HMV Day 12: South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon

All of the sudden we were waking up on the last full day of megavacation.  The next day would be for making the journey all the way back home to Montana.  It  simultaneously felt as if we'd been gone forever and that the whole thing had gone so fast.  I think it was because we broke it up into such distinct segments--ocean, city, Zion, Bryce, Grand.  We crawled out of the sleeping bag determined to make the most of this last day of hiking and exploring.  We had breakfast before walking to meet the shuttle that would take us out to the South Kaibab trailhead.
Almost immediately we took a stronger liking to the view from S. Kaibab than Bright Angel.  The vista was much more open from the trail permitting more of the canyon to be taken in at once.  The Bright Angel Trail switchbacks down one of the draws of the canyon with the result that the view is more limited and a narrow.    The birding was better on Bright Angel though so, you know, pros and cons to everything.  There were lots of ravens on S. Kaibab, but I think that might have been about it for birds that we saw.
It was quite windy, perhaps because it was more exposed than we had been in the draw at Bright Angel.  We got to Ooo Aah Point and it was tremendously gusty.  And beautiful beyond my powers of description.  We made our obligatory ooohs and aaaahhs.  They were not forced at all.  The country kept stretching out before us endlessly in an array of colors and textures like no place else on earth.
Like the Bright Angel Trail, this trail was wide, sandy, and terraced.  It was easy hiking and, as such, easy to look around at the magnificence surrounding us.  At certain points the trail clung to a rock wall in such a way as to give the impression that we might be hiking on the edge of the world.
When the winds would abruptly stop, as they tended to do, it was remarkably silent out there, wonderfully so.  At those times we could hear the wind catching in the wings of the ravens riding over head.  Then the winds would sweep through the canyon again, becoming all we could hear.  We were not there long enough for me to make sense of how the canyon played with the winds.  It seems like the mountains with which I am much more intimate; they seem to make their own weather.
Knowing what we know now we wished we'd hiked further down S. Kaibab Trail instead of Bright Angel.  Both were superb, but we liked S. Kaibab better.
We didn't see any mule trains on the Bright Angel Trail.  But, on S. Kaibab we would be passed by a pack of mules carrying people down into the canyon.  I might like to try that sometime, too.  Matt is not so sure about that.  I also learned, in speaking to one of the pack leaders, that a burro is the same thing as a donkey.  I always thought mules, donkeys, and burros were all different.  So, now I know.
We hiked out to a point on the end of Cedar Ridge and sat for a long while observing and pondering the canyon and clouds and life and things.  It was an utterly fantastic sitting spot.
The climb back up was pretty easy, too, especially in comparison to our ascent of the Bright Angel Trail.  We were glad we'd only gone down 1.5 miles on S. Kaibab instead of the three miles we'd descended into the canyon the day before on Bright Angel.   Even though we both found the hike back up rather painless we were also both still glad to see the top.  I think we were tired.  It had be a long, glorious, trip.  But, we were tired.
We returned to camp for lunch and found that someone--we presume ravens--had punctured both of our plastic gallon water jugs.  We'd left them out the whole time we'd been at Grand Canyon with no such tampering.  (Sidenote: We're bear country campers and so we keep a tight camp.  Normally we would never leave water bottles out unattended, but there were no such regulations down in Grand Canyon.  It was interesting.  Maybe there still should have been.)

We went to the "village" and used a pay phone to call Hannah for a pick-up from the airport when we got back--we'd failed to arrange this detail before we left somehow--and then hit up the coin-op showers.  In full disclosure, we hadn't bathed since we'd left Vegas almost a week before.  We'd been hiking in the hot sun and we were, well, overdue for a shower if we were going to get into an airplane and sit near strangers.  I took a $4, 16 minute long shower.  It was probably the best five dollars I spent on the trip.  We both felt like new people afterwards.  While waiting for the shower we also ran into a couple who recognized us as their camp neighbors from Zion.  What a small world!

For our last night in the park--and on vacation--we decided to pack up supplies to make dinner out on Shoshone Point.  We went extra early since we missed the best part of sunset so many times over the journey.  As a result we got there with plenty of time to kick back, relax, and try to take in as much canyon glory as we could fit in the remaining hours.
We saw another tarantula.  All of the sudden it was just feet away from us.  We didn't see it walk into sight.  It was just there.  As we watched it the spider made its way to the lip of the rim and crawled down, out of sight.  Matt joked that that is the real reason the rangers advise people to say at least six feet from the edge of the rim--who knows when a big ol' spider might appear and startle a person enough as to cause them to fall off the edge.  The freaky part was that is was right where we'd been sitting on one of our previous visits to Shoshone Point.  Yuck.  I know its just a spider, but still...yuck.
We hiked back off the point itself to one of the picnic tables staggered along the rim nearby.  Matt cooked dinner--pasta and red sauce--and I watched the growing shadows.
After dinner we hiked back out onto the point to watch the sunset.  We think that perhaps it was the prettiest sunset we've ever seen.  Since we were out on a point, jutting into the canyon, we had a full 360 degree panorama of sunset beauty.  The clouds in the sky only accentuated the effect of the subtly shifting colors.
As the sun set the shadows deepened in the side canyons, turned blue or purple, before fading into black.  The red stone of the canyon walls was highlighted and dazzled ruby-orange in the sinking rays of sunlight.  It was a painting come to life in front of me.
And then, as it happens, the brilliant colors faded to pastels before the last hint of sun had disappeared, growing ever less dazzling.  Its always been interesting to me how this works.  There is some apex of glory and then, with a humbler tone, night takes over completely.
We walked back to the trailhead in the twilight.  Back at camp we had a large fire as it was the last night and we still had plenty of wood.  It was hard to believe it was our last night.  But, what a wonderful last night it was, indeed.


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