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APRIL 13, 2009   

More Grand Canyon trip pictures & commentary on this site from 4/11 to 4/20. Our travel tips and suggestions at From the Cuyahoga to the Colorado.

Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon

Joanne with packs in front of Downtown Diner, FlagstaffThe inexpensive motel room was fine for the night. At 6:30 we loaded up like pack animals, big packs on our backs and the smaller daypacks in front. Fortunately the Amtrak station was a short walk—about 15 minutes. Since we had time to spare we walked around the block and—lo and behold—found exactly the kind of greasy spoon diner I was craving. My huevos rancheros were decent, nothing to brag about, but entirely fitting for a place called "City Diner."

After breakfast we walked two blocks to the station and got on the shuttle van that would take us to the Grand Canyon. We'd decided to forgo the pricey and sort of cheesy-sounding train ride to the canyon. I didn't want to pay a lot of money to be part of a staged hold-up by "bandits."

Andrea and Angela inside shuttleOn the shuttle we talked with Andrea, a young German woman and Angela, the shuttle driver. Andrea was spending a couple of weeks touring the U.S. She had just one day at the Canyon, and when we left her at the Maswick Lodge I was a little sorry that we hadn't had more time to talk. Fortunately we were able to make up for that later.

First hike

Joanne walking down switchback with blue sky in backgroundAfter moving our stuff into our room at the El Tovar hotel we decided that a 3-mile hike down the South Kaibab trail would be a good test of the kind of shape we were in. The weather cooperated fabulously, with lots of sun and temperatures in the 60s.

The hike down with its many many switchbacks was more demanding in watching where you put your feet than in steepness, although it was plenty steep. We spent time at the two rest areas, the appropriately named "Ooh Aah Point" and "Cedar Ridge."

The photo shows one of the gentler switchbacks, and no, the puddle isn't rainwater, it's mule piss. The mule trains that bring supplies in and mail and trash out from Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon regularly use South Kaibab trail, pooping and pissing all the way. Thought you'd like to know.

All the hiking articles suggested that you figure it will take twice as long to go up as it down, but we had a very different experience. We kept about the same pace going up—although with more huffing and puffing—and got back to the top in a bit less time.

We crossed paths with Andrea as we were hiking back, and later saw her at the trailhead where we were eating raisins while waiting for the bus. So Fate helped us on this, and we had a drink at the Maswick Lodge, exchanged addresses (real and email) and parted again when she took the shuttle back to Flagstaff and the Southwest Chief.

This is one of the great things about travel: if you're willing to put yourself out just a bit it's very easy to meeting people. You learn more about the world - yours and theirs - with every conversation. Sometimes the friendships continue for years, other times they end when the train pulls away. But no matter, we're happy to have been able to share part of our day with Andrea from Berlin.

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2009 APRIL