Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 14: Zion!!!

May 31st 2016: Checkerboard Mesa – Zion Watchman Campground, 13,5 miles 

IMG_4268It’s a good thing we didn’t continue hiking yesterday evening. We wouldn’t have seen the beauty out of exhaustion. And boy it’s so beautiful here. We make our way (slowly cause there still ain’t no decent trail) around Checkerboard mesa and meet family Bighorn again. Ha! Abbey is right. You can’t see a thing from a car. People passing by, getting out of their car, taking pics at view points have no idea what the back of Checkerboard looks like, have no idea there’s a Bighorn family living there, that the East Virgin River is flowing way back there… Not a clue (but hey what do I know?)! We reach the street and walk to the East Rim Trailhead where we have burried a cache with water and coke and shower tokens. It feels like treasure hunting.

We cruise on the East rim and the miles fly by. It’s only at the end that the people, ya you might call it “masses”, start coming, puffing their way up, red headed like tomatoes. The scenery is beautiful (so ya I get it why people drag their asses up here)! O those red walls towering high over our heads.   Continue reading

Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 13: A slot canyon with thunderstorms above

May 30th 2016: Broad Hollow – Checkerboard Mesa / Zion National Park, no idea about the miles

grandcanyontozion494I sleep well and we get going at 5:30, hoping to make the most of the day before the heat comes. We always make the best miles in the morning. We continue to walk on sand for a mile or two till we have to leave broad hollow and go cross country to rejoin with the original Hayduke route. It takes us a while till we find the right route (there are so many sand tracks here that are on no fuckin map). But we find it and walk too far on it and eventually just go cross country to get down rock canyon. It’s a bit of a search to find a good way down to the East Virgin river  and holy moly I didn’t expect this beauty! We are gonna be wading through the river for the next 4 to 5 miles. Our own personal Narrows. Not meeting a single person the whole day (ya that’s heaven to me!)!

But then dark clouds come over and we hear the thunder rolling in the sky. We hope it will just pass by but o no the thunderclouds decide to just stay there. Both HQ and I think “damn”! A thunderstorm sure isn’t the safest weather condition to be hiking through a river in a canyon for miles. Flashfloods are nothing to fool around with. So we only eat a quick snack and pull through the river section without a break. Raw beauty with thunder above. It’s thrilling and scary and beautiful at the same time. Continue reading

Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 12: Hitching through cultures and following cougar tracks

May 29th 2016: Jacob Lake – hitch to Colorado City – Broad Hollow

grandcanyontozion484I sleep awful. Kids or whatever play basketball real loud till 12 at night and even back in the woods we wake up from it. Who the fuck plays basketball at midnight? (Alright I gotta be fair, I ain’t got nothing against basketball at midnight but I got something against people being loud.)

We get up early to get a hitch out of Jacob Lake. Most people drive south though. Still after 20 minutes a car pulls over. It’s a belgian!!! Mwuhahahaha such a small world. He’s from the same area I grew up in and so we speak the same dialect (in Flanders almost every town has its own dialect). That makes it much easier for me. After living in Germany for almost 14 years now I sometimes find it hard to speak Flemish. But it’s easier when I can speak the dialect I grew up with. He takes us till Fredonia and there the hitch is much tougher.

Not a soul pulls over. After 45 minutes (guess I’m not very patient) a white truck stops. Praise the lord. A Navajo man rolls down the window and says: “I can only take you to Pipe Springs. I’m looking for my 14year old daughter. She ran away last night.” Poor man. He’s been driving all through the area since 3 am this morning. 14 year olds. He tells us he’s been living here for 47 years already, didn’t go to study, learned from the land instead. “That’s a treasure,” I say and all three we know it is true in this crazy world we live in today. Learning from the land is the biggest gift we can give to ourselves and our children. He drops us of at Pipe Springs, looks for his kid at the gas station and drives off again. Searching. I tell him we will pray and we send him good energy while he disappears out of sight. Continue reading

Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 11: Cruising on the AZT

May 28th 2016: Crystal Spring – Jacob Lake, 11 miles and a hitch

IMG_3923I sleep like shit. My hip hurts. My ass freezes off. And my irrational fear of mountain lions keeps me awake. I’ve been sleeping like a baby during most nights of this trip. No so much last night. When we wake up the inside of the tent is covered in ice. No wonder I’m freezing my ass off. It must have been well below zero.

It’s still freezing when we have breakfast, even when the sun is out already. Frikkin cold on the Kaibab Plateau! Luckily the sun warms me when we get going, although the meadow is still glowing and glittering with ice crystals. It’s beautiful. We see lots of deer and birds. Ah transition zones! Meadows – forests – springs. So much life!

We cruise again and have a last view of the east rim. Bye Grand Canyon.

How easy the walking is when there’s a trail, in and out of meadows and forests. Somehow though (I know we are just terrible) we both get bored and when after 11 miles the trail goes right next to the road 67 we put up our thumbs.

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Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 10: Kaibab Plateau – Arizona trail

May 27th 2016: Grand Canyon North Rim – Crystal Springs, ca. 18 ml

IMG_3900We decide to hike the Arizona Trail up to Jacob Lake and will see where to go next from there. It’s just too risky with my crappy hips to go cross country down into the canyon again. I once read that “the biggest strength is gentleness” and even though I’m not well in applying that to my own life and my own body, this time I gotta go there. And so I “fight” my sense for adventure and craziness and I try to be gentle with my body. I’ve put it through enough the last couple days. It’s been fine and I am so grateful it has brought me this far.

So we hike out at 6:45 and maaaaan it is sooooo easy to have a trail. It’s so fast. You only realize how easy a trail is when you haven’t had one on which you can cruise. So we cruise and cruise and have lunch at the meadow right next to the National Park entry. It hails and the sun comes back out and so on. Continue reading

Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 9: A zero on the North Rim

We go for a walk around the lodge and the shop, check the North Kaibab Trail from above and spend the rest of the afternoon in the general store. Drinking coffee and hot chocolate, eating chips, trying to catch the internet in the front left corner of the store  (important info :cP ) and to make up our minds.

What do we do next? Bushwhack down Swamp Point? The Arizona Trail till Jacob Lake? The wave? Buckskin Gulch? Too many options. It snows and hails but inside the store it’s warm.

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Grand Canyon to Zion – Day 8: Back up – North Kaibab Trail

May 25th 2016: East Tonto – Colorado River – Cottonwood Ranch – North Kaibab Trailhead, ca. 17 ml

IMG_3850I sleep well on the Tonto shelf. The winds sleeps too and so it’s quiet. Ah! The alarm rings at 4:30 am and by 5 am we get going. That’s the earliest we managed so far :cP We just have a Snickers for breakfast and head the last 400m /1200 ft down to the Colorado River. It’s so smooth and easy this trail.

We cross the bridge and have our decent breakfast on a bench near Phantom Ranch. HQ goes inside to fill up water and some kind people give him pancake and 2 pieces of bacon. Yesss!

In no time we hike the 7 miles till Cottonwood Ranch. It’s incredible how fast one can go when there’s a trail that isn’t steep up- or downhill- We have a 30 minute break and the next 7 miles are a lot slower and harder and it’s hot! BUT we have the magic umbrella and every fuckin dayhiker we meet has something to say about it. O folks common! Some go down in black jeans, no water, no cap, no sunscreen. How stupid can one be?  Continue reading