Off exploring 15/10
Sunday 15th October - day 26.
Las Vegas to Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.
We set our alarms early. Partly because we had a long drive today, and partly because we wanted to remove ourselves from the Flamingo Casino employees parking lot before the daytime parking attendant turned up for work. The car park was quite busy. Groups of workers coming and going - presumably the night staff leaving and the day staff arriving. We provoked a couple of questioning glances but nothing more, as we cruised out of the parking lot and set off through the city, leaving the neon lights behind us and heading east towards Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.
We drove to Lake Mead to top up our water tanks and then on to the Hoover Dam. I must admit I had no particular interest but we had heard several recommendations to visit - they were right.
This massive structure was first conceived in 1902. Building took place between 1932 and 1936.
The foresight and skill of those engineers to build such an immense and ingenious source of hydroelectricity all those years ago, was astonishing. In one direction we looked out over the beautiful Lake Mead and its turbine towers. In the other direction we peered down into the deep canyon with a distant river in the bottom and the turbines at the base of the dam.
We then started our long drive to Grand Canyon.
Breakfast provided a good excuse for a mid morning break at Coyote Creek.
After a long drive through great scenery and entertained by our Peter May audiobook, we arrived at the south entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park.
A brief read of the information leaflet advised us that the best/only way to get around the park was by shuttle bus. Obediently, we parked our RV in the indicated in area parking lot number 1. Chris was planning a long training run whilst we explored a shorter distance route, so he jumped straight in the 4pm shuttle bus, expecting to be back by 7.30, taking his satellite phone and advising us to call park rescue if he had not returned by 9pm.
Meanwhile we donned running kit, sunscreen and caps and toddled over to the visitor centre for maps and advice. Our guide book and various blogs had made it clear that it was important when visiting Grand Canyon not to just drive around the rim and peep over the edge, but to hike down into the canyon.
We decided to trail run down the South Kaibab Trail for a few miles to Cedar Ridge, before returning back up to the rim. Meanwhile Chris had decide to run down the same trail to the Colorado River in the bottom of the canyon, and then run back up the Bright Angel Trail. This was about 16.5 miles with a 1400metre change in elevation. Our guide map suggested that this ‘strenuous two day hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers....’
The Grand Canyon was a spectacularly beautiful place, very busy, but very well managed. The shuttle worked well and we arrived at the South Kaibab trailhead for our first glimpse of the canyon. It was astonishing. Everyone has seen pictures of the Grand Canyon but I don’t think it’s possible to appreciate the sheer vastness of it all until you are there.
The late afternoon light gave the rocks a pinkish red glow. We ran down into the canyon along the path - well maintained and initially gently sloping, then steeper. Great slabs of red sandstone surrounded us above and below. Far below we could see the path zig-zagging down towards a greenish grey plateau, with a further deeper canyon below that, the river invisible from here.
We ran down to the well-named Ooh-Aah Point, stopped for photos and then ran on to Cedar Ridge.
It was beautiful - surprisingly peaceful and quiet with only one or two other hikers. We ran / walked back to the top and watched the sunset from the canyon rim.
We arrived back at the RV for hot tea and showers. We started preparing supper until at about 8pm, the door burst open and Chris was back, having briefly surprised a Dutch couple in a similar RV nearby! His there-and-back trip to the canyon floor had taken 2 hours 55 minutes.
Chris had an early flight back to San Diego from Flagstaff via Phoenix tomorrow morning. We thought that it would be a good idea to camp overnight somewhere fairly near the airport.
As soon as Chris was showered and full of snacks, we set off south out of the park to a free campground that we found on a forest road just north of Flagstaff.
It was very remote but we drove to the GPS coordinates given on the website and found a wide gravel pull-in, with a circle of rocks that had previously been used as a fire pit. Perfect.
Chris busied himself collecting wood and lighting the fire whilst we prepared steaks, corn and sweet potatoes. Once the inferno had died down to give perfect glowing charcoal we cooked supper and toasted our toes by the campfire.
Our last evening with Chris - it had been a fantastic few days - so much fun doing so many different things. As we ate, we could hear coyotes howling in the woods nearby - very eerie! We reminisced and laughed about all the good times, before dowsing the fire, and retiring to bed. It was another cold night but the van was cosy and we were soon asleep.