Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Four

We awoke in our cabin shortly after dawn. Dawn itself was kind of a relative thing throughout this trip, as we spanned two time zones, but were in various places that did not observe daylight savings time. To make a long story short, it was important to double check all your times on the schedule, and for about half the trip sunset didn't happen until almost 9pm (with dusk lasting another 45 minutes or so). The first order of business was breakfast at the lodge, where we picked up our boxed lunches. After this we split up, with Danielle going to the general store in an attempt to solve the digital camera debacle once and for all, while I visited the visitor center to form a formal opinion about what hike we should do. Both of these trips were a rousing success, as Danielle found memory that worked and I chose the North Kaibab Trail (our mule trip on the previous day was supposed to come out on the South Kaibab Trail, but instead just went out the way we came in due to construction work).

We drove to the trail head and set about the 4ish mile hike. The whole trail was much longer, but we decided we were only going to the Supai Tunnel and back. Our experience at the South Rim had taught us that hiking into the Grand Canyon is great, but that if you want the view to change you need to go a really, really long way. On both rims the only way in by foot is down the talus slope, and therefore you spend the first few miles looking at the exact same thing while you walk basically vertically downward. We stopped for a picture and...it worked! Awesome! Then we stopped for a second picture, and....we got a "Read/Write Error" on the camera. My limited knowledge of computer hardware, gleaned almost entirely from 6.033, led me to believe that the first picture was the wrong size and somehow did not fit into a slot on the memory stick. It also led me to be quite sure that we were completely screwed. Repeated attempts, at different resolutions, yielded no better results. We did not have a camera, and therefore ended up with only 3 pictures from this entire day, all taken by strangers who offered to email them to us. The first, shown above, was taken at Coconino Overlook, and the other two were taken just past the Supai Tunnel at the bottom end of our hike.

Now it was time to hike back up. To this point we hadn't really been on foot that much, with most of our travel around being provided by Dan and Gizmo. Danielle is a much more accomplished hiker than I am (she did the 18 mile round trip up Half Dome at Yosemite), probably because shes 2.5 inches taller and weighs 45 fewer pounds, and it quickly showed. This hike out gained 1400 vertical feet in just under 2 miles, for a grade of nearly 14 percent. And by the way we were at 9,000 feet. A new strategy was in order. After some thought, I realized that the way I ended up hiking with Danielle just didn't fit my aerobic profile very well. Her strategy was to walk at a medium pace for a longish time(10-15 minutes or more), and then stop for a longish time (1-2 minutes) for a sip of water and a break. This just didn't work for me; in my youth as a competitive swimmer, reps lasted less than 2 minutes, and rest came in the tens of seconds. A 2 minute breakd didn't really help me much more than a 20 second one. So I gave it a try, walking almost as fast as I could for about a minute, then stopping for 5-10 seconds, taking a few full breaths (of 9,000 foot air), and continuing on. The change was dramatic. Not only could I function with less overall rest, but I could walk faster. If you ever go hiking, try to think about the length of rest you need and your recovery curve; trust me, it can make a huge difference.

With my new strategy in place, Danielle and I finished the hike out quickly and easily. Then we drove back to the lodge and opted for lunch on top of a large (15-20 feet high) rock at Bright Angel Point (the same point we ran to the night before), which to that point was the most picturesque lunch I've ever had (it would be topped in a few days at Horseshoe Bend). Then we loaded up into the car and drove to several lookout points, specifically Cape Royal and Angel's Window.

After a little bit of rock pushing to get ready for the journey ahead, we set out for Zion National Park. Our first point of interest along the way (Danielle spent a lot of the car rides reading from her Rough Guide) was Colorado City, Utah. Apparently this city is one of the last bastions of fundamental Mormanism, complete with plural marriages and a runaway leader who is on the FBI's top ten most wanted list. Needless to say we did not stop the car. It appeared, however, that about 1 out of every 3 structures in the town proper was in the process of being built. Everywhere you looked there were half finished houses with construction equipment lying idle near by. Creepy.

By now we had zero'ed in on a solution for the digital camera catastrophe. My GPS (remember, for most of this trip the iPhone was unable to load web pages due to shotty or non-existent coverage) reported a Walmart in Hurrican, Utah, merely tens of miles out of our way. I called them and was informed, sadly, that this was only a Walmart DC, or distribution center. Luck smiled upon us, however, as in the last two years (after the maps were loaded onto my Garmin) a new Walmart Supercenter had been built to match the DC. With my sexy lady voiced Garmin leading the way, we followed "U-tahnine" all the way into Hurricane and eventually found the glimmering oasis of wally world.

Walking inside was jarring (we hadn't really been in a full fledged civilized place since Las Vegas), but we quickly found the digital camera stand and had the complete attention of two dedicated sales people. We settled on basically the cheapest Kodak camera available, and $100 later we were out the door with a camera and two foot long Subway tuna sandwiches. On the way to Zion we pulled off on a dirt road to eat our dinner and enjoy the view, and revelled in the fact that we were back to taking unlimited pictures.

Eventually we arrived at the El Rio Lodge, just outside of Zion. Actually we drove in all the way into the park first, only to find that the visitor center was closed, at which point we promptly turned around and drove the 3 miles back to our hotel. The front office, however, was already dark for the night, and all we found was a little note informing us that our room was number 6 and that we could find the keys inside. Sure enough, behind the unlocked sliding glass door there was a room waiting for our tired bodies. We washed our super fancy REI hiking shirts (thanks again Diana!) in the tub, finished our sandwiches, went roaming around looking for an ice machine that apparently didn't exist (I almost walked across the street to the next motel), and fell promptly asleep. The next morning we checked out via note, as the front office wasn't yet open. I hope they didn't mind :)

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