"The Canyon giveth, the Canyon taketh away"
- Peter Smith
With the High Flow Experiment still in operation, the river level was WAY HIGH. Trees, trails, and the famous invasive plant called the Tamarix were all underwater, which made for very interesting hiking (or should I say climbing) the next day, and also forced us up onto a high beach to camp for the night. We ended up in a righteous campsite tucked underneath a maze of twisting tree branches that made for a great kitchen/closet/living room. Immediately upon arriving at camp, Springs basically curled up and started napping. I told him that was a dumb idea because he missed an AWESOME view of the moon coming out. He wasn't much help in the morning either - he pretty much climbed up in a tree and watched me pack and do all the work.
The result is a number of interesting rock types and structures. You may see the 700 million year old ripple marks now frozen in time. Shale layers may flake off one at a time, each representing a number of years beyond the human ability to comprehend. Sandstones may show interesting layers also, which could be a clue as to a different environment at the time of deposition - though bends and curves in these layers may have formed while the sand was being lithified, far under the ground and under high pressures and temperatures. It is the challenging job of scientists to interpret all of these clues as to what the past was like, and they use a stunning number of ingenious techniques to understand and interpret the different processes that make these rocks into what we see today.
Some of my favorite plants are the cacti, which in order to adapt to the lack of water have lost true leaves, which are a characteristic trait of many plant species throughout the world. Instead, the cactus retains only spines, which serve many purposes including water retention.
To me, the most amazing trait of cacti in the Grand Canyon is the massive diversity of the plants - there are all different types in different locations; if Darwin would have visited this place he would have never had to wait to publish his theories! It would have been just too obvious.
On Thanksgiving Day we made our way across Papago Creek, which is certainly another one of my happy places. I took the time to drop my pack and explore the creek for a while.
After Papago Creek comes a bit of a traverse across cliffs above the river, followed by a hike up the beginning of 75-mile canyon. The high canyon walls make the place feel like home. The exit out of the canyon includes a great bit of full-pack, low-grade 5th class climbing. Super fun.
A few Grand Canyon hikers happened to be at the same beach as us, so we invited them down for the festivities. One father was hiking with his middle school aged daughter, so they were especially timid to come down and celebrate the holiday with a bunch of eggnog- and bourbon-drinking crazy hikers. But, the smell of pumpkin pie rapidly melted their timidness, and all of us agreed we had never seen such a happy 14-year-old after she had 3 pieces of pie.
Later on I played with taking some night pictures in my eggnog-induced stupor.
We awoke, feeling fresh and ready to go... kind of. :)
We started our ascent to the top of the Redwall along the Tanner Trail, being constantly rewarded with great vistas and cool views of century plants.