Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vacation, Part 2: Elevation, Shmel...*catches breath*...evation

Our second day at the Grand Canyon would be one of our most exhausting in recent memory. I mean this in the best possible sense.

We chose to take a day hike, descending on the South Kaibab Trail into the canyon. We weren't sure how far we would go; we decided to see what "felt" right.

The trailhead is at an elevation of 7200 feet. The Colorado River is at 2500 feet. Translation? The trail tends to look like this:

The views were absolutely amazing, though:

This was our view for lunch:

We descended further, until we turned around and saw how far we'd come (gulp):

Yes, we had to make it all the way back to the top, so we figured it was time to turn back.

The downside of hiking into a canyon is that the hard part comes LAST. You're already worn out from coming DOWN the rocky trail, and two and a half hours later you realize you've descended something like 1500 feet.

Now, consider that you're still at almost 6000 feet altitude, and...well, your midwestern lungs just aren't happy with you. We had to stop about every 5 minutes on the way up and take a serious break. We recovered fairly quickly, but we couldn't go far between breathers. Looking back to see how far we'd climbed kept us going, because the canyon rim never seemed to get any closer.

Finally, we made it. This sign was apropos:

To give you some perspective, here's a view of the ridge we traversed:

We celebrated with some haute cuisine:

After all this, we still walked another several miles (on level ground, thank you) to take in more of the views. We were absolutely beat, and we gorged on pizza once we got back to the hotel.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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