We have 1.5 hours drive left to the Grand Canyon. Day breaks as we approach it, on highway 180. PeterG is unsuccessfully trying to catch some extra sleep in the back. I try to photograph him with his eyes closed, but the bright AF illuminator on the camera gets his attention.
Almost 8AM, and we're ready. Lorraine is missing from the picture because she is taking it. There is a chilly breeze here and snow in the woods, so we are dressed warmly. Some are braving the cold in t-shirts, knowing that it won't last more than half an hour as we start to go down.
We are on the Hermit Trail, which is not one of the main "hiker highways" in the Canyon. The upper parts are beautifully constructed. The story is that a lonely hermit built this trail all by himself over many years. This turns out to be somewhat exaggerated.
Santa Maria Spring, 1760ft below rim level, is generally accepted as the "point of no return" for day hikers. The obligatory "if you walk beyond here you will die" sign (slight exaggeration of the wording) is missing for some reason. This is the only source of water on this trail.
The well-constructed pit toilets are no longer in use -- the path to them has been carefully obliterated. I clamber down anyway to investigate. Good old-fashioned wooden-seated 2-holers. It is not clear to me where the, er, product would go after they fill up. Perhaps this is why they aren't in use any more.
Onward we march. You can see us crossing one of the numerous rock falls that have buried the trail in places. The trail is no longer maintained.
The rocky pinnacle in the next picture is called Lookout Point. From where we were stopped for a break it didn't look like much, perhaps big enough to stand on with both feet if you watch your balance. Naturally Andrew challenged me to go over there and stand on it.
Well, in the Grand Canyon everything is bigger than it seems. It was quite a hike to get down and over there.
If you view the next two pictures large, you will see me standing on the point, and a picture taken by me from the point looking back at the trail switchbacks coming down. The rest of the group is on the trail at the time, but not visible in the picture (they would be about a pixel each).
Onward. We now have a long (several miles) nearly horizontal traverse along slanting ground, with vertical thousand-foot cliffs above us and below us. I think this is very cool. Bob doesn't.
In the next frame, you can see Lookout Point from a distance, with the lower of the thousand-foot cliffs aforementioned (actually I think it's a good deal higher). We had to walk all the way over here to get to a way down past them.
The way down is called the Cathedral Stairs. By the way here is a topo of the rest of the trail, all the way to our destination (Granite Rapids) that I found when doing a web search for "Cathedral Stairs". Anyway in the next frame you see a view looking down near the bottom.
After this point, the trail is mostly gently rolling hills and such, as we are now at the bottom of what I call the "outer canyon".
We get our first glimpses of the Colorado River, but we are a long way from it as trail distance goes. We have to go way up and then down a side canyon (Monument Creek) to overcome the height of the inner cliffs.
The head of Monument Creek is a spectacular amphitheater of red rock.
With legs getting really tired now, we get to the level of Monument Creek. Now all we have to do is walk two more miles in this creek bed. It seems forever. As we finally near the river, Andrew starts calling out the remaining distance in hundreds of feet. We are only a few hundred feet away when we start to hear the roar of the mighty Granite Rapids.
We have arrived! After almost nine hours of slog.
What does our destination have to offer us? I expected a rocky, damp riverbank with black cliffs all around. Wrong. We find a beautiful summer wonderland, with a lovely dry atmosphere in the high 20s, a clear brook for drinking water, sand dunes, trees. It is beautiful here. You can search all over Ontario, Sandbanks Provincial Park, what have you, and not find a summer paradise like this, not even in July. And remember it is mid March.
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