Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fletcher Canyon - 5/29/10

What fun we had today! Twenty-nine hikers hiked Fletcher Canyon in the Spring Mountains today. It was quite an adventure since we didn't know what conditions to expect when we began. The air was cool and fresh as the wind blew up the canyon but, in the sunshine, it became warm. This hike is almost four miles with a small elevation gain of only 430 feet. The holiday weekend did not bring the crowds to the canyon so we were able to enjoy the canyon with minimal extra friends.

The first sign of the spring thaw was the large amount of water flowing down the wash beginning at the point where the trail begins leading up the hill to the left. Coming out from between the two large rocks which symbolize the turn in the trail into the slot canyon, we began seeing large patches of snow on the sides. The snow patches were rounded and drooping in Gaudi-ish fashion. Immediately, we noticed the lovely smell of cedar and pine and realized that we were standing in the middle of what must have been a large avalanche from the winter snows. There were trees down and the pine needles were carpeting the ground.

Soon, the canyon had narrowed so much that we were essentially hiking up the shallow creek. In a few places, it was necessary to cross over snow drifts which still sat frozen in the middle of the trail. The creek flowed underneath the snow and we had to take care that the snow was not going to collapse beneath our feet as we hiked.

The final "snow bridge" was a doozy! For around forty to fifty feet, it was necessary to climb the snow, hike up the canyon, then climb down the snow in order to get to the end game of Obstacle Rock. This part was slippery and the consequence of falling would have resulted in a ten foot steep slide down to a hole that would have been difficult to climb out of next to the canyon wall. We all made it, with much ado, and sat to enjoy Obstacle Rock which had a lot of water flowing on each side of it through the narrow opening.

Few by few, we began making the return hike which was no less difficult through the snow and water. The canyon was beautiful so we took our time getting out. Below, a picture of a deer which came running across the road when we were leaving was taken by Becky Anderson, a new guest photographer. Nice catch, Becky! Those critters are pretty fast, aren't they?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rainbow Loop - 5/27/10

This tame yet somewhat challenging loop hike of 5.65 miles was attended by seventeen hikers this morning. The elevation gain for the hike is 1170 feet which is mostly attained in the third mile of the hike. Rainbow Loop begins at the parking area just before the Kyle Canyon Visitor's Center. It then leads through campgrounds and along the roadside wash until just past the small community of Rainbow, Nevada.

The hike begins its climb here and reaches the South Loop Trail after passing a rather elaborate lean-to built into the trees where young hearts enjoy evenings. After following the South Loop for a short distance, the hike turns off to the left to begin crossing above Rainbow. At the summit of the hike, there is a beautiful view of Mt. Charleston. Today, as we reached this point, the 12,000 foot mountain escaped from the clouds and showed off its coat of white snow. See the last photo where Photoshop has been applied to enhance the watercolor view.

There was a lot of residual snow in these upper elevations of the trail. Perhaps we changed our planned hikes from Red Rock to Mt. Charleston a little too soon. However, it is beautiful and the air is fresh. Who knew that winter would just keep coming? Below, we could see the Mt. Charleston community located further up Kyle Canyon as we took our break.

The hike took its only right turn here onto a small trail which was difficult to follow due to the snow patches and fallen trees. We found our way and entered into the quaint Rainbow community where some lucky people have summer and year round homes. At the bottom of the hill, we turned back onto the approach trail and returned to our cars.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grand Canyon Guest Photos

Some guest photos from the Grand Canyon have been posted at the bottom of the Grand Canyon 2010 entry. Scroll down to see them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Telephone Canyon - 5/22/10

There were 35 hikers who arrived to hike the Telephone Canyon Trail today. This trail begins at the Robber's Roost parking area on Highway 156 (Deer Creek Hwy) and descends back down to Highway 158 (Kyle Canyon Hwy). Cars had to be spotted to shuttle hikers back to the parking area at the end of the hike. The air was fresh and cool. In the beginning of the hike, the temperature was in the low 40's. The air warmed up by the end when the predicted stiff breeze had only just begun.

The hike starts down a steep path, leads past an old cabin then heads into a large pine grove. It stays in the pine trees for most of the hike then comes into more low-growing foliage near the end. The last part of the hike is on the old work road which must have been made when the telephone line which runs up the canyon was put in to service the summer homes being built above the Deer Creek picnic area. The dirt road might also have served as THE ROAD before a small paved road was put in. Of course, now, the road being used is a two-lane highway.

After confirming with the online topo map, it has been concluded that this hike is 3.7 miles with an elevation loss of 1400 feet. However, with the "oops" trail included, we will call it 4 miles!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Joe May Canyon - 5/20/10

Our guest reporters for the Joe May Canyon hike are Carl and Luci Widman. Their report is as follows:

We headed to the Sheep Mts. today and took the Joe May road that was a very dusty, bumpy ride for all 25 hikers up for the challenge. Not sure what this place was called and I don't think we'll do it again. We walked along a wash for the most part and came across a lean-to that housed a tank for water collection. This creates a watering hole for the wildlife, although is was dry at this time. At this point we lost 4 hikers who had had enough and returned to the cars.

One thing we did see that was quite captivating were the flowering cactus - looked like prickly pear with beautiful pink or magenta blooms and lots of buds. There were quite a few little daisy like blooms all over and along our hike. Including a picture too of a rattlesnake that we tripped over. Carl woke him up and I made him mad - and then cautioned Candice before he would be able to strike. John (big John) approached him for a good shot while Carl used his zoom for the same results.

After walking at a gradual incline for about 2+ miles the group actually aborted the hike. It was somewhat boring, very hot - about 90 - and dusty. After returning to the cars we had our snack and everyone was glad we put this hike behind us.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grand Canyon 2010 - Photos & Commentary - 5/14/10 thru 5/16/10

Day 1
This entry will, hopefully, give the reader an idea of what is involved in an excursion down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Although this was not an official Around the Bend Friends event, most of the participants were members of the club. The weekend could not have been more perfect in many ways and we all had an amazing time. It is difficult to tell the whole story without many pictures and there was an attempt to reduce the number so please enjoy.

The weather on the rim was quite cold when we began. A storm front was moving along the north rim of the canyon and it made for some beautiful scenery. By the time we were at Cedar Ridge, a mere 1.5 miles, we were shedding some of our outer layers. Twelve hikers hiked down the South Kaibab Trail and stayed together for much of the time. There were eight other hikers who came down via the Bright Angel Trail, cutting across on the Tonto Trail and finishing on the South Kaibab Trail.

We all know that we have had quite an unusual spring and the flowers were out in full force here at the canyon from the Tonto Plateau down to the bottom. We did not expect the amazing beauty that surrounded us as we trekked down through these areas. Of course, the squirrels were, again, an issue. From the top to the bottom, these little creatures would beg, borrow and steal to get to your human food. This picture was taken because it was unusual to see a squirrel actually eating what it was supposed to eat as it hung from the scrub bush.

We gathered at the Tipoff Point, took a small nourishment break then headed downhill once again. The weather was looking a little ominous so the pace did not slow down. Nearing the bottom, we did experience a few raindrops but nothing major. The river came into view as well as the two bridges. We would be crossing the Black Bridge for the South Kaibab Trail. Later, we would cross the Silver Bridge on the Bright Angel Trail return. In the picture below, you can see where Bright Angel Creek flows into the Colorado River from Bright Angel Canyon in which Phantom Ranch is situated.

One interesting fact: the mules only cross at the Black Bridge. The Silver Bridge's floor is made of a see-through grate which may make the mules balk. The floor of the Black Bridge has wooden slats laid lengthwise for comfortable hoofing. We entered a thirty-foot tunnel at the bottom of the canyon and came out on the bridge. We passed the boat landing and Native American pueblo ruins. Next, we passed the Bright Angel Campground and the Ranger's residence. Finally, we made our approach into Phantom Ranch ... past the mules and barn, past a few cabins, past the showers, and ...

... There it was; the famous spigot from which all hikers fill their used bottles and bladders with water! The spigot stood in front of the canteen/ souvenier store/ coffee house/ hotel registration desk/ dinner & breakfast dining room/ game room/ kitchen/ and, well, I think that may be it. We were assigned our cabin; inspected the wonderful shower rooms; then took up residence on one of the picnic tables by the canteen while we watched for the other hikers to come in. Dinner wasn't until 5:00 (for steak) or 6:30 (for stew). Before and after dinner, there were lectures which were given by a talented ranger named Mandi who lives down in this Shangri-la every other week.

Needless to say, we all slept pretty good that night.

Day 2

After breakfast at 6:30 the next morning, two hikes left out of the ranch. One group of hikers hiked up the North Kaibab Trail for about 6 miles to see Ribbon Falls. Another group of hikers (seen taking off in the picture to the left) decided to explore the Clear Creek Trail with overviews of the Colorado River and the inner canyon plateaus. (Two hikers left very early to hike up to the North Rim where they would sleep one night then return rim to rim the next day.)

The hike to Ribbon Falls began in a large slot canyon where the trail was fairly flat for about 5.5 miles. There were six bridges which crossed Bright Angel Creek on the way to the unique waterfall. The towering walls of the slot canyon gave way to a beautiful flower-filled meadow as we followed an old phone line up through Bright Angel Canyon. Using the bridge route (because of the swollen and uncrossable Bright Angel Creek), we turned off the North Kaibab Trail and went another one half mile to the falls. The waterfall came from a cliff about 100 feet above. Around half way down, the water hit a moss covered pinnacle of rock. The water splashed and sprayed then trickled down the moss in every direction. We were able to climb up behind the top of the pinnacle where the best pictures were taken.

After taking a break in the spray of the falls, we began our return to the ranch which amounted to a long easy walk downhill. The hikers who explored the Clear Creek Trail reported that the views on this hike were tremendous and they only had to hike about three miles to see some of the best ones. Again, we waited for dinner. In the meantime, we hobbled over to the showers or relaxed on the benches. Yours truly soaked her feet in the cold creek for the second day in a row! Simply heaven!

There were deer which lived in and around Phantom Ranch. Everyone enjoyed seeing them nibble their way around the ranch in the morning, late afternoon and evening. They didn't seem afraid of people in the least. On this evening, someone had dislocated his knee on the hike down and had to be taken out by helicopter. The helicopter landed right in front of the ranger station. There's a rumor that this door-to-door service costs around $5000.

Much care should be taken on the 5 hour descent into the canyon. Don't hurry and keep your concentration.

Day 3

The next morning, all hikers "met the mountain." Some left without breakfast for an early start. Some stayed and ate breakfast at 5:00am. Some hiked up the North Kaibab Trail. Two hiked up the South Kaibab Trail. But, most hiked up the Bright Angel Trail albeit at different starting times. We all had at least one buddy with us but, in the end, because of the nature of the climb, it was one hiker against the hill.

We began the climb hiking down to the river and crossing on the Silver Bridge. As the sun came into the inner canyon, we hiked next to the river then turned left to begin the Devil's Corkscrew, a series of switchbacks seen in the photo to the left which brought the hiker up to the gardens. For around 2 miles, we hiked next to a creek filled with vegetation which included several large trees. Eventually, we arrived at our halfway point, Indian Gardens. Indian Gardens contained a campground for backpackers and shaded area for a nice rest stop. Many hikers use this place for a prolonged break. Still feeling fairly fresh and wanting to keep shade around as long as possible, our break was only around 15 minutes.

After Indian Garden, few pictures are taken. First, the view doesn't change much. Second, concentra- tion on getting to the top takes over your thoughts. Keep the pace slow and steady. Stay hydrated. Rest in the shady spots. Look out for the many mule trains going by. Gage your water intake and reserves. Eat electrolytes. Drink electrolytes. Make new friends as you leapfrog with them over and over on the way up. Pay no mind to the first small tunnel you pass through. There is still a ways to go. Finally, the second small tunnel has arrived. You pass through this one, make the choice on whether to go left to the lodges or right to the parking lot and, poof, you're there!

Congratulations! You made it! Pats on the backs all around. Many kudos and we can't wait until next year!

Guest Photos
This section is reserved for any photos that guest photographers would like to post from this amazing trip into another world at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Just email your favorite photos to Kay Blackwell and she will post them. (Please, only your favorites!!!)

David Kretchmar is one hiker that hiked the Clear Creek Trail. He sends us these photos taken from that overlooking trail which leads east from Phantom Ranch. Above is a photo of Sumner Butte. There were many flowers growing on the plateau on which they hiked. To the left is a photo of the Phantom Ranch from above.

As the trail leads east above the Colorado River, views of the river below and the South Kaibab Trail are seen across the canyon. To the left, you see the final switchbacks of the Kaibab Trail as it descends to the tunnel and Black Bridge. Below, this photo shows the canyon going east where there is no access from above. Thanks David!