The following morning we woke to -8ºC and a thick frost. Our sleeping bags were wet on the surface due to condensation, the water in our flasks was frozen and as I got breakfast ready (porridge yummy!) so was I. As the sun came up the tent defrosted and dried out and we headed of towards the South Rim across the desert. Now this might sound a bit strange given that as the crow flies the South Rim is only about 11 miles in the distance. But to get there is a 200 mile road journey across Arizona desert. Soon we were peeling off the layers. We headed towards the Park camp ground early to be sure of a space and booked in for two nights. We spent the rest of the afternoon just taking it easy, getting food (very important because there had been no grocery stores on the whole journey to the South Rim. In fact when I asked at a fuel station which sold some basics where I might get some fresh veg I was given a puzzled look, a shake of the head, there was a brief discussion with another customer and a mumble that there 'wasn't really a call for them around here').
The following morning we headed of to have a look around. The first stop was a hike down the Kaibab Trail which if you so choose, leads to the North Rim some 23 miles distant, with warnings that to hike it in one day is discouraged and has lead to fatalities. There are a couple of places along the way where you can get water and a few long drop toilets have been installed. But essentially it is an arduous walk into the wilderness for which you need about 4 litres of water a day, lots of salty food, and a permit if you plan to camp. By this time we had met Christine a California girl and Gerry a Liverpudlian who were camping across from us. By chance they were hiking the Trail as far as Skeleton Point a 6 mile round trip so we shared the path a short way. You can see the Trail and switch backs down the side of the mountain here. The Trail is shared by hikers and mules though it is quite narrow, (mule rides up and down the canyon can be booked in advance. This is no donkey ride on Blackpool Sands though. Groups are small about 5 riders and 2 wranglers. Places book up about a year in advance. And you have to weigh below 200lbs. You have to be fit as the ride down to the river is about 5 hours one way. You camp overnight and head back up again the following day). Where mules and hikers meet, hikers step off the trail uphill, and the mules takes the outside. Deaths of hikers and mules have occurred where one or the other has gone over the edge so there are notices around advising best behaviour.
We had decided to walk as far as Ohh Ahh Point a couple of miles round trip. The first half of the journey down the mountain was pleasant enough in the cool air of the early morning. And the Ooh Aah moment when we got there was not exaggerated. The views across the canyon were spectacular and towards the first camp ground some 9 miles along the trail was a tiny green oasis in the distance. After a few happy snaps we turned around and headed back up the trail. As I mentioned the route down is deceptively pleasant. As soon as you turn your heels and start to climb back up it hurts. You lungs start to scream and your legs whine. You can see part of the trail as it carves its way up the mountain in a series of switchbacks.
Once at the top again we headed for the shuttle bus to Mohave Point where we planned to walk some of the Rim. The queue was enormous (we hadn't realised it was Columbus Day, a Public Holiday and the world and his wife had descended on the South Rim (it was like a zoo!). After about 2 hours we arrived at our destination only about 5 miles away, and had a spot of lunch before embarking on our next hike along which we took lots of shots of the canyon and David larking about just another foot back and it would have been an unpleasant landing! Gorgeous isn't it. Then amongst all this beauty we came upon this You can just see the old mine in the distance where the ground is covered with black tarpaulin.
And here is the mine (bottom right corner) from where they used to winch up the uranium (middle left of picture).
We walked on to Hopi Point, Powell Point, Maricopa Point snapping as we went Until we arrived at the Bright Angel Trailview Overlook and the Bright Angel Tail laid out like a piece of string down the mountainside. We hiked the next short distance into Canyon Village and the Bright Angel Trailhead just as the sun was edging towards the horizon-perfect! We had decide to hike a short way down for the sunset. Again this trail is shared with Mules, though we only saw them in the distance steadily carrying it's human cargo. The sun cast shadows on the face of the Canyon and David clicked away We hiked our socks off that day. Once again nature made an unabashed play for our hearts.
Back at camp it was cooking by the light of a head torch, (oh and a huge lamp loaned to us by Gerry and Christine-thank you!!) something I am getting used to slowly; the daylight hours seem so short. Then we hit the sack, too tired to listen to our audio book and lapsed into a peaceful sleep.