What an awesome three days of hiking. Spoiler alert: we didn't complete the whole West Rim Trail. We did however, put in an average of nine miles per day. In order to complete the whole 30 miles of trail, we needed to cover about 13 miles on the first day. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. We all had a good time though, and when I say "all" I mean: Rob (who invited me along), Evan, Kristen, Shaggy, Lucky, Jess and myself. Here's how it played out:
Our plans to compete the West Rim Trail were foiled when all seven of us missed a turn at mile six of the trek. Where the trail just about doubled back on itself, we trudged forward in what seemed to be the right direction. Geographic features matched the contours of topo map providing a false sense of security. A couple hours later, after walking reluctantly along logging roads and not seeing any trail blazes, we knew we were off track. Much to our dismay, the GPS on a friend's iPhone revealed our true location: miles west of where we were supposed to be. Though we got turned around the first day, the views of the canyon, river and wildlife were quite amazing.
After hiking back to the trail we decided to call it a day. We had hiked about ten miles and we were all feeling it. Here's the strange part: while collecting fire wood we discovered that we were camping in, pretty much, the exact spot where we took the wrong trail. We set up camp, got a nice fire going and all sat around cooking dinner, talking and goofing off in general. The bugs weren't bad at all and we all fell asleep to the sound of a babbling creek next to our campsite. At about 4:00am I was woken by the sound of an animal brushing up against my tent. I think it was a raccoon. A loud shout and some hand clapping scared it off. After a few minutes I pulled my boots on and stepped out into the early morning to take a look around. I was expecting to see a raccoon staring down at me from a nearby tree, but no luck. I stood by the creek for a few moments before headed back to my tent.
Since our plans to complete the entire West Rim Trail were out the window, we decided to hike about 5 miles further south, camp for the night, and then take a shortcut back to the cars on Monday morning. Sunday's hike started off with grueling climbs, unforgiving switch-backs and nettles that poked your legs and made you itch! On the plus side, the scenery was excellent. The forest was exceptionally green and lush with vegetation. We hiked through sections where the ground was completely covered in ferns. Several overlooks presented themselves along the rim of the canyon and we all took a few moments to soak in the sights when the bugs weren't too aggressive. At times, the bugs were so terrible that you could hardly stand still long enough to fetch an item from your pack!
We set up camp in a secluded little campsite a little bit off of the trail. Another great creek flowed through the site and made for a great little resting spot. We sat on the banks of the creek dangling our toes in the soothing yet frigid waters. In the evening we ate and sat around the fire. A few rumblings of thunder got our attention and when lightening began to flash we knew we were in for a storm. As I laid in my tent with my head near the screened entrance, I looked up into the tree tops which were illuminated by the flashes of lightening. Inevitably, the patter of rain drops put me to sleep and I was out cold.
By 7:00 we were up and at em'. We wanted to carry a fast pace out to the cars so that we could all get home at a reasonable hour. Rain from the night had soaked our campsite and made for a messy clean-up before leaving camp. I flicked slugs from my tent as I rolled it into a heavy wet mess. The sun was shining brightly and sent "God rays" down through the tree tops while mist rose from the creek creating a truly beautiful site as we hiked. I really didn't want to leave. At the same time, my mind was fixed on getting home, taking a shower and ordering a pizza. We cranked out the last 8 miles in about 3 hours.
When we were finished we all stopped into the Smoking Barrel for lunch. Greasy food never tasted so good! I'm sure we were the slinkiest, dirtiest people in the bar but we didn't care. Looking around the table I kind of laughed to myself while I looked at the mud, scratches and bug bites all over our bodies. We were a motley crew. I am looking forward to conquering the West Rim Trail either later this summer or next spring!