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396. Widforss Trail (05/29/04)

Hikers (10): Cal, Carissa, Chester, Doug, Elaine, Eugene, George, Peter, Ross, Taylor
Distance: 12 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Write-up by Elaine -- Pictures by Chester

In May 2004, seven INCHers conquered the Grand Canyon. Kudos to Ross, Carissa, George, Peter, Taylor, Eugene and Cal for hiking the North Rim to the South Rim with no-one being a casualty. What diehardcore hikers!

Here are just some highlights of this wonderful trip with the best traveling companions in the world.

WARNING: Contains slanderous material. Read at your own risk!

DISCLAIMER: These are MY facts, and any contest of factual inaccuracy will be merely entertaining!

First, some pre-hike notes ...

Wednesday: For Carissa and Chester, the adventure started on Wednesday, as they arrived in Vegas to celebrate their 4th anniversary and re-live their honeymoon. Both said it was better the second time around!

Thursday: Peter, Taylor and Eugene arrived on Thursday night. After picking up the rental car, they headed straight for the casinos. This is Vegas, baby!

Friday: The fun began in the airport when George and I found Cal, Doug, and Ross waiting at the terminal. George went up behind Cal and set his Slugs baseball cap on top of Cal's hat. Cal didn't notice a thing until he looked at the image caught in the digital camera. He reached up in surprise to find that he was wearing two hats.

In Vegas, we picked up the rental minivan and followed Peter's directions: two lefts to get on Paradise. We were lost, making this an official INCH trip from the get-go! Eugene phoned us and said they just spotted us in a blue minivan. We made a U-ie but we didn't see Peter or Eugene. Wait a minute — there're two roads called Paradise, one north of the airport and the other south. We're on the south side, which looked like a residential area. We were in the wrong ‘hood, so up north we headed. Finally, we spotted Peter and Eugene, and the group was together for the first time on the trip.

We inched through Friday-afternoon-before-a-holiday-weekend traffic in the sizzling Vegas heat to TJ's and Costco for supplies and lunch, and we were finally on the road to Zion about 3 hours behind schedule! Oh well, we were on vacation.

Cal's all smiles as we begin our trip up the Narrows ...

First stop was Zion. Splashing and wading along the creek at Zion Narrows was quite the experience. Most of us were in shorts but some in long pants (notably, Carissa was in jeans) and kept rolling them up. Carissa finally gave up trying to keep her jeans dry and she got soaked from the waist down. Conveniently, her jeans shrank and became shorts for the hike the next day!

The last photo of Carissa in dry pants

Chester didn't care about getting wet

At some points, the water was quite high, even to the hips depending on how tall one is. The water was cold and the stones slippery. Going upstream, we had to deal with water resistance. Soon, Ross and George were out of sight. We kept going, taking note of the fading daylight because we had to get to the Grand Canyon that night. It was fun, slipping and sliding, helping one another and pointing out where it was shallower.


Elaine was having the time of her life!

We finally decided to turn back and let Ross and George figure out it was time to go. Later on, George related that Ross led him on a quest to the other end of the world. Each turn in the river increased Ross' excitement — one more bend, just to that rock, oh look at that overhang... George finally gave up and turned back, but Ross went just a little bit more and made it to the canyon he had been searching for.

Group photo before heading back upstream

Going downstream was easier since we were going with the flow. It was dark when we got to the cars. Cal’s cell had a signal, so we called the Kaibab Lodge, where we would be staying at the North Rim of the GC, to make sure we had keys to get into our rooms.

It was almost dark as we came out of The Narrows

Zion Canyon is beautiful at night

Just outside the entrance to Zion, we spotted a restaurant, the Spotted Dog Cafe and Pub at Flannigan's Inn, and stopped for dinner. It was around 9pm and we closed the place down. This is Utah, after all.

After dinner, we were on the road again, estimating 1.5 to 2 hours to drive to the North Rim. We passed Jacob Lake and got on 67, which was a smooth, well-maintained road to Kaibab Lodge and the North Rim entrance. George was the pilot of the minivan, and Ross the navigator. They kept each other awake and drove us safely to the Kaibab Lodge. What a team!

We arrived at Kaibab Lodge at 12:07am, Saturday. Good to their word, the staff had taped our room keys to the door of the main lodge. Four envelopes had my name on it but the fifth said "Rogus." The Mystery Envelope caused some consternation—would someone come knocking in the middle of the night? Or worse, the Lodge giving Mr. and Mrs. Rogus another key, and they walk into one of our rooms in the middle of the night. I decided to take it, surmising that no one else could be later than we, and rationalizing that we had paid for five rooms.

And now the hike story ...

Rise and shine! Since we got in late or rather early this morning, we agreed to meet at 8:30am for breakfast. Ross and George were already having breakfast when Doug and I arrived. I told the person at the reception about the "Rogus" envelope, and he said we had the right rooms. Then he went through the litany about breakfast: self-service continental breakfast only for $5 or $6, and the only hot items were oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee and tea. If we wanted eggs or meat, it would be a 30-minute drive into the park at the Grand Canyon Lodge. We settled for the self-service continental breakfast and planned to be at the Grand Canyon Lodge for a real breakfast tomorrow.

The group gathered and we were off to our first hike on the Widforss trail.

1, 2, 3 ... INCH!

Cal picked this trail for a warm-up hike and to get us acclimatized to the altitude. No uphill, he promised, but soon I was huffing and puffing up an incline.

Cal had picked this trail also because of the views of the canyon and floating rocks or "cairns", in Ross lingo (new word for me -- was it on the SAT’s?). I had expected the canyon to be bare but instead it was forested and green, possibly because it was cooler on the North Rim. As the trail meandered in and out of the woods, we sometimes had great views of the canyon.

First view of the mighty canyon from the North Rim

We followed the trail until it led to a hanging rock. Eugene couldn’t wait to challenge death. He went out as far as he dared, then urged “C’mon, Fatso. Come out here. This is scary! Whoa!”

Dobby challenges death!

There were other less dangerous spots from which to admire the canyon. The group hung out there for a while posing and taking pictures and snacking, but George wasn’t with us. As we got ready to leave, I heard, “Hey, Elaine!” I looked across and there was George. Apparently, the trail followed the wall of the canyon, and George had gone ahead. Between us was an abyss of red rocks . We got back on the trail and soon came to where George was when he called me. The profile of the hanging rock where Eugene stood gave us a different appreciation of the danger.

Just a couple more steps ...

We came to a stretch with lookouts to the canyon and nearby cairns, so we stopped frequently to play tourist. How did cairns come to be? Someone must’ve clambered out to those hanging rocks and placed one rock on top of another. Ross wasn’t too crazy about my theory, but I decided to keep it although I couldn’t figure how someone carried all those rocks while clambering out there. Maybe he/she/it had wings or multiple long arms ...

Around lunchtime, we came to the lookout of lookouts, but over yonder, we saw another lookout that topped this one -- the ultimate. But how do we get over there? George and Cal surmised that there must be a trail around. Ross’ guess was we would have to go down first, then up again. We could stop for lunch here or get over there. It looked so much more appealing there, greener ... We decided to try getting over there. The trail led us back into the woods. Ross was right, again.

Some of us started to settle down for lunch, but who wants to break here where there’s no view? We decided to head back to the lookout of lookouts. During the break, George took out his map and identified all the temples we could see. Most were named after gods and goddesses from Greek, Egyptian and Indian myths. We also tried to spot the South Rim and the trail that the diehardcore hikers would take on Tuesday. We took up most of the space on the lookout. A couple came by and we exchanged stories with them. Upon hearing that some in the group would hike from the North Rim to the South Rim, the wife’s countenance eloquently expressed her thoughts! After more chitchat (George was our spokesperson), we made room for them to enjoy the views.

The adventure on the way back was an unmarked crossover. On the map, two parallel trails come close together but do not meet. Cal theorized that at a certain point, if we went off the trail and headed north (right?), we would hit the other trail, which would bring us back to the cars. When we got near that certain point, Cal and George went off-trail to explore. The rest of us kept on the trail with Ross in the lead. Ross then went off-trail and we all followed, huffing and puffing up the incline (except Ross.) We went around trees, the grass was dry, and twigs and acorns were scattered everywhere. Yeah! We found the other trail, but where were George and Cal? We heard one of them shouting, “Where are you?” On the count of three, we all shouted in one accord “INCH!” shaking the leaves and branches and causing birds and insects to fly off ... Soon, we heard some rustling nearby and spotted Cal and George surfacing from the incline.

The rest of the hike back was uneventful. The trail was flat most of the way, and a gentle breeze caused the round leaves of (what kind of plant was it?) to give us the welcome wave. What a pretty sight and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Back at the parking lot, a ranger was surveying hikers. Ross graciously agreed to answer questions, but we all ended up participating. The ranger shared that the survey helped them prepare for rescues, which included women in high heels with no water going down to the canyon floor. We’ll make sure Cal and Peter don’t wear their high heels on Tuesday ...

Since breakfast at the Kaibab Lodge was unremarkable, we decided to have dinner at the Grand Canyon Lodge, but reservations were required, especially for a group our size. Cal wanted to hike some more, but some of us were ready to call it a day. Some walked out to Bright Angel Point, while others went into the gift shop. At the Grand Canyon Lodge, we marveled at the views from the Sun Room. The leather couches were very inviting, so some of us succumbed to the temptation. On the way back to the car, Cal and Peter decided to stop for beer, and Doug for tea. When we finally got to the cars, we found George catnapping in the driver’s seat. Doug couldn’t stop talking on the drive back to Kaibab Lodge! Whatever was in that tea, it sure perked him up.

Back at Kaibab Lodge, the event of the evening was the Burger Eating Contest. E2 was clearly the gold medallist, easily defeating Chester and Elaine hands down. On the menu was the Grand Canyon Deluxe Burger, which came with two beef patties. Quantity over quality, Eugene decided, after some deliberation between ordering two double burgers or the NY steak. He sets the record for gulping down four patties in one sitting. Chester (two patties) and Elaine (one patty) were no match for the Atkins champion.

For more cool pix from our trip, check out Chester and Carissa's album.

Doug's 1st leaf

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