31 May 2014

Hiking Rim-to-River and back on Grand Canyon

May 2014

Seen hundreds of pictures from Grand Canyon over the years and it's been looking nice. However, it's been said that only after seeing it live for the very first time one realizes it what it really looks like.

This in mind headed towards South Rim of the Grand Canyon on Memorial Weekend. Masses of people had made the same decision, unfortunately.

When you arrive the National Park, you see deers and pine forest, still no sneak peek of canyon.  After arriving parking lot near Visitor's Center still no clue about the canyon.

South Rim lies above 2000m above sea level and itself is pretty flat. No mountains or high peaks on the rim.  About 20 meters before Mather Point, probably the most used viewpoint on the South Rim, one sees the canyon for the first time.

At least my mouth stayed half open some time after seeing it for the very first time (few wow's, too). First reaction, it massive, no, it's bigger than massive. Next thought, all colours of different layers. One more observation, there's no (Colorado) river in sight, was it dry as it couldn't be any deeper in canyon, could it?  One more thing,  walls of the canyon looked steep, really steep.

Next, taking a bus to the trail head. There's a free bus routes along the Rim, a really great idea instead of thousands of cars.

Had decided to hike down to the Colorado river via South Kaibab Trail, and assuming to return via the very same route.  A few others started the same trail, not sure how many of them had the river in mind as warning signs everywhere told do NOT to try to hike to river and back in one day.

Took some time to get to used to steep walls and trail on edge of them. First zig zagged one side canyon until arrived at the ridge. Red dust of sand on trail covered soon hiking boots.  On ridge the canyon opened 180 degrees, from west to east, for the very first time. Very soon you noticed the South Rim being somewhere up in there and size of human being on viewpoints became tiny ones.

The sun hit straight towards some temple formed mountains there. Different variations of red colour emphasized their form.

The trail was nice staying on ridge as it allowed good scenery on every direction.  The sun started to warm more and more while descending to the bottom.  For first time it felt weird to start the hike descending first and the hike would be ended by steep ascend.

Still no sight of the river yet when met a first group of mule riders. "Pitstop" some rider yelled, all riders halted their mules and one of them did an urgent nature call on the trail.  All happy faces within a group, though to me a bit scary on some steep sections of the trail.

Passed the first crossing of another trail, Tonto Trail, which headed in parallel of the Rim but few hundred meters down in the canyon.

Saw only few people heading more down to the canyon. Most of them had turned back, wise decision.

Stopped a couple of times to listen could one hear the river which was still not in sight. No, absolutely no sounds of floating waters. Suddenly after few turns in steeper section saw the first sight of a green river, dunes and some trees. Still far away somewhere down there. Couldn't fully see up to the Rim anymore either.

All the way down couldn't keep my finger off the shutter button of a camera. It felt more a duty than any guarantee of capturing breathtaking photos.

Zoom lens helped to spot few people down on the trail as well as on sand dunes near the river.  The Colorado River. In Grand Canyon National Park. It felt just great.

One started to feel constant descending on legs, which became heavier. The sun heat the air which felt much warmer down there than high on the Rim.

Brave steps on a narrow walking bridge and crossed the river.  The very first thing was to rush down to the sand dunes, take off the hiking boots and socks and wade to the river to cool down feet.  Boy it felt freezingly cold! Didn't the sun warm it at all (learnt the reason from a wikipedia later)?

Salty snacks, electrolyte drinks and lots of water.  All other hikers did the same steps, by nature.

The river was about 50-100m wide, having easy looking rapids every few hundred meters.

After crossing the bridge, the name of the trail changed to North Kaibab Trail.  Continued a short distance while crossed a tiny Bright Angel Creek and arrived at a small cabin. The main point to stop there was to get fresh water.  CamelBak was becoming empty so having fresh water here was kind of a mandatory task.  A mule deer watched in short distance while I filled in water bottles.

Asked few other hikers which way they'd decided to return. Most of them said Bright Angel Trail. Hmm... that's other trail than my plan was.  A quick view to the map showed that it was few miles longer but had a couple of important water sources within the trail whereas South Kaibab had none.  After considering a second or two decided to head towards Bright Angel Trail.

The trail name was now called Bright Angel Trail. It followed the river, crossed the river via another walking bridge and then followed again the river on the south side, staying quite near the water level.

After one bend came across rafting boats on a shore. People were preparing to move back to the river and its rapids there.  Mule riding and rafting were popular here, having about a year's queue to guarantee a place in them (I'd pick rafting for sure!).

The South Rim was not in sight from the river, rapids brought the sound level which covered any other sound or noise.

Arrived at the Pipe Creek and Pipe Creek Resthouse.  Now the Bright Angel Trail left the Colorado river and turned back towards South Rim.  The trail stayed on a narrow canyon. Steep zig zag trail, no wind, temperature now well above +30C, it really started to feel a heavy hiking trip.  Met other hikers and sharing heat and steepness made hiking easier.  Bighorn sheep with horns came down extremely steep wall, how on earth their braking system will work?

Soon after crossing Tonto Trail again arrived at Indian Garden Campground.  Lots of tired hikers there filling in their water bottles and staying in shadow of the sun. The trail was in a steep canyon, having a tiny creek and lots of trees. Another type of scenery, as the walls of the canyon looked so steep that it looked impossible to get out from there.

Slowly ascending with others arrived soon to the other hut, with fresh running water in there, called 3 Mile Resthouse. It laid on steep edge proving excellent view towards North Rim. No sight or sound from the river anymore.

Last kilometers were tough, really tough. It was such a relief when the South Rim was suddenly in sight again. 30 km down and up. Happy but exhausted. Very exhausted.

At least one thing had now changed forever; every single photo of Grand Canyon will now look different (and there's a burning desire to go hiking there again, or maybe rafting on Colorado River ...).

Some photos

A few of them have people in them (those tiny dots), just to help to understand the scale

The very first view to Grand Canyon, just wow!   That's what it felt

Wouldn't dare to very edge, brave people

Isis Temple

First kilometer on South Kaibab Trail

Ooh-Aah Point

On ridge

Zig zag

On edge


Local transportation


Soon on river. Not yet. Spotted hikers?

Crossing Colorado River!

Lunch company, a mule deer

Preparing for rapids

On action, paddle, paddle!

Bighorn sheep rushing down on steep edge

Spotted hikers?

Hmm... more than 500m vertical still to go

Banana Yucca

Some shade on Indian Garden

'Roadwork', only one lane in use

Last km's were toughest

Some happy hikers descending on Bright Angel Trail

The Battleship on early evening sun

Showers hit on North Rim

Through the tunnel and you're almost done

19 May 2014

Hiking on Mount Woodson

May 2014

There's plenty of trails in San Diego County for hiking. Books like aFoot and aField, 50 Best Short Hikes, 60 hikes within 60 miles, to name few, cover well county's most popular trails.  (Almost) All of these trails are for day hiking, few minutes from your home.

Have visited almost all most famous ones, except one, Mount Woodson. Previous hikes on Blue Sky Reserve and Iron Mountain, both of its neighbors, have been nice places.

One can access Mount Woodson from east side, from where ascent is fairly short, and from west side starting at Lake Poway, which is longer and contains more ascent.

On a Sunday morning, exercising some artificial weight to a new backpack and trying to get more comfortable with it, headed to Lake Poway.  Sunny, not too hot, clear blue sky. Lots of water, some snacks. Simple recipe.

A few people had already arrived at the park of Lake Poway, all preparing Sunday barbecue.  Some were fishing from a shore, some had rented a tiny boat and waited fish to catch a bait.

Took a trail which circled the lake from a south side.  Quite many people were on trails early in the morning.  Took some snapshots of the lake and its neighborhood and then headed to Mount Woodson trail.

There's not too much shade on trail, neither any places to get more water, basically, you were on your own.  Although the trail from Lake Poway to the top of Mount Woods was short, about 6km in one direction, there's enough ascending to get your heart to pump more blood.  Lake Poway lied about 200m above sea level and top of the mountain was on about 850m. So, something about 600m to ascent which guaranteed sweating while keeping relative pace.

Leaving the lake behind the trail got more narrow and more steep. Strong characteristic of the mountain was large and rounded stones which covered slopes of the mountain. Sizes bigger than human looked pretty cool.

Being a Sunday morning, the trail had some heavy traffic. Even some trail runners had found their way here.

Higher you ascended, better scenery it provided to 360 degrees, plains of Ramona in east and higher mountains behind it, the sea on west, and the sun above.

Wind blew stronger on top. Huge antennas covered the peak. Masses of people took some sip of their drinks before heading back down.  Hummingbirds had busy time in bushes near (around red flowers).

Took the same trail back to Lake Power but circled the lake now counter clockwise. The lake is actually a reservoir, like most of the other lakes within the county. It meant one limitation for which kids were not fond of, i.e. no swimming on the lake.

Turkey Vultures were common view, but when one saw a couple of them circling above you, just like in the old western movies, a sight became less attractive.

The trail twisted on a foot of the dam before it started to ascend back to the park. A small spot of water seemed to be a hideaway for red dragonflies.  Two square meters of microclimate proved to be enough for them.

Back to the park on the lake. Circling the Lake Poway and going back and forth Mount Woodson was about 15km hike.  Good and short and easy one. Definitely a good place for day hiking.

Some snapshots

Trail from Lake Poway to Mount Woodson

It's only the beginning

Salomon dominated b/w trail runners


Don't push them, please

A passage

Peak of Mount Woodson


Getting courage

Lake Poway down there

Gone fishing

Plenty of room and a view

A Turtle taking swimming lessons

Red Dragonfly shy on camera

Snakes have good disguise 

05 May 2014

Yet another Sunday walk on beach

May 2014

Lazy warm Sundays, they are most welcomed. Escaping inland heat, one first thinks cool wind on the coast.  Some beaches start to be pretty crowded on weekends at this time of the year already.  Parking lots are full in the afternoon, but if you go there early in the morning, you only hit for few surfers.

Though Mission Beach is certainly one of the busiest beaches in San Diego, it's a bloody good one, too. One can walk barefoot on soft and hard sand a few miles from its south point up to Tourmaline Beach, just on the edge of La Jolla.

Between these two is a Pacific Beach and its glorious pier. Surfers near the pier wait a perfect wave to come. Longboard fans seems to stay more on Tourmaline Beach. There you see classic walks on the board while gliding smoothly on surf. What's more, age and gender seem not to restrict surfing, some really stylish and cool longboard surfers.  Youngsters north side of the pier use shorter boards and make fantastic tricks with them. This time waves were tough, not giving too much excuse on them.

Spring is busy time for birds too, who live amongst humans, trying to catch their daily food and to demonstrate their best to attract becoming fiancé.

Walking some 15km on bare feet make good manipulation to your feet, highly recommended.

Few snapshots

Pacific Beach

Crystal Pier on Pacific Beach

Yoga and other exercise

One minute might feel longer than just 60 seconds

Not sure about the name of this exercise

Barefoot running, a free massage to you feet


A proud Godwit marching on

Snowy Egrets


What's left from a skin of a Palm tree

Bull kelp on dry land, children's favorite

Preparing for daily surf



Final stretching

Carry on

Feels good

Rough waters today on Pacific Ocean

Dancing on a Longboard