Grand Canyon: Day 1

Thanksgiving equals 4 days off work equals an amazing opportunity to do some sightseeing! Last year that's how I saw Yosemite and this year it was time for Grand Canyon.

I had a morning flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas, where I rented a car (I got a free upgrade for a convertible 8^) and then a not-so-short ride to the Canyon. Initially I was hoping to do some sightseeing still on that day, but that turned out totally unrealistic. I was thinking of at least seeing the Grand Canyon Skywalk on the way, but I’m glad I didn’t even try. The drive from Vegas is a long one; I left around 1pm and by the time I got there it was totally dark. All I did was to grab some Thanksgiving buffet dinner at the hotel (not too great) and hop to bed.

The plan was to get up and start very early on the following day. It kinda worked. I was up at 6:45am, although I could have easily used some more sleep. Instead I grabbed some breakfast and, still half asleep, was on my way to the park.

My first stop was at the Visitor’s Center where I gathered some intel. In general park authorities strongly advise against trying to go all the way down to the Colorado river and back in one day. The lady I talked with did not seem to be too concerned about that (it was winter, it’s much more risky in the summer), but she thought it was too late -- it was after 9am -- and that I should probably not do it on that day. That didn’t sit very well with my plans so I decided to try anyway. If I saw I was progressing too slowly I could always turn around early.

Down the South Kaibab trail

After a short bus ride I was at the head of the South Kaibab trail. The Canyon was covered in fog as you can see on the first photo above.

At first I started jogging but the trail was steep and technical so soon I switched to a fast march. When I reached the "Ooh Aah" point I still could not see anything due to the fog, but shortly it cleared and the Canyon revealed itself in all its glory. What a sight!

Up the Bright Angel trail

I was moving at a decent pace and it seemed going to the river and back should not be a problem. I reached the river and started my way back along the Bright Angel trail, which was longer but supposedly less steep.

One of the highlights was reaching the Indian garden (photo on the right), an unexpected oasis full of life and colors.

By that time my knee started to hurt again (an after effect of the Chimera 100 miler) and I was faced with a dilemma. I was doing a good time and was hoping to make a 5km detour to the plateau point, which promised a great overlook of the river down below. However, extra 5 kilometers with a slight pain in the knee was not to be taken lightly.

Eventually I decided to try. And I'm glad I did. The view was pretty spectacular and the photo below really does not do it justice.

From then on it was just a grueling climb back to the top. Even though the knee was slowing me down somewhat, I finished well before the sunset. Although it ended just being a hike, not a run, I did a total of 32km and almost 2000m of elevation gain, managing to go all the way to the river and back; not too bad. I grabbed some quick dinner and went to bed to get some rest before the following two days of this adventure.

(Click for some Photo highlights from day 1; click 'All photos' for even more)

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