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April 2006 Hiking South Rim of Grand Canyon

Kitty and Paul Wakfer were sure that Oli (Olafur Pall Olafsson) would definitely like to see the Grand Canyon on his visit to us in central Arizona. While both of us had seen the canyon at least twice, it had been many years and never together. So Kitty planned it in conjunction with a visit to some Sedona hiking sites to be lead by Jack/David Jackemeyer who knew that area better than the two of us.

Paul and Oli outside the room we occupied at The Canyon Motel in Williams AZ

After leaving Jack and Lindsey in Sedona in the very early evening of April 2, we headed up Route 89A. Unfortunately it was getting dark and the Oak Creek Canyon area with the well visited (as respite from summer heat) Slide Rocks was just a dim view from the car as we passed. With entry on to I-17 just south of Flagstaff, it was then only a few miles west to Williams and The Canyon Motel where a room was reserved for us. It was chilly enough that heat in the room was necessary and cups of herb fruit tea (bags and pot provided by management) were much welcomed. While Oli the next day told us he slept very well, Paul and Kitty found the absolute silence, except for the periodic trains, kept both of us from getting a sound sleep - there was not even a fan related to the wall heater.
After putting together our breakfasts of muesli (for Oli and Kitty) and smoothie (for Paul) - and more hot tea and additional fruit, we were off before 9am for the west entrance to the Grand Canyon South Rim.

The first sight of canyon from paved pathWe purposely parked east of the Village so that we could hike towards it and beyond. Here is when we first exited the woody area north of the old Park Headquarters and got the first unobstructed view of a large portion of the canyon.A few minutes further down the trail the rock was flat and visitors can get a much closer and unobstructed view of the grandeur.Oli holds pine branch for security on first closer look down sharp edge
Oli was visibly insecure, holding on to the nearest pine tree "just in case"...Within a minute though Oli was more relaxedBy the time Kitty had repositioned herself for another shot, Oli was more relaxed; the wind was gentle and there were no crowds of people jostling to get a good look.Oli relaxes with Grand Canyon vista behind him
Two minutes later, Oli was comfortable enough to give Kitty a big smile with the drop off into the canyon less than 2 feet behind him.

It was about 20 minutes later that we walked through the Lookout Studio in the Grand Canyon Village on the rim edge to the observation area that jutted out on a precipice. The view was another spectacular one, but what really held our attention was a mountain sheep some distance below on his own outlook. That's a mountain sheep down on that pointMountain sheep gazes inward towards canyon wallRegal mountain sheep on Grand Canyon promintoryIs this mountain sheep admiring the magnificent expanse of the Grand Canyon?This sheep was so regal in his stance and really appeared to be taking in his domain, looking first inward towards the canyon wall and then outward at the greater expanse. If he took notice of the hikers on the switchbacks, his behavior didn't reflect any concern to us. We wondered to ourselves what thoughts went through the mind of this animal which appeared to be taking in the magnificent view.

We continued to take in the view from this observation point and about 8 minutes later Oli pointed out what appeared to be the same mountain sheep on a higher portion of steep hill inward towards the wall from where we had seen it earlier. Mountain sheep appears to be considering its next moveCloser look
The sheep actually appears to be considering what direction to take and making note of the switchback trail (in top 1/4 of view), although no hikers are currently on that portion. The close-up makes this more clear.Mountain sheep has made his move
In less than 10 seconds the mountain sheep was making his move, again in towards the canyon wall - and the hiking trail. We wondered whether if it would approach the trail itself.

Our plans did not include a hike all the way down Bright Angel trail to the canyon floor - that would require an overnight stay before making a return uphill. But going part way down would give us a different perspective - looking upward at a small portion of the walls. Bright Angel trail 'tunnel' ahead
Oli and Paul approach the natural "tunnel" near the beginning of the trail, which is also shared with mules (note the droppings in foreground) that are available with advanced reservations to carry some visitors up and down the miles of switch backs.Mountain sheep appears to be considering its next move
About 6 minutes later we had reached a spot where the beginning of the trail at Kolb Studio - brown building in upper left - was clearly visible. Kitty wanted to capture this on her camera and so had the fellows pose for her. 2 hikers visible just above Oli's hat
Note the hikers in the distance just above Oli's hat - the closest two are headed back up the trail.

After a little further descent to a point of a major switch back, we decided that we'd experienced enough of the Bright Angel trail - at least for this trip. There was much of the south rim we wanted to see and we'd hardly begun. So, back up we went. Mountain sheep appears to be considering the photographer - Kitty
About half-way back up the trail we spied a mountain sheep - very likely the one we'd seen earlier from up above. He appears to be considering whether we pose any danger to him. And yes, that's snow in patches where direct sunlight is limited. Mountain sheep continues upward once Kitty moved aside
We moved a bit up the trail to give the sheep clear access if the trail is what he was headed for. He continued on towards but staying below the trail. We watched for awhile and then continued up towards the trail head.Mountain sheep waits in midtrailMexican stand-off on Bright Angel Trail
After passing back through the "tunnel" and then approaching the rim, we looked across and saw this sight - what might be thought of as a strange "Mexican stand-off". It went on for a few minutes minutes with the sheep apparently just waiting for the humans to move out of its way. They finally seemed to get together and decide that the best course of action was to stand quietly close to the wall. (The person above in purple had it appears decided immediately to take the "high road".) The sheep then was seen to skirt the humans, quickly picking its way on the outside edge of the trail and then back into the center and down. Another smaller group of hikers was already up against the wall as the sheep approached. We chuckled and continued on ourselves, not waiting to see what happened beyond that last sheep-human encounter.

Grand Canyon Village didn't hold any particular interest for us; we were carrying sufficient water and had no plans to eat until we returned to the car later in the afternoon. So, off we continued westward on the paved trail that according to the map would end in less than half a mile. Our plan was to hike to Hermit's Rest approximately 8 miles to the west and then ride back to the Village.
To fly like a bird over the Grand CanyonKitty suggested that Oli take a stance on the rock pedestal so that she could take a picture of him with another splendid backdrop. He struck this pose which was reminiscent to Kitty of the "flying" positions by Jack and Lindsey at Devil's Bridge the day before. Ah, yes! To fly like a bird over the expanse of the Grand Canyon would be a grand adventure.Paul and Kitty
Kitty asked Oli to take a picture of her and Paul, who regretted later that he had not taken off his hat for the "portrait".

Off we went, up and around (and sometimes down and around) on the path that shortly became dirt. The foot traffic was quite light with most people making use of the shuttle buses that run between the several built-up observational points. We walked briskly much of the time but often stopped to admire the view. Oli and Paul at ___ Point
About 50 minutes later we stopped a bit longer at the ___ Point where Kitty had Oli and Paul stand so that the very small portion of the Colorado River visible in this direction from this location can be seen between their lower legs.

Jet contrail dissipates over Grand Canyon rimmed with weathered pines
Two minutes further to the west, Kitty captured this view of contrasting elements - weathered pines, ages old Grand Canyon and wispy jet contrail.

Oli enjoys the warm April sunshine on Grand Canyon south rim
It was really warming up and Oli took advantage to capture some Vitamin D via the bright sunlight.

We had been on the go for over 4 hours - taking time also to look around at what was still visible behind a chain link fence of an old abandoned mine we passed on the rim edge - and some of us had need to use toilet facilities. Therefore we decided the best course was to board a shuttle to Hermit's Rest, where snacks and bathrooms were available. The ride in the trailer coach was very bumpy, and it was a hard decision once underway whether to stand and give relief to our (Paul's and Kitty's) lean bottoms or sit and take a load off our feet. We continued to sit but were very happy to get off at the destination. Once nature calls were completed, we headed back on foot for part of the distance to the Village.
Colorado River has Oli's attention at another observation pointMore of the Colorado River is visible at another observation point we reached on our return east from Hermit's Rest. The rapids far below are what has Oli's attention. See close-up.Area of rapids on Colorado River in Grand Canyon

Oli and Paul and the Canyon tooOli and Paul were requested once again to form a human touch to the magnificent background.Is the squirrel admiring the view?
Kitty didn't ask for consent from this little fellow, but didn't think he'd mind. Like with the mountain sheep earlier in the day, we wondered what thoughts transpired as this squirrel looked out towards the grandeur. But of course, the Grand Canyon is its environment - the only one it knows.

Ribbons of red and beige

Ribbons of red and beige rock of the numerous mesas in the Grand Canyon contrast with the gray weathered standing dead wood on the rim.

Oli and Paul on return hike from Hermit's Rest to Village

This was the last picture Kitty took at about 3:30 in the afternoon - we'd left the car about 10:45. From this point we walked fairly quickly and then caught another shuttle to the Village west end; we walked through most of it and then caught another shuttle for the last mile to the lot where we'd parked our car.
After we had visited the fully equipped bathroom facilities nearby and had a snack, Paul realized that he was missing his cryonics notification pendent, which he last remembered putting on the nightstand in the motel. Our plans to drive towards the east entrance to the Canyon south rim, stopping at some of the observation points along the way and then on to Flagstaff were changed; we returned via the west gate to Williams instead. Unfortunately, the motel owner did not find the pendent in the lost/found items nor did we when we searched the room ourselves. So we left perplexed, but still requested that she investigate and phone us. (We heard from her the next day and the pendent was mailed to us.)
After getting gas in Flagstaff, we decided to just drive straight down to the Phoenix area, enjoying the views enroute, and have a late dinner at our favorite Chinese buffet restaurant in Chandler. Oli told us during the meal - sometime after 7pm - that he hadn't had much opportunity to eat Chinese food in Iceland and that he was impressed with the selection, quality, quantity and price. Needless to say we three were completely satiated with food and sightseeing when we arrived back in Casa Grande. After showers were had by all, everyone slept soundly that night.


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Initially posted 9/6/06
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