Archive for the ‘Bucket List’ Category

In Part 1 of our bike ride we had ridden from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. As we left Sausalito we realized that the map the bike shop gave us was missing a few details when it came to the rest of the trip. We stopped at a Vons to get water and snacks, to ask for better directions, and to come up with a plan. It was still pretty early in the day and we wanted to make the most of it. There were actually two different routes/destinations on the biking map: Old Mill Park in Mill Valley slightly to the west, and Tiburon. We decided there would be time to visit both if we hurried. Old Mill Park is not a big park, it was actually a little bit of a letdown for us, but I think that is only because we did not have time to explore our options from there.

Old Mill Park

If we had wanted to (and had time) we could have hiked up the hill above Old Mill Park on a combination of roads and trails to the larger trail system in Muir Woods. It is only about a mile walk from the park to the edge of the Muir Woods National Monument area. Although that sounded very appealing to me, this was not the day. We would be meeting our friends for dinner in a couple of hours, and that did not leave enough time to take a hike.

Our route from Old Mill Road to Tiburon was a little less direct. Highway 101 gets in the way, so we had to loop back south to cross it. We cut through a nice neighborhood to get out of Mill Valley, and then across a park, which was fairly nice although the bike path was not well-marked through the park. The next mile we shared the road with traffic on fairly busy roads beside California 101. This was our least favorite part of the trip. We were glad to get back to a less busy route on the other side of 101. At this point the marked bike trail took us on a small road that runs parallel to Tiburon This was our least favorite part of the trip. Not far up this road we came upon a sign for the Richardson Bay Audubon Society and Sanctuary.

Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary

We decided to stop for drinks and snack, and because the Audubon Center had a very inviting gate…

Very inviting gate into the Audubon Center

we decided to take our break inside the fence. The grounds were large and there were large areas of natural vegetation. There was also a very cool house…

House inside the Richardson Bay Audubon Center

and a great view to San Francisco across Richardson Bay and the larger San Francisco Bay beyond the house.

View to San Francisco across Richardson Bay

We enjoyed our break and the views. I took lots of pictures. However, it was eventually time to continue our ride. Dave and Wendy were done at the emergency room, were back at the condo changing, and then would be driving over to meet us in Tiburon for dinner. If you do the ride to Tiburon, I would recommend stopping here for the unique views. The place seemed fairly deserted on the day we visited, but there may be days when there are more things going on. Regardless it is a beautiful place.

Just a short ride further up the smaller road that runs beside Tiburon Boulevard and we came to a bike path that runs near the water beside Richardson Bay.

Bike Trail to Tiburon

The day had turned into the perfect day for a bike ride. Not too hot, not cold, and we could see well across the bay. The tops of the Golden Gate Bridge towers were visible across the bay as we rode along the path.

View of Richardson Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from the bike trail to Tiburon

The bike path eventually moved closer to Tiburon Boulevard, and then joined with it a couple blocks from the ferry landing. We got there ahead of Dave and Wendy, so we locked up our bikes and checked out the options for dinner and the ferry schedule. The view to San Francisco from the ferry landing in Tiburon was amazing.

View to San Francisco from the end of Tiburon Boulevard

There were a few options for dinner that were right on the harbor. We decided to check out Sam’s Anchor Cafe while we waited. It was a casual place, and we got seats on the back dock overlooking the marina. We were hungry, but wanted to wait for dinner before getting food, so we decided to have a couple margaritas while we waited.

Margaritas at Sams Anchor Cafe

The view of the marina was surreal in the early evening lighting.

View of the harbor and San Francisco from Sams Anchor Cafe

Although we were very relaxed at Sam’s, we thought the view would be better back at the place nearest the ferry landing, Guaymas Restaurant. We were more in the mood for Mexican food and we wanted to be sure not to miss the last ferry. It was a relaxing dinner, the food was good, and Dave and Wendy seemed much more relaxed now that Wendy had been thoroughly checked out. We were not rushed, but we also weren’t quite ready to leave Tiburon when the ferry pulled up to the dock. We had no way to carry the bikes back other than the ferry, so we grabbed our bikes and boarded the ferry for the trip back to San Francisco.

The ferry from Tiburon heads toward Sausalito first. The sun was getting lower causing more shadows on the shore, some pale red light on the island behind us, but it was still high enough to light up the scattered clouds above us.

Ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was still from a distance, and the unusual lighting made it tough to get a good clear shot. It looked much better in person!

View of Golden Gate Bridge on ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

We had plenty of time to check out the views while we were docked at Sausalito. A couple of other ferries passed by and there were several other boats in the area too.

View from Ferry at the Sausalito dock

As we pulled away from Sausalito the marine layer was coming over the ridge line. The road we came in on earlier in the day is visible in this picture too. We hope to spend more time in Sausalito on a day that is less busy.

Ferry pulling out of Sausalito marine layer coming over the ridge

Even though the sun was lower, we were much closer, so I was able to get a better picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as we headed toward San Francisco on the ferry.

View of the Golden Gate on the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

The sun was low enough in the west that the clouds had turned red in the skies above San Francisco bay.

Red sky on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

Although I took many pictures on the ferry, not very many of them turned out. It’s hard to take pictures when you’re moving fast, the ride is bumpy and very windy, and the light is very low. I did get one more that I like – this shot of the moon behind a cloud over Alcatraz.

Moon over Alcatraz on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

It was completely dark by the time we got to the dock in San Francisco. We unloaded our bikes and carefully road back to the bike shop. They have a fairly straight forward after hours turn in process. Then we headed down to the Hyde Street Cable Car “end of the line”. The line was reasonable, so we waited and road the Cable Car up the hill toward our condo. We got off at the Cable Car Museum and had just a one block walk to our condo.

Riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge had been on my bucket list since our visit to San Francisco in 2012, when we did not quite have enough time to do it. We’re really glad we were able to get it in this time. There are lots of other things we would like to do in San Francisco, but I would not hesitate to do this again.

We had one more day in San Francisco to look forward to before heading to Lake Tahoe for a few days. We decided to explore on foot and on the cable and streetcar lines. I’ll cover that in the next post for this trip.

Panorama from the top of our building in San Francisco
I did a planning post for this short trip to San Francisco in March. Although the trip did not go completely to plan, we had a great time and have a lot of reasons to return soon and often. We had found a place on Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) that was centrally located and on the Cable Car line. It was a historic looking building, with an updated 2 bedroom apartment. Since the building was right on the corner of Jackson and Mason there were actually multiple cable car lines that ran right past our front door.

View of a passing Powell and Mason Cable Car

There were nice views from the bay windows in the living room and one of the bedrooms, but the best view was from the roof of the building. I took the panoramic photo at the top of the post from there.

We settled in quickly and decided to walk up the hill to the top of the Nob Hill district for dinner. The Cable Car Museum was just one block from the apartment in that directions so we took a detour through the museum on our way to dinner. It was a quick walk through. Not only are there historic cable cars to see…

Clay St Hill RR Company Cable Car

Sutter St Open Cable Car

Sutter St RR Company closed in Cable Car

but you can see the inner workings of the huge cable system that keep the cars running safely up and down the hills.

Motors and wheels moving the cables for all three Cable Car lines

On the way up the steep hills on Mason St between Jackson and California we started to question our decision to walk! It was only 4 blocks from the Cable Car Museum to The Big Four restaurant where we had decided to eat, but we all felt the burn by the time we got there. We also realized that we had already forgotten the code, and the printed out paperwork with the code on it so we could get back into the apartment! Jenny gave the owner a call while we walked and left a voicemail with her. Even though the restaurant was a bit more upscale than we had originally been looking for, it had great reviews so we decided to splurge a bit on our first night in San Francisco. The atmosphere was amazing. We had a few drinks in the front before being seated in the dining area. The detailed woodwork was impressive throughout the restaurant. Not long after we ordered the owner of the place we were renting and now locked out of called back. Jenny kept it short, but was explaining what happened and thanking the woman for calling back when an older lady next to us made a very snide comment something like “We don’t need to hear that in here.” A waiter standing very nearby, it almost seemed like he was watching over this older couple, immediately came up and let my wife know that cell phones are not allowed in the restaurant. She finished up and got off the phone. The restaurant was fairly loud and there were several conversations going on at all times including at our table where we were catching up on things with our friends Dave and Wendy while waiting for our food. I could tell Jenny was upset by the woman’s comment, so I leaned toward their table and mentioned that “We really had not needed to hear her very rude remark either.” Our food came shortly after that and we quickly relaxed and got back to enjoying our meal. The older couple finished up before us and as they were getting ready to leave the lady slid over on the bench we shared with them and tried to apologize for her comment. I say “tried”, because she obviously did not know how to apologize, and it quickly turned into a lecture on proper cell phone etiquette. Now she had rudely interrupted our meal twice… I was at a loss. I should have thanked her for her rudeness and poor excuse for an apology (I wish I had), instead I was polite and said, “I hope you enjoyed your meal, have a good night.” I think she actually looked a bit taken back by the comment. A couple of minutes later my wife must have decided there was something she wished she had said too… she got up to go find the woman to have her say. Luckily for the woman my wife never found her.

The walk back down the hill to our apartment should have been easy, but we needed to stop at a store to stock up for the morning. Unfortunately that took us west and down the hill in a different direction. That meant a climb before we could head back down… and we were carrying several bags of supplies. The exercise did us no harm, and we were soon safely back in our apartment. We did some more catching up before heading to bed. We opened the windows to enjoy the summer breeze. The cables for the cable cars run 24 hours a day and once we opened the windows the noise was very noticeable. Luckily, the owners of the apartment had installed two full sets of double pane windows (4 panes total) in every window, so when the windows were closed we could only just barely hear the cable.

Next Post for this trip: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 2 – 27 July 2014 – Pier 39 and Marin Headlands)

This was our 3rd trip down to Chula Vista to see Dave Matthews. We had fairly good seats in August 2010 and had the most fun of any of the concerts we went to that year. In September of 2012 we got tickets for the lawn, which is about as far away as you can get, but we brought a blanket, and had a fun and relaxed night. This year I was on it! I was waiting as the Citi presale started and got in really early. I was really happy when my “best seats” search came up with tickets for GA-PIT! We have been there before standing for Kings of Leon in 2010 and with seats for Sheryl Crow (and Kid Rock) in August of 2011. For Sheryl Crow we got really lucky with front row seats in the center of the stage!

The lesson we had learned in 2010 at the Kings of Leon, is that standing in tight quarters for a few hours can lead to very sore feet. So the next general admission – standing concert we went to we decided to get Dr Scholls gel inserts. It was great that time and every time since. If it weren’t for gels, we would likely avoid standing sections at concerts! Neither of us could find our gels the weekend before so we went out to get new ones. The morning of the concert (Friday) we decided we should be prepared so we cut down our gels to put them in our most comfortable shoes. We were both struggling to get them in. I’m pretty sure that Jenny was the first one to figured out that her old gels were already in her boots! I’m glad I checked before I gave her a hard time. All I could say was, “Oops, mine too!”

We got to Sleep Train a little early, but had to wait at Will Call to get our tickets. We settled in to a place to stand about 50-60 feet away from the center of the stage. The crowd was excited but mellow. Once the band came out some were more mellow than others. A guy standing right behind me started yelling as soon as the band started to play… “F***** Yeah – Give me some of that”, nonstop. The band was opening with an acoustic set, in fact Dave Matthews was singing all by himself for the opener, Little Red Bird and this guy was yelling at the top of his lungs about a foot from my ear. He was jumping around and banging in to everyone around him. I get being excited, we had great tickets, and the music was starting. However, after about 45 seconds of this, with no end in sight, I started to worry this would not end. So rather than turning around and getting angry with the guy, I turned around started jumping up and down with the guy and joined in with his yelling. It took him a while to get it. I think he even tried to give me a hug, but eventually he took a breath and the guy with him said, “Can’t we just watch the show”. I replied, “Exactly!”, turned back around and enjoyed the music. This guy got fired up a couple more times, but at a much more tolerable level from that point on.

The second song was a very energetic acoustic version of Bartender with just Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. This songs starts with some unique guitar sounds with the help of a steel slide, monk-like chanting, and has a spiritual feels throughout the song. If being served wine by a bartender could only lead to resurrection we’d have one more reason to drink more wine!

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play Bartender Sleep Train San Diego 2014

Although it was an acoustic set the full band was still out there for most of it. I would love to see more of the acoustic stuff! One of my favorites of this set was a song I had not heard before, Old Dirt Hill. As usual they played it much differently than the video I link to, but that is a great reason to see Dave Matthews live. I really love the lyrics to this song.

Dave Matthews acoustic set Old Dirt Hill Sleep Train September 2014

A couple of songs later came a fairly mellow song, Snow Outside. A song of how we change with commitment, and what we bring to a life together with another person. I have a reasonable video of it, but not the full song, and not as good of quality as the one I linked to, which had a very similar vibe.

Dave Matthews acoustic version of Snow Outside San Diego 2014.bmp

This was followed by Tripping Billies. I got a reasonable picture of Boyd Tinsley’s solo during this song. It’s hard to get a good clear picture, when he’s playing. Lot’s of motion!

Boyd Tinsley - Tripping Billies solo - San Diego September 2014

The electric set started with Minarets. After only about 30 seconds of “F**** Yeahs” from the the screamer, who had somehow ended up right behind me again after the break, he quieted down again. It was much less irritating since this was the electric set, and somehow it almost seemed to fit the moment. Still glad it didn’t go on for long!

Dave Matthew - Minarets - San Diego September 2014

There was a bit of a break after the first song, with Dave Matthews giving us some one liners. Of course that fired up the screamer’s “Give me some of that”… I was relieved when the final one liner came “OK, everyone take your medicine”, and the song When the world Ends kicked off.

Dave Matthews singing When the world Ends San Diego September 2014

The next song they played is my favorite Dave Matthew song to dance (really more just moving along) to – Seven.

Dave Matthews sings Seven at Sleep Train in Chula Vista CA.bmp

Apparently Dave Matthews likes to move to this song too. I got a good picture of him moving and pointing out into the crowd.

Dave Matthews points to the crowd during Seven - Chula Vista CA

Just a couple of songs later, they played my favorite song to sing along with – Crush. I got a couple of short videos of the song, but I ruined the intro to the first video by singing along. Never a good idea for me to sing near a mic! The song has a great violin solo near the end, that was absolutely amazing live.

Dave Matthews focused on the intro to Crush - San Diego September 2014.bmp

The next song, Digging a Ditch, has great lyrics. The song is is slow… deliberate and calming. A good anger management – take a break – be alone and clear your mind song! After a couple of energetic songs, it is also a good one for the band to cool off with!

Dave Matthews Digging a Ditch Chula Vista CA September 2014.bmp

A few songs later, toward the end of the electric set the band played a very dramatic (including the video backgrounds) of Drunken Soldier. I got some great video of the song and was able to get this screen cature… love it when you can see the sweat!

Dave Matthew Drunken Soldier - Sleep Train San Deigo - 5 September 2014.bmp

Drunken Soldier transitioned into a mellow, jazzy introduction for the Lovely Ladies as they joined the band on stage.

The Lovely Ladies join Dave Matthews on stage at the end of Drunken Soldier San Diego September 2014.bmp

There were few more songs to finish out the electric set, all with the Lovely Ladies, including a great cover of Sledgehammer to close out the second set.

Dave Matthews sings Sledge Hammer San Diego CA 2014

Dave came out alone to start the encore with a solo performance of Some Devil. A very simple but powerful song that quieted the crowd and got us ready for the next three songs of the encore.

Dave Matthews kicks off the encore with a solo vocal of Some Devil San Diego 2014.bmp

The next song, So Much to Say, was one of the few songs that I recorded more than 30 seconds of. I had a full 3 minutes recorded. If I had know how good the video would turn out I would have finished recording the complete song. I love the way this song starts, very simple, staccato guitar rhythm and Dave Matthew’s voice. The simple white lights were perfect for this song intro.

Dave Matthews So Much to Say intro San Diego CA 2014

The lyrics are about holding pain inside, and this leads to a very cool transition in the song. “Keep it locked up inside, don’t talk about it… talk about the weather!” Then the beat, changed, the rest of the band joined in, and even the lighting transitioned.

Dave Matthews So Much to Say transition San Diego 2014

The song’s vocal ends with a chorus of “So Much to Say”,

Dave Matthews So Much to Say chorus San Diego CA 2014

but the song’s instrumentals just transitioned straight into Anyone Seen the Bridge. I either snapped this picture of Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley during that instrumental or during the next song Too Much.

Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley jamming during the encore - San Diego 2014

I left my camera in my pocket for much of the encore, just enjoying the music and the night. A little dancing with Jenny, and a very satisfied feeling at the end of the show. What a great band, what terrific entertainers! This well definitely not be my last Dave Matthews concert!

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Note/Credit: Although I had quite a bit of video of the concert, putting everything in order, especially a couple of months later, would have been difficult without looking at the set list for this show. Most of my videos are partial songs as I like to capture the feel of the concert but still want to be able to just put the camera away and enjoy the moment. I did find several full song recordings from this concert and I linked to those versions of the songs when I found them. One that didn’t fit into the post was this one that included, Don’t Drink the Water and Drunken Soldier. It’s a little rough, but I like it, reminds me of being there!

View to the west as we hiked along the Colorado on the Bright Angel Trail

We woke early (before 4:30 am) on Day 5 of our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike trip. I woke before the alarm sounded and pulled my equipment off the hooks on the wall next to my bunk so I could arrange it on my bunk. The bunk house was dark. I had expected more activity, even this early. I turned off my alarm and quietly prepared for the day. Sean and Mike were on top bunks also on the other side of the narrow walkway between the bunk-beds. I noticed Mike checking the time on his phone. He must have turned off his alarm to because it didn’t sound either. I climbed down off my bunk and noticed that the bunk below me was now empty. That guy got up early and must have been very quiet! I moved my stuff onto the empty bunk which made getting organized much easier. After my stuff was ready, I woke Sean up and had him hand me his things so I could pack for him while he put on his hiking boots.

We were out of the dorm in about 15 minutes, with all our gear. Only a few whispers had been exchanged. We walked toward the dining hall in the darkness to meet with Jenny. After dropping my gear with the others by one of the picnic tables I went to the back of the dining hall to pick up the bag lunches we we eat for lunch. I cooked up some instant oatmeal and coffee for a quick breakfast. After we redistributed some things and had the lunches stowed away in our small packs, we headed south toward the Colorado River crossing. We were on our way about 5:10 am, just a little before sunrise.

Leaving Phantom Ranch toward the Colorado River

We were to the Colorado and ready to cross a little after sunrise, although we would not see or feel the sun for several more hours thanks to the canyon walls.

The Silver Bridge crossing the Colorado River

Mike took a picture with a unique perspective of me crossing the bridge. I like the perspective, but I look a little like I’m waddling not walking. I don’t remember being sore at this point, so it must just be the angle…

Crossing the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge

The Bright Angel trail follows the Colorado for quite a ways after you cross the bridge.

Jenny and Eric Rial on the Bright Angel Trail above the Colorado river

Although we weren’t in the sun, it was lighting up parts of the canyon ahead of us as we hiked beside the river.

The Colorado winding through the Grand Canyon beside the Bright Angel Trail

It was much further than I remembered before we turned uphill, but eventually we did turn up hill. Jenny was happy to be going uphill after the long downhill hike the day before. She prefers the uphills to going down hill. I have no problems with downhill hikes, but was not looking forward to the steady climb ahead of us. The switchbacks make it easier, but eventually, after enough of them, you still feel it!

Switchbacks as you move away from the Colorado and climb on the Bright Angel Trail

Based on my memories of this hike last time, the I knew that as we got higher up the views would be pretty much the same as you looked out on the canyon, but before Indian Garden there would be some interesting and different views along the trail.

The group as we head up Bright Angel Trail June 3rd 2014

Another of my favorite parts of the hike is a little less than a mile before Indian Garden. There is a creek beside the trail and the trail curves along a canyon wall with the creek well below the trail. There is a small waterfalls and trees. It’s a cool place.

Small water falls along Bright Angel Trail a little ways below Indian Garden

Speaking of cool things, if there is a favorite part of this hike you want to share with someone, or you want to relive the whole trail yourself in the comfort of your home, check out the Google Street views of the Bright Angel trail. They also have street views for the South Kaibab trail and the area around Phantom Ranch. Here is the Google street view for the same location where the last picture was taken (click and hold the mouse button then move the mouse to “look around”).  I guess I can leave my camera in my pocket next time!

We had lunch at Indian Gardens on these benches.

Benches at Indian Gardens Campground

We had some shade, and the squirrels were entertaining when they weren’t annoying. They obviously live on human food obtained from inattentive hikers. They didn’t get any of ours but we saw one squirrel nab a bag of drink mix from some ladies over by the corral. He carried it in to a thick bush across the trail from us. That’s when it got interesting. A crow, obviously very interested in nabbing some human food too, hopped… cawing all the way over to the bush. Unbelievably the crow actually squirmed its way into the bush. There was lot’s of cawing, and rustling in the bush, but we never learned the outcome of the struggle! In such tight quarters, my money was on the squirrel.

After lunch we were back on the trail. It was a little after 10 am and we were about half way, but most of the climbing and heat was ahead of us.

A mule train passed us just as we were leaving Indian Gardens. Not sure I would enjoy a long ride on one of these, but on long backpack trips I’ve definitely considered getting a pet mule (to carry my pack)!

Mule Train near Indian Gardens June 3rd 2014

There was little to no shade once we left Indian Gardens, and no stream to cool off in so we took our time, rested in the shade, and used some of our water to keep our hats and shirts wet. This helped keep us cool, and making steady progress. There is an open canyon south of Indian Gardens as you climb the Bright Angel Trail.

View into the canyon south of Indian Gardens

At this part of the day it is dry, hot, and there is little shade to be found until you get to the end of this canyon. And then at the end of the canyon you get to climb seemingly endless switchbacks!

Switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail above Indian Gardens

Not too far after this first set of switchbacks is the 3 mile rest house. The reason Bright Angel trail is “the way to hike out of the Grand Canyon” to the south is the regular water stops. After Indian Gardens there is a water stop every 1.5 miles. The South Kaibab trail has no water stops! I hope to hike into the canyon on that trail one day, but I’m sure I won’t be hiking out that way.

We took full advantage of the rest houses on the way out of the canyon. We had no stew dinner reservation driving us, and at a certain point, usually around 4, it starts to cool off and the sun sinks far enough in the west to put parts of the trail back into the shade.

Although it feels like you are making good progress, all you have to do is look up, and you realize there is still a lot more switchbacks in your future!

Jenny and Sean taking a break on the Bright Angel Trail

But we kept climbing!

Jenny and Sean ahead of me on the Bright Angel trail

By the time we reached the 1.5 mile rest house we were pretty hot and tired. It was around 2:30. My cousin Mike had hiked ahead of us after Indian Garden, and we had no “time goal” for finishing. We decided to hang out in the rest house for at least an hour to let the sun move a bit further to the west. We actually rested there for a little over any hour, and it was time well spent. Less than 15 more minutes up the trail we were back in the shade!

Entering the late afternoon shade on the Bright Angel Trail

At this point we could see the last big set of switchbacks ahead of us. This is also one of my favorite parts of the trail. The trail seems to dead-end into the shear white limestone walls.

Entering the late afternoon shade on the Bright Angel Trail

The same limestone walls frame the terrific view near the top of the switchbacks.

Near the top of the last set of switchbacks close to the top of the Bright Angel Trail

You know you are getting close to the top of the trail by the number of fresh looking/smelling people you see.

Nearing the top of the Bright Angel Trail

Even though I knew we were close to the top, when I saw the outcropping with the square tunnel in it in the distance I was extremely happy! We had made it!

Sqare Tunnel in limestone outcropping very near the top of Bright Angel Trail

All that was left to do was smile for the group picture at the tunnel…

Group picture at the tunnel near the top of Bright Angel trail

and at the Bright Angel trailhead sign.

Tired - Happy - Successful Rim to Rim hikers

I had given the keys to the Jeep to Mike before he went ahead of us, so we had to reconnect with him before checking in to the hotel. Mike had finish about 3 hours ahead of us. He got his picture at the tunnel…

Mike at the tunnel near the end of the Bright Angel Trail

and at the trailhead sign (a slightly different one).

Mike at the Bright Angel trailhead sign

Then he had headed to the pub! We got him on the phone and arranged meeting at the car (about a half mile from the trailhead). We drove back and parked right beside the Thunderbird (score on the good parking spot), then went to the Bright Angel lodge desk to check in. We were happy to be staying at the Thunderbird because the rooms were all air-conditioned. We had a non-air conditioned room at Maswik Lodge the first night at the Grand Canyon, and it had been uncomfortably hot all night long. Even though it got into the 40’s outside the room, and we left the window open, it had stayed in the 90 degree range all night in the room. After checking in, we grabbed our “fresh clothes” bags from the car and headed to the room.

As soon as I walked in to our room at the Thunderbird I got concerned. It was unbearably hot in the room. I checked the A/C controls, then I called the front desk! The A/C was broken, and would not be fixed! I was sounding terrible on the phone. My laryngitis was in full swing so my voice was a barely audible gravely whisper. I asked if there were any rooms available with A/C. They said there were, but only a couple of suites in the El Tovar Hotel. One suite had only one bed – a king bed but no room for 2 rollout beds. The other was the Presidential Suite! The woman on the phone was very sympathetic and said she would contact the manager and let us know if they could give us a break on the price. She called back just before I was ready to call and just pay full price. She said they would give us a really good price break for the one night. So we moved into the El Tovar Presidental Suite!

Our feet were a bit sore so as we checked in we asked if we could get reservations at the El Tovar dining room. Apparently this is easier to do last-minute when you are staying in the Presidential Suite. We had an hour to get ready. The room was amazing, the A/C felt great, and the very delayed shower felt even better! There was room for a very large party on the room’s balcony. I had taken a picture of the balcony, but it was hard to tell the size with no one there. So… Jenny looks very refreshed from her shower standing on the balcony!

Jenny on the balcony of our room at the El Tovar

Our dinner reservations were for 9 pm, and even though the showers had been refreshing and invigorating, we were pretty tired as we headed for dinner. We order salads with our dinner and had a fun conversation with our waiter. He had worked here for over 30 years and had lots of good stories. My favorite was the time, the first summer he worked here, that he and a couple of friends decided to make a lunch and “walk down to the river”. It was all fun and games going down and at the river. They thought they were giving themselves plenty of time to go back up, but realized very soon that hiking up was much tougher than hiking down. It was dark and very cold by they time they got out. They didn’t have coats or flashlights. Lesson learned!

Jenny and I had beer with our meals. We devoured the salads, but by the time the main course came all of us were done! No one managed to eat even half of their meal. It was enjoyable though and we had only a short walk back to the room and our nice comfortable beds in our nice cool room! What a great night’s sleep!

In the morning I woke about 45 minute before everyone else. I made a coffee with the Keurig coffee maker in the main room and went out to sit on the balcony. What a great place to relax and enjoy the morning. The balcony had a tremendous view of the canyon. I tried out the Panoramic Mode on my cell phone to get this picture.

Panoramic picture from the balcony of the Presidential Suite at the El Tovar

I had been sold on the A/C so this was just frosting! Very relaxed morning. Jenny was next up and she joined me for coffee.

Jenny having coffee on the balcony of our room

We all enjoyed the room and the views that morning, but eventually it was time to hit the road back to San Diego. We took one last group picture of the hiking Amigos y Amiga before checking out of the room.

One more group picture on our balcony at the El Tovar

I don’t know when I’ll be back to the Grand Canyon again. I do know that if you haven’t been you should go. If you have been there you should go again. Originally this was going to be my first rim to rim to rim hike. A cold that just would not go away (some antibiotics finally did it in a couple of weeks later) got in the way of that goal. So one of these days I’ll go back and I’ll get to hike down the South Kaibab Trail, up the North Kaibab Trail, then I’ll get to turn around and go back. Until then I have lots of great memories of this hike and the last one.

The group crossing a bridge in the slot canyons on the North Kaibab trail

I divided day 4 of our trip and day 1 of our rim to rim hike into 2 posts because it was a long hike and I had hundreds of pictures. I originally planned to divide the post at Cottonwood Campground because that is the halfway point for the hike, but probably 80% of the pictures I took were from the North Rim to Roaring Springs, so I decided to divide the posts at Roaring Springs. See Part 1 of the day at: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 1: North Rim to Roaring Springs)

As you head from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch the surroundings make two significant changes. The first happens just before Roaring Springs. The steep canyon walls spread out and the trail is no longer right against the wall of the canyon. It is also drier with less vegetation, although there is actually a creek along the rest of the trail to Phantom Ranch.

The North Kaibab trail moves away from the canyon wall before Roaring Spring

The second change happens a few miles past Cottonwood Campground as you enter a long and winding slot canyon for most of the rest of the hike to Phantom Ranch (see the picture at the top of the post).

My least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail is between Roaring Springs and the start of the slot canyons. It is not as visually spectacular as the first part of the trail and for us it was also the hottest part of the hike. We started at the North Rim just before 6 am and got to Roaring Springs just before 10. Five miles in 4 hours is a pretty slow pace. We had definitely been camera happy hikers! We also spent way too much time at Roaring Springs. We did not leave Roaring Springs until around 11:30. I’m glad we took some time to look around as I’m unlikely to hike down that part of the trail again, but it cost us time and put us right in the hottest part of the day for this part of the trail!

A regular water stop is less than a mile past the turnoff for Roaring Springs at the Pump House residence.

Pump house residence behind the bathrooms

We arrived there around noon and stayed for a snack and some Gatorade. The water was working when we got there but stopped working a couple of minutes later. There were some very disappointed people once the water went off. We had fully filled up at Roaring Springs so we knew we would be good for the rest of the hike if necessary. I also had a filter system we could use to get water from the creek if there were no other options. After a short break we got back on the trail.

Cottonwood Campground is less than 2 miles beyond this point. Although it is dry and my least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail there was still some interesting parts of the trail.

There is a small waterfalls on Bright Angel creek not too much further down the trail. I’ve taken pictures of it both times I’ve hiked the North Kaibab trail.

Small falls along the North Kaibab trail

However, when you take a picture of this falls from the trail (above the falls) it does not show the true scale of the falls. It looks much smaller than it is in most pictures. I used a Google image search to find a a picture on another WordPress blog that shows the true scale of the falls and you can check out the whole post here.

A little further down the trail this overhang provided some shade…

Overhang provided shade for a short was on the hot part of North Kaibab trail

but most of this part of the trail was in full sun and hot!

Dry hot North Kaibab trail between Roaring Springs and Cottonwood

We ate lunch at Cottonwood Campgrounds.

Eating lunch at Cottonwood Campground

The main watering point in the Campgrounds was not working, but there is a second watering point between the picnic area and the creek. We were able to top off our water containers there. There was a lot of air in the pipe though so the water looked cloudy for about 30 seconds after filling the containers, but eventually cleared up.

We also splashed creek water on our hats and shirts. The heat was taking a toll on all of us, but on my wife especially. Her face was red, and she was noticeably tired. We had trained in 90+ degree temperatures, but it was now well over 100. We spent about 30 minutes at Cottonwood and then hit the trail again. The trail starts to head uphill a little ways outside of the campgrounds. At this point Jenny said that she was feeling nauseous. I wanted to go back and cool off some more but she wanted to keep going. I agreed but let her know we would be finding some shade by the creek when we came back down the hill on the other side. By the time we got over the hill we were all overheated. After about 5 minutes by the creek Jenny wanted to get moving again. I think she wanted to get it over with. I wanted to be sure she was cooled off and safe. At this point in the day it was going to be getting cooler, not hotter as time went by. I suggested we wait at least 30 minutes, stay in the shade and splash lots of water on our clothing. I got a little bored and took this picture of a dragon-fly. I didn’t notice until a little later that my camera had accidentally been put in a mode that took pictures with a sepia tint!

Dragonfly on a rock in Bright Angel Creek

We all felt much better after we cooled down. We were also only about a 30 minute hike to the entrance of the slot canyon part of the trail and the shade!

Near the start of the slot canyons on North Kaibab Trail

We arrived at this point around 4:00 PM. We still had about 3.5 miles to go, and we needed to be at Phantom Ranch by 6:30 for our stew dinner reservations! I was more than a little concerned. We didn’t have a back up plan for food! Jenny was feeling and looking much better. Not sure what got in to her, but as soon as we got to the shade, she just took off!

Jenny took off like it was a race in the slot canyons

Every time I stopped for a picture I had to run to catch up! She was a woman on a mission! I did manage to get her to take one picture of us guys…

The guys on the North Kaibab Trail

but then she took off again.

I was happy to see her back to normal, but didn’t want to blast right through this part of the trail without any pictures. There was one familiar place not too much further down the trail.

A familiar spot in the slot canyons on the North Kaibab Trail

I took a couple of pictures at this point. One of the pictures was only about 5 feet before a place where my friend Dave took a picture of me in 2010.

Eric Rial On the North Kaibab Trail October 2010

I had to run after this point and caught the group at the first bridge in the slot canyons.

First bridge in the Slot canyons on North Kaibab trail

Although we were tired, the shade was helping and the trail was once again spectacular. My laryngitis had worsened and I was having a hard time even whispering, but that didn’t get in the way of my excitement to be here! As I approached the bridge I was starting to catch up, but paused long enough for this shot. The view was as invigorating as it is beautiful.

View from the first bridge

Just around the next corner a large overhang above the trail was equally inspiring.

Rocks form a large overhang above the North Kaibab trail in the slot canyons

The trail rose a little ways above Bright Angel Creek and I paused for another picture.

The trail rises above Bright Angel creek in the slot canyons on North Kaibab trail

Although I wanted to catch up to share my excitement, I didn’t want to miss any good views, so I settled in to being behind the group for much of the rest of the hike. The trail crosses from one side of the canyon to the other on a series of bridges in this section of the trail.

Second Bridge on the North Kaibab trail in the slot canyon

It started to become more challenging to get good pictures as the shadows started to deepen on the walls of the canyon.

Shadows begin to deepen in the slot canyon on North Kaibab trail

Some of the pictures, when the higher walls of the canyon were brighter than the walls below, needed a little help from Photoshop Elements to remove the shadows and reveal the details as we could see them. When this happens I usually make sure the bright parts of the picture are properly exposed because the pictures turn out much better. Removing the shadows turns out well, but it is not possible to recover the details from an overexposed part of the picture. As the shadows deepened, this is about as good as the camera could do.

Shadows begin to deepen in the slot canyon on North Kaibab trail

But the details are not lost in the underexposed areas of the picture. Lightening the dark areas with Photoshop Elements reveals all the details we could see with our eyes.

Canyon with all the details we could see with our eyes

I had warned everyone that although the slot canyons offered shade, a fairly level trail, and terrific scenery, it would seem to go on and on forever. I started playing a game in my mind trying to remember how and when it ended. If the canyon started to widen…

The slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail widens in some areas

I would take that as a sign we were nearing the end. But then the walls would rise and narrow again!

The slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail narrows again

I would try to remember at each bridge if it was the one “I remembered” to be the last bridge.

The third bridge in the North Kaibab slot canyon

I started to realize that my memory of this part of the trail was not that good. Just when I started to think that it would go on forever, and that this bridge probably wasn’t the “last bridge”…

The fouth bridge in the North Kaibab slot canyon

and that this widening of the canyon couldn’t be the one I remembered just before we got out of the slot canyon last time…

Another widening of the slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail

we finally turned that last turn in the slot canyon and emerged into a much wider part of the canyon! I knew this meant we would be seeing Phantom Ranch very soon. I was very glad when the Phantom Ranch sign just ahead on the trail confirmed to me that my memory had not failed me again.

Phantom Ranch sign just ahead on the North Kaibab Trail

We passed the dorms we would be sleeping in a few minutes later…

Passing the Phantom Ranch Dorms

and headed right to the dinner room for our stew dinner! We dropped our gear and made it to our seats by 6:40, only ten minutes late. After a 15 mile hike (including the 1 mile detour to the Roaring Springs water stop) we were done for the day. I’ve never had a better tasting stew in my life. Jenny had two helpings! We shared stories with the other hikers at our tables, spent a little time talking about what to do after dinner to make sure we were settled in, and made a basic plan for the morning.

The dorms are segregated by sex so Jenny would be in a different dorm than us. We planned to meet at the picnic tables in front of the dining hall at 5:15 to have a quick breakfast, pack the bag lunches we had ordered for our day two lunch, and do any last-minute organizing of our packs.

After dinner we settled in to our dorms, put on some sandals and headed to Bright Angel creek to soak our feet. The last time we did the rim to rim hike we camped at the Bright Angel Creek Campgrounds right next to a great spot to soak in the cold water. It was later this time because we got in later and then dinner and settling in took even more time, but it still felt great!

My cousin Mike wasted no time getting in.

Mike cooling off in Bright Angel Creek

I was a little slower and more tentative, but decided to just have a seat in the water!

Mike and Eric in the Creek

It felt great on my feet and legs.

A long soak in the cold water felt good

I had a nice view up Bright Angel Creek to the bridge…

View up the Bright Angel Creek while soaking

and the view in the other direction was pretty cool too.

View down the Bright Angel Creek while soaking

Jenny and Sean soaked their feet on the banks of the creek.

Sean enjoying the cool water of Bright Angel Creek on his feet

After about 20 minutes everyone else was ready to go, I could have sat there for much longer! But it was time to head back to the bunk houses, take hot showers, get somewhat organized for the morning, and then get some sleep. The dorms have evaporative cooling systems, so it was nice and cool all night long. It took a few minutes to go to sleep, but once I was out slept very well until the alarm went off at 4:30 am!

On Day 1 we had hiked from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab trail. We walked 15 miles, dropped 5800 feet in elevation, and experienced a 50+ degree increase in temperature. Day 2 would be the hike out on the Bright Angel trail. The trail covers 9 miles and a 4400 foot increase in elevation.

Next post in this series:  Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 5-6 – Phantom Ranch to the South Rim)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Jenny and Sean cross the first bridge on the North Kaibab descent
Our hike into the Grand Canyon started early on the morning of 2 June. The best times to do this hike, the way we did it, would be the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of October. So we were just outside this “prime time” window. The North Rim lodge doesn’t open until the 15th of May so if you want to stay there, you have to go after 15 May. This is an incredibly popular time to schedule a Rim to Rim hike. If you also want to stay at Phantom Ranch in either a cabin or one of the bunk house, then good luck to you. It is very difficult to get through to the reservation line on the 1st of May a year+ earlier. Even for our June trip it took me over 45 minutes of dialing to get through to make my reservations. Although I would have preferred to go on the 17th of May, in order to have the best chance of cooler weather, the reality is that it can be very hot even then. To satisfy my curiosity I looked up the weather reports for the last two weeks of May and the first week of June for Phoenix. It is hard to find a good source of accurate weather for Phantom Ranch, and Phoenix is a very good (but not perfect) match for the weather you’ll experience at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Amazingly it will be 30+ degrees cooler on either the North or South rims. So for May 2014 the weather for the last two weeks would have been… Phoenix May 2014 Temperatures So if I had gotten really lucky and gotten my first choice for reservations at Phantom Ranch, the 17th of May (giving us 2 nights at the lodge), the temperature would have been 104 on the day we hike in. The temperatures for June 2nd were only slightly higher at 110 degrees. Phoenix Temperatures June 2014 Remember these are actually Phoenix recorded temperatures. I think the highest temperature we saw hiking in was 105 degrees, in the shade. The interesting thing is we could have hiked even as late as 21 June without seeing significantly hotter weather. But when you are scheduling a hike like this you want to play the odds, and you have a better chance for cooler weather in May than June. There were some days as low as 90 degrees.

It doesn’t matter whether it is 90 or 115 degrees when you do this hike be sure to be careful, it is not an easy hike, and it is very easy to get in trouble with those temperatures.  If you think you can just “charge on” even if you are feeling the effects of the heat you’re mistaken.  It won’t cool down for a long time! If the heat starts to take a toll on you or anyone in your group, slow down, take advantage of the shade and cool streams next to much of the trail. Manage your time, especially if you are on a schedule, but if you can wait it is much cooler and there is a lot more shade around 4 pm. You should also get a very early start. Before sunrise once there is enough light to see the trail is perfect.

We didn’t start late, but we did start after sunrise. We took the early shuttle from the North Rim Lodge to the North Kaibab Trail trailhead. After a group picture at the trailhead…

Group picture at the North Kaibab trailhead

we hit the trail.  We were all carrying extra water because a leak in the transcanyon pipeline made it very likely that we would have limited water stops on the hike in. We were told that only the first water stop at the Supai Tunnel and if we wanted to go out of our way, the water stop at Roaring Springs would be reliable.

Although starting early is smart, if you start before sunrise you will miss some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire hike.  The start of the trail is a gentle descent, with a sandy/dusty soft trail surrounded by trees and the canyon walls.

Jenny and Sean ahead of me near the start of the North Kaibab Trail

It was cool, clear and the lighting was perfect.  Great day to start our hike.  For me this was a familiar trail, but for everyone else there was a new discovery around every switchback.

Jenny and Sean one switchback ahead of me on the North Kaibab trail

Even though we had left the North Rim behind, we still had a few Aspens to walk through.

Jenny hiking through the Aspens near the top of the North Kaibab trail

I stopped at a large flat overlook just off the trail to catch this view to the South Rim and beyond. Except for being just a little lower, and the terrific morning light, it looked about the same as it did from the lodge.

Large overlook along the North Kaibab Trail

A little further down the trail and we came to one of my favorite photo spots. There are large pillars of sandstone at a couple switchbacks in a row. A good place for a group picture!

A favorite photo spot along the North Kaibab trail

This picture shows the obvious transition from one layer to the next. These layers are what make the Grand Canyon the Grand Canyon. Based on where we were, still fairly near the top, I believe the top layer is Coconino Limestone, and the bottom layer is the start of the Hermit formation.

Obvious division between a limestone and shale layer

You can find more on the geology of the Grand canyon here.

My last Grand Canyon rim to rim hike was in the fall of 2010. I expected a lot more blooming plants this time. We had seen a lot of blooms during our training hikes in San Diego. Although it was greener this time, I only saw a few blooming plants. This New Mexico Locust (best guess) was the most impressive.

A blooming New Mexico Locust on North Kaibab trail June 2014

As we descended further, leaving the rest of the world behind, we noticed one reminder of the modern world…

X marks the spot

Our progress was only slowed by one thing… we were camera happy. I knew this was one of my favorite parts of the trail, and I had really built it up to the others in the group. Two of us were carrying the cameras, me and my cousin Mike. It didn’t take long for the two of us to fall behind!

Mike posing for a picture camera at the ready

The first break was at the water stop just before the Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel water and bathroom stop North Kaibab Trail

Our water was still nearly full as it was cool and downhill to this point, but we topped them off anyway (anticipating unreliable water access due to the leak in the pipe). Unless you are carrying very small water containers this stop is not very necessary on the way down, but I’m sure it is appreciated by anyone going up the North Kaibab trail.

Even if you don’t need to, check out the stairs to the restrooms… it’s the prettiest toilet entry I’ve ever walked through and Jenny looked lovely standing at the top of the stairs too!

Jenny on the stairs to the restrooms at Supai Tunnel

After taking the mandatory group pictures in the tunnel…

Jenny Sean and Mike in the Supai tunnel

Eric Sean and Jenny in the Supai tunnel

We continued down the trail. This was one part of the trail where my memory failed me from my previous hike. When I pictured the trail just past the Supai Tunnel, I pictured it as very red and curved. But that part of the trail was actually 15-20 minutes below the exit from the tunnel. The rocks and trail were red, and beautiful…

Red rocks below the Supai tunnel

and we soon could see the first bridge on the trail below us.

First glimpse of a bridge below us on North Kaibab Trail

After passing a cool overhang,

Jenny and Sean passing under a large overhang on the North Kaibab trail

lots of switchbacks,

Switchbacks on on the North Kaibab descent below Supai tunnel

and some steep descents,

Looking back up a steep descent on the North Kaibab Trail

we finally came to the curved red rock path. It’s obvious why that part of the trail was so strong in my memory. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the North Kaibab Trail descent.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

After another 20 minutes of descent we paused for this picture above the first bridge on the trail.

Jenny just above the first bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

I waited just above the bridge to take a picture of Jenny and Sean crossing the bridge, which is the picture at the top of the post. As I crossed the bridge I took this picture of the canyon below the bridge. I can imagine the water roaring over these rocks in the spring as the snow melts. I’d love to get that picture!

View of the canyon below the first bridge on North Kaibab trail

We paused for a break in the shade just after the bridge. The trail was switching sides of the canyon and we would be in the sun much more of the time after this break. We started to feel the heat more and began regretting all the pauses for pictures! We headed back up hill for a short distance and then followed the trail as it hugged the side of the canyon.

Eric Rial on the North Kaibab Trail June 2014

One curved section of the trail is obviously being formed by water pouring down the side of the canyon.

Kaibab trail passes  by an interesting formation in the side of the canyon

The rock formation has multiple drops forming ledges that you can climb up or down onto. I climbed up a level, and my cousin Mike climbed down a level to pose for this picture.

Mike stepped down a level for this photo

Then we came to one of the two parts of the trail where my “somewhat dormant” fear of heights kicked in last time… and again this time. I knew this part of the trail was coming and had intentionally dropped back to get this picture.

Jenny and Sean taking a break along the North Kaibab Trail

I shouted ahead for Jenny and Sean to stop so I could get the picture. Sean shouted back that they should be taking a picture of me… that I should see what they were seeing. After a few exchanges of “you should see what I see” with my youngest son, I walked over to hang out with them. As Mike came around the corner, I agreed with Sean that the view he had been seeing was pretty cool too!

Mike pauses along the North Kaibab Trail

Although it was getting hotter, the views were still slowing us down. Another favorite part of the trail for me was next. It is a switchback that goes out away from the canyon wall toward a rock monolith…

Jenny walks toward a switchback near a rock monolith on the North Kaibab Trail

then back toward the canyon wall. This forms a nice platform for taking pictures of people as they go under a rock outcrop and walk along the trail following the curve of the canyon wall.

Jenny and Sean walk under a rock outcrop and along the curved canyon wall on the North Kaibab trail

A little further down the trail I noticed a familiar and memorable view. It was at this point on Day 1 of our October 2010 Rim to Rim hike that I thought I saw a woman carrying an old fashion parasol. Then she seemed to disappear. Although I was still sick (laryngitis) and it was hotter, there were no phantom visions this time.

North Kaibab Trail winding along the canyon wall

The lower you go the warmer it gets! The warmer it got the happier we were to spend a little time in the shade!

Resting in the shade on the North Kaibab Trail

Although we were getting closer to the bottom, the canyon walls and rock formations had not changed much yet. We passed another rock formation formed by water just around the corner after our shady resting place.

Another water worn rock formation on the North Kaibab Trail

About a minute later as I snapped this picture of my son Sean about to round a corner I noticed a large patch of green trees just ahead. We were just about to see Roaring Springs!

Sean about to round a corner with evidence of Roaring Springs just ahead

As we got closer we could see the trail down to Roaring Springs just to the right of the green grove of trees.

The trail down to Roaring Springs to the right of the green trees

This “optional” trail is about a half mile long. Usually by the time you get to this point “optional” trails have lost any appeal they may have had during planning. However, things were different this time. The last status update we got on water stops before we left the North Rim was that water access was not likely to be available beyond the spigot at Roaring Springs. So our 14 mile hike on Day 1 would be extended to 15 miles, and we would get a chance to see Roaring Springs a little closer.

On the way down the “optional trail” I snapped this picture of Roaring Springs (zoomed in quite a bit).

View of Roaring Springs from the trail - zoomed in for a close up

Unfortunately this would be the best picture I got even though we got closer. It’s amazing to me that Roaring Spring flows year around out of the side of the canyon wall. In fact it is the main source of fresh water for the resorts on both rims and There is a fresh water pipe along all 23 plus miles of trail and a series of pump houses used to pump the water up to the resorts. Click this link (An Investigation of Energy Use, Potable Water and Wastewater Treatment at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona) for a good explanation of how the process works.

The extra time we spent walking to and checking out Roaring Springs meant that it would be later/hotter for the rest of the hike but I’m glad we took some time to investigate the area while we were there. Jenny and Sean had some snacks and hung out in the shade while my cousin Mike and I worked our way through some dense (and creepy crawler infested) plants along and across an informal trail that meandered toward the falls below Roaring Springs. We were persistent enough to at least get to a small side falls before we turned around. The transcanyon pipeline cut through the area, but it was still a cool place.

We snapped a few pictures – this is the best one of Mike…

Mike on a rock below Roaring Springs

and Mike took this one of me.

Eric Rial below Roaring Springs Grand Canyon National Park

After we scrambled back along the overgrown path to the watering stop, we filled all of our containers and continued on the trail toward Phantom Ranch. I’m going to continue describing Day 1 of our hike in my next post. My favorite part of the entire hike was behind us, but by no means is the rest of the hike disappointing. It’s just that the North Kaibab trail between the North Rim and Roaring Springs is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!

Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 2: Roaring Springs to Phantom Ranch)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

View of the Grand Canyon through the trees on the South Rim

It can take a long time to plan a Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. I started planning for this hike in December 2012. I knew I wanted to do the hike in the spring time instead of the fall this time, and I wanted some time to explore both the south and north rims of the canyon before the hike. A lot of things can change when you have to plan something this far in advance. Our group changed in size and composition several times during the planning.

The second to the last change was just a few weeks before the hike when my youngest son decided he wanted to go. We were about two-thirds of the way through our last long training hike and he kind of just blurted out that he wanted to go with us to the Grand Canyon. Up until that point I had no idea he was interested and when we started hiking to train for the rim to rim hike I would not have thought him going would be a good idea. He had a fear of heights and had even frozen up on a couple of the early training hikes. But on the last hike there was a very narrow trail with a pretty big drop off and he just casually walked along the path. I’m not sure what changed, but I knew something was different for him. His confidence and self-assurance had built up over all the training hikes. Although there is always a reason to worry about your kids, and I knew this hike was a serious thing, I also knew he could do it.

The last change was a big personal disappointment for me. I had trained for and planned to hike a rim to rim to rim hike. Unfortunately I got a fairly bad head cold about 10 days before the hike and it had not let up on the day we planned to leave. Even though I still thought I could do it, I didn’t want to ruin the trip for the folks just planning to hike from the north to the south rim. So I let it go for this year and decided to take the shuttle. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance, or who I’ll go with, but I still hope to hike both ways one of these days. I have a lot of local hikes planned over the next several years, so I expect I’ll be ready if the chance comes up. Also a rim to rim to rim hike done in 2 days doesn’t require as much lead time, because the reservations at Phantom Ranch are what sell out early.

We left San Diego early on a Friday morning. I thought we would be going up the 15 to the 10, but decided to let Google Navigation decide. We ended up taking a back route that took us through some interesting places including through Glamis and past the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area on California Highway 78. I’ve seen the Sand Dunes when driving along Interstate 8, but the dunes seem much closer from this road.

Driving Past the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

We got to the south rim about 4 pm and checked in to our hotel. It had been a hot day and the room did not have A/C, so we opened the window, turned on the fan and went exploring.

We started by taking a look at the canyon from the rim. I pointed out the top part of Bright Angel Trail (lower right of this picture) to the group.

A view of the canyon and a portion of Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim

We decided to walk down and check out part of the trail…

Sean walking along Bright Angel Trail a couple days before the hike

We stopped just past the tunnel near the top of the trail for a picture.

The gang checks out Bright Angel Trail before the hike

Not sure why, but the very nice person who snapped this picture left the tunnel out of the picture. My cousin Mike volunteered to get another picture of me, Sean, and Jenny with the tunnel in the frame… much better!

Part of the gang with the tunnel showing in the picture

We decided to take the shuttle toward Hermits Rest to have a better view of the sunset. The last stop at that time of the day was Hopi Point and it was a great place to watch the sunset. I’m used to taking pictures of the sunset over the Pacific ocean, but this is a different, when you point your camera toward the sunset you lose a lot of the details of the canyon. It was a very clear day, so the sky wasn’t very interesting either. I took a few pictures of the sunset, but decided it would be better to take advantage of the warm angled lighting by taking pictures in other directions.

This was my favorite sunset picture. You can see a part of the Colorado river below the red glare from the sunset.

Sunset from Hopi Point Grand Canyon South Rim

When I zoomed in on the river, the colors in the late evening sun really popped.

View of the Colorado and Grand Canyon near sunset

A view in the opposite direction showed some interesting color and another little part of the Colorado River.

View away from the sunset into the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point

As the sun went further down, the smoke from a fire on the North Rim dominated the sky.

View of a fire on the North Rim from Hopi Point at sunset

When we got back to the room after dinner, it had cooled off outside, but the room was still about 90 degrees. The window had been open for a few hours with the fan running so I was surprised it was still so hot. I put my hand in front of the fan to see if I could feel the cool air being pulled into the room. Nothing! It was absolutely the most useless fan I’ve ever seen. The fan was on high but I could not feel cool air or air movement at all on either side of the fan. I know this sounds like exaggeration, but I’m not kidding, absolutely no breeze. We opened the door for about an hour and it got a little cooler, but I didn’t want to sleep with the door open, so eventually I closed it and drifted off to sleep. Even though it got down to the forties that night, having the window open did not cool the room off any further. We were all glad that the room we would be staying in after the hike would have A/C (or at least we thought it would…). We got up early, organized our packs, ate breakfast and went out to explore some more.

Out time was limited before our shuttle ride to the North Rim so we decided to take the South Rim Shuttle all the way to Hermits Rest.

Arched Hermits Rest Marker

This used to be the starting point for hikes into the canyon on the Hermit Trail to Hermit’s camp. The trail is maintained, but the camp is long gone. Hermits Rest is a unique place built to look older and less well-built than it is.

Hermits Rest

It was worth the bus ride out to see it. There are also some unique views of the Grand Canyon there and along the shuttle’s route.

We caught the shuttle to the North Rim in the early afternoon. Although I’ve done this hike before we did not spend any time on the North Rim last time. We stayed about an hour north of the park the night before. We drove up at sunrise, got out of the car and started the hike. I was really looking forward to staying at the North Rim for a couple nights and having some new experiences.

Next post in this series covers our stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 2-3 – North Rim)

If you want more, I’ve created a page that lists all of my planning and hiking posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Me hiking in front of the dorms at Phantom Ranch

We are heading to the Grand Canyon very soon for another Bucket List hike. I did a rim to rim hike in 2010. We hiked from the North Rim to Bright Angel Campground on Day 1 and then out to the South Rim along the Bright Angel trail on Day 2. We camped, but used the mules – duffel service to have most of our gear brought to Phantom Ranch for the overnight at Bright Angel Campground.

We had a great time, but of the four of us who did that hike I’m the only one returning for more! The others have checked this off their list, but I had a few more things I wanted to do. I started planning this years hike early last year so it could be a different experience: Early Planning Post. In August of last year it seemed the plan was really coming together: Intermediate Planning Post. We had reservations in place and a total of 7 people signed up to go. However, plans changed! My oldest daughter and her fiancée had to cancel as his college finals conflicted with our hike date. Then a couple of weeks ago my sister had to cancel as she injured her leg and will be on crutches for 6 weeks. That left the group at 3 people, which is fine, but there was one glitch in the plan. Of the original seven, three were planning to hike the rim to rim to rim, and four were planning to shuttle to the North Rim and hike the rim to rim. That plan was workable, but when the total number dropped to 3 it left one person to take the shuttle. Having one person spend the whole day alone, first on the shuttle and then at the North Rim waiting for us did not sound like a good plan.

On our last long training hike my youngest son, who has done almost all the hikes with us this year, was leading the way for the whole hike. Although he has had some issues with heights on a few hikes, he didn’t have any issues on this hike. I mentioned to him at the end of the hike that he had just done a hike that was much tougher, and with worse height conditions than we would have in the Grand Canyon. I’m not sure what prompted him to make the decision, but on the way home he told us he wanted to do the Grand Canyon hike with us. A few months ago I wasn’t sure that it would be a good idea for him to go, but I’m sure he will have no issues with the hike. In fact I’m certain he will be a lot less tired and sore than I will be!

We had added a night and part of a day in Sedona since my sister would have been visiting her sister-in-law very near there just before the hike. However, once my sister cancelled, not only hiking, but all of her vacation (bummer), we decided to skip that part of the trip. Recent fires in that area make skipping it an even easier choice. We’ll just have to explore Sedona another time. So our final plan is:

Day 1: Drive from San Diego to Grand Canyon South – leave early and get there in the early evening.
Day 2: Two of us will start hiking sunrise on the South Kaibab then North Kaibab trail to the North Rim. Two will ride the shuttle from South to North. We will meet again at the North Rim. We will be staying in a Pioneer Cabin and have late dinner reservations at the Lodge.
Day 3: Explore the North Rim lookout and trails. We will do the Cookout Experience and spend one more night in a Pioneer Cabin.
Day 4: All four of us will start hiking at sunrise the North Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch. We have reservations for dorm beds so three of us will be in the male dorm and my wife will be in the female dorm. We will also be enjoying dinner and picking up a bag lunch for the hike out. It will be nice to soak our feet in the “very cold” water of Bright Angel Creek and then take a shower before hitting the rack.
Day 5: We’ll start hiking a little before sunrise on Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. This will be the fun part! Instead of having breakfast at Phantom Ranch (too late), we’ll have some oatmeal which really sticks with me on long hikes and runs. We’ll have some pizza and beverages when we finish and have a good nights sleep at the lodge.
Day 6: Drive from the Grand Canyon South Rim to San Diego. I’m sure we will be just a little more sore and quite a bit more tired than on the Day 1 drive.

We have a few more things to do before we go. We plan to buy some new SmartWool socks. These socks are the best and very durable, but we’ve put a lot of miles on ours over the last 4 years, so it’s time for some new ones. We need to put together a shopping list for supplies. This will include plenty of granola bars, powdered Gatorade, some apples (love these on a hike!), a couple of freeze dried meals for the full day hike from the north to the south, and we’ll restock our first aid kit (plenty of second skin patches, Motrin, and several elastic wraps for sore knees and ankles). We’ll lay out our equipment this weekend and make a list of anything else we may need.

I’ve got all the reservations trimmed back to meet the needs of 4 instead of 7, so I believe we are set! Can’t wait to get out on the trail!

Here are a couple of pictures of the trail from our last trip – looking forward to taking hundreds more!

This is Bright Angel Creek as it runs beside the North Kaibab trail. I believe we were getting close to Phantom Ranch at this point, but from what I remember we thought we were getting close for quite a long stretch…

Bright Angel Creek

This is a view of the black bridge, one of two bridges across the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch. I didn’t cross this bridge on the last trip, but we will at the end of the South Kaibab trail on our South to North hike.

Black Bridge Grand Canyon

Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 1-2 – San Diego to the South Rim)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Golden Gate Bridge view July 2012

We are planning a long weekend in San Francisco in July. We’re meeting another couple their, friends from way back, so planning will include agreeing on activities we all will enjoy. I have several bucket list things I want to do in San Francisco, but I know some of them are not going to work, but I hope we can check at least one thing off my list.

There are several sources of information when you search Google for things to do in San Francisco. Many of them either sell tours, or offer links to tours. I’m not big on guided tours. There are times when they are useful, especially when visiting historical places, but I don’t generally enjoy being led around places… I would rather do some planning and explore on my own.

We spent a couple of days in San Francisco in July 2012 on our Honeymoon following our wedding and stay in Big Sur. That trip was a road trip and we are planning to drive again, but we are not planning to drive from San Diego to Big Sur again this time. We’re taking a week off, but plan to spend half the time in San Francisco and the other half in Lake Tahoe, so no time for a long coastal drive on this trip.

We’ve arranged for a condo for the four days we’ll be staying in the city through Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). We’ve used this website for several trips and have always been very satisfied with where we stay. Be sure to look at the reviews before renting. I avoid places that have no reviews even if the pictures look terrific. It is too easy to make a place look good in pictures even if it has issues. In 2012 we stayed in a Hotel in the Market area, this time we will be a little closer to the center of things in Nob Hill.

We also want to do new things and things we didn’t have time for in 2012. So here’s the list so far:

1. Ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had considered taking our bikes with us, but we are taking our car instead of the Jeep, so we will rent bikes if we do this one. There are several places to rent bikes, and we’ll be watching the local living daily email deal sites for bargains. When you are planning a trip it is a good idea to sign up, several months in advance, for emails for the places you are visiting from sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Goldstar. this one activity gives you a chance to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, get unique views as you cross the bridge, visit Sausalito for lunch, and the ferry ride from Sausalito to San Francisco should give us plenty of great views of the city from San Francisco Bay.

2. Visit Alcatraz Island. The site of the famous prison is now a National Park. Anytime I visit a National park I start with a visit to the appropriate National Park website to the Plan Your Visit section. In this case it helped me avoid a lot of tour companies selling this tour in combination with other tours to get more money. The National Park website pointed me to the official tour company so I can get my tickets directly and skip any additional fees.

View of Alcatraz July 2012

3. Wine tasting day trip! We considered spending an overnight in wine country. This would likely be a good idea when sampling wines from multiple vineyards! But this part of the trip is short so we will make it a day trip and someone (likely me) will volunteer to be the DD. There are almost too many choices. I could do an entire post researching and planning even just a good day trip to this area. Since this will be my first visit to this area I think I’ll suggest the easy way out. We can start at Sonoma Plaza (about an hour drive from San Francisco), do some wine tastings there and then visit a couple wineries in the hills nearby. If we take a few bottles (or cases) home I’ll still get to have the full effect, just delayed a couple of hours!

4. Hike in one or more of the National Parks and Recreation areas in and around San Francisco.

  • Muir Woods. This park has a wide variety of trails from paved to challenging. This would be a great place to hang out for a longer visit on a future camping trip!
  • Marin Headlands area of the Golden Gate National Recreation area – In addition to the National Parks site the Golden Gate National Parks ConservancyGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy organization site is a good information resource for this park. This is my top choice for a hike with a huge payoff – views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco.
  • Mount Diablo is on my bucket list, but it is most likely for another less urban focused trip!

5. Take a scenic drive. The closest drive would be the Reyes National Seashore drive, but it is mostly through rolling hills but the first section to Stinson Beach looks amazing. If we do this one it would make sense to do it at the same time as a visit to the Marin Headlands area and to plan to do another couple few short hikes to lookouts like the Muir Beach Lookout and maybe a section of the coastal trail. The much longer drive to Santa Cruz would be gorgeous, but would take us away from San Francisco for too long and this is a visit to San Francisco…

6. See the 16th Avenue Steps. If we get ambitious maybe even walk up them! If we get really ambitious maybe continue up the steps to see the view from Grand View Park! Looks like a nice climb and I’m a sucker for a grand view!

7. Eat some terrific food from Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and maybe some of my favorite Italian dishes in North Beach. We can also take time to explore these areas before and after we eat!

8. Cable Car Museum. Of course we’ll ride one, but this might be a cool place to check out too.

9. Explore the Nob Hill area on foot. Since we are staying in this area it makes sense to check it out. The area has Grace Cathedral, Union Square, several historic hotels, and lots of high-end shopping…

10. Visit the James Lick Observatory. This is a bit geeky and probably for a future trip, but wanted to capture the thought here, because I would love to check this place out. Might be good in combination with a visit to one of our newest national parks Pinnacles National Park.

View of St Peters and Pauls Church from Lombard Street July 2012

San Francisco is one of the great urban areas in California. It has a unique location, a unique history, and a unique population. We are looking forward to spending time exploring the city and finding even more things we have to do next time.

The more I research things to do, the more I wish we were spending more than 4 days in San Francisco. I’m sure we will be very busy, have a great time, and that we’ll be ready for at least one day of rest and relaxation when we head over to Lake Tahoe for the rest of the trip. However, there will be tons to do there too, not to mention Hot August Nights going on in nearby Reno while we are there!

Posts for the trip:

A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill)

2013 Collage

Last year, 2013, was a very good year for me. Although it will be hard to beat I’m hoping for an even better 2014!

In 2013 I checked a major accomplishment off on my Bucket List, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and had a great time in Washington DC that weekend! In order to make that happen I ran over 500 training miles including two half marathons, the San Diego Half Marathon in March 2013, and the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in June.

We had a great time camping near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park with family. Although I’ve been many times, this was my first trip to Idaho with Jenny. We spent our first anniversary enjoying downtown Boise, went white water rafting, and biked the Boise green belt on the 4th of July, then headed north for a couple days in beautiful Stanley Idaho. For my birthday we had a terrific weekend on Santa Catalina Island. the trip started out fast with my first zipline experience, and we also had a terrific time hiking in the hills around Avalon and just relaxing in our hotel and at the Descanso Beach club.

We enjoyed our third year of Green Flash Concerts at Birch Aquarium and lots of other live music including a few of my favorites Sara Barelles and One Republic at the SDSU Open Air Theater, John Mayer and Phillip Phillips at Sleep Train Amphitheater, Steve Miller at the fair, and Fleetwood Mac at one of my favorite venues – the Hollywood Bowl.

We closed on our new house on 31 December 2012, so we had all of 2013 to get settled in. This inspired me to start a new category for my blog: Weekend Project. Although I got a good start on the house, there are plenty more projects to tackle over the next few years.

For 2014 I will do this a little differently than last year with a top 10 count down of predictions for 2014!

10. Week-end project – install surround sound speakers!

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play.

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)!

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium.

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County.

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike!

4. Check at least one item off my Bucket List in the travel section. Need to coordinate this with a few people so I’m not picking one now…

3. Visit family and friends in Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, and even here in California!

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms!

I hope your 2013 was unbelievable, and your 2014 is unstoppable! Happy New Year!