Backpacking in the Grand Canyon (Day 6)

full photoset and slideshow

Awakening and packing on the last day of the hike was accompanied by familiar bittersweet emotions.  The amazing winter light painted a picture to remember of the fantasy world we were leaving, framed by the side canyon’s shadows, and it ignited the sparkling white limestone near the South Rim where we were headed.



On a sign detailing the history of property disputes over control of the trail leading down was taped a notice that it would be closed for some time this morning to facilitate a helicopter salvage operation.


The trail itself was wide enough to accommodate hikers side by side with the pack trains led by central-casting  mule-skinners.


Surfaced with pulverized sandstone that was soft and springy to the feet and decoratively bordered with stable boulders, it snaked at a gentle grade along ledges carved in the pink sandstone.


Travel along it was once again vertical rather than horizontal–the same stretch of canyon above and below dramatically altering as the changing angle of view hid and revealed features.



An hour or so into the ascent, we heard the thumping of a large helicopter, which appeared in the sunlight above the rim, disappeared behind a buttress and soon reappeared dangling a miniscule-looking car from a long cable.


This, the ranger had informed us, was the remains of a vehicle deliberately driven over the edge by a suicide some months earlier. 

As we ascended toward the 7000 foot elevation of the rim, the temperature dropped and the air thinned, requiring regular short pauses for breath.  Nevertheless, greeting the steady flow of daytrippers from above swelled our pride in being grubby veteran adventurers. 

A tunnel bored through the rock just below the edge marked the trail’s end.


While we stood for our portrait to be taken by some polyester-garbed fellow-retirees in the parking lot, Steve chatted with them about the football team fortunes of their shared alma-mater in Cincinnati, Ohio.


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