North Kaibab Trail

Today was devoted to the North Kaibab Trail. This time, I got the trailhead around 7am. As I could see yesterday from Uncle Jim Point, the trail starts down Roaring Springs Canyon, with a long more or less straight segment, followed by switch-backs. The portion of the trail I'll hike lies entirely within Roaring Springs Canyon. This is a side canyon of Bright Angel Canyon, which the lower part of the trail follows down to the Colorado River. It's over 14 miles to the river, but I'm not going that far.

The first part of the trail is forested. At first, progress was good and birds were singing. I heard some Band-tailed Pigeons, which were new for the trip. I fairly quickly got down the Coconino Overlook, which sits at the top of the Coconino sandstone. This sandstone mostly forms shear cliffs, but the Roaring Springs fault provides a way down. The view of the canyon changes as you proceed downward toward Supai Tunnel.

There's less vegetation below Supai Tunnel. At some point, the rock changes color to red. That signals the boundary of the Hermit Formation. These rocks don't form towering cliffs, but are the rubble piles on the sides of the canyon. I arrived at the Supai oasis in a bit less than an hour. There's a fountain there that provides water for hikers. I had sufficient supply to get down to my planned location and more than back to Supai, so I didn't fill up. I did sit a relax for a bit. Then it was on through Supai tunnel. The tunnel, which dates back to the 1930's, was blasted through the Esplanade sandstone (part of the Supai group).

The trail continues downward through the Supai rocks on the left side of the canyon until reaching Redwall Bridge. The Redwall limestone also forms towering cliffs. Its red color is not its natural color, but is a wash from the red rocks above. This is very clear in an area where the trail has been blasted from the cliff. The trail itself, where any of the red is quickly worn away by hiker's boots, is whitish, not red.

Some Temple Butte limestone is visible at the base of the Redwall, just above the Muav limestone. By now, the waterfalls in the lower part of Roaring Springs Canyon are quite visible. Eventually, I got to the spur trail to Roaring Springs. I started down the trail, but decided that maybe I had gone too far (I had!). Besides, it was almost 10am, which was my time limit for the descent. At this point, I'd just reached the Bright Angel Shale. So I started up the trail.

At first, it wasn't too bad, but I soon found it necessary to take a break. Then another break. I found a nice shady niche below Eye of the Needle, and rested there about 10 minutes. It got harder and harder to move upwards. A longer rest in a big shady area shortly before Redwall Bridge helped, but when I headed out, I soon found myself exhausted. I finally figured that I hadn't been drinking enough, so I sat down and drank (I had plenty of water and gatorade, I just wasn't drinking enough of it). I slogged on upward to Supai Tunnel, where I took a good, long rest (about an hour). I also snacked a bit, which helped.

While I was at Supai Tunnel, the mules arrived in three groups. One of the wranglers used to work at South Rim, but said he didn't enjoy working there after they drastically cut the mule trips down. In particular, he mentioned the pleasure of taking disabled kids to the bottom, knowing that they would otherwise never been able to see such a place. After the cut-backs, he moved to the North Rim, where the mules don't go to the bottom, but where they do have a more mule trips available (they go to Supai Tunnel and to Uncle Jim Point).

Progress was slow the rest of the way, but I was feeling better. I felt quite a bit better (but tired) when I took a break at Coconino Overlook. While I was there, a California Condor flew over. I got back to the top shortly before 4:30. The park service says it takes twice as long to go up as down, which is only a little quickly where I ended up.

I had just enough time to take a shower before having a nice filet mignon at the Grand Canyon Lodge. After dinner, I went to bed!

That hike was really too hard, and unless I get in better shape quickly, I'm not going to be ready to try a couple of the planned harder hikes later.

So far, I have found 145 bird species and 14 mammal species during the trip.

Grand Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ