Saturday 7th November. We arrive at the Grand Canyon South Rim, the final destination on our hiking tour of the National Parks, just before sun down at approximately 5:15pm. We stopped at the first view point of the canyon after entering the park, Desert View. It was a short walk to the rim and the sun was now setting. Our first sight of the Canyon was simply breathtaking as the sky was turning from red to orange to pink casting the canyon in a kaleidoscope of colours. From this point you can see the Navajo Mountain and the Painted Desert. It really is a lovely spot to be introduced to the canyon.
It is only upon returning to our car that we realise we still have another 25 miles until we reach our accommodation for the next 3 nights and by now it is absolutely pitch black. We finally get there around 8pm and all I want to do is take a bath and wash out the dust from our earlier tour in Monument Valley. Tony makes himself scarce in the cafeteria - the only spot in the lodge with a good WiFi connection.
Our lodge is located a 5 minute walk away from the rim. Free shuttle buses run between the various stops within the Grand Canyon Village and use of them is encouraged to reduce pollution etc.
Before turning in for the night, we decide on the hike we want to do the next morning and resolve to get up early to catch the village shuttle bus to the trail head.
Sunday 8th November. First resolve is broken as we don't make it to breakfast until after 10am and by the time we've caught the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trail head, it is around 11am.
The South Kaibab trail is listed by the Park Rangers as strenuous to difficult - great another steep descent with a narrow ridge and sheer drop off! It's not that I mind the descent, it's the climb back to the rim in the hottest part of the day that I'm not looking forward to. The warning signs say that this trail has no shade and that we will be in direct sunlight the whole way down and the way up again. Hikers should avoid hiking between the hours of 10am and 4pm! We start down just after 11am! It doesn't take us too long to reach the first notable view, Ooh Ahh Point. It is pretty obvious how it came by its name.....the rock face to the right of us disappears at this point! I preferred to call it Ahh Shiiiiit! Whilst pausing to take our usual glamour shots, we get talking to another English couple (a surprisingly rare species - we've bumped into more Germans so far) on their way up. After comparing trip notes for 30 minutes, Tony and I continue down to Cedar Ridge which if I recall correctly is a 1500ft descent from the rim. I am no longer surprised to see restrooms on reaching this view point and even less surprised that Tony needs to use them - after all it must be the best part of 50 minutes since he last went. After taking in the glorious view, we make our slow return to the rim, where Tony needs to use the restrooms once again!
We followed this up with a 2 mile rim walk from to Yavapai Observation, after which it got dark and cold very quickly so we caught the shuttle bus back to the lodge for dinner and bed.
Monday 9th November. My suggestion for today's hike was the 12 mile rim trail so after breakfast we walked the 5 minutes to the rim and caught the shuttle bus to Hermits Rest trail head, picked up the rim trail and started walking back towards the village. The highlights of this trail is the view of the Colorado River and rapids, and the view of the village itself. The trail turned out to be more of a work out than we had expected - we seemed to be hiking uphill alot of the way - and when we finally descended into the village, Tony decided that 9 miles was enough for the day.
Tuesday 10th November. We have a 5/6 hour drive back to Las Vegas and the car has to be returned to Alamo by 12.30pm so we've decided to leave at 7am to give us a chance of getting the car back on time. We end up leaving at 8am as Tony refuses to leave without breakfast but we have an extra hour because Vegas is an hour behind. The trip is prettty straight forward with the added bonus of crossing over the Hoover Dam. The authorities are in the process of building a mammoth bridge which will become a more direct route into Vegas rather than having to cross the dam. As you can imagine the road works and diversions are enormous and as a result there are transport police permanently stationed out here to keep the frayed tempers of harried motorists under control. Regular readers, you will not be surprised to hear that we had to pull over at this point so that Tony could ask the transport police if he could use their portable toilets! Despite the unanticipated but not entirely unexpected stop for "see a toilet, need a toilet Tony", we deliver the car back to the rental office with 15 minutes to spare.