11 hours ago
Sunday, October 23, 2011
As we were deciding how to spend Fall Break, K mentioned this place called Toroweap. Never heard of it. Then he mentioned it was in a remote area. Didn't scare me. Then he added a few details: no water, no cell phone, primitive camping, no toilet if you can't get one of ten campsites, must have four-wheel drive, must have a high-clearance vehicle, a tow out of there will cost you $1000-$2000 dollars, take extra "rations" (people only use the word "rations" when they're talking serious). He mentioned something about a 60 mile dirt road with washboard gravel and then changed his story later saying, "Actually, it's more like 90 miles." In the end, I simply said, "Well, we'll never be younger than we are now--we may as well try it." And off we went. After rumbling down the road for a good long while, we saw our first sign: Only 65 miles to go!
Only 37 miles to go!
Our trusty vehicle. Looking out the window from inside the Mt. Trumbull Schoolhouse. Sounds like the Bundy family was THE family in that area once upon a time (maybe now as well?).
So this is where they got some of the lumber to build the St. George LDS Temple. Amazing. We walked the little trail and saw the post marking the Temple Trail. Yeah, just 80 miles between the sawmill and the temple. I think the sign said it took them five days to haul a load of timber. Amazing.
I apologize for the poor quality of photo, but K and I had a good chuckle over this sign about all the things you could do within a one hour drive! We had already been out driving around on a dirt road for about two hours as it was! The sign made it sound like you were at a park in L.A. and needed to know what activities were available in case you had an extra hour to kill. It was just funny. This sign was located at the trailhead for Mt. Trumbull and the site of Nixon Spring. Also, it's very close to the Sawmill Site.
We stopped at a pretty little place called Nampaweap to chase down some petroglyphs. It was a lovely walk on a ridiculously well-signed trail.
This is the sign at the park boundary. All the names and boundaries are confusing. Most of the land is BLM. The afore-mentioned stuff we did (like petroglyphs) was located in a national monument, but Toroweap is in the national park. The monument is called: Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. The national park is called Grand Canyon National Park, but it's called the Tuweep Area because it is not accessible from other parts of Grand Canyon National Park. I don't know what they mean, but the words such as Toroweap and Tuweep are Paiute Indian words. What I wonder is why it's sometimes spelled "weap" and sometimes spelled "weep."
About 4-5 miles before you get to the Toroweap Overlook, you'll pass the ranger contact station on your left (hard to miss out there in the middle of nowhere...). There's an American flag which is in bad shape and a restroom with a small information sign. I assume the NPS ranger lives there, but we didn't knock on the door or anything. There's also an air hose for your tire. That's about it for the list of helps and comforts. We noticed they have a barrel for catching rain water.
Home Sweet Home! Toroweap Camground has ten sites. We LOVED Site #6 and it had a really flat tent spot. Sites #1-#9 are regular and Site #10 is a group site and can be reserved in advance. There are two (count 'em, TWO) composting toilets--so great! Don't be fooled, however, just getting into and out of the campground is a reminder of why you really need a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance in that area. Sites #1-#3 are to the right when you enter the campground and Sites #4-#10 are to the left. There is no loop of sites through the campground.
Meet Lizard. Lizard knows no strangers. Lizard wanted to be in on the party from the moment we showed up. Lizard watched, briefly, from the rock. Lizard ran between K's shoes (size 14 I might add) and just sat there intently watching him pound in the spike for the tent. No fear! We kept chasing Lizard away so as not to squish him (like BJ once killed an innocent lizard inside an NPS boundary...), but Lizard wouldn't have any of it. At one point, Lizard RAN and FLUNG itself onto the tent canvas and just stretched out as happy as could be. Lizard was wearing out the welcome you might say.
Lizard climbed up on my hiking shoe without an invitation. Lizard was contemplating a journey up my pantleg so I kicked it off. This lizard was the most wildlife interaction and observation we had the entire trip.
Okay, this is slightly gross. I spit on the ground to get the lizard to move and it immediately started lapping up my spit. I guess if you're a desert dweller, you capitalize on ALL your opportunities to stay hydrated. Don't ask questions. Drink up! Gift from Heaven.
Destination reached. This is at the Toroweap Overlook.
That would be the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Grand views in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona!
Notice K's foot on Poison Rock (named Poison Rock because...one drop and you're dead...forgive me, it's an old Arlo joke).
K scrambling around on rock after rock after rock.
Can you imagine getting to the end of a ninety mile dirt road and then finding out the restroom is closed? Granted, there are two composting toilets in the camground about a half mile away, but just getting to the campground is sort of another trick.
This is cryptobiotic soil or crypto-organic soil--not sure of the absolute proper name. Let's just say it's Very Special Soil. It takes no less than a century to form. So please, do not step on it. It's fragile. Desert hiking instructions always tell you to walk on the rocks as much as possible so that the Very Special Soil can do its thing. When you see it in real life, you can't help but think, "Now THAT'S Very Special Soil."
Our first hike was the Esplanade Loop Trail which takes off from the Toroweap Campground Site #10. We simply had a lovely time. Love walking in the desert when the temperatures are mild: 60-70 degrees.
This is a view from the Tuckup Trail. We only did a couple of miles on this trail, although K read somewhere it's the best day hike in the park. It was all very nice and lovely. The skies were hazy due to a fire on the South Rim.
K scouting around with the binocs. He doesn't much like to pose for photos, so I sneak them in when I can.
I like lichen. This green lichen was growing in circles. I assume it starts in the center and grows outward in a near-perfect circle. The second lichen photo depicts the circle pattern even if it has to grow on two surfaces, such as on the edge of a rock. The third lichen photo shows how lichen really does eat rocks.
My Sweetie. I didn't care for any of the pictures he took of me, so in this blog post, all you get to see are pictures of him.
This is a cairn. It's just one form of communication in the desert. One warning about hiking around Toroweap is that the trails require route finding skills and navigation. Well, we found the routes! Sometimes the cairns were excellent such as this one and sometimes the cairns weren't there at all. Some people labor to erect them and others kick them over.
This was our hike on the Saddlehorse Canyon Trail, which is a loop trail departing from the Toroweap Campground Site #5. Out of the three trails we hiked, I fell in love with this one the most. All kinds of flora, a little up and down in elevation, and of course, wondrous views!
K complained, "Why CAN'T I throw a rock?"
K's view. He IS the better photographer.
K, standing on the edge, again.
One of the things I like about hiking in the desert is seeing the impact of water on the landscape. These holes remind me of volcanic craters, carved out by any rain that ever was. It would be so cool to witness a rain storm at Toroweap (if you could do it without wondering how you would drive the ninety miles back on a muddy, primitive road). I just like the way they look.
Did someone say something about a volcano?
K vs. the Volcano. We started down the road to Vulcan's Throne to the trailhead which allows you to summit the volcano by hiking a mere 1,000 feet in 1 mile. There's another trail which takes you the two or three thousand feet down to the river. We felt good about driving over the regular rocks. We managed the dirt road with very deep ruts left over from muddy days gone by. We passed through Toroweap "Lake." However, when we got to the lava rock on this road, we weren't too sure. We talked. K walked. We started driving down it. Twice (backed up twice). And then we decided to leave it for another day when we might have newer tires and higher clearance. We had been so fortunate in avoiding car problems that we didn't want to risk it on our last night there.
One last look...
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
K and I hiked up to the cave on Saturday to kiss it goodbye for the winter. What a lovely day! The weather was perfect for hiking, the leaves were pretty, and we saw lots of ranger friends as well as regular hikers on the trail. So many people to say "hi" to. I ended up batting Royce's tour while K visited with a few rangers. He hiked around to the exit to meet me and we walked down together, for the last time this season. So. Many. Memories. I opened this blog post with a photo of the sun rising up over the mountain and peeking down into the canyon. The sun is rising. Do you see the moon? It is setting. So much symbolism in one photograph, as amateur as my photography can be. Sigh.
Approaching Quarter Way.
Good ol' Kodachrome.
It's mid to late October. It has snowed up there on the cave trail. And yet, stuff still grows. Right out of the rock. Every living thing is programmed to do its best! No matter the opposition it will face in the near future (cold, snow), that green cutie is just doing its thing right up until it can't do it any longer.
Lesson learned! If there's one thing I know how to do really well on that trail, this would be it! Oh, the experiences I've had! The sounds I've heard! The number of times I've yelled, "ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOCK!" The slides I've seen... Earlier this season, I felt ill. I went to the doctor because of it. My white blood cell count was high and my kidney function was low. I ended up telling the doctor (not my usual doc) I was pretty stressed out about potential rockfall at the cave. He asked me all these questions about depression and anxiety. I explained I felt fine otherwise, but that I really worried about a big slide or something happening at the cave. THAT VERY NIGHT, there was a huge storm and the cave trail was closed the whole next day because that much rock had to be shoveled. In fact, the Canyon Road was closed that next day because there were slides all the way across. After that, I felt fine. My levels were back to normal. You can call me crazy, but I truly believe that I "know" that mountain. I was wondering how much saturation it could take before things really had to slough off. I've learned over the years that after a big slough, things are usually fine the rest of the season. And they were. The end.
Stuff they've found during construction. Is that a GIN bottle? Heh, heh, heh.
Wonder how Packrat feels about all THIS?
New shelter over new steps near exit shelter.
This is the lovely industrial-strength chicken wire that has been strung above the exit shelter to protect workers during construction from rockfall. There were a few chunky rocks (football size) up there, dutifully caught by said wire.
These are the new steps going up to the exit shelter. K said that none of those steps were in place a couple of weeks ago. "None of those pillars had been built two weeks ago," he stated. So, things are coming along. Hopefully they can finish before more snow flies (because, yes, people...the snow has already flown up there). Hopefully things will be back to normal, that elusive memory, next year.
A little fall color on the trail. By the way, Nancy's Earthquake Monitor was not in place. Grrrr...
The rangers were all very smiley on Saturday. Do you know why? It was their LAST Saturday of the season! Oh, just kidding. Rangers lover rangering, but that park can make a body tired. K and I popped into the VC on our way down just for a quick minute. We could totally SMELL the party in the back room. Not sure what was on the menu, but we wondered if all the other visitors noticed the same thing. Those VUA's sure know how to put on a spread with nothing more than a crockpot and a smoothie machine.
Goodbye, Cave. 'Til Spring, then.