Hike Date: March 28, 2014. Since having a baby 4 months ago, I’m not really as able to take longer overnight hiking trips at the moment. Still that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little adventure and fun. My wife, Denise and I have resolved to keep on traveling and keep on doing things – even if having a baby changes things up a little. Now that the baby can get out, we’ve been taking longer and longer road trips. This time around, we decided to go to the Grand Canyon. I hadn’t been in over 20 years, and the timing – early spring would be less crowded and still warm enough. The Grand Canyon rim drive and ‘village’ atmosphere isn’t really my idea of a hiking trip, but the scenery is undeniably one of the most incredible things on planet Earth. Everyone should go there now. Going with wife, baby and mother in law means that you want to pick a place that has some services and is cool even if you’re not hiking.
Last time I came I was in my 20s and broke. This time, we stayed at the Rim – at Kachina – and had a good dinner in the historical El Tovar Hotel.
My plan was to get up early and take a short hike into the Canyon while the ladies breakfasted and took the baby for a stroll around the shops. I was getting picked up here and I’d have until about 11 a.m. Given the constraints, I tried to find the most remote and rewarding trip possible. At the village area around Bright Angel, I figure it would be jammed, so I opted for the Grandview Trail which seemed to fit the bill perfectly. It’s 10 miles east of the village and less crowded. Not many people use the unmaintained trail compared to the other trails. I got a ride out from the Taxi service at the village. It took about 30 minutes and cost $26.
At the Rim, which is about 7,000 feet it was pretty cold and windy. At 7:30 it was about 45 degrees. As you drop down into the canyon, it gets warmer and less windy. I just started in shorts and a shirt. Basically if I have a hat on and my torso is warm I can pretty much always wear shorts. The hike was only about 6 miles, but it would be down 2500 feet and then after taking a photo or two, I’d turn around and come back up. I had about 3:30 hours by the time I got there.
If you look to the right of my bicep, you’ll see a red butte on top of Horseshoe Mesa. It doesn’t look like it from here, but the mesa is actually shaped just like a horseshoe with the two prongs extending away and the butte right in the middle.
I had read a few trail reports and they all mentioned the exposed trail and sheer drop offs in a few spots, with potentially icy conditions. Photos showed people crawling on hands and knees, and breathless reports recounted harrowing moments. I usually discount this type of stuff, but as a precaution I bought some rubber slip on crampons in case there was still ice and snow at the top – which at the end of March is very possible. In reality, this was the only really tight squeeze that required a little bit of special care and there was no snow. This is near the top.
The trail drops down steeply from the rim across the Cococino Saddle, then traverses out to the Mesa. This trail was originally built by copper miners who were heading out to their mines on Horseshoe Mesa. In this spot, they had to cantilever logs out over the cliff to provide some footing. The original logs washed out a few years ago, but they were recreated.
They also built some pretty damn nice trail that has held up perfectly. You can imagine loaded mule trains passing up and down this way.
After you drop straight down from the rim, you pretty much traverse out to the Mesa. Here you can see the horseshoe shape on either side of the red butte.
The views are pretty spectacular. I was cruising down because I wanted to see as much as I could before I had to turn around. I ran into a few people who had camped down on the Mesa. Other than that I had the trail to myself, which was incredible considering it’s the Grand Canyon.
It’s great to be down in in the Canyon and looking up at the rim, rather than just looking down.
Here, I’m just about to reach the mesa. There are some nice camp spots not far from here.
This is down the east side just at the beginning of the Horseshoe Mesa.
I took a few shots here and beyond and then turned around came back up.
There are lots of natural formations like this, some of which are used as dwellings – all over the Southwest.
I don’t think these are were dwellings. If so…how the hell do you get down there?
On the way back up I got a nice shot. I was kinda tired because of the express up and down, but I’d definitely love to come back and explore the area more and perhaps camp down on the Mesa. It’s interesting to reverse the usual mountain climb where you go uphill and then down. The drop down from the rim into the floor is steep. This was a short trip…but holy cats, imagine doing a Rim to Rim to Rim three times! Amazing!
*Unless you are lucky, you will probably not have cell service to call for a taxi pick up. The service in the park won’t pre-schedule a pick up. However, I’m pretty confident I could have hitched a ride into the village with some fellow hikers and observers.