Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

panorama-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons

We knew we would be hiking in Grand Teton National Park, but we had not chosen which trail to hike until the day before our hike. I had a list but was still doing research and we wanted to go with one that fit the way we felt when the time came. I’m not sure what source of info I was looking at, whether it was a National Park Service brochure, or some other guide, but the hike that jumped out at me was described as the easiest hike to an alpine meadow in the Grand Tetons. Easy sounded good and getting up high enough to feel like we were actually “in the Tetons” sounded great too. I do recommend Garnet Canyon Trail, but I would not in any way call it an easy trail. It is 8.4 miles out and back and over 2200 feet of climb. It is a very strenuous climb, and for much of the hike you will have panoramic view out over Grand Teton National Park, but you will have very little to look at “up the mountain”. But when you do finally get views “up the mountain”, they will take what little breath you have left away!

We got up fairly early to have breakfast, but we weren’t in a huge rush to get started. The temperature would be very reasonable even in the middle of the afternoon. We met up with Jenny’s cousin Charles to go with him on the hike. He had stayed nearby so we met at our hotel and then headed into downtown Jackson to get a light breakfast and a large coffee at Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters. The service and the coffee were very good.

The drive to the trail head was not bad from Jackson. We stopped at the visitor’s center briefly, then headed to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. There is plenty of parking and it was fairly clear how to get to the trailhead from where we parked our car. We wasted no time in hitting the trail. The trail starts with a very misleading long flat stretch.

the-start-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail-is-misleadingly-flat

But eventually the trail turns toward the mountain and begins to climb.

trail-turns-uphill

The trail heads steadily straight up the mountain, gently at first and then getting steeper before starting long sweeping switchbacks. I may have under sold the lower parts of the trail in my intro. The trail climbs through the trees for much of the lower part of the trail.

charles-and-jenny-starting-the-climb

If you look up during the start of the hike you are likely to catch a glimpse of the Grand Teton peak through the trees.

view-of-the-grand-teton-near-the-bottom-of-the-trail

As you head up the trail further you won’t be able to see this peak, but you will be much closer to the Middle Teton and Nez Perce peaks. But before you get to that you’ll have lot’s of views out over the park, including some great views of Taggart and Bradley lakes at the base of this part of the mountain.

views-of-taggart-and-bradley-lakes-from-garnet-canyon-trail

After about a mile and a half Charles went ahead of us quite a ways. We were not in the best “hiking” shape we could be in and we were also struggling a bit with the altitude. We kept a nice steady pace, but it was sort of slow. When we got to the 3 mile mark there is a fork in the trail which is well-marked.

trail-junction-at-at-3-mile-mark-on-garnet-canyon-trail

Charles was waiting for us at the junction. The trail heads further up the mountain to some high mountain lakes. We talked to a couple of groups who were backpacking to this area to camp. We would be heading the other direction, more around the mountain than up it, to Garnet Canyon. Charles made a pitch to head back down instead, and decided he would head back either way. Although I was really feeling my lack of conditioning at that point, I was for continuing on. We decided to continue as we knew there would be some great view ahead of us.

After the junction the trail toward Garnet Canyon levels out quite a bit. The hike is easier, but we were pretty tired by this point. As we rounded the corner and headed onto the trail directly above Garnet Canyon excitement replaced fatigue. The Nez Perce peak came into view first.

nez-perce-peak-through-the-trees-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

There was no one else around so we took a quick selfie with this peak behind us.

selfie-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons-as-the-nez-perce-peak-comes-into-view

We were tired, but happy we had continued. The bear spray we had bought the previous day while checking out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River was hooked up and ready on my chest. Luckily we would not need it during this trip!

From this point the views would only get more spectacular. Just a little further up the trail we got a great view of both Nez Perce and Middle Teton peaks.

view-of-nez-perce-and-middle-teton-from-garnet-canyon-trail

Just a little further up the trail we ran into a group of hikers coming back down the trail. They let us know it was not much further to the end of the trail. They also took this picture of us.

eric-and-jenny-rial-on-garnet-canyon-trail

We decided to have a seat and enjoy some snacks around the next corner. There was a nice boulder to rest on…

snacks-and-a-break-near-the-end-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail

with a very sweet view! At this point the line of lava going up the face of the Middle Teton was very obvious.

nez-perce-and-middle-teton-peaks-from-garnet-canyon-trail

I explored a little further up the trail, but it was quickly turning in to just a jumble of rocks. Although we could have continued a little further it was time for us to head back. I got these final shots of a stream going down Garnet Canyon in the distance…

view-of-a-stream-descending-into-garnet-canyon-grand-tetons

and one last view up the canyon at the point I turned around.

view-of-our-turnaround-point-on-garnet-canyon-trail

The first part of the descent was beautiful all over again. I love when you get to see things from a different angle on the way back down a trail.

jenny-pausing-for-a-break-on-the-way-down-at-garnet-canyon-trail

In this shot, the lighting was perfect to see the pines reflecting on Bradley Lake from our angle on the trail above the lake.

pines-reflection-on-bradley-lake-grand-teton-national-park

As we got closer to the bottom though we started to feel it again. Sometimes going down can take it out of you too. I prefer going down hill, but for Jenny it is harder than going up. Hiking poles help, but a good smooth well maintained trail helps too.

heading-back-to-the-car-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

We were glad to come to landmarks that let us know we were getting close to the end. We woke Charles up from his nap at the car and headed back to Jackson for a light dinner and a well deserved beer!

having-a-beer-above-the-jackson-town-square

I’m finishing this post up on December 31st 2016. During this trip I started to think of myself as “in the worst shape of my life”. I’ve done nothing in the nearly 5 months since this trip to change that. Over the last year I’ve only been in the gym intermittently, I’ve been unable to run, and I’ve not hiked enough to really make a difference either. It is a bit cliché, but I’m going to resolve to change my routine in the New Year. It may be a slow start as I have foot surgery near the end of January, but once I’m recovered from that I’m hoping to be able to get back to running. Before the surgery I plan to get a good start on getting out of the worst shape of my life! I have way too many things I want to do to be “out of shape” any longer.

Update Feb 13, 2017:  I got a good start on getting out of “the worst shape of my life” before my surgery.  It has been 3 weeks since my surgery and today was my first day in a regular shoe!  The foot is healing fast and already feels better in many ways than it did before the surgery.  So glad to have the irritating hardware out of my foot.  I’m hoping to get in to the gym by the end of this week (about a month post surgery) for some weight training and maybe a light elliptical workout.  I have an all-inclusive resort on white sand beach to prepare for!

We were lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of the son of close friends in Bozeman Montana at the beginning of August 2016.  Unfortunately for us we already had floor tickets to Adele in Los Angeles the day before the wedding.  These were tough tickets to get and even tougher tickets to sell or give away.  For better seats Adele had set a rule to reduce/prevent scalping that the person who ordered the tickets had to present a credit card to get into the venue.  There were no tickets to sell.  We wanted to go to the wedding so we checked for flights from the LA area the morning of the wedding.  There were very reasonably priced flights from John Wayne airport to Bozeman early Saturday morning, so we decided to go to the concert, stay in LA, and drive to the airport early that morning. We also decided to add-on a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National park to the trip. It would be a fast 3 day visit, but we would pack a lot of stuff into those 3 days.

The Adele concert was awesome and our hotel was walking distance from Staples Center, but we still got to bed fairly late and had to get up at 4 am to catch our flight. We got into Bozeman early, but by the time we got our rental car we had just enough time to go to our hotel, check-in, change and head to the wedding. The wedding venue was awesome, but there were dark clouds approaching.

Wedding Venue Bozeman Montana

We had a great time at the wedding, but started to feel the long day way too soon. We hung in there, but eventually had to head back to the room and catch up on our sleep. The next day everyone else was heading out-of-town early, so we got up fairly early, had breakfast at a terrific French coffee shop, then heading toward Yellowstone. Originally we had planned to go in the north entry into Yellowstone as it is closest to Bozeman, but later decided to go in the west entrance and leave out of the north entrance on the final day.

So we headed down Highway 191 through the Big Sky area on our way to West Yellowstone. A friend recommended this route and now that we’ve gone both ways, I would definitely recommend this route. It is has very scenic landscape, and we saw both elk…

elk-grazing-in-big-sky-montana

and buffalo along the road. I believe the buffalo was a commercial herd, but still cool.

buffalo-along-highway-191-outside-yellowstone

We only stopped briefly in West Yellowstone, but it looked kind of interesting for a future visit. Our first destination in the park was Canyon Village. Both Jenny or I have been to Yellowstone before, but neither of us had visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We did end up having one unscheduled stop along our route though, Gibbon Falls.

We planned to just stop for a minute to take a couple of pictures from the closest view-point…

gibbon-falls-from-the-lookout-area

but ended up walking on a path for about a half a mile…

trail-along-the-road-to-the-lower-overlook

to get a better view of the falls. The view actually changes quite a bit as you walk along the path to the lower viewpoint. At first there view opens up so you can see the walls on both sides of the falls.

the-view-of-gibbon-falls-along-the-walk-to-the-lower-overlook

Then it opens up even more and there are trees in the view also.

view-of-gibbon-falls-from-the-lower-overlook

We enjoyed the break from the car and the short walk, but then it was back on the road to the Canyon area of Yellowstone. The one advantage of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone over the Grand Canyon, is the much shorter drive from the North Rim to the South Rim.

map-of-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-area

We were able to see the canyon and falls from most of the view points in just a few hours. We did three short hikes during this time. We started with a drive along North Rim Drive. I would actually recommend going to the South Rim first as the North Rim Drive is a one way that takes you back the way you came for several miles. It just makes more sense to do it last. The first stop on North Rim Drive is a trail to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The weather was threatening rain, but of course we had forgotten to pack ponchos. We decided a little water would not hurt and started down the trail. The trail is less than a half mile, but descends about 600 feet. There are switchbacks, but it is still pretty steep. If you look up on the way down, you get a pretty good view of the Upper Falls less than a mile up the Yellowstone River.

view-of-the-upper-falls-as-we-walked-down-to-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The rain was threatening and we could hear thunder in the distance so we knew our visit would be a fairly short one. The falls are impressive. We’ve been to Yosemite several times, and the waterfalls are impressive, but the lower falls at the Yellowstone River’s Grand Canyon are right there with any falls in Yosemite. That is especially true this late in the year. The waterfalls slow to a trickle in the late summer and fall in Yosemite. Our first view was from directly over the top of the falls.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The view of the water, and the mist, and the green sides of the canyon set against the golden color of the rest of the canyon was spectacular. I can’t recommend visiting this place in strong enough terms, it is my favorite spot in Yellowstone.

I stretched the camera out a ways and got a slightly different angle/shot.

leaned-out-for-a-better-look-at-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

This shows how sudden the drop is and how much water is flowing. Finally we went up one level to get a different perspective. This shows the area we had just left, right on the “brink of the falls”.

view-from-a-higher-vantage-point-of-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls-viewing-area

It started drizzling at that point. We were really wishing we had ponchos, but it was a bit late for that. The walk back up was a bit tougher, but it was cool and the threat of heavier rain kept us motivated. There is also a trail from here to the Brink of the Upper Falls, but with the weather we decided to drive further down the road. The next place we stopped on North Rim Drive was Lookout Point. There’s a full view of the Lower Falls from here.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-lookout-point-at-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

If you look closely in the picture from lookout point you can see a wooden trail heading down into the canyon below. Although the rain had started to fall, we decided to head down this trail to Red Rock anyway. The trail alternates between a steep and more gentle descent. It not only takes you down into the canyon, it takes you a lot closer to the falls. I enjoyed the trail…

along-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

but the view of the falls from Red Rock were even better than from lookout point.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-red-rock-in-the-rain

There is something joyful about hiking unprepared in the rain. Sometime it’s hard to contain that feeling so you just have raise your arms to the sky!

jenny-raising-her-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

Jenny seemed to enjoy it so much… I didn’t want to get left out!

eric-rial-raising-his-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

We stayed to enjoy the view for several minutes. I managed to get a picture of this bird (Clarks Nutcracker I believe), resting for a minute in the top of a tree between us and the falls.

clarks-nutcracker-perched-on-a-treetop-in-front-of-the-lower-fall-of-the-yellowstone-river

We waited just long enough to catch the blue sky starting to peek out at the top of the falls. Love the coloring of this picture!

blue-sky-appearing-behind-the-falls

On the way back up I took this picture of the wooden stairs that form the path for much of the bottom of this trail. You can see the rim of the canyon above us.

view-of-the-stairs-as-we-climb-back-to-the-rim-of-the-canyon

I got a couple more pictures near the top of the trail. One back toward the Lower Falls…

one-last-picture-of-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

and the other away from the falls and into the canyon.

view-of-the-canyon-away-from-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-between-red-rock-and-lookout-point

We were soaked to the bone by the time we got to the top. We did take some pictures (evidence), but the smiles could not hide the cold, wet, and a bit worn-out from the climb look. No need to share that look!

We decided to go the Canyon Lodge area for some supplies (bear spray and some ponchos) and to get a bite to eat. Then we headed to the North Rim. Even though the route we took was not the most efficient route, everything is pretty close together here, so we didn’t lose much time, just enough to dry most of the way out!

Our first stop on the North Rim was at Uncle Tom’s point. There is a trail here that leads to a metal staircase that takes you right beside the Lower Falls. The pictures from here were unbelievable. If you are in reasonable shape, definitely go down this trail! The trail is in good shape, but the fun part of the trip is the stairs and the views of the falls.

The first view you get of the falls are some of the best. You are close enough to see the size of the crowd on the Brink of the Lower Falls.

initial-view-of-the-lower-falls-from-uncle-toms-trail

That is near the top of the stairs. There are lots of stairs – 328 per the sign.

some-of-the-stairs-on-uncle-toms-trail

The stairs are impressive mostly because of the spectacular view from them.

the-lower-stairs-and-canyon-on-uncle-toms-trail

You get great views of the canyon down river…

rainbow-over-the-yellowstone-river

of the walls straight across the canyon…

view-of-the-canyon-from-uncle-toms-trail

and of course of the falls.

jenny-and-eric-at-toms-point-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

Then you get to climb back out! At the top, we debated whether to go on to Artist Point or to hit the road to Jackson Hole, where we would be spending the night. It’s about a 2 and a half hour drive. I’m glad we decided on a quick visit to Artist Point.

From the parking lot at Artist Point it is a short walk to the end of the trail. The difference in the view you get as you walk is dramatic though. At first you catch glimpses of the falls through the trees.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-artist-point-trail

The trail takes advantage of a curve in the river so as you walk down the trail the canyon seems to open up and fill your view. At first the trees still dominate the view.

another-view-of-yellowstone-canyon-from-artist-point

But eventually as you approach the end of the trail you can see the full canyon and a long stretch of the river.

canyon-views-open-up-as-you-approach-the-end-of-the-artist-point-trail

From the farthest point you can walk to, the view of the canyon dominates the landscape.

full-view-of-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-river-and-lower-falls-from-artist-point

I could spend a whole day at this location just taking pictures with different lighting. It is obvious how this place got its name.

We had seen a lot, but not all of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but it was time to head south. Our route would take us through a big chunk of Yellowstone, past Yellowstone Lake and through Grand Teton National Park. We were hoping there was enough daylight left to enjoy the drive. About a half hour into the drive we noticed a lot of cars stopped in the road. As we approached the area we could see why. There were several buffalo grazing near the road.

traffic-stopped-for-some-buffalo-near-the-road

The traffic was just crawling past this spot and we were at a complete stop several times. We saw the “classic” behavior that can lead to big issues around such big animals. Too many people, too much activity, and people getting way too close. One young lady got to within 30 feet or so to take a selfie. She turned her back on the buffalo smiled big and took her picture. I was afraid to watch!

We took a picture (not great, but good enough for me) from the car as the traffic crawled along.

yellowstone-buffalo-picture-from-our-car-window

We zipped past Yellowstone Lake. We would be back here in a couple days, and we were anxious to get to Grand Teton Park. We got there in time to get some great views of the Tetons. Although we had zipped by Yellowstone Lake, we could not help stopping for pictures of the Tetons across the lakes we were passing in Grand Teton Park.

clouds-floating-above-the-silhouette-of-the-distant-grand-tetons

A few minute later we stopped again with a slightly better view of the mountains.

grand-tetons-visible-in-the-distance-across-a-lake

At this point we were worried about getting to Jackson in time to get a good dinner. We would be back to spend the whole day in Grand Teton Park the next day, so I told Jenny we should not stop any more. Of course a few minutes later I looked over at the mountains, exclaimed “Whoa Nelly” and pulled over again. The full view of the mountains as the sun was setting was too good to pass up. I took a landscape view picture with my phone…

grand-tetons-just-after-sunset

and then this panoramic shot.

panorama-of-grand-tetons-after-sunset

Our reservations in Jackson were at the Cowboy Village Log Cabin Resort. We checked in quickly and got our stuff into our cabin, then walked a couple blocks to have dinner at Snake River Brewing. The service, food, beers, and atmosphere were a perfectly relaxing end to a full day.

We would be having breakfast with a friend, Charles, in the morning, enjoying Jackson Hole for a bit and then going for a hike in the Tetons. We had chosen what was described as the “easiest alpine meadow hike in the Tetons”. But more on that in the next post.

Rain forest blurs by on the Road to HanaOn Day 3 in Maui we got up early to hit the Road to Hana!  This is a tourist must do, so if you’re a tourist… you do it.  It is a road in fairly poor condition.  That is probably because all those tourist keep driving on it and wearing it out!  But it is far from a tourist trap, it is well worth the drive.  It takes you through and to some of the most beautiful parts of Maui… if you’re one of those people who like tropical paradise anyway.

We got up early to head to the other side of the island.  The goal was to get to Paia and the start of the road to Hana before the traffic got too heavy.  We planned to drive fairly straight through to the end so we would have time to hike the Pipiwai Trail.  Then we would stop on the way back if there was anything else we were interested in.  The traffic was not too bad as we headed from Lahaina to Kahului.  There were some low clouds on the mountains, but it was a pretty clear morning otherwise.  We decided we would want to stop at Paia on the way back, it looked like a nice small village with several interesting shops.  We kept driving steadily until we got to the halfway point.  We didn’t stop along the way but we definitely enjoyed the drive!

Nice view from a very wet Road to Hana

There is a sign at the halfway point along the road that is also “conveniently” right beside a roadside stand that sells snacks and different varieties of banana bread.

Near a fruit stand halfway to Hana

 

We got snacks, drinks, and Wendy got some very tasty banana pineapple bread.  We wanted a little longer break from the car so we decided to sit on some picnic tables near the stand.  I got there first and noticed a small beautifully colored bird on a small wall beside the picnic tables.  I managed to get one good picture before he flew away.

Red Crested Cardinal as we took a break halfway to Hana

Then it was back on the road!

Zipping along the Road to Hana

I took a few quick pictures of falls on the way by, like this drive by shot of the three bears falls, but we did not stop again until we were past Hana.

Drive by view of the 3 bears falls on the Road to Hana

The temperature and humidity were big factors in our day again.  It was well over 80 degrees and very humid by the time we started our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.  We took a wrong turn at the beginning… I’ll take credit for that… and ended up on the 7 pools trail.  I realized we were headed toward the water instead of inland after less than a quarter-mile, so we turned around quickly, but it had been all down hill to this point, so it was all uphill on the way back.  By the time we got to the start of the trail we were already very hot and sweaty!

Heading up the start of the Pipiwai trail

The trail continued uphill through the Oheo Gulch.  The first sign I noticed was quite a serious warning.

Warning sign on Pipiwai trail near Falls of Makahiku viewpoint

As I looked up the trail past this sign I saw that my friend Dave had obviously ignored the warning as he was standing right on the muddy edge of the cliff.

Dave looking out at a water fall on Pipiwai Trail Maui

My first thought was, “What could possibly be worth standing there?”.  As I walked up to see what he was looking at I realized it was indeed worth looking at, although I stayed a little further back and still got a great view of the falls of Makahiku.  Although it is hard to put this picture in perspective, the falls are about 180 feet high!

Falls of Makahiku

Next we came to a quite impressive Banyan Tree.  Unfortunately my camera had began to act up.  Between the humidity and sweat it began to have issues focusing and was taking mostly terrible pictures.   I did get one more decent picture that I snapped quickly as we walked by of a double falls below the trail.

Small double falls beside the Pipiwai Trail in Maui

After that picture I ended up taking better pictures the rest of the hike with my Samsung phone.  One of my favorite places of all time came next, it was a huge bamboo forest.  The trail cut through it up the hill, but you could see very little beyond a few feet off the trail.  I really didn’t get as many good pictures as I wish I had, but I’ll share a few.  This one was near the start of the trail.

Jenny and Wendy near the start of the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail

I took a ton of pictures on this part of the trail.  The lighting was amazing, but I never quite got the picture I was shooting for, this was one of the trail…

Photo stop in the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai trail

and this one looking up, where the best I could get.

Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail Road to Hana Maui

This last one was actually on the way back later but I like it because we are all in it and it also shows the wooden pallets that were on parts of the trail.  There were also a couple of bridges.  You can tell we were on the way back because Jenny and I were soaked to the bone.  We were sweating, but not that much… we had decided to take our chances and go under the water fall at the end of the trail.

All of us in the Bamboo

 

After the bamboo forest, the trail continues though a very lush jungle.  It was actually a few degrees cooler in the bamboo than on the rest of the trail.  We missed the coolness as we finished up this last part of the hike up to Waimoku Falls.  We stopped just before the falls to have lunch on some rocks in a small stream.

Having lunch on the rocks in the stream near Waimoku Falls

There was an easy trail to a place to view the falls, but while Dave cooled off in a pool below the rocks, and Jenny and Wendy got the lunch together I decided to explore downstream.  The stream came to a merge point with another stream coming from the direction of the falls, so I decided to head that way.  After a little boulder jumping I got to a place where I could see the falls through the trees.

Sneak peak of Waimoku falls

I was ready for lunch, but my curiosity got the better of me so decided to continue on to get a better view from this angle.  It was a very nice view and worth the effort.  I headed back the same way I had come after admiring the 430+ foot falls for a bit.  It was time to have a sandwich and relax a bit.

Waimoku Falls

After lunch we all headed to the regular trail to the falls.  The trail stopped well back from the falls with a lot of warning signs to stay out of the area below the fall.  I imagine when there is heavy rains this area could fill with water very quickly.  We decided to go “a little” closer.  The path to the falls crosses the stream early then you walk along a very rocky path.  From this angle the view of the fall is not bad either!

Waimoku Falls as we approach on the trail beyond the warning signs

 

I tried using my phone’s panorama mode to get a picture of Dave and Wendy near the base of the falls.  It turned out OK… they were a bit blurry, the falls are a bit distorted, and the whole picture is a bit over exposed, but I still love this picture.  Waimoku Falls is very impressive from this angle.

Dave and Wendy under Waimoku Falls

Jenny and I decided to take a little more of a risk and go in the pool below the falls.  Rocks and branches can come over the falls easily with the water, so I don’t recommend this to anyone.  We definitely cooled off though. Initially we both went under the falls.

Taking a shower under Waimoku Falls

I could not tell if Dave got the picture so I came out to ask. There was definitely no way to hear under the falls.

I came back out to ask if Dave had gotten the picture

Just to be sure I went back under one more time.

Enjoying a shower under Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipwai trail

We enjoyed the hike back out nearly as much as the hike in, but everyone was glad to get back to the air-conditioned car by the time we finished.  Although we had planned to do more stops on the way back, very few places were open, and we were ready to get back to civilization.  I did get a couple of nice pictures on the way back though.  We all decided if we moved to Hawaii we wanted this to be our front yard!

Beautiful trees and yard along the Road to Hana

 

I also liked this view of this small village just off the Road to Hana.

View of a village by the sea on the Road to Hana

 

We decided to stop in Paia for dinner.  We had heard great things about Mama’s Fish House, but we were definitely not dressed for it.  We decided to go much more casual and eat at the Flatbread Company.  It was a bit warm in the restaurant, but heck it was warm everywhere, but the pizza and cold beer were great.

When we got back to Lahina, we were ready to just shower, hang at the condo, relax, and visit.  We decided to get back to the beach the next day.  Our third day in Maui had been terrific, but it was also quite a workout.  We were ready to do a little more relaxing and there’s no better place to do that than in Hawaii!  I’ll continue in another post soon.  Hopefully I’ll finish this before we go back!  (Dave and Wendy were actually back in Kauai just a couple of weeks ago on a trip Dave won at work… very jealous.)

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We went into 2015 with the intent to have fewer planned vacations.  I started a new job with fewer vacation days to start.  I would have no vacation days early in the year, so we decided to plan a trip to Hawaii later in the year so I could save up a few days.  We decided to go the week of Columbus day to save even more of my vacation time (I only needed 3 days of vacation time).  Our last trip to Hawaii was to Kauai in 2011 and we had a great time.  For that trip we stayed in two different locations and both of them were right on the water.  We wanted to do things a little differently this time.  We decided to look for a condo near Front Street in Lahaina so we could walk to the shops and restaurants in that area.  We would drive to the beaches but be able to relax and enjoy ourselves in Lahaina without worrying about having to drive home.  We found a condo 2 blocks from Front Street.  The condo was in the Aina Nalu a condo property partially managed by Outrigger and partially privately owned condos. It has lots of amenities but the true appeal is the location. We ended up getting one of the privately owned condos in this property that was listed on Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).  It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo which was perfect for us and the other couple Dave and Wendy who would be going with us.  We’ve had several terrific vacations with them over the past several years.  Although they live in Boise Idaho and we live in San Diego we actually got together 4 times in 2015; once for this trip, once for my daughters wedding in California, once for his daughters wedding in Idaho, and again for New Years eve and a trip to the Rose Bowl on New Years day.

We had a great time in Maui, but there was one unexpected thing that made Hawaii a little less of a paradise on this trip.  Due to the El Niño in the Pacific the temperatures and humidity were much higher than usual.  Most days were in the 80s with humidity in the 90 percent range.  This is not normal, and not what we expected for October in Hawaii.  Even though we only had a 2 block walk to Front Street in Lahaina, by the time we got there we would be dripping sweat.  I’m pretty sure this is the last time I’ll go to Hawaii during an El Niño year.  Our first day/night in Maui we just took it easy.  On the way from the airport we got some groceries to stock up the frig.  After we checked in to the condo, we walked down to Front Street to get lunch.  We decided on a burger place right on the water called… Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The food was delicious, the service good, and the view from our table was amazing.  We checked out some of the shops along front street which are mostly souvenir shops and art galleries and we spent quite a bit of time under the Banyan Tree at a regular art festival. Got a picture of Dave and Wendy under one of the trunks of the tree.

Dave and Wendy under the Banyan Tree Lahaina

After the long flight and the unusual heat we decided to head back to the condo to clean up, catch-up and take it easy. Jenny and I took a nap for a few hours, then we decided to take another walk downtown after dark.  We walked under the Lahaina Court House banyan tree again.  It is an amazing tree, really hard to believe it is only one tree.

Lahaina Banyan Court night view

Then we walked out toward the pier and I got this image of Front Street lit up from the park behind the Lahaina Public Library.

View of Lahaina Front Street at night

As we walked back toward Front Street I noticed a place that was advertising an old favorite snack – Dole Whip (frozen pineapple juice).  I convinced everyone it was worth the calories!  After wondering around Front Street again for a bit, we gave in to the jet lag, and headed back to the condo to get a good night’s sleep.

Dave and Wendy had arrived a couple days earlier than us to do some exploring.  They found a beach they really loved, Kapalua Beach, so on day 2 we decided to check it out.  We stopped at a snorkeling/boogie board rental place on our way out of Lahaina.  The person working there was a wealth of knowledge and gave us some great tips for how to best do things we planned later in the week, like the road to Hana and a bike ride down from Haleakala after seeing the sunrise over the crater.  Her advice really helped us enjoy the rest of the week, and we got good prices on the equipment rentals and the bike ride reservations.

There were areas of rain just about every day we were in Maui, but luckily there also were areas on the island where it was not raining.  On the way to Kapalua Beach we saw some rain clouds, which were a bit concerning, but it was not raining near the beach.  There is a small public parking lot near Kapalua Beach which provides great access to the beach, but you have to get there pretty early to get a spot.  There were no spots available when we got there, but there was still plenty of parking along  Lower Honoapiilani Road.  Even that fills in fairly quickly so the earlier you get there the closer you will be to the beach.  We were only about a quarter mile down the road, so not too bad.

There are public bathrooms on the way down to the beach, and then you go through a short tunnel and on to the beach.  There were quite a few people there already, but still plenty of room to set up our chairs and beach towels (provided by the condo rental) in a nice shady area.  The beach is in a beautiful cove but it is just a short walk to nearby resorts and restaurants.

View of Merrimans Maui from Kapalua Beach

View of resort near Kapalua Beach Maui

Even in the shade it wasn’t long before we were hot and ready to get in the water. My friend Dave was happy to lead the way by putting his mask and fins on in his chair and then walking down to the water. There are few things in life that are funnier than someone walking on the beach in fins. We all had a great laugh. Luckily I caught the whole thing on a video! I decided to share a screen capture of the video rather than the video. Definitely evokes memories of Charlie Chaplain’s walk as the Tramp!

Dave walking into the water at Kapalua Beach with his fins on

Although we enjoyed the beach and swimming, we wanted to try a different snorkeling spot. We were hoping to see more coral, fish, and maybe some turtles. We had heard that Black Rock was a good place to snorkel so decided to head there. Not really knowing the area or the best way to approach the snorkeling area we decided to park at what we thought was a good public parking/access area at Kahekili Beach Park. That would mean hauling our stuff about .7 miles from the parking lot to an area near the Black Rock area. We had stopped at the Honolua Store on the way back to the highway from Kapalua Beach to get some sandwiches and drinks for lunch, so we were set until dinner. The walk on the path and beach took a little more effort than we expected and it was definitely starting to warm up.

Walking from Kahekili Beach Park toward Black Rock

We set up our stuff under a large tree to enjoy the shade again. After swimming for a bit, Dave and I decided to walk over to black rock area to see what snorkeling in that area was like. We headed out along the large black rocks. There was no coral and not really anything of interest. We decided to go out past the end of the rock and go around the corner to see what was out there. We passed an opening in the rocks and continued on for about another 50 yards. The water was getting deeper and deeper to our right and there was really nothing to see. I started to hear the Jaws theme music in my head, and kept looking into the murky deep water to our right expecting to see a shark coming our way at any point. After a brief discussion we decided there was nothing to see this way and decided to head back. On the way out we had not noticed we were being pushed along by a current. We definitely felt the current as we fought it back to the corner as we headed back. Progress was slow, but steady. As we approached the opening in the rocks, Dave decided to climb up on the rock and take a break. We were both a bit tired after fighting the current. As he was getting out he smacked his knee on the rock and after we both rested for a bit he decided to walk back to the beach over the rocks rather than get back into the water. Now it was time for me to look a bit silly. I have very tender feet. It’s actually a bit embarrassing. I was walking so funny it concerned Jenny and Wendy so they came over to see if we had gotten hurt. We were fine, but my pride was a bit bruised. Luckily no one got a video of my walk of shame!

We hung under the shade tree for a little while longer. It looked like a rubber tree or a magnolia based on the leaves, but as I sat there I noticed a bird fly in and land on a branch. The branch had what looked like nuts on it. Just as I mentioned this to Jenny a nut fell off the tree and landed on her. To avoid getting pelleted by more nuts, we decided to pack it up and to head further northwest toward Nakalele Point and the blowhole. We stopped first at an overlook just past the Honolua Bay, a great snorkeling area that we planned to check out later in the week. We drove out on a dirt road to a parking area not far from the main road. This area not only has great views of Honolua Bay…

Honolua Bay

there is also terrific views of a surfing area near Lipoa Point.

Surfers near Lipoa Point Maui

It was a beautiful place. We decided to come back later in the week to snorkel at Honolua Bay then come up to this overlook afterward to have some wine and cheese and enjoy the view.

The Nakalele Point blowhole was next. As we walked down the path we came upon this very welcoming sign.

Warning sign at Nakalele Point blowhole

It may seem a little over dramatic, but there have been people who have died at this place. Jenny and Wendy were in flip flops and decided to not go all the way down. They could see the blowhole, but Dave and I decided to go a little closer. This area is basically an outcropping of old lava. It is surreal rough terrain, but I think it was well worth the climb down.

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But the best view was not of the blowhole it was back toward the coastline from Nakalele Point.

View back toward the coast from Nakalele Point

Jenny and I braved facing into the sun for one more picture before we headed back toward Lahaina.

Eric and Jenny near Nakalele Point Maui

When we got back to Lahaina, it was very close to sunset. We wanted to see it while we ate, so rather than going back to condo to clean up change we just looked for parking on Front Street. The parking gods must have been on our side because we came on a parking spot only a couple blocks from the restaurant we had decided to eat at – Bubba Gumps.

We definitely had a great view from our table of the sun setting behind the island of Lanai.

Another view from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

View from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

As we ate dinner we decided to do the Road to Hana the next morning.  We planned to hike the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls at the end of the Road to Hana.  The very helpful lady at the equipment rental business had recommended that if we wanted to do this hike we should leave early and drive all the way to the end of the Road to Hana without stopping, then do any stops we wanted to do on the way back.  So that was our plan at the end of our first full day in Maui.  We were tired, satisfied that we had “stuffed” enough fun into this day, so after dinner we headed home to get some sleep so we could get up early for the Road to Hana!

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

Hairpin curve in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Distance 5+ Miles out and back
Elevation Change 550+’ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy road in excellent condition, slot canyons require some scrambling
Comments I did some research on this trail before our hike but didn’t find any reliable details on how to find the slot canyons.  We ended up doing a lot of exploring in the wrong areas and were almost satisfied when we found the first (smaller) slot canyon, but I’m glad we decided to go around one more bend in the road.
Latitude/Longitude 32.833277, -116.156338
Directions Take Interstate 8 East to County Route S2.  Take S2 north for 13.1 miles to a dirt road on the right.  It is past mile marker 53 and the Carizzo Badlands Overlook.  This is Sin Nombre Canyon Road.  You can park in a dirt lot just off S2 at this turn off, or if you have a higher clearance vehicle you can drive about a mile down the dirt road to the east to the beginning of Canyon Sin Nombre Canyon.

 

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Canyon Sin Nombre, I think the description of the slot canyon is not completely clear in the book.  The biggest thing missing is that there are actually two very nice slot canyons not one.  In looking at other posts about this hike I believe some people have only found the smaller of the two slot canyons, and I don’t see any posts that describe both.

As you turn off County Road S2 onto the unmarked Sin Nombre Canyon Road you will see a sign stating that the road is only for street legal vehicles.   Based on the number of vehicle tracks along the road this is a fairly popular route for off road vehicles.  We drove about a mile down the dirt road to just before the beginning of the canyon.  There was plenty of room to park off the road at this point.  You’ll see the rocky beginning of the canyon as you approach this pull out area.

Rocky entrance to Canyon Sin Nombre

We started the hike in the late morning around 11 am.  It was a cool breezy winter day with a clear blue sky.  At the beginning of the hike we were wishing we had brought jackets, but we were fine after we started walking.  Because I was unsure exactly where the slot canyons were we ended up taking a couple of exploratory trips off the main road that did not find the slot canyons, but they were interesting side trips.  Both were up erosion gullies on the east side of the canyon.  Not sure why I thought to look on this side as the slot canyons we ended up finding were both on the west side of the main canyon.  But the side trips took us through some interesting areas and gave us some great views.

Exploring off Canyon Sin Nombre

We finally gave up on the side trips and decided to walk down the main road.  At about a mile down the road (32.843725, -116.154400) we came on a trail on the left that had 3 posts in front of it and even more encouraging there were lots of footprints headed down it!  Our footprints had been pretty lonely on the other exploratory trails we had followed.  Near the start of the trail it splits into two different trails.

Trail to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

The only accessible slot canyon we found was to the right.  There was also an inaccessible slot that looked interesting but there were very large rocks blocking the entrance and we didn’t attempt to climb through.  The accessible slot canyon was on the right side of the right path.  This was the smaller of the two slot canyons we found off Canyon Sin Nombre and the harder one to find.   There is a rocky path up to the opening of the slot, but it is hard to see.

Entrance to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Although it was the smaller of the two slot canyons, it was still about 150 yards long with lots of interesting twists and turns.

 

We found another very short slot in this area but it was only 20 or 3o yards deep.  But I did get one good shot of the wider canyon on the way out.

View of Canyon Sin Nombre from a short slot in the canyon wall

There was another area that was posted off just south of where we had found the entrance to the trail to the slot canyon.  We decided to explore there next.  There was another wash similar to the ones we had explored on the east side of the canyon.  It went higher up on the canyon walls than the others did though.  I particularly like this picture back toward the main canyon with three Ocotillo Cactus along the path.  These have red blooms in the spring… but still interesting looking plants in winter.

Octillo Cactus along a path up the side of Canyon Sin Nombre

We climbed nearly to the top of this path/wash, and got a pretty good view of the area from where we turned around.

View of Anza Berrego from the near the top of a trail off Canyon Sin Nombre

It was a long way up and a long scramble back down.

Scrambling back down the toward the road in Canyon Sin Nombre

By the time we got back down to the road we were pretty tired.  Although this hike is listed as 550′ of loss/gain in elevation, my GPS route showed a total of almost 1000′ by the time we finished all of our side explorations.  On the way back down I told Sean we would head back when we got down, but by the time we got to the road I decided we should explore around one more bend in the road.  I just didn’t think we had seen everything yet.

As we rounded the bend a high solid looking wall came into view.  I didn’t initially see any openings but we kept going and eventually came to a break in the wall that looked very encouraging.

The entrance to this larger/longer slot canyon (32.847642, -116.154712) at the back of this opening is not immediately obvious, but all you have to do is keep walking toward the left side of the back and you’ll see the path. There are a couple of wider areas near the start of the slot canyon.

And then you’ll come to an area of partial collapse. This was the first spot where we questioned if we would be able to continue, or even wanted to walk through what looked like an unstable area.

Sean in front of an area of collapse rock in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

We decided to go for it the slot canyon continued but not far after the first area of collapse was a second one.

Second area of collapse in the longer slot canyon in Canyon Sin Nombre

We talked about turning back again more seriously this time, but I decided to scramble over the rocks to see what was past the collapse. The slot canyon definitely continued, so I called to Sean to climb on through. As I look at the picture we took before going forward it is hard to see the scale of the rocks. I also took this picture of Sean on top of the pile on the way out that shows the scale.

Sean climbing back over collapsed rocks on the way out of the slot canyon.

We were really glad we climbed through the second area of collapsed rock. At that point we were only about a third of the way through the slot canyon. The trail continued to climb and the walls closed in but were not quite as high.

My favorite part of the slot canyon was in this section. It was a hairpin curve, you could stand with your back against the wall and see down the canyon both directions. I attempted to show how this looked with the picture at the top of the post. I glued several images together but was careful to put them together into one image that showed the perspective you would see with your back against the wall. I really wished I would have just pulled my phone out of my pocket and taken a panoramic shot to show it in one image. Next time I guess!

For whatever reason after the hairpin curve I didn’t take anymore pictures. Not sure why I didn’t. The slot canyon continued for a while, then came to an open area, but the slot canyon continued on the other side of that area to the top of the canyon wall. There was only one branch in the slot and it came after that open area. To the left is supposedly an opening into the canyon (be careful if you go that way). We went right and the slot continued up to another large open area at the top of the canyon wall. It looked like a great place to explore and we might have found entrances to other slot canyons up there, but we decided to head back down and head back to the Jeep.  We did seem to get some better lit pictures on the way back out.

 

I looked back one last time as we left the slot canyon and caught the halo of the sun around one of the peaks of the canyon walls near the entrance to the slot canyon. I also noted the fire ring.  Camping is allowed, free, and no reservations are required in Anza Borrego!

Sun setting behind the canyon wall as we leave the slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

 

I don’t consider myself a desert person, but this was one of my favorite hikes in San Diego County so far. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good example of a slot canyon or who just loves to explore.

After the very slow lazy day floating down the Merced through Yosemite Valley, we were ready for a little more exertion on day 3 of our car camping trip to Yosemite. Our original plan was for some of the group to hike to the top of vernal while the more ambitious folks hiked to Half Dome from the valley floor. I hike to the top of Half Dome in 2011 from Little Yosemite Valley, but wanted to do it the more traditional and more difficult route all the way from the valley floor. In 2011 we had back country permits and backpacked from Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley the day before hiking to Half Dome. The good thing about getting back country permits is that you automatically can request permits for Half Dome. If you want to go from the valley floor you have to enter the seasonal and/or daily lottery for permits. We had done both, but unfortunately we did not get selected in either lottery. Hiking the Mist Trail and having lunch above Vernal Falls is not a bad consolation prize.

Our group got separated at the beginning of the trail, into 2 or 3 smaller groups. We had driven separately and some of us took the shuttle and others walked from the parking lot at Curry Village to the trailhead. We had agreed to meetup a short distance up the trail. Our group was pretty diverse when it came to conditioning and even desire to do a tough hike. I was just glad we all made it at least to the rally point. It was a fairly hot day, and the first part of the trail, even though it is paved, is pretty steep. We were hoping to get everyone to at least the bridge below Vernal Falls, but a couple of people decided today was not the day to do that. A few people took off quick, a few went at a moderate pace (me included) but the biggest group hung together at a slow but steady pace. The trail is fairly level until you get to the High Sierra Loop Trail sign not too far from the road. I like to get pictures of this so I don’t have to look up the distance that I hiked!

Sean by the High Sierra Loop Trail sign

The planned hike to the top of Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail and back down on the John Muir Trail would be about 4.5 miles, however, a few of us would go back down the Mist Trail and a few would end up doing several extra miles. Once you get past the sign and start up the fairly steep pave trail, you start to see why this is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite. There are trees and boulders along most of the trail.

Jenny heads up the paved part of the trail to Vernal Falls

And the Merced can be heard and sometime seen tumbling toward the Valley as you climb the trail.

The Merced tumbling toward the Valley beside the Mist Trail

Although the trail is steep, it is really not far to the bridge below Vernal Falls.

The bridge below Vernal Falls just ahead

The views here are terrific and there is fresh water to fill your water containers. If you have friends who aren’t sure they want to sign up for a big hike, get them to sign up to at least hike to this bridge it is only .8 miles from the start of the trail. The best part of this point in the hike is you can see just enough of the falls to entice them to go further!

View of Vernal Falls with Sentinal Dome behind from the bridge

Just get them this far, take a snack break, then point out that the views closer to the falls are spectacular and it really isn’t that much farther to get up close.

Note: I noticed after I got home that all 500+ pictures I took with my Nikon camera had a smudge on the left hand side of the photo. For many of the pictures in the posts for this trip I was able to crop out the blur/smudge. I couldn’t bring myself to crop out Sentinel Dome in the above picture. Unfortunately several pictures that could have been awesome were completely ruined. Lesson learned: clean the camera lens daily!  Note2: The camera lens was actually damaged not smudged but I would not realize it until after our trip to Maui 4 months later.

We took a break to refill our water bladders, use the restroom, and have a snack. As usual, anywhere with food, there will be squirrels waiting for a chance to nab some of your food!

Squirrel near the bridge below Vernal falls nabs some accidentally dropped snack

The trail as you leave the bridge area on the way toward Vernal Falls is not overly steep, runs right beside the Merced, and is shaded at first.

Mist Trail Yosemite just above the bridge toward Vernal Falls

While you’re still in the shade you will pass a sign that marks the point that the John Muir Trail splits off. We planned to come back on this trail from the top of Vernal Falls for a couple of reasons. First that trail is more gentle (although longer) and easier on the knees on the way down. Second, there are some terrific views of the falls from the trail that connects the Mist Trail to the John Muir Trail a short distance above Vernal Falls.

Eventually the shade goes away and the trail turns into granite stairs that lead you up and past Vernal Falls.

Granite stairs below Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail Yosemite

This is my favorite part of the trail and the reason this trail is called the “Mist” Trail. When the falls are going strong there is a constant mist everywhere along this part of the trail. I’ve been on this trail a couple of times before, both times it was later in the summer, but this year the falls had the least amount of water I’d seen. Still not too bad, just less mist.

Vernal Falls Yosemite

I frequently forget to look back when I’m hiking uphill, especially when there is something as spectacular as Vernal Falls in front of you. We weren’t planning to come back down this trail, so I looked back several times on this stretch of the trail. I’m glad I did. You can see the river far below and across the valley Glacier Point and the start of the Panorama Trail.

View back down the Mist Trail on the stairs as you approach Vernal Falls

As you approach Vernal Falls, the views of the falls get even more spectacular. There is a spot before you turn to go up even more steps that is perfect for getting pictures. I took this picture of Sean while we waited for the rest of the group at that point.

Sean Rial hiking to the top of Vernal Falls 2015

Sean took this picture of me and Jenny at the same spot.

Jenny and Eric Rial Vernal Falls 2015

Because it had been such a dry winter and spring, the falls were the lowest I had ever seen them. I know they go even lower than this, but I wanted to feel more of the mist. We noticed at one point that a lot of people were taking a side trail to get closer to the falls. I probably would not have done it if the falls were heavier, but with less water/mist, we decided to check it out.

Trail leading to rocks just below Vernal Falls

This turned out to be my favorite part of the hike. It was a very cool experience!

Going off trail at Vernal Falls Yosemite

When we headed back to the main trail, there was a Ranger there discouraging people from leaving the main trail. I’m glad we got there before she did and experienced the falls up close.

Of course the big payoff with getting this close is to get in the shot. That is a little easier said than done. The lighting is not great, the angle to get the falls and people in is tough, and the lens of your camera will get wet. It was easier to do this with the camera on my phone, than my other camera, so we did get one good shot.

Jenny, Sean, and Eric Rial on the rocks above the pool at Vernal Falls Yosemite

After cooling off in the mist of Vernal Falls we were ready to finish the climb to the top of the falls. One of the last good shots I got of Vernal is through the trees, so you can’t see the top of the falls, but it is a good view of the pool below the falls.

Vernal Falls through the trees near the top

I don’t have any good pictures of the last part of the trail to the top of Vernal Falls, so I’ll just describe it. The trail curves to the left toward the falls and as it nears the top it narrows. The last 30-40 yards of the climb to the top are on a very narrow trail carved into the side of the granite wall. Luckily there is a pipe handrail to hold on to. Even with that if you have a fear of heights this is unlikely to be enjoyable. Once you get to the top, you will come to a large open granite slab that leads down to a point right above Vernal Falls.

Granite slab above Vernal Falls

This area is a good place for a group picture, but you may have to get in the queue. If you go to the point closest to the falls, you can get a great shot of the falls from the top by holding your camera out past the railing.

View of Vernal Falls from above

Some of our group was way ahead of the rest, had already finished their lunch and decided to head straight back down the Mist Trail. The rest of us headed upriver a ways to find a shady spot for lunch. We decided on a spot next to a part of the river that slides down a granite shoot into a pool. It’s not generally safe to get in the river above the falls, but if I had swim trunks with me I might have tried this slide out.

Slide and pool a ways above Vernal Falls

We ate our lunch on a rocky spot in the shade with a good view of this slide.

We had lunch in the shade above Vernal Falls

We were planning to cut across above Vernal Falls to the John Muir trail after lunch. This adds quite a bit more climb and about another 1.5 miles to the hike, but it is a much gentler descent and there are some terrific views of Vernal Falls from above. I ended up not going this way, but most of our group did. Here’s a shot of Vernal Falls that I took in 2011 from that trail.

View of Vernal Falls from the trail connecting John Muir Trail to the Mist Trail

This time I was feeling just a little more ambitious. We had been planning to hike to Half Dome, so I was feeling like I want more than to go just to the top of Vernal Falls. While we were eating lunch in the shade I decided to ask my son if he felt like hiking further up. He was in, and so was my wife’s cousin Charles. So after lunch the three of us headed the rest of the way up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls.

Since we would be going a couple of miles further than the rest of the group we decided to take off as soon as we were done eating. The Mist Trail and the trail toward the John Muir Trail split on a sloped granite slab. Both of them are a little hard to follow at that point. The Mist Trail heads down slope toward a bridge that crosses the Merced. I got this shot of the river as we crossed the bridge.

Bridge crossing the Merced above Vernal Falls

I took this picture from the other side of the bridge looking back on the trail we had just walked on.

View of the Merced tumbling down toward Vernal Falls from the bridge crossing the river above Vernal Falls

There are a lot fewer people who continue up the Mist Trail from this point, although we definitely weren’t alone. The trail starts out fairly gentle with some shade.

Sean hiking up the Mist Trail just past the bridge above Vernal Falls

Although we wanted to go up the trail quickly, it is fairly steep and the top part of the trail is mostly in the sun, so we took a couple breaks on the way up. On one of these breaks I decided to go off trail for a little bit to get this shot of Nevada Falls head on.

Went off trail to get this blurry shot of Nevada Falls

Unfortunately, the top of the picture turned out to be in the smudged part of the lens. it was the best picture I got of Nevada Falls from this angle so I decided to include it anyway.

We enjoyed the shade as long as we could, and this part of the trail was actually shadier than I remembered.

Last section of full shade on the way to the top of Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail

Although the views of Nevada Falls from the trail were “from the side”, it was still pretty inspiring.

Nevada Falls from the side through the trees from the Mist Trail

I have to admit that Vernal Falls is my favorite though! Toward the top of the trail the shade ends.

Last good view of Nevada Falls near the top of the Mist Trail

The trail at this point is just an organized pile of rocks.

The Mist trail is an organized pile of rocks near the top of the Mist Trail

Then you turn a corner and you are at the top. We took a break at the top to fill our water bladders and enjoy the view. Here are a few shots I took while we hung out.

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

Sean and Eric Rial above Nevada Falls

Sean and me above Nevada Falls

We didn’t hang out long though as we didn’t want the rest of the group to have to wait for us at the bottom. To take the John Muir Trail down to the valley you have to head toward Glacier Point for just a bit. The first part of the trail is a gentle climb…

Hike up John Muir and Panorama Trail from Nevada Falls

then it levels off…

Sean hike along the John Muir and Panorama Trail

before the John Muir trail branches off hugs the side of the wall for a ways. This is one of my favorite parts of this trail. There is a granite block wall on the outside of the trail and some great views of Nevada Falls and Sentinel Dome.

Stone wall along the John Muir trail with a view of Nevada Falls

The trail beyond that point heads downward, but has switchbacks that take you back toward Nevada Falls and more great views as you descend.

Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from a switchback on the John Muir Trail

The last good view of Nevada Falls is can be seen if you look along the trail that heads back toward Vernal Falls from the John Muir Trail. If you don’t look back you’ll miss it.

View of Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from John Muir trail at the branch with the trail back to Vernal Falls

We caught up the group a little further down the John Muir trail in a shady set of switchbacks.

Shady section of the John Muir trail descending toward Yosemite Valley

Just a little further down the trail we came to the merge with the Mist Trail.

John Muir trail approaching the juntion with the Mist Trail

After a glance at the Yosemite Trail sign at the junction of the two trails…

Yosemite Trail sign at the Junction of the Mist and John Muir trails below Vernal Falls

and a quick thought about future trips and adventures deeper into Yosemite, we turned to head back down the way we had come up from that point.

I enjoyed the entire trip to Yosemite, every minute of it, but this day was my favorite! I love hiking this trail. I guess I’m a sucker for waterfalls, and this hike as two spectacular falls just a couple of miles apart.

Back at camp it was Charles turn to provide dinner. He brought carnitas. A couple of carnitas fajitas plus a cold beer was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Having a couple fajitas for dinner at our campsite in Hodgdon Meadow Yosemite

The next day would be our last full day in Yosemite. We decided to do something completely different… but I’ll put that in another post!

Last year, 2014, was not quite “to plan”. It was a very busy year, we had a lot of fun, made some progress on goals, but at the end… it also brought a lot of heartache and sadness. I covered most of the fun parts of the year in my recent End of Summer 2014 post. Before the summer started there was also a work trip to Canada, a getaway to Las Vegas with Jenny’s kids, and a lot of local hiking.

To keep myself honest I should probably review the 2014 top 10 countdown from my post Happy New Year – 2014!

10. Weekend project – install surround sound speakers! (Done)

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play. (Nope – I’m slacking…)

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)! (I say no, but my wife gives me partial credit for some of the things I did to make it a little better, but the big improvements will have to come in 2015.)

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium. (YES – we had lots of fun!)

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County. (Sort of a yes – cumulative, but I think I really missed the spirit of this one. we did not hike at the end of 2014. It was very dry until near the end of the year and then we were booked.)

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike! (Not quite… we hiked from the North to the South rim, but the a rim to rim to rim will have to wait until next time.)

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… (Not from the travel section “per say”, it ended up being from the California section – see the first post for this trip – A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill).)

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

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.) (Yep! Not one but two engagements in 2014!)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms! (Over and over again!)

However, 2014 was not all “fun and games”. Throughout the year there was an underlying theme of significant illness, and uncertainty. Some of this turned out well and some did not. There were also some terrible surprises at the end of the year. In November and December we lost several members of our immediate and extended family. Regardless of all the fun we had throughout the year I will always remember the end of 2014 as a time spent reflecting on past joys, feeling lucky to have known these people, and feeling the full brunt of their loss. One of my key philosophies on life is that joy and happiness would not be as sweet if grief and sadness did not exist. I will carry that as hope into the new year along with the wonderful memories I have of those we lost.

Now to continue the tradition I started last year… here is my Top 10 Countdown for 2015.

10. See at least one singer/act that I’ve never seen before from my Bucket List.

9. Do at least one item from the Adventure, Travel, or California sections of my Bucket List.

8. Eliminate my electric bill! (This one is already planned – so it’s an easy “done” for next year’s review.)

7. Leave room in our schedule for opportunistic travel and adventure and take advantage of at least one of these opportunities.

6. Complete at least one of the following home projects:
– Expand the storage area of my garage by at least 50% to give us more room for fun and games – ping-pong and darts anyone!
– Finish painting the remaining “contractor white” walls and woodwork in our home.

5. Plan and complete a family camping trip to Yosemite. This may be challenging with all our kid’s busy schedules this year.

4. Complete at least 20 new hikes in San Diego County to check off a few more trails on my page tracking the progress on my bucket list goal to hike all the trails in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego County.

3. Focus on healthy living. I will lose the weight I’ve gained over the past couple years by eating better and exercising more.

2. Spend lots of time with friends and family.

1. Walk my oldest daughter down the aisle!

I hope your 2014 was everything you hoped for and then some, and that your 2015 exceeds all reasonable expectations! Happy New Year!

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)