Dan and Hannah Hike Our American Southwest – Sedona, Arizona (May 2010 Archives #3)

Is there a prettier name for a town than Sedona?  I think not.  As Arizona residents at the time of the birth of our first child Molly, Hannah and I never seriously considered Sedona for her first name.  Did we drop the ball?  I think not. Molly is a beautiful name.

Driving to Sedona today, I wonder if we did.   Like Montana and Dakota, Sedona suggests a strong individual, an unbridled spirit, the West personified.  Who wouldn’t want such a daughter?   Informed later of our musings, Molly said thank you, thank you for not naming me Sedona.  Another bit of unintended karma along our parenting trail.

Through the heavily forested Oak Creek Canyon, we meander down two lane route 89A to Sedona, just an hour’s drive south from Flagstaff.  Passing two of the more popular shorter hikes in the area, one at the West Fork Oak Creek Trail and the other at Slide Rock State Park, we take the rotary just south of town heading down Showalter Road to the parking area for the Mund’s Wagon hike.  Paying five dollars by credit card to park, we love supporting America’s state parks.

Beginning late morning, we head out under blue skies with very little shade.  Following brilliant red sandstone cairns (stacked rocks, in this instance encased in wire mesh cylinders), our trail is nicely marked and easy to follow.  A well-marked trail with other hikers allows me to relax and enjoy myself, unconcerned about getting lost.  Wondering if one is on the trail or not can ruin the best of hikes.

After talking with a returning, agreeable twenty-something hiker, we politely decline his offer of multi-grain energy bars.  It doesn’t take us ten seconds to realize that we just blew it in a big way! We broke the Third Commandment of the Trail – Accept offers of food and water appreciatively.   We hikers are one, inseparable.   We need to do all we can to support and honor each other.

Crossing the dry riverbed repeatedly, we find the modest elevation gain easy to handle.  Ninety minutes later we arrive at a beautiful outcropping at Merry-Go-Round Rock with panoramic views of Bear Wallow Canyon River Valley.  

In stones, Will you marry me? greet us from a Romeo to his Juliet or perhaps a Juliet to her Romeo or even a Thelma to her Louise or… Ah, the mysteries of the trail.  Heading back to the trailhead, we find pools of cool water to soothe our boot weary feet.  

Resting on a rock, I think of the wanderlust legacy bestowed on me by my own Mom and Dad.  Forty-five years ago, they took their three East Coast kids West in a woody station wagon, where I learned that the wilderness world beyond New Jersey was not such a dangerous place; my adventurous spirit was born.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.

Dan and Hannah Hike Our American Southwest – Bryce Canyon National Park – Archive May 2010

Kanab, Utah is a Western town Hannah and I have come to love for its slow pace and easy access to national parks, a mere 80 miles to Bryce Canyon and just 40 to Zion.  Our morning walk is through quiet streets of single story homes in neighborhoods where it seems like everyone would know your name.  At the Kanab High track, a promising young athlete works with her coach before the heat of the day.  Kanab calls itself “Little Hollywood” with such television shows as Gunsmoke and the Lone Ranger filmed here. 

Driving through the spectacular Red Rock Canyon just prior to Bryce in late May, we learn that though it is called a canyon, Bryce is really a giant amphitheater of brilliantly colored orange, red, purple, and yellow stone formations created by erosion.  

Trail map of our hiking

In the first stage of erosion, these “fins” weave through the park floor like a shark off Nantucket.  At Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon, with salty snacks, water, a sun protecting hat, and sunscreen, we descend on the switchbacks of the Navajo Loop on the way to the Peekaboo Trail.  Once there, the canyon walls bracket us as the trail is sandy smooth and often wide enough for us to walk side by side.

With many foreign and homegrown visitors, Bryce gives us many opportunities to engage others in conversation.  Germans Michael and Anja willingly respond to our opening and tell us, Americans are most welcoming.  This would not be the case if hiking in Germany

Descending to the Navajo Loop

Rated strenuous, the Peekaboo Trail rises and falls easily as brilliant vistas showcase “windows” that are created in the fins (second stage of erosion).  They appear around many turns in the trail as if to say “Peekaboo.”  The Bryce guide cautions that mild exertion can cause light-headedness and even nausea. 

A Bryce Canyon “window”

A narrow spur trail where we step carefully, but not fearfully, ascends to the canyon rim at 8300-foot Bryce Point.  Our breathing is harder but not taxing.  Whereas all our other days of hiking were sun filled, postcard blue skies, today we have the clouds, and what a blessed relief they are.  As we retrace our steps from Bryce Point back down into the amphitheater to Sunset Point, we stand in awe of the towering soft orange/pink hoodoos, pinnacles of stone formed by wind, water, and ice, the final stage of limestone erosion. 

2021 Update – With plans dashed to hike Bryce Canyon in 2020 and 2021 with our daughter Molly’s family because of Covid-19, Hannah and I once again plan to return to Bryce Canyon for the first time in 11 years next April 2022 with her family (Owen (9) and Max (7), and her hubby Tip).

Dan and Hannah Hike the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon – (May 2010 Archive #1)

Bright Angel Trail – 1     Dan – 0

Bright Angel Trail

That score has been burned into my mind for the last two years.  

Arriving in late May 2008 to hike the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at 10A, Hannah and I take two hours to descend into the canyon at Indian Gardens.  Mistakenly I have the idea that if I drink lots of water, I’ll be fine.  Turns out that that is not a winning strategy climbing out of the canyon, especially in the heat of the day.  Under penetrating sun, I soon feel dizzy, light-headed, and woozy; I learn from a canyon volunteer that I am suffering from hyponatremia – too little salt in my system.  The prefix hypo means low, below normal. natremia – sodium in the blood.

Fed salty snacks and with Hannah’s help, I wobble to the top. Before too long am reasonably coherent, but clearly defeated by this Bad Boy Trail. Today, I look to settle the score.  

Today (2010), driving the 78 miles north from our Flagstaff motel on excellent two-lane roads in the pre-dawn, we encounter very little traffic and are able to park on the road in front of the Bright Angel Lodge.  

Ready early at 730A, we again descend the Bright Angel Trail at 7000 feet with water bottles, trail mix, and liberally-applied sunscreen to begin the nine-mile round trip to Indian Gardens at 4000 feet.  Bracing our knees with each descending step, we enjoy a clearly-marked rocky trail, wide enough for just one, with panoramic views without a cloud in the sky.  

Having lived in Arizona for more than a decade in the 1970s and early 1980s, Hannah and I are on a first name basis with Arizona’s summer heat; said to be a dry heat, to be clear, it’s like living in an oven.  

Stepping aside against the canyon wall and carefully avoiding the prickly pear cactus when the mule trains pass, I smile and wonder why everyone climbing out looks so beleaguered.  I “good morning” everyone.  Unfortunately, my desire to verbally engage goes for naught.  It seems 3/4 of all hikers are European, who nod and pass without reply.  Either they are not confident in their English or just find my upbeat manner a little too annoying. 

Within two hours, we are snacking on peanut butter and crackers as well as gorp under the shade of covered picnic tables at Indian Gardens; we’ve water at the nearby fountain.   By the way, gorp is an acronym for good ol’ raisins and peanuts and is a high-energy trail mix of nuts and fruit. While the thermometer in the shade by the mule hitching posts is 78F, another in the sun brags 110F.  

Our ascent is still hot and shadeless and I am not so chatty.  On steeper inclines our breathing gets heavier. Being the stronger hiker, Hannah sets the pace where my focus is clear.  Get to the rim, just get to the rim, Danny Boy.  It’s a battle, one foot ahead of the other. Nasty smelling mule urine distracts me, but only slightly.  There is water at the three-mile hut and at another hut within a mile and a half of the rim to complement our gorp.   

Approaching the top I have nothing left to give but still in triumph.  Plodding and surviving accurately capture my performance.  Yet, let’s update the score.

Bright Angel Trail – 2 (Very good and still champion) Dan – 1

2021 Post script – Hannah and I have not been back to the Grand Canyon since 2010. Our next time is not that far away (2023?) as it will be with our grandsons, Owen and Max, and then later with Brooks and his identical twin sisters, Charlotte and Reese (2030).