us, much unlike the white dust and rocks of the switchbacks.  The vegetation became thicker as we moved toward the canyon, and slowly, steadily the walls of rock came together, almost magnetically, like a funnel for tiny backpackers.
     Before long, the sun peeked over the top of the canyon wall to our right, illuminating the ridges and layers of rock and sediment in the canyon wall to the left. It was the first in a series of extreme contrasts that we would witness. The line where sun meets shade is the hour hand on nature's clock, sliding slowly down the wall, ticking away time - 8 a.m., nine,  noon.
     In the canyon, we began to notice the rock, sometimes layered like a sandwich, neat and clearly separated. Other times, the layers melted together like an ice cream sunday.  Some giant and robust, others ready to topple if you exhaled too deeply. Only one trail weaves through this canyon, but it changes constantly, slightly different from one step, one minute, to the next.
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