Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bell Rock / Courthouse Butte / Llama Trails Sedona April 30, 2014

Yesterday after sight-seeing about, an REI shopping spree, plus the next destination drive, I was ready to hit a trail today.  I was still not quite back to normal after Monday's big day, so wanted a good distance hike with little elevation & loads of scenery.  Sedona was hot when I arrived yesterday and even hotter today when I landed at the trailhead for the Bell Rock/Courthouse Butte/Llama Loop.      

It was time to get down and dirty in that red soil that I love so much. 
The trail was very, very quiet.  It pays to get going early.  The colors seems crisper and it's peaceful.  Bell Rock at the end of this trail, is a vortex.  I tried to feel it but no luck.  I'm not sure what is suppose to happen to you or what you feel but all I noticed was that this was absolutely a gorgeous sight and I took time to appreciate the beauty.
 This so called "Big Loop" takes you behind Courthouse Butte.  
It's an opportunity to get close.
The trails were well maintained and marked.  They were narrow at times, lined with cactus here and there, red dirt everywhere, soft to hike along and a pleasure to experience.  This is Sedona's version of a trail marker.  I realized too, these were a great spot to rest your pack.  I was warned to be sure to examine the pack carefully if I choose to place it on the ground.  
blooming cactus
Right around the corner, like out of the blue, there you have a slickrock mound.
I could not help admiring the red stone against the blue sky. 
today's shadow shot
They say the deeper in you go, the more chance of feeling whatever it is a vortex offers up.  I was deep within this hike, along the Llama Traill, well behind all formations, away from everyone so I took the opportunity to try and go deep.  No luck!  All I noticed was that this was absolutely a gorgeous sight and I took time to appreciate the beauty.
By doing this Loop, I got to admire Bell Rock from many angles.  
It was pretty no matter which way I looked at it.
A friend says this looks like an asparagus.  
I agree.
As I was nearing the end of my hike, which was just on the other side of Bell Rock ahead, I was quite content with the distance and elevation gain, given the heat and my reeling from Monday.  My hiking shoes were red as were my socks and the bottom of my pants.  That's the sign of a great time!  
Sedona is such a beautiful place.   I still wonder about those vertex places though. I won't give up there has to be something to them.  What I have noticed so far, where there is a vortex, there is a pretty sight!  

Finishing a bit early today allowed me time to savour scenery from the terrace at my front door.  
My view!

Monday, April 28, 2014

South Kaibab / Tonto / Bright Angel Trails Grand Canyon April 28 2014

You know that saying "DREAM IT DO IT"?  I dreamed of this day and now I am doing it!  After much research, contemplation & conversations well in advance, I decided the route that would suit my ability the best would be to hike down South Kaibab Trail, head west and follow Tonto Trail until it met with Bright Angel and then ascend Bright Angel Trail to The Rim.  I knew you do not play this game lightly so went prepared to give myself the best chance at having a successful experience.  That meant parking at the Backcountry Office (a seven minute walk from Bright Angel Trailhead where I would end my day) and catching the 7:00am Hikers Express Bus from there to the South Kaibab Trailhead.  I carried four liters of water, lots of layers, all the essentials such as headlamp, sunscreen, hat etc, and food enough fit for a king.  I knew when sunset was, which meant I had a window of 10-11 hours to finish before dark. 

Hop on board and come along on a wonderful journey with me here!

Yesterday it was a zoo of folks in the Village, so I was very happy when about only 12 of us hit the trail at the same time.  There was a 6:00am bus before me and an 8:00am one yet to come which meant not all start at the same time and we would be spread out.  As it turned out, the 12 of us spread out pretty quick.  I felt like I owned the Grand Canyon this morning! 

My first view as I begin to head down South Kaibab Trail which you can see on the left.
wide-open comes immediately
For the whole way down the South Kaibab Trail, you can see where you are going in front of you and you can look back and see where you have been.  At times the trail hugs a cliff side, and at times it follows a narrow ridge like below.  
The going down is not as easy as you may think.  There are steps that seemed spaced far apart so there is lots of foot reaching and deep stepping which meant watching the trail and not the scenery.  Lots of stops along the way for me due to that because it truly is all about enjoying the journey and that's what I was there for.

taking a break at Cedar Ridge
looking back from where I came
looking ahead to where I was going
stunning views all around
another break at Skeleton Point
This was the view below me from Skeleton Point.
The swtichbacks would bring me even deeper down in.
Follow the trail down, it descends steeply. 
scene around a corner
I made it to my turning west point which was just above the Tip Off.
 Before heading west, I descended a bit more to see what I could see.  
Mules were carrying gear up from Phantom Ranch.  
Sitting at the Tip Off and feeling the moment.
This is where I begin to follow Tonto Trail west.  There was one couple who were heading this way too but they were not ready to leave yet.  There was no one in front of me as far as I could see and I could see far.
This was as far as I could see!
The trail was wide-open and at this low level in the Canyon, it was hot.
Cactus were plentiful and in bloom.  
There wasn't a breeze nor shelter anywhere.
I was in the middle of the Grand Canyon, in the desert.
You do not play this game lightly!
I kept looking back because it was just as amazing behind me.
The Tonto Trail was mostly flat and an easy going trail condition-wise.  I was able to make good time and enjoy the scenery at the same time.  It did seem to go on forever, longer than I expected it to.  I was beginning to look forward to meeting up with Bright Angel and seeing other folks at this point.  When I eyed the bright green, I thought that had to mean something....
...and it did, I was getting close, I could see the flat section of Bright Angel ahead of me.
It was very hot by now.  Thankfully Indian Garden had loads of those wonderful big green trees that offered up shelter, a place to rest and refuel out of the sun.  There were about a dozen or so folks hanging out but no one that I started the day with.  I know a few were heading to Phantom Ranch for the night and others were going back up the way they came down.  I never did see the other two who were doing the route I had planned.  I spent about 30 minutes here then began the 900 meter climb up Bright Angel to The Rim.
I do not have many photos to share of this section.  
I soon realized this was going to be tough and I would have to be digging deep the whole way.  
I stopped very often and always looked back.  
It was quite a sight to see.
As I was ascending, I was catching up with more people who had only gone to Indian Garden.  Some looked rougher than I felt.  Everyone was quiet, just a smile or a very shallow hi was all that occurred in passing.  I know that was all I had the energy to muster up.  I did pass one lady in distress, others were attending to her.  You do not play this game lightly!    

You can see the trail far below in the middle.
The end was now in sight!  I needed to get to that building in the top left corner.  It seemed so close but was taking forever to get there.  There were more and more people now, those that only ventured down into the Canyon a very short distance.  They were spry and chatty and a bundle of energy.  Not me!   
I finally reached that building!  
I was depleted!  
I found a spot off to the side where there was no one then sat down and had a very private moment behind my sunglasses!  This has got to be the hardest hike I have ever completed.  I knew you do not play this game lightly and I went prepared.  It was a dream I had that became reality.  It felt like such an accomplishment!  All that was left was that 7 minute walk to my car and a 12 minute drive to my room.  Yes, I planned well!  

close up of the ascent up Bright Angel Trail

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Rim Trail, Grand Canyon April 27, 2014

After about a seven minute walk from the Backcountry Office Parking Lot at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, I got my first glimpse of one of the seven natural wonders of the world!  In fact, it was much more than a glimpse, it was a wide-open, massive-expanse,  full-feast.  Before going, I googled lots to view loads of photos to get an idea of what I was in for.  To actually be there, standing in this very spot at this second in time was an incredibly out-of-this-world surreal feeling.  
Today's plan was to hike The Rim Trail from the Bright Angel Trailhead to Hermits Rest and then catch the free shuttle bus back to my starting point.  I wanted to stand in this spot as it will play an important role tomorrow.  You will have to stay tuned to find out why!
along the way
I read that views of blue, green, gold and red blended together could be beautiful.
This proves that point!
It's amazing what a few puffy clouds can create!
I see some kind of a creature in this shadow shot!
Thank you Mother Nature for casting your clouds!
a multitude of shades
taking the time to feel the moment
I waved right back at him.
This is my favourite photo of the day!  
There was nothing more I could ask for, for today, when I saw this sight.  
To me this is where I saw that natural wonder of the world.
It was prime season for this plant to be in bloom.
As I was nearing the end of my hike, the Colorado River came into sight.  
I arrived at the end of The Rim Trail at Hermits Rest. 
I felt like ringing the bell hanging from the top of that stone structure.  
I was ready to declare "bring on tomorrow"!  
Today I spent on the Rim, tomorrow I get to go down in!