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(May 11th - Grand Canyon, Arizona)
Even so, as I started towards the North Rim, most of the campsites and cabins at Phantom Ranch were quiet and still, with their occupants tucked away in sleeping bags.
The North Kaibab Trail was a great hike!
Less than a mile beyond Phantom Ranch the trail entered “The Box”, a spectacular narrow gorge framed with towering walls of Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite, some of the oldest rock formations found in the Canyon. Bright Angel Creek was a leaping, rushing torrent at the bottom of the gorge that emitted a continuous and loud roar as it swept towards the Colorado River. The trail here was engaging, cut into the sides of soaring cliffs and crossing several sturdy bridges to avoid the rushing creek below.
Bright Angel Creek
Once through The Box, the canyon broke open and I continued on to the ranger station and campground at Cottonwood Camp, which were deserted. I spent a few minutes at Cottonwood taking on enough water at the faucet to reach the Park Boundary far above on the North Rim.
Later I passed the Pump House, then Roaring Springs, the source for much of the flow in Bright Angel Creek. Vast quantities of water seemingly erupted out of a cave on a steep hillside and tumbled and roared to the creek bed below. Apparently, this water is the result of melting snowpack and rainstorms on the North Rim whose water seeps into the permeable surface limestone layers and sinks until it hits an impermeable layer of rock which forces the water sideways searching for an exit. In this case, the exit point was the mighty Roaring Springs.
Above Roaring Springs, the trail was blasted right into the side of the huge Redwall Formation, the most formidable of the cliff barriers in the Grand Canyon. Just above the Redwall, the trail passed through the short Supai Tunnel before it switchbacks through the Coconino and Kaibab formations to the North Rim and the trailhead parking lot.
In the morning I had been smugly sure that this hike would be a cruise for me, but when I finally reached the trailhead mid afternoon, I was bushed!
The trail entered the thick woods of the Kaibab Plateau, which at 8,500 feet in elevation, was still covered with patchy mounds of snow from the previous winter. Fortunately, the spring melt was far enough along that I only infrequently had to posthole through melting snowdrifts across the trail. Late in the afternoon I saw a few turkey, some members of the famous North Kaibab deer herd, and several tassel-eared Kaibab Squirrels, the white tailed cousins of the Albert Squirrels I had seen on the South Rim.
Snow on the North Rim
I searched in vain for a water faucet at the employee residence near the Park Entrance Station, but had no trouble collecting snow melt flowing across a section of the trail nearby. Near the Park Boundary, I completely lost the trail among the numerous snow drifts and ended up bushwhacking past the fence marking the boundary. I found a campsite among the snowdrifts and settled down for a cold night’s camp.
- Dave Baker