Category Archives: Arizona

Prickly Plants

We spent a few long driving days travelling from Texas back to California. We were glad to stay at least one night in New Mexico, at Rockhound State Park.

I loved the landscape and in particular all the cacti. Some of them were huge, which was a bit of a surprise. We hiked up Picacho Peak in Arizona. It was right off the highway, so not the most tranquil location, but It was still really pretty. It was really good to get out and stretch the legs.

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Kicking Back in the Kaibab Forest

A real pleasant surprise for us was camping out in the Kaibab National Forest.  We had no idea that the Grand Canyon was surrounded by such dense forests of ponderosa pine and quaking aspen and grassy meadows filled with grazing deer.

And the best part, you can pull off the highway almost anywhere and go exploring on all the dirt roads until you find the perfect campsite… totally free.

We camped out here for a few days while we waited for our permits for hiking in the canyon.

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We were there at the perfect time of year to see all the aspen as they changed colour.  It’s easy to forget that the north rim of the canyon is at about 9,000ft (2,800m) elevation.  So at this time of year it was actually really cold up there and we needed all our sleeping bags and blankets to stay warm in the van… and a good camp fire of course.

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After our hike we followed a tip from a guy on the shuttle bus and found a beautiful spot to camp right on the rim of the canyon.  We got out there after dark, and awoke to see this…

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The Grand Canyon

This has to be one of the most difficult posts yet. I guess our photos just don’t do it justice. I’m still not sure that the Grand Canyon is real to be honest. I think it looks like a backdrop in a movie studio.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA29 Grand Canyon - 02

We decided to hike the Rim to Rim Trail. Starting at the North Rim and finishing at the South. We camped at Cottonwood and then Bright Angel Campground. The scenery was spectacular and everything was so much greener than expected. Apparently it was monsoon season. It only rained (and thunder stormed) briefly once while we were there and we were all rugged up in Oscar. It was real chilly at night at the top of the canyon and significantly warmer at the bottom.

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It’s definitely not your typical backcountry trip. It’s a very busy trail, although nothing compared to the crowds at the top. People book this hike months in advance, however they also have a small number of permits set aside for walk-ins.  This meant that our options were somewhat limited. We bummed around for a couple of days sorting out our permits. In Tahoe a park ranger said to us “you have the best plan, which is no plan”. This was definitely the case here. We did the 37km/23mile hike in three days, without any side trips. It meant that we only had to hike for a couple of hours each morning, and then we relaxed in the heat of the afternoon.

Early Start

Early Start

Morning Light

Morning Light

Pre Plunge                         Pre Plunge

The second day was spent wandering through green valleys and the narrow walls of the Bright Angel Canyon. This was probably my favourite day of the hike.

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From Bright Angel Campground we walked up a bit further to check out the Colorado River. Below is a picture of the river in the middle of the day.29 Grand Canyon - 12

The following day, the last day of the hike, we were on the trail by about 6am. We were blown away by how much the colours had changed. Everything, including the river, was a shade of pink.29 Grand Canyon - 13

Sun Safe Aussies

Sun Smart Aussies

The hike out was a steep grind. We passed lots of mules on the trail, carrying people and supplies. It definitely looked like the easier option.

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I’m about to get tipsy, so if you don’t plan on hiking the grand canyon you don’t need to read any further.

It is much easier to hike the Rim to Rim Trail from North to South. Particularly if you walk in. Its just the way the permits work. The North Rim gets preference at the Cottonwood Campground, which is more difficult to get in to. We didn’t know this beforehand, so we ended up driving from the South Rim to the North to start the hike. The North Rim is also much quieter and the buildings are old and beautiful. The South Rim is tourist central. The South Rim however, is closer to the Colorado River. Also, once you finish the hike you have to get a shuttle back to your car. You organize this in advance. It costs about $80 a person and takes about 4hours. Its a beautiful drive, but there is no need to do it twice….like we did.