November 22, 2009

The Granddaddy- Part 3

Point Imperial

Sunday, Day 2- 20 miles, Ken Patrick, Point Imperial, FR610, Nankoweap

I awoke this morning completely stiff from my lilttle rim to rim stroll I took the day prior.  27 miles + 10000 feet of vertical gain and loss + peak pack weight = a very hard first day.

The goods news, at the time, was that today’s route on paper looked to be a rather easy, downhill 20 mile day. It was straightforward for about 6 or 7 miles while hiking on level ground along the Ken Patrick Trail until I started down Nankoweap.

The Nankoweap Trail is classified as the hardest Rim to River trail. It has the largest vertical drop of any trail in the park (5600 ft). I thought it would be easy because I was going down hill but I was wrong.  It was difficult and slow going. However, the few who conquer this punishing route are rewarded with the best views I have seen in the canyon and a chance to explore the only intact granaries (ruins) in the Park. Also, I heard there was a sweet waterfall 6 miles upriver but I only found out after my trip.

I took my time coming down Nankoweap because the views were breathtaking and I was getting a little shaky from the heights. There are no places on the trail where you have to use rope or climb across but there are places where you are within one big misstep of tumbling 2000 feet down into the canyon. I think I was a little more nervous than I should have been due to the wide open nature of this route. It allows you to see the narrow bench which the trail follows and the corresponding 2000 foot drop below it.

Nankoweap turned out to be my favorite trail on this trip. With that being said, I was relieved to make it down to the bottom of the canyon safely and correctly. It was here at the bottom of the Canyon where I saw my first hiker and water since the North Kaibab Trail, some 25+ miles and 24 hours prior. The solo-hiker, Eric, hiked down for 1 night to see the ruins and check Nankoweap off his robust list of Grand Canyon hikes.

I made finally made it to my camp on the shore of the Colorado River just below the Nankoweap Granaries at around 5pm. I was just plain beat and started to develop a sharp pain in my left quadriceps. The 11000+ vertical feet of descending on rough trails with a full pack took its toll on my body.

This was to be my first of many splendid nights below the Rim, sleeping on the beach, 5000 feet below the rim, on the shore of the abnormally clear Colorado River, under a star filled sky. It was starting to get chilly but I relished the opportunity to enjoy this beach camping experience. I was instantly relieved when I stripped off my shoes, then my shirt and walked shirtless and barefoot on the cool sand. The red canyon walls glowed under the bright light of the waxing gibbous moon, so much so that I put a shirt over my head while sleeping to drown out the light. I spread out my sleeping setup and fired up the stove for some Instant Potatoes, trail mix, and m&m’s. I curled up in my bag looking up at the sky, so clear and star studded, so inspiring. After seeing 3 shooting stars pass by within 1 minute, the thought crossed my mind that I have 4 more days of this. NICE.

Sweet campsite on the N. Rim next to Nankoweap Trailhead

Life on the upper Nankoweap Trail-  It's a good life

The Nankoweap Trail follows that first bench (about 1/3 down from top of Pic).  Its a long tumble down to the bottom.

Life on the middle Nankoweap Trail- This section was fun. 

Good view from Nankoweap

Nankoweap Creek- First water in 31+ miles.

Colorado River- I'm back.  I made it down just in time before sunset.  I was beat and ready to settle down for the evening. 

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