America’s Canyonlands – September 4th- 21st
We’ve done Bryce, Zion, Arches and the Mesa Verde but none of these have quite the awesome scale of the Grand Canyon. From the south rim, we spot tomorrow’s route, the Bright Angel Trail, snaking down to disappear into the depths where the Colorado River must be. Binoculars reveal that tiny figures are mules on their way up.
Descent day: ten miles, we start at 6.50 am, rucksacks packed as light as possible for the overnight stay at the bottom. Relentless zigzags, rest and water at the oasis of Indian Gardens. Down again, heat, sand, steep log steps, we dip hats and T-shirts into a cool stream, no relief from heat when we reach the Colorado – brown swirl of a river. Huge canyon walls all around. Cross the silver bridge and up through woody scrub to Phantom Ranch.
Dinner of delicious stew.
Ascent day: set off 5.45 am, fourteen miles to the north rim. Shady dawn light, steady pace following the shushing green river up Angel Creek through cottonwood trees, cacti, grasses. Sun lights the top of a cliff bright orange way above us. Seven miles in three hours to Cottonwood camp ground. As the steepness starts the group splits – fast walkers forge ahead, slower ones fall back with our leader, Brenda. Often in full sun now, we rest and drink every half hour. The narrow track is cut into rock faces, looking up you can’t see where it could possibly go. Greens, greys and terracotta, then light blue squeezed to drip out between rock layers. A yucca with a giant flower. Press on to the next bend, and the next. We arrive at the north rim, 3.40 pm, the last of our group but in good time. Rim to rim; we’ve done it!