Thursday, March 18, 2010

Arizona Part II: The Grandest of Canyons

Woohoo, lookie me being all "responsible" blogger :) I've been pretty busy trying to find work and getting back into the Houston groove. The weather has been beautiful, sunny and 60's, so I've really been taking advantage of that by hanging out in parks with my friends, and working on a sexy shirt tan while reading on the Starbuck's patio. It's also made it a lot easier to feel motivated to continue my running training, I can't believe how quickly I'm improving!  I spent the last 23 years of my life thinking I was simply not capable of running more than a mile and I've accomplished two 5 mile training runs already! Along with several 3 and 4 milers. This last Saturday I participated in the Shamrock Shuffle 5k for Ronald McDonald House, and then Sunday I did the AIDS 5k walk. Whew! That was an exhausting but fun weekend! I love being able to participate in such great charity and community events. I am finding it hard though to continue doing yoga as much as I should AND run, but I think it will become easier to manage my time and not get so worn out once I'm in better shape. This weather also makes me want to take my bike out all the time, but I haven't been able to do that yet for fear of wearing myself out before runs. But the runs are already getting so much easier, and my legs don't hate me as much anymore.

I also am continuing to meet interesting people. I went to a talk on Ayurveda this last Monday. Maybe I'll get into that a little more in the future because I"m really interested in studying more alternative medicine. And this Saturday is National Meat Out Day so I'm going to a pot luck picnic at a park and am sooooo excited for that! Check out the website and see what it's about, join me if you're in Houston, and if you're not, try and be meat free on Saturday! You're welcome to email me if you want recipe or food ideas to make your day extra special :)

Then Sunday early early early morning I leave for San Francisco for a conference on Diabetes. No, I cannot interpret seminars on Diabetes research yet, but my parents are the Super Heroes of interpreting and I go to conferences and handle the technical equipment and generally help out. It's shocking, but I can actually pretend to know about technology when I need to!
Since I leave for yet another trip so soon, I thought it best to squeeze in the second half of my Arizona trip before jumping my next airplane. The jet setter life is rough, I know.

So here's my not so short summary of the Grand Canyon:

Mid Sedona trip, my family had planned on taking a 2 day segue to the Grand Canyon to see the park and, for the more adventurous of the group, to do a shorter half day hike. My mom, aunt, and grandmother of course, staying up top and doing....not sure what in the meantime. Our plans were somewhat foiled, though, due to a huge snowstorm hitting on the day we got there. Even the park rangers said this kind of snowstorm was unheard of in that area, and the park in particular had never been covered by that much snow. We arrived late afternoon with the snow relentlessly falling and already building up several inches, but it was still decently bright out so we went to walk around the park and try to see the Canyon. Unfortunately with the fog and clouds the Canyon was completely invisible and it was too cold and wet to do much walking. That first night we managed to make it to the cafeteria closest to us for dinner and then just had to spend time in the rooms.

Upon first arriving. The snow was coming down but it was still manageable. This was not the case about an hour later...

Our view into the Canyon the first night. 

The next morning it was still snowing but we were determined to at least see a bit of the Canyon trail. I was kind of wary because everything was so icy and foggy and the trail was covered in snow, therefore pretty much invisible though we knew it was only a few feet wide. The boys were much more gung ho and of course I had to show that I could hold my own too and not be wimpy and go sip hot cocoa with the ladies. Plus it's THE Grand Canyon, I had to hike it. I had so many layers of sweaters and jackets on anyways, I don't think I would have felt it had I taken a fall anyways. We took the Bright Angel Trail which was closest to us and I think maybe a bit easier than some others. I'm not sure because my dad did all that research beforehand. We went in about an hour and a half before it got too steep and slippery and we turned around and marched back up. I will admit the trek up is much harder (duh) but my cousins and I left our old men pretty far behind :p. Afterwards of course we needed fuel but it was too snowy to go to any of the other cafeterias on the park premises so of course it was back to the trusty one around the corner from our lodge (Can you guess where dinner was that night too?)

 Mid way down. I had to keep shaking off the snow accumulating on my head!

My dad and uncle taking a break on the way up in the walkway, doesn't the edge look foreboding? 

We were supposed to head back to Sedona that afternoon but the snow hadn't let up at all, roads ended up closing, buses stopped working and we ended up having to stay an extra night. This worked in our favor because the next day was gorgeous! The snow finally stopped and left piles of fresh soft powder glittering in the sunlight for us to play with.

 Outside our cabin, my brothers climbed the pile of snow that reached the second floor.

The kiddos of course threw snowballs, and I went camera happy. The best part was that it was an amazingly clear day and we were actually able to see all the way into the canyon. It would have been so sad to go all the way there and never see into the bottom! The canyon itself is beautiful, the other side sort of looks like a painted backdrop. We didn't have time to hike again, but it's probably best that we hiked the day before despite the snowstorm because the day after the storm the trails turned into muddy snow sludge and was probably even less safe than hiking under the snow. But we did have time to go for a walk along the rim and take a lot of pictures.

 One of the Natural Wonders of the World- WOW!

Posing with my cousin, brother, and dad. Dad, Team Zissou wants their hat back.

There's a lot more you can do at the National Park with more advance planning, and given that you don't get hit by any major weather systems. My dad has been dying to book one of the cabins at the bottom for years, but our work schedules are so unpredictable it's hard to book something as far in advance as would be necessary. Usually the wait list is about a year! Maybe one day I'll manage to hike all the way down just to say I did it. 
The Canyon itself, as you can see is very impressive, but to be honest I feel like it's kind of one of those things you do to be able to say you did it. There are of course many more trails we didn't see, and I know trekking to the bottom is surely an amazing experience and an impressive feat, and for my two best geologist friends this is rock heaven, but like any National park, there's not much else to do when not hiking the Canyon. So given the conditions, it was a bit boring. The cabins and hotels they have are really nice and they have about 5 or 6 dining options throughout the park. I'm not sure about the other ones though because we were snowed in and had a hard enough time just getting to the cafeteria 50 meters away. It wasn't bad, and they did have about 2 vegan options, but after having the bean chili about 4 times I was a little tired of it. 
I also have an extreme aversion to cold and would of course choose a beach vacation any day, but since the park is so nice and I really enjoy hiking, I used my expert layering skills and braved the frigid temperatures to admire the landscapes. I even found Bambi, look how cute!

So that's my recap. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!
Not sure what I"ll get to next. I may save Argentina for some monster posting in the future, but you're sure to see some of the Cali Bay Area soon! Much <3 til next time!


Katie said...

Aweseome trip! I live about an hour from the Canyon, and I kind of agree that there isn't much to do outside of hiking. That said, though, the hiking there is some of the best I have ever done (Sedona as well), and I have done a lot! I have also done two trips to the bottom, and while it is nice to do them just to say you did, the experience can't be topped by much. It is such a physical and mental feat and the environment changes so much on the way down. Amazing doesn't begin to describe it!

Katie said...

Wow, Arizona is GORGEOUS! I haven't been since I was 2 for a family reunion (I stuck my hand on a cactus) but after seeing these photos I REALLY want to go!

Thanks so much for your nice words about my haf marathon. I read your comment while I was literally on the way to the race yesterday morning, and it really made me feel good.

Hope you're having a great day, Gaby!