—8 Oct 2010 0720
Yesterday was awesome and today I have the sore legs to prove it. My legs have not been in this much pain in a long time. I’ll get to the cause of that in a moment. First of all, we went yesterday to see the sunrise3 at Desert View (near the Watch Tower). Let me stress again that the park is huge! We got up at 0430 and ended up nearly missing the 0600 sunrise. We arrived at the inner part of the park at 0520 and I thought we’d be at Desert View by 0530 (my target time to arrive). But no, from the South Entrance near the visitor center, it’s 25 miles to Desert View! We made our way through the pitch black roads and ended up in the parking lot by 0550. The drive was extra nervous as we saw the sky getting brighter and brighter despite not yet having arrived. Then we had to frantically find our way to the lookout. It was dark and even the outlook area was huge! We got there as the sun was just getting ready to peek out. The sunrise was magnificent, but I’m not sure any of the photos can match how amazing it looked. Surprisingly enough, there was only one couple there. A family later arrived.
As the morning wore on, people would drift in for one shot and then drift back out.
Eventually one guy came who went into a path below. That gave us the confidence to go out onto a cliff area and get some of the best photos of that day the trip.
We also finally got to see the Colorado River. With time I was able to get Danielle to brave her way out there. I think it was worth it as she seemed to really enjoy the view. Quietest, most serene view of the entire tirp.
Eventually we were cold and starving so we headed back to the Village. On the way there we saw some female elk. That was really neat.
Then we had a hearty second breakfast and we headed out to the Bright Angle Trail. On the way we saw a nuthatch in the parking lot as well as a few other small birds.
We had been thoroughly scared by the guidebook and every sign and person that it would be so much harder to go up the Bright Angel Trail than to go down. The often quoted ratio was that twice the time would be required to go up. So I set my stopwatch as we began the descent. It also didn’t help that we kept running into people who were going up that were huffing and puffing and saying how much harder the climb was.
The trail was incredibly muddy from the previous day’s rain and littered with mule droppings. Because the trail was so muddy, Danielle insisted on descending slowly. She also demanded that I walk in front. I wanted to walk behind her because I knew I’d end up leaving her behind at my pace. But she was afraid that if I slipped, I’d come careening into her and take us both over the edge.
We wanted to make it to the first checkpoint – the bathrooms. It seemed to take forever, scaring us. In fact it took 3 hours 6 minutes to get to the toilets.
These toilets were very interesting. It was a building, not a row of portapotties, but that’s probably just to keep them from getting knocked over in a strong wind or by jerks who thing they’re funny because on the inside they’re just portas. It’s just a cast-style toilet seat leading into a hole in the ground. There is no plumbing – so bring whatever you need to convince yourself your hands are clean afterwards – wet naps, disinfectant, etc. There IS a garbage can if you need to get rid of feminine products, but you’re encouraged not to use it to get rid of other stuff like plastic bottles (that didn’t stop the person who used mine before me). We also took this time to have a water/snack break. Since it had taken us 3 hours to get there, we decided against going any further. (Also we were starting to get hungry for food more substantial than snacks)
Defying all expectations, we made it back up in 1 hour 1 minute! (and that’s why my legs were so sore) But, the thing is – we weren’t winded when we got to the top. All those people huffing and puffing on their way up were just out of shape for the speed at which they were descending and ascending. Although I paid for it the next day with sore legs, at the time I was fine and able to carry on a conversation. I think, had it not been muddy, we would have ended up descending a lot more quickly and, therefore, the 2:1 ratio might have held. As it was, had we planned properly, we could have probably gone to the bottom and back up in one day. We passed at least one person who claimed to have done it that morning.
After lunch we tried to go to Hopi Point to see the sunset, stopping at some of the other points along the Rim Trail that we hadn’t yet seen. However, it was extremely windy and became way too cold for me. So we headed back to our car and it was the earliest we left the park during our entire vacation. (Which I can verify as I write this blog post a week later)
On the way out of the part we saw a male elk, AWESOME! Made our day! The entire time we kept seeing female deer and female elk, so we really wanted to see a male. The only reason we saw it was because the people in front of us rudely decided to stop traffic to watch the elk rather than pulling off the road. We pulled off the road so we could get as many shots as we wanted.
We were tired and sweaty after our time on the Bright Angel Trail, so it felt great to get back to the hotel and shower. Danielle talked about going back into the park to see the stars after our shower. However, after giving each other much needed foot massages, Danielle promptly passed out and fell asleep at 1930! She slept through dinner so I just went to the Wendy’s a couple buildings over. I was also very tired, so I went to bed at 2100.
Strangely, we were up the next day at 0600.