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Rim to River in the Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon - Photo Gallery Photo Gallery

Arizona & Grand Canyon Insight GuideGrand Canyon and American SWGrand Canyon Country Best Easy Day Hikes in the Grand CanyonAnsel Adams - Grand Canyon and the SWFrommers Guide Grand Canyon Photographers Guide Grand CanyonLonely Planet USA Lonely Planet SW States


Encamped beneath towering pine trees amid the sparkling, springtime beauty of the snow-bound Rocky Mountains, I contemplated the tranquil stream flowing sedately between green meadows. It was hard to believe that only a few hundred miles down river it was to gouge out the greatest gorge in the world - the Grand Canyon - one of the seven wonders of the world.

Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado River
in
Rocky Mountain
National Park

Starting in Denver, the "mile-high city", I was to follow the course of the Colorado River from its source in the Rocky Mountain National Park through some astonishing, sculptured sandstone in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and the spectacular Monument Valley of Western movie fame to finish with a descent from rim to river of the Grand Canyon.

A long drive over straight roads through the luminescent landscape of the "Painted Desert" to the accompaniment of Navajo Indian music on the radio - the only station receivable - brought me into Arizona and the forested rim of the Grand Canyon. Walking along the trail on the southern edge I gazed in awe at the multiplicity of castellated ridges, like the gigantic battlements of some fairy-tale citadel, rising from the depths of the enormous chasm.

The Grand Canyon from the South Rim

The Grand Canyon

from the

South Rim

Occasional glimpses could be seen of the brown ribbon of the Colorado River in the valley floor far below. Over a period of some 1.2 million years it had carved its way through 11 different rock strata to expose the greatest cross-section of geological time anywhere in the world. In the evening the colours and contrast changed dramatically as the final rays of the setting sun highlighted Wotan's Throne - a prominent landmark on the far side of the canyon.

Wotan's Throne in the Grand Canyon

Wotan's Throne

in the

Grand Canyon

At sunrise next morning, with some trepidation, I started down the relentless zig-zags of the Bright Angel Trail. It was a long way to the river and the uphill return was of some concern - not so much the vertical distance of about 4,500 feet but more the expected high temperatures in the lower depths of the canyon - there were dire warnings posted of deaths from dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Zig zags on the Bright Angels Trail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Zig_zags

on the

Bright Angels Trail

leading down

into the

Grand Canyon

Most people take two days; descending on one day, spending the night in the campsite in the valley floor then re-ascending the following day. However places are limited and require a permit for which there had been a huge queue. I was therefore tackling the round trip in one day hoping my recent forays into the desert in Arches and Canyonlands would have helped with acclimatization.

Claret Cup Cactii at the foot of the Grand Canyon

Claret Cup Cactii

at the foot of the

Grand Canyon

After only 15 minutes the top of the sheer limestone and rust-red sandstone walls loomed high overhead. The steep, narrow track was deserted but there was an overpowering stench left by the mules that make daily trips to the outlook at Plateau Point about halfway down the canyon.

Some 3000 feet beneath the rim the trail levelled out onto the plateau and the lush greenery and tall cottonwood trees surrounding the springs at Indian Gardens. A long traverse around the scree slopes of another of the many side-canyons led down into a steep, narrow defile constraining the rushing waters of the Bright Angel Creek.

I began to meet hikers coming up from their overnight stay in the valley floor. My ski-sticks ( now termed trekking poles ) attracted comment; "You won't find any snow down there", "If you're looking for snow you're going the wrong way".

Suddenly there was a great roaring and the defile opened out onto the sandy banks of the surprisingly-broad, swiftly-flowing, muddy-brown waters of the Colorado River. It was then only a short walk through a desert zone of small sand-dunes, covered in red-and-yellow, flowering cacti, beneath high, enclosing, granite walls to the Silver Suspension Bridge.

The Silver Suspension Bridge across the Colorado River in the Grand CanyonBridge

The Silver Bridge

across the

Colorado River

at the foot of the

Grand Canyon

On the far side a small grove of trees provided very welcome shade and a tap at the pump station replenished my water-bottle. Although only 10 o'clock the temperature had been rising steadily during the descent and it was now like an oven in the still confines of the gorge.

Colorado River at the foot of the Grand Canyon

Colorado River

at the foot

of the

Grand Canyon

After only a short respite I headed back for the top. A long, leisurely trudge reached the pleasant oasis at Indian Gardens for an extended break in the cool of the cottonwoods but the canyon rim looked impossibly far and inaccessible at the top of sheer cliffs. Only from the innermost recess of the side-canyon did the trail begin its tortuous and unrelenting climb to the top.

Grinding up the well-graded zig-zags in full exposure to the remorseless sun I began to catch up with and overtake some of the hikers I had met on my way down. There were no comments now on my ski-sticks - only envious glances. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon I regained the rim - in the words of the souvenir T-shirts - I had "Done The Canyon".

The descent into the depths of the chasm had been the highlight of my tour although less than 5% of all visitors venture onto the network of trails threading the Grand Canyon.

( The Commentator, The (Glasgow) HERALD Saturday 12th December 1998 )


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Colorado Circuit | Great Sand Dunes | Mesa Verde & Garden of the Gods

Colorado Rockies | Colorado National Monument | Canyonlands, Arches & Monument Valley | The Grand Canyon

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Travel & Guide Books & Maps - America:-



Arizona & Grand Canyon Insight GuideGrand Canyon and American SWGrand Canyon Country Best Easy Day Hikes in the Grand Canyon Ansel Adams - Grand Canyon and the SWFrommers Guide Grand Canyon Photographers Guide Grand CanyonLonely Planet USA Lonely Planet SW States

Rough Guide USA Rough Guide SW USA Lonely Planet: Driving thru AmericaSW USA & Las Vegas - DK Eyewitness GuideSW USA: Driving Guide Let's Go SW USA Let's Go USA Insight Guide to Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park Day Hikes Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park including Long's Peak

Best Easy Day Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park Guide to National Parks: Rocky Mountain National Park Bicycling America's National Parks: Canyonlands to Rocky Mountain National Park Climbing Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners SW USA: Insight Flexi Map Lonely Planet: Hiking in the Rocky MountainsLonely Planet: Rocky Mountains The Lost Continent - Travels in Small-town America - Bill Bryson Notes from a Big Country - Bill Bryson

Made in America - Bill BrysonExploring Arches & CanyonlandsUtah's National Parks Easy Hikes in Arches & Canyonlands Short Hikes in Arches & CanyonlandsLonely Planet: Hiking in the USARough Guide - SW USA Into the Wild A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains - Lonely Planet The Rocky Mountains - Rough Guide The Colorado Guide Denver - Insight Pocket Guide Rocky Mountain States - Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to the Colorado 14ers The High Peaks - Rock & Ice Climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park:

Colorado's FourteenersRocky Mountain National Park - Estes Park Valley - Climbers GuideRocky Mountain National Park - The High Peaks - Climbers Guide Colorado's Fourteeners - Maps Package 100 Classic Hikes in Colorado Hiking Colorado

Lonely Planet USA Independent Travellers USA 2003 Lets Go 2004 USA Road Trip USA Road Trip - California & the SW USA SW USA & Las VegasBackpackers HandbookBackpackers Field Manual

Backpacker MagazineWilderness TrainingWilderness SurvivalOutside Magazine Solo Hiking Essentials 101 Hiking Tips Epic Stories of Survival on the World's Highest Peaks

Complete Climbers Handbook Climbing Magazine Training for ClimbingClimbing in North America











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