Rarely do I see the Lady and the Mr. Cardinal at the feeder together.
If she’s here, he’s nearby. And when she leaves, he takes his turn.
But once in a while…..
Just frozen brains
It was hard to get out of our sleeping bags that morning at Indian Garden. Low 13 F! Both of us had ice on our stocking caps. Yet nature and coffee called.
Looking at the North Rim, Home Sweet Home
After breakfast we walked west towards Plateau Point overlook to warm up before heading up 3100 feet (945 m) for the final trek of 4.6 miles (7.4 km).
Yes, that’s Mike in front of that over weight pack
The trail starts up rather gradually across the Tonto Formation. Then Jacobs Ladder switchbacks across the widest band of exposed rock, the Redwall Limestone. Usually an impenetrable rock face, Bright Angel trail was built in an ancient fault zone that creates a break in this sheer cliff. (Note the offset on the light-colored wide layer almost at the top of the Coconino Sandstone.)
Mule train passing below resthouse
Three-mile Resthouse sits at the top of the Redwall, a dividing line between forest and desert-scrub habitats.
From here the trail travels more gradually over crumbly layers of shale mixed with limestone and sandstone. And, of course more switchbacks, with waterbars that are logs across the trail to keep it from washing away. Sort of like unevenly spaced steps with a rise of 6-18 inches (15-45 cm).
Next stop, Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse, which also offers compost toilets and during summer potable water and sits below yet another steep cliff face of Coconino Sandstone. Both resthouses provide a sheltered place to drop the every growing heavier packs and have a snack. (Eating would seem to lighten the load but didn’t feel that way.)
Plus couldn’t stop for long or the body would start to chill.
Seeing the second tunnel gave hope that we were almost at the top. Well after many more switchbacks and waterbars that is.
By the time we got to First tunnel I was too tired to lift my feet let alone the camera.
But once at the top with no heavy pack on my back I turned to see where we had been. I felt triumph and awe filled with wonder. Plus hunger so strong I was very cranky when Mike said to pick up my pack to catch the bus to where our truck was parked. That was quickly resolved with dinner at the Arizona Room of Bright Angel Lodge where we sat in quiet reflection and watched sunset over the canyon.
Again we didn’t rush to get on the 4.7 mile (7.4 k) trail for the day and headed for the Silver Bridge at a still chilly below freezing 10:30am.
The Silver Bridge was constructed in the late 1960s to support the transcanyon pipeline carrying water from Roaring Springs to the South Rim.
This day, the Rio de Colorado, Spanish for “River of Color,” showed some of its truer ruddy self.
Since the completion of Glen Canyon Dam sediments are mostly trapped behind the dam typically leaving the river a crystal blue/green.
Fishery biologist holds brown trout
In addition, some native fishes adapted to the pre-dam warmer, muddier water, are becoming extinct in the cold, clear water which now supports introduced species.
Mule deer bucks none to anxious to leave the River trail
The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the River Trail, which continues east to the South Kaibab trail and Black Bridge, between 1933 and 1936 to enable hikers and mule riders to reach Phantom Ranch from the Bright Angel Trail.
The 1.6 mile (2.4 km) River Trail climbs above and follows the river passing through a sand dune habitat with vertical walls of Vishnu Schist rising more than 1400 feet (427 m) above our heads.
Where Pipe Creek enters the Colorado River Bright Angel Trail begins it’s slow 3.1 mile (5 km) ascent to Indian Garden where we spent the night.
First following the meanders of Pipe Creek including several shallow crossings.
Next comes the switchbacks known as the Devils Corkscrew and the long traverse through the desert-like Vishnu Schist environment. Every time I hike this part it feels shorter.
This tops out into a narrows through the Tapeats Sandstone showing extensive erosion by Garden Creek.
Groundwater seeping through the rock layers above is stopped by the Bright Angel Shale layer on top of the sandstone and comes out in several springs which have been used by people over a 1000 years.
It’s such a delight to suddenly find myself back in the lush streamside habitat approaching Indian Garden, even with the snow dusted South Rim in sight.
It was an early dinner and quickly into the tent sort of night as we crawled into our sleeping bags to stay warm with a low of 13F and dream of the next day’s 4.6 miles (7.4 km) to top out on the South Rim.
Snowing on the South Rim in the morning
I’d never hiked the South Kaibab trail into Grand Canyon before. It is a steep, 7 mile (11.26 km) ridge trail with no potable water. Not a great place to be during the heat of summer. However, a winter hike on it was ideal.
Bright Angel Camp
Unfortunately, my body didn’t quite agree about the ideal and was extremely exhausted after 7.5 hours downhill. Plus we basically didn’t get into camp until after dark.
Cabin rental through Xanterra
So the next day, after a very chilly mid 20 degree F night and sleeping in until 8am, we first explored Phantom Ranch.
The Canteen offers food & beverages, full meals require reservations
In 1922, the Fred Harvey Company commissioned Mary Jane Colter to redesign the original tourist camp built by David Rust twenty years earlier.
We went inside to warm up over a cup of cocoa and write postcards.
Everything used and sold here is carried in by mule train, as is all the garbage carried out.
After sitting in this warmth for a little while our legs started to stiffen up so we walked back to camp for water and snacks to hike back up the trail we came down after dark. The Bright Angel campground is nestled between Bright Angel Creek…
…and towering walls of 4.7 billion year old Vishnu Schist.
Closeup of the ancient schist with quartz and granite intrusions
Though a remote and rugged setting, this area has long been a destination for humans.
Almost 1000 years ago native people called Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) built their homes along the river.
Can’t say as I blame them.
Yet crossing the swift Colorado River had to be a hazardous undertaking before the National Park Service completed the present Kaibab Suspension Bridge in 1928.
The one-ton, 550-foot- long suspension cables were carried down into the canyon on the shoulders of mostly Havasupai tribesmen who walked single file down the trail while carrying the cables. And I thought carrying a 32 pound backpack was over much!
Confluence of Bright Angel Creek and Colorado River
But this day’s little hike was light and easy. And after seeing what was too dark to see the night before we headed back to camp.
Looking up at the snow on the South Rim
Thinking of the next day’s hike uphill. But that’s another story.
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