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Grand Canyon South Rim Flagstaff

12th July 2010

A Hike Along The South Rim, Alone in a Crowd, a Bit Like the Condors

Panorama from Pima Point      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Mohave Point      (please use scroll bar)

    After an exciting scrumptious breakfast of porridge and coffee, I headed off just south of Tusayan (not the same as the ruins) to find a campsite nearer the west side of the south rim, and also on route 64 for my journey south tomorrow. I soon found a self -registration camp, and helped a French couple self-register before I left for the Grand Canyon again.
    I parked at Market Plaza, and caught a shuttle bus to Red Rock. There I had to wait in a long queue till there was room on a shuttle bus going out to Hermits Rest. I got chatting to an extended family; a retired couple who used to take their daughter around the national parks, and were now taking her around them again, with the daughter's brood of children too. It was good to see. Once on the bus, a young woman sat next to me, and her two kids were sitting in the seat across the aisle. She asked me about the bus stops, since the bus didn't stop at all the same stops on the return journey, and a walk would be necessary in several cases. I showed her the map and explained to her the options available to her. As a joke I said it wouldn't really matter anyway since the last bus was at two o'clock. Her kids overheard this and repeated it in horror. Then the people behind the kids overheard them, and they repeated it. By a rapid process of Chinese whispers, half the bus was soon horror struck to learn the last bus was at two o'clock. Fortunately the woman realised what was going on and told them it was just a joke. Frightened frowns soon turned to smiles. Crumbs, if it had got as far as the driver, I might have been thrown off for citing a riot. We both had a good chuckle at that calamity. Her kids must have thought I was bonkers.
Granite Rapid One Mile Down - Monument Creek Running in from The Bottom of the Picture
The 3,000' 280 Million Year Old Abyss
    Once at Hermits Rest, my mission was to buy an ice-cream and then walk all the way back along the south rim, at 7 miles, a stroll; but it was fiercely hot. The queue for the ice-cream was almost as long as the queue to get on the bus, so I dropped that option and just started walking.
    After taking in the overlook at Pima Point, I walked a while and spotted Granite Rapid down in the canyon. Like most Grand Canyon rapids, Granite Rapid formed where a side stream flowed into the river. At Granite Rapid, Monument Creek entered the Colorado River from the south. During floods, side streams deposited boulders, rocks, and sand into the Colorado River. This debris constricted the channel, forcing the river to flow with speed and power. This faster river crashed over the debris-strewn riverbed, forming powerful rapids. Granite Rapid rated an 8 on Grand Canyon National Park's 10-point scale of river difficulty.
    I took in Monument Creek Vista, and The Abyss, with its 3,000' cliffs telling the story of lake, seabed and sand dune deposits over the last 280 million years.
    I continued my journey around the rim, stopping off at Powell Point to take a close look at the monument, named after John Wesley Powell who lead the 1869 expedition through the canyon. The route also took a detour around Orphan Mine. During the Cold War, uranium was mined here, but when the 'cold' thawed, Congress ordered the mine be closed down. Now a multi-million dollar programme was in place to decontaminate the area.
Bright Angel Trail Running Through Bright Angel Fault
    Just before I concluded my trek, I passed Trailview Overlook. This allowed an unobstructed view all the way down the Bright Angel fault, through which the Bright Angel Trail passed. The distance between the rim tops was 24 miles; hard miles. Looking from above at the folk climbing up the never ending switchbacks to the Bright Angel trailhead, I was glad that I had decided not to hike down to the river and back.
    Then, just 100m past the Trailview Overlook, looking down on the pinyons just above the precipice, I saw two California condors quietly sitting on the branches, with not a care in the world.
California Condors (Notice the Tags)
    The hike was easy, and good exercise, but I was probably the only mad fool walking all the way along the rim. I did pass groups of folks who seemed to be just strolling between bus stops. Pleasantries were exchanged, often one sided, and no conversations struck up at all, which was just as well since most people seemed to be French. I concluded my hike and took a welcome shower at Mather Campground.
    On the way back to my campsite, driving through pouring rain in a spectacular thunderstorm, I stopped off at Tusayan for some food. Cooking in the dark combined with rain did not appeal to me. It gave me time to take stock of the last few days.
    The South Rim was very commercialised, and for me it was too crowded. I could appreciate why the South Rim was the most popular stopping off point; communication via good roads, rail and air with major cities was the overriding factor. For me, the North Rim was much less crowded, and provided excellent hiking, and solitude was available for those who wanted it. The south was elbow-to-elbow let-me-see, let-me-see.
    The Grand Canyon was truly grand from the sheer scale of it, and also up to two billion years of geology had been peeled away and was there for all to see and appreciate. Seeing that vast chasm, carved one mile deep by the Colorado River, it was hard to believe that all that volume had been eroded away in the relatively short time of six million years.
    I had enjoyed other canyons more, but I took my hat off to this granddaddy of them all.
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Grand Canyon South Rim Flagstaff

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Last updated 16.7.2010