Off we went with Holtz in the lead to see dinosaur tracks. The location of the dinosaur tracks was where part of the group had gone star gazing the night before and funny how everything looked so different in the morning light. As we pulled in a stout Native American looking fellow who introduced himself as Don greeted us. Due to the fact that people had been stealing some of their dinosaur tracks he now had to stand guard over his precious tracks. With a partially filled jug of water in hand he offered to give us a tour. So, naturally, I began to take notes.
He first pointed out a dilophosaur's Mohave formation of steps followed by a pterodactyl and a chicken yard of tracks. As an interested student I made sure to ask questions regarding the name and type of tracks. We continued along and were shown an enormous 3ft. wide and 3 ft. long track made by an Allosaurus. Wow I thought, too bad his project does not have any funding he might actually be able to preserve the tracks if he did. Continuing along he pointed out their deepest set of tracks, which was made by a Velociraptor and baby Velociraptor tracks. Throughout the tour he also pointed out green areas in the desert clay, which he claimed were seaweed and dinosaur droppings. There were 6 steps made by the Dilophosaurus however the 6th step was recently stolen so he only had 5 steps to show us. His prized possession was the 12 ft. tall (long) fossilized carnivorous dinosaur and the embedded dinosaur claw.
As I wrote furiously so I could remember all of this info for the web write up, Holtz informed Don that we were needing to head out. Don said all right and went on his way. As soon as he was out of earshot, Holtz explained to us that Don must have been misinformed and that unfortunately he believed that the majority of what we had been told was incorrect. Shocked and in disbelief I immediately shut my notebook and refused to write for the remainder of the day, completely bummed that I had just taken pages of potentially invalid information. However this did teach us all an important lesson - that we cannot always believe what we are told and that we must determine for ourselves what the truth is.
After dinosaur tracks we drove to the Grand Canyon via the marble platform and the Kaibab Plateau. Driving through Kaibab National Forest we finally arrived at the Grand Canyon Watch Tower Overlook. Here we posed for the camera and heard a song and dance by Holtz in which Merck would chime in every now and then regarding the formation and history of the Grand Canyon. Holtz pointed out the gorge of the Little Colorado River and the Paleozoic rocks which date to 570 million years. The Grand Canyon we learned is a natural history book waiting to be read. At the base of the Grand Canyon are the Precambrian rocks that date to about 2 billion years; these rocks are considered to be the bedrock of North America. The youngest rock that Holtz talked about was the Kaibab, which is 260 million years old. After the song and dance, which really was pretty interesting, we hopped back in the car to drive through the Juniper Pinion Woodland Biome to Bright Angel Trail of the Grand Canyon.
Here our entire van mosied over to the edge after a bathroom break and a water break and a snack break and a film check. Once we were finally there I started down the canyon with my group in tow around 12:05 pm. One thing was different from any other time that I had hiked the canyon - there was snow on the ground for about the first half mile of the hike! For a girl used to hiking the canyon in late July, this was a humorous site. Pretty soon I just left them in the dust and practically sprinted down the canyon.
As I was running down the canyon (yes running because the down hill motion was propelling me downward quickly so I was conserving energy for when I had to hike back up the trail) Merck, Holtz, Allie, Lisa, Sarah, and Harrison were intellectually analyzing the rock formations and the interesting geological aspects of the canyon. I stopped at the first rest area (the 1.5 mile marker) to take a quick pit stop and when I came out there was the rest of the group so I took the walkie-talkie from them and continued on the pathway to my destination of Indian Gardens. Hearing conversation after the hike, I heard that while I was sprinting down the canyon some were concerned that they might not see me again...for if I was going down so quickly would I be able to keep up the pace when it was time to turn around???
Alone on the path, it was nice to enjoy the quiet tranquility of nature as if I were the first to hike the canyon. Periodically I would stop to enjoy the beauty around me and lift my head to look at something other than the dirt beneath my feet. I saw several Stellar's jays, scrub jays as well as rock squirrels and some cliff chipmunks as I ran down the canyon. To my surprise I also saw a funny sight, a woman squatting! - Oh the entertainment that comes with hiking.....
After I had passed the 3 mile marking rest area and was getting closer to Indian gardens I looked up to see something that I hoped that I would not see, not thunderstorm clouds but- a line of mules coming up the canyon. Without a fight I moved to the side and let the stinky, stubborn mules pass. A few minutes later I realized that I hadn't taken any water since starting my trek down the canyon so I took a quick swig and continued, destination Indian Gardens. Pretty soon I was walking a flat course lined with prickly pear cacti and signs that said, 'stay on path'. Stay on path?? Of course, where else would I go?? No wait, I think I'll make a path on the prickly pears...but I guess if there is a sign some idiot must not have thought that was common sense. At this point I was feeling a little fatigued and looking back it may be because I had not eaten since 5 am and it was now 1:15 or because I hardly had a sip during my descent whatever the reason I could not wait to get to Indian Gardens.
Suddenly the walkie-talkie rang out with Holtz's voice -" Krista, just checking up on you...how are you doing?"....well that scared the you know what out of me. After not hearing another human voice for a good 15 minutes and suddenly the walkie talkie that you are carrying which you forget you even have has bursts with noise one gets a little shook up. I reply "well I am about 3 min from Indian Gardens"....to which Holtz says, "you go girl, wow!" And then Merck chimes in "Krista?... I hate to be the worry wart but I am afraid that you may be pushing your limits and not be able to return to the top as quickly so I would turn around now..." I think about how to respond in such a fashion so that I say that I have heard him but I do not agree....so I say "I understand"....Merck understands that I will not be turning around and says "we will see you at the top at 5 pm" as it is now about 1:20 pm I reply...."correct". End of conversation and I hurriedly make my way to destination Indian Gardens. I get there and am relieved to find shade where I can rest and have a bite to eat. I pull out my can of tuna, two pieces of wheat bread and a fruit cup.... As not hungry as I have become since I have been hiking for 1.5 hours I eat reluctantly knowing that I am going to need something so that I don"t pass out on the way back up the canyon.
The break lasted maybe 10 minutes before I was back on my feet and on my way out of the canyon. I felt that I had to move quickly in order to be out by 5. The last thing that I wanted to do was keep the group waiting because my determination had pushed me to get to Indian Gardens, the place that I had been 10 years earlier. Several minutes later who do I see coming my way but Edd and Justin... oh I was so glad to see a familiar face because this meant that there would be someone for me to hike back up the canyon with J. They told me that Jake, Annette and Dave were about 100 yards away. Since they wanted to get to Indian gardens and I had already turned around we agreed that I should save my energy, not back track and catch up with the group. I agreed and handed off the walkie-talkie to them.
Well closer to 300 yards later I saw Dave's turban head and thought now what can I say that will require a small amount of energy and will get their attention for sure? Then I got it "DACTA" I exclaimed and sure enough Dave's head turned around. It slowed them down a tad because they had thought that they had heard a bird but then saw me in the distance and slowed up. Stopping with them while they ate lunch we talked briefly of our hikes and what we had seen. After the lunch break Annette started out first but we quickly caught up and Jake/Jack/Jacques and I passed and continued on while Dave and Annette stuck together for the remainder of the hike.
We tore up the canyon in record speed stopping only briefly here and there to catch our breath and take a swig of water. When we stopped we would look over the edge of the canyon for our group members who were still hiking. We never saw them and got concerned that we might have to send in a reconnaissance team. As we neared the end of the canyon path the path seemed to get steeper and we began to see snow patches again. Suddenly the arch appeared and I knew that we were almost there. (The arch is a landmark that I recognize as being close to the start of the path) Before Jake and I knew it we had finished our hike. We just stood and marveled at how quickly we had scaled the canyon, like two mountain goats we left the paths in the dust as we climbed to the top getting there around 3:45pm.
Once at the top we found the restrooms where I splashed my face with cold water to refresh myself after 9 miles of hiking. We then proceeded to the gift shop where we each bought, wrote and sent a postcard. We then mosied over to the overlook area where we found the majority of our group and then we mosied over to the book shop where we saw Dr. Merck who was impressed with our speedy hiking abilities.
Sitting around with the group we had found earlier, the remaining 4 hikers slowly emerged from the canyon. First Justin and Edd followed about 20 minutes later by Annette and Dave. Then, as a group we all waited while people got souvenirs and ice cream before finally heading out to drive back to Flagstaff.
In Flagstaff we split up for dinner as some went to Chinese, some to Subway and I, to the grocery store. What a fun day to be finished off with quality dinner conversation and an entertaining video game at the Flagstaff Econo Lodge.
Day 4 - Boyce Thompson Arboretum and the road trip to Tucson.
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