The plan was simple.  We’d fly from Jamaica to Las Vegas, spend a night there, then drive out first thing in the morning to the Grand Canyon.   We’d get there, hike down into the canyon, spend a night at a lodge on the South Rim, and then continue our journey to Sedona, AZ.   There was even an REI on the way!  This was going to be easy right?

Well, after leaving Vegas in the late morning and making quick stop to grab some last minute stuff at the REI in Henderson, NV (just outside of Vegas)  we made it to the south rim of the  Grand Canyon in about 5 hours or so.   Upon arriving at the Grand Canyon village, I was surprised to see how built up it all was.  I mean, I knew we’d be staying in a lodge on the Rim and I knew there’d be restaurants and what not there, but I guess I thought it would be less built up.

No matter, we checked into the lodge, I dropped my bags off at the cabin went to go park the rental car while the wife unpacked.  I parked right by the rim and took a quick stroll over to the edge to have my first look.

I just stood there for a minute or too just staring off into the depths of the canyon in awe of it all. I suddenly felt about as small as I ever have in my life.  There’s no way to describe how insignificant one feels when the look at something like the Grand Canyon for the first time.  Like other massive natural wonders that have been dug out, built up or shaped over millions of years, there’s nothing you can do other than stand there and gawk.  Saying it was breathtaking would be cliché, but it wouldn’t be far from the truth.

 

I rushed back to the cabin to tell the wife what I had just seen.  I was thinking of some poetic and dramatic way to describe it for her and when I walked in I said “WOW.  This thing is really f**king big!”.   Ok, not the most poetic, but pretty accurate I’d say.
Because it was so late in the afternoon and it was still kind of overcast and drizzling, we decided to take a few minutes to hike around the rim, take some pictures and then head over to have dinner at one of the lodge’s restaurants.    We would have to save any real hiking for the next day, assuming the weather cleared.

 

 

Well, that night we enjoyed a nice steak dinner, a few glasses of Sam Adams Octoberfest and crashed out in our cabin hoping for clear skies in the morning.

When we woke the next morning at 6am for breakfast, we were not disappointed:

 

 

 

 

 

Our plan was to hike down the Bright Angel trail near out cabin to the Indian Garden, rest and then turn around and be back before 1pm.   The Indian Garden is a small oasis and campground along the Bright Angel trail about a mile and a half or so from the Colorado River.  Its lush greenery and shady trees provide a stark contrast to the desert landscape of the rest of the canyon.  It gets its name because, as you probably guessed, it used to be a popular place for native people to grow crops.

Because it was the tail end of monsoon season, severe thunderstorms are common in the afternoon and you really don’t want to be stuck on a canyon wall when that’s happening.  So we tried to hurry and do the entire 9 mile trail in about 6 hours.

So we filled out Nalgene bottles and started the hike down

Fresh canyon water. mmmmm...

 

The wife, enjoying the views as we begin our descent

 

 

Just a giant hole in the wall

 

Down at the Indian Gardern

 

"Hey, nice ass!"

 

 

One last look as we head back up to the south rim

 

We made great time getting to the Garden, covering 4.5 miles and about 4500 feet in elevation drop in about 2.5 hours.  At around 10am the temps in the Garden were around 80 degrees so we thought it best to turn around and head back up as quickly as possible,  to avoid the peak sun and heat that was already starting to beat down on us.

We were about a mile into the return trip when the sky suddenly turned black.  The air had turned cool and a light rain began to fall.  I had hoped that it was just a light storm coming through that cool us off and quickly pass. That’s when the hail started.

Being exposed on a canyon trail in the middle of a hail storm, with the nearest shelter almost a mile away, is not as fun as it sounds.  Okay, it’s not fun at all.   We got pelted and pummeled by hail the size gum balls.  All we could do was hug the wall of the canyon and try and shield ourselves from the hail with as best we could with rain shells and garbage bags.

And it kept coming too. Wave after wave of storms would hit us, separated by minutes of blue skies, each worse than the one before it.   At one point had to take shelter under a small cliff and watch as it turned into muddy waterfall in front of us.

And the thunder and lightning.  Wow.  You’ve never experienced thunder until you’ve felt it through the cliffs of solid rock and echo up canyon walls.   If we weren’t awe stuck before, we sure were now!

Oh yeah, and when it rains in the Grand Canyon, a lot of weird stuff happens.  Stuff like trails turning into rivers.  And canyon walls turning into raging waterfalls plunging hundreds of feet down below.   I would have taken more pictures, but I was trying really hard to focus on not being swept to our early demise.

But, after crossing some newly made rivers and waterfalls, traversing the landslides that wiped out some of the trail and slogging up the soggy trail, we finally made it back to the top, right as the strongest wave of storms was about to hit. PHEW!!

 

 

Hard to tell here, but that's a river. Of mud.

 

Yah, that river/waterfall wasn't there before.

 

 

Lessons learned here:

1.  Always pack better rain gear if you’re going to hike during monsoon season.  A garbage bag and a mesh baseball cap won’t do.  (funny that my wife, who picked up a nice rain shell and a wide-brimmed at REI was better prepared than I was!)

2. Leave earlier.  We didn’t get hiking till almost 8am.  We should have left at 5:30am like we originally planned.  Though not as common as in the afternoon, monsoon storms can pop up as early as 11am (such as in our case)

3. Hail hurts:

Pack better rain gear. Dummy.

4. Even though we got soaked and pelted with hail, I’d still do it all over again. The hike in the canyon was epic.  Even the wife, who’s not as big on hiking as I am, loved it.  The giant thunderstorms, while frightening, were also incredible to witness.   And oh yeah, checked another thing off the bucket list!

Once back at the lodge we dried off, changed clothes and jumped back in the rental to make the two hour drive to Sedona which, believe it or no, was even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon.  But that’s a story for another day.

Till then, stay day and happy trails!

 

 

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