Day 6: Thursday 11th
I woke a little after 7am, but as Pat beside me was still asleep, and as I wasn't very awake either I lay thinking till 7.45, when I got up and went for a swim. In the pool there was another lady called Valerie and we chatted about our holidays before I decided I should get back to the room and think about breakfast. Only Janette was there, and she proposed not going over to the hotel opposite (Maxims) as Dean had suggested but have breakfast at the Days Inn, which is what we did. Bruno was there also, and the others turned up a short while later as the other hotel didn't open 'till 9am.
Once packed and checked out, we hit the road. It was mostly plain driving through increasingly canyon - strewn country until St George, where we stopped for food and a break; I went looking for a longer (80-300) lens for the camera, but ended up with a skylight filter for protection instead! We carried on through Hurricane and finally stopped to pitch the camp at Jacobs Lake. By 6pm we were on the move again, going down to Bright Angel Point, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, to watch the sunset.
The Canyon, even when viewed from the Lodge, is immense. All the photographs and films I have seen in the past have not prepared me for just how big it is. Bright Angel Point is on a side canyon, just by the Grand Canyon Lodge (a new building built to replace the old Gatekeepers Lodge, which although still used is no longer open to the public). From it you can see the south rim and the surrounding canyons. The south rim is actually about 12 miles away, but (I guess as a result of the scale of the place) it looks only a couple of miles away at most.
Day 7: Friday 12th
Set off this morning after a cold but not particularly uncomfortable night; it got progressively cooler but folk were saying it could be much worse. I woke at about 6.30 needing to go to the toilet, and spent some time listening to the morning chorus. I also saw a bird with a reddish brown front and darker brown back, about the size of a blackbird. It came over the ground flicking over the leaf litter - I don't know what it was looking for. Later on, a chipmonk came by, and Janette and I had a wonderful view as it came to within a few feet.
When you consider the height (over 8200ft) it's not surprising it was cold. We packed up for the trip to the canyon, leaving at about 8.45 (rather late than intended). We made a brief stop at the South Kaibab visitor centre before continuing on to the north rim. The country here is vast; the valleys stretch out to the horizon, with forests of Quaking Aspen and fir surrounding open meadows grazed by deer. Water sink holes and small lakes dot the scenery like pebbles on the beach. The road carries on through increasingly rocky terrain, the forest closing in around you, until finally the rim is reached. My first glimpse of the canyon was through a thin grove of firs, and then only a side canyon. It was BIG. We carried on down the path from the Lodge to Bright Angel Point itself, and I kept seeing great views, interesting trees and plants, and a few good shots of the rest of the party ahead. At the point, you can see straight down over 1000 feet, and the bottom of the canyon over 5000 feet down in the distance. One of the amazing things is that the far side looks like it is only a couple of miles away, but is in fact over 12 miles! It is such a grand scale that your normal judgement is fooled. I did eventually manage to get to the high point where the others were waiting for sunset, and we all watched the sun go down over the north rim. It was cool in the wind, but not too bad otherwise, and we walked slowly back to the van and off back to camp.
Back at camp that evening I had volunteered to make supper, so got to work on the pork chops, new potatoes, carrots and sweetcorn halves which we had bought earlier. Pat had gone to sleep, claiming extreme tiredness, and didn't have anything. Apart from misjudging the time for the pork and it consequently being a bit dry, everything went well and everyone seemed to be happy enough. Dean even said it was one of the nicest meals of the trip. It was getting cooler, and we gathered round the fire which we managed to get nice and hot.
Day 8: Saturday 13th
In the morning we got up and went back to the rim area. I was not feeling great on the way there, having a headache and feeling pretty groggy. Our first stop was at Cape Royal, quite a lot further into the canyon. The road was very twisty and in places dropping and rising steeply as it twisted around the canyon rim. At the end, the point is very pleasantly wooded with low growing piniõn pines and Utah junipers. A gooseberry bush was growing wild there too; a notice next to it said that for commercially important pine groves the bush would be removed, as it acted as host for a bug which harmed the trees.
At the viewpoint itself, you can see a large part of the valley, including the mighty Colorado itself. Although the river is as wide as a football pitch, from up there it is mere ribbon of green water curving between the huge ramparts of the cliffs either side.
From start to end of my stay at the Canyon, I just kept saying "It can't be photographed". It can't, but I tried nonetheless. The arch under the point is called Angel's Window; through it you get a pretty picture of the Colorado far below. Not only did I find it difficult to photo though, it was almost as difficult to comprehend it at all. Big is just too small a word.
Once we had taken our fill of the views at Cape Royal, Dean drove us back to Point Imperial, the highest point in the canyon, for our picnic lunch. At 8860 feet, it was also noticeably cooler than Cape Royal and I was glad to have my fleece available. The views were similarly impressive and equally difficult to describe or even really take in. The idea was that we would all go on a hike down the Bright Angel Trail, but after a bout of nausea in the van requiring a brief stop, and continuing headache and severe drowsiness I decided not to go. Most of the others did, and it was just Dean, Bruno and I who got back to the lodge. I had thought that I might go on the guided geology talk at 2pm, but even that seemed too much when the time came. Instead I spent the afternoon snoozing, not feeling very well on a settee in the lodge's observation lounge. I got up at about 4pm to have a look around, and bought a nice pair of copper earrings. We had agreed to meet in the saloon, where I met Bruno. He thought I was suffering from the altitude, which made sense. We gathered the others from their walk down into the canyon and went over to the showers, which were rather cool but good. I wandered down to another store near the showers and decided to get a sweatshirt, which subsequently proved a very good buy. The guy selling it suggested that drinking a lot of water would help with the altitude, which also seems to have been good advice.
We got back to the camp uneventfully and had a fairly ordinary evening meal. I went to bed very soon after supper and slept pretty well, considering.