Friday, December 30, 2016

an afternoon at the grand canyon

Today was our last full day in Arizona and we decided to head over to the Grand Canyon - it's only about two hours from Sedona.

A sign at the top of the Bright Angel Trail advised the use of crampons. Hmmm. We hadn't thought to bring our YakTrax (rubbery devices that fit over your shoes, strung with wound wire, that provide grip on icy surfaces) so we decided to proceed with caution and see how it went.

This is the ONE sun-exposed bit of trail we encountered.

The rest was more like this:

Not bad, but not great either. 

Looking up toward the rim.

You can see the pale line of the trail, far out on a plateau (just to the left of the tree in the foreground) that is still quite a ways above the river.

I did that hike once, a long time ago... in 1999. It was in April, and the cactus was in bloom.

Kev and I turned around pretty early - the trail was in deep shade, and it got to a point where it was going to be getting icy and steep. 

So we headed back up and contented ourselves with walking the south rim trail as far as the main visitor center, a couple of miles east. Along with seemingly half the rest of humanity.

I remember my first imaginings of the Grand Canyon: a single, deep, long, trench. The reality, of course, is that it's really the Grand Canyons and there is no easy way to wrap your mind around it.

It's our last night here, and we've got to pack up our gear for the drive to Las Vegas for our flight home tomorrow evening. I believe southern Vermont got buried under a foot or two of snow today. Fortunately, we parked in the fancypants lot at Bradley airport where they clean off your car and fetch it for you, so you don't have to go digging it out from under a snowdrift. Worth it, in winter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fay Canyon Arch, Chimney Rock

I was up before the sun rose this morning, hoping to score a parking space at the magic place just a half mile from our hotel but lo, pre-dawn, every parking spot was already taken. And verily, the crankiness descended upon her.... but lo! she didst solve this problem by getting a cup of strong, black coffee, darker than her irritable soul, before returning to the hotel room where her husband didst still slumber.

Kevin had to work this morning. I amused myself by reading until it was time for not one, but two awesome hikes. 

1. Fay Canyon, and the arch therein. Fay Canyon is not far from where we sought out the Boynton Vortex yesterday - it's pretty much the next little canyon over. There is supposedly one of those cool red rock arches up in it somewhere.

We hiked alllll the way up the canyon and could not find it. We took many pretty pictures, though. On our way down, we were bound and determined to find that sucker. How hard can it be to hide an ARCH?

Apparently, it's easily done. Our mistake was in thinking it would be perpendicular to the canyon wall (joining up two sides of a mini-subcanyon) rather than parallel to it.

Eventually we went up a side trail, toward the canyon wall, toward the overhang in the center of the first photo of this post. 

Just an overhang, right? We made our way closer and closer... it is! hiding in plain sight. 

I wedged myself into the far southern (right, in the picture above) corner to get a picture of it.


On the floor under it, someone(s) had assembled detritus into impressive little walls and chambers. When we first arrived, some hikers were snacking in this spot. They told us we could go around the side and get up on top of the arch. Kevin's checking out the trail in the shot below.

He returned in a hurry. The trail consisted of a wafer-thin ledge with a steep drop off.

FIE! I said, and hustled to investigate. I made it across the wafer-thin ledge and up around a switchback to the beginning of the arch and then...I wussed out. I'm fine with the possibility of plummeting to my destiny on ONE side, so long as I have a rising cliff on the OTHER side, but the possibility of cracking open my wee skull by potentially falling in either of TWO directions apparently only works if I'm in a climbing harness. Who knew?

So in the picture below, I'm on my way back to Kevin, who's tucked away out of sight under the arch. That straight line of sage-green vegetation in the top right quadrant of the photo is the top of the arch (it's flat, not curved). At the base of the cliff in the lower right quadrant is a suggestion of dirt, occupied by various small shrubs. That's the wafer-thin ledge.  

I passed some other climbers on their way down. One of them, a woman, looked pretty scared. We chatted. "Are you OK?" I asked. Yes, she assured me. I said "...because I have magic Reiki hands, just like everyone else in this town." She laughed. She said she also channels light. "Great!" I said. "So here's the technique..." and I made my way along the ledge, saying "channel... channel... shit!shit!shit! channel... channel... shit!shit!shit!" We all giggled. Adrenaline: let it be your friend.

I found my boy. We paused for a selfie.

...and headed back to the main trail to the trailhead and our increasingly muddy car. 

...and THEN we went in search of ANOTHER hike.

2. Chimney Rock, and going all around it. On our way to the trailhead, we passed a lot of other trailheads, and a veritable shit-ton of cars parked all along either side of the road, so we were delighted to find the Thunder Mountain trailhead parking lot almost empty.

A quarter mile or so up the trail, we took in the view of the opposite side of the valley. We're staying at the Sky Ranch Lodge, on the far right side of the mesa in the middle third of the photo below. You can just make out the snow-covered roofs of the little separate 'cabins' that make up the hotel. 

The southern side of Chimney just looks like one monolith...

...but as you round it, on its eastern side, you can see it's not. 

Facing east, away from it, we enjoyed the views of Thunder Mountain. 

Rounding the back of it, to the north, we could see all the places we'd hiked earlier in the day and yesterday.

And finally, the western side of Chimney Rock, just as the afternoon's getting into that glorious, rich light.

By now our knees are a little agitated and we've ruined the hotel bathtub by rinsing great big clods of red mud out of our shoes. We are fully prepared for tomorrow's adventure: the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This is how you know you're doing it right

By the end of the afternoon, this is what my boots looked like:

And here's what happened along the way.

1. A hike up Wilson Canyon, just north of town. 

Sand ripples in the creek, a tributary to Oak Creek.

Sitting on a ledge next to a tiny waterfall.

The view upstream.

Rt 89A crossing Wilson Canyon

 2. A hike in Boynton Canyon to visit the vortex there.

While I was busy offering up a heart rock, Kevin was spying on me and got this picture of me. Not shown: all the scads and scads of other people in the area at the time. 

Various views from here:

3. Sunset from the back end of our hotel compound on the top of Airport Mesa. 

Not many words today. Words = overrated.