Day 3: Grand Canyon to Needles

We wake up in our tent to shuffling noises–a curious moose cow and her calf are roaming around nearby! No kidding, this campsite feels like backcountry! But it’s still a campsite and we are thankful for the toilets and the running water.

That was our new REI Half Dome first night in the wild and it passed the test! It’s a really sweet piece of equipment for two people, light, easy to put up, and surprisingly spacious. We break camp and set off eager to explore Grand Canyon! As we only had that one night reserved at the camp, we needed to park our car somewhere else for the rest of the day; by mid-morning the Village is crammed with visitors and we only find a spot in a distant parking, no shade whatsoever. We are starting to come to terms with the idea of hiking into the Grand Canyon on one of the hottest days of this summer.

But in our list of priorities, food always comes ahead of everything else, so we decide to stop at one of the Village restaurants to fill up with calories for the trail ahead. A hearty breakfast at Angel Lodge is just up to the task.

We head towards the Bright Angel trailhead. Given our short time here (we plan to be back on the California coast tomorrow), we decide for this trail as a Grand Canyon starter pack: great views along the way (these were a given), easy access, but still challenging enough for a half-day trek. There are several rest stations along the trail that allow you to plan a route fit for your needs, from a quick dip into the canyon to overnighting on the banks of the Colorado river. On our way we passed all sorts of folks, from runners to grannies, that seemed to confirm this.

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Going down the trail is rather easy–just watch your footing and be sure to pack enough water. The increase in temperature as one descends into the canyon is noticeable, and on a hot day it can really be oppressive. Other than that, hiking into the canyon is the way to take in its immensity. As we go down, the cliffs rise above our heads and we start noticing distinct layers in the rock–grainy yellow, deep maroon baring geological ages for all to see. There are exposed rocks down there dating back to almost 2 000 million years.

The switchbacks create shady nooks, and the way is dotted with green bushes that put an accent on the landscape. Kaibab squirrels pester visitors the whole way–they are really cute when they sit on a rock seemingly enjoying the view, but most of them just chase humans hoping for a treat. Don’t feed the squirrels, please. A fed squirrel is a dead squirrel. (Not really, but by feeding them you’re not doing the little guys a favor, nor your fellow visitors.)

We decide to turn back at the Mile-and-a-half Resthouse, taking into account the heat, our lack of food, and the drive ahead of us. There we refill our water bottles, munch on some Cheez-its, and fight off some more squirrels while taking a respite from the unforgiving sun. From our perch on the cliff we can see the trail going past Indian Garden, and we promise to come back some day with enough time to go all the way down to the Colorado river.

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Looking up, the way back does seem daunting but, as said, this is not a extremely challenging trail and the ascent is very gradual. In fact, it takes us less time to climb back up than it took us coming down. After refueling on some canned food while trying and failing to find words that pin down the immensity of which we just took part, we get back on the road.

We are now heading towards Santa Barbara, which we expect to reach tomorrow. On our way West on the I-40, we take a detour at Seligman to drive a stretch of Route 66.

Evening is encrouching on us, the road up here is practically empty, and we are regaled with an intensely red Arizonian sunset.

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By the time we merge back onto the I-40 at Kingman, it is nighttime and the full moon is coming up. We decide to stop for the night at Needles, just past the California border, and call it a day.

 

 

If daisies are
Your favorite flower
Just keep pushing up
those miles per hour.

 

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