Total Miles: 76.1
I can see the flash through my eyelids. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand....boom. From our snug little tent tucked into the trees it went on like this for an hour as I tracked the movement of the storm without so much as opening an eye, counting from lightning to thunder as it approached, passed above us, and then receded into the distance. In its wake, a steady rain settled in for the 5 hours that would tick by before daybreak. So much for monsoon season being “over”.
When daybreak did finally come, it came bearing gifts, at least in the form of the rain having stopped, anyway. We packed up and hit the exceedingly pleasant trail between parallel walls of electric yellow aspen knowing that only 9 miles from here, we’d arrive at our first resupply stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Did I say pleasant? The rain had other plans. Midway on our short day, the temperature dropped further and the brief rays of early morning sun that had bravely poked through the clouds were brusquely shoved aside. The skies opened, and what should have been an idyllic fall stroll became a couple of hours of marching through the wet and cold. At less than 50 degrees, it was a hypothermia enthusiast’s dream. Ace and I? Decidedly less so.
But just as we began to near the heavily touristed North Rim, the rains had apparently tired themselves of making the day miserable—at least for awhile, anyway. We pitched our tent at the hiker/biker campground to let it dry and set out under increasingly blue skies toward the Grand Canyon Lodge to collect our resupply package.
The views both from the campground and on our stroll to the lodge were nothing short of jaw-dropping. Falling away before us, “The Transept” with its bands of red and white sandstone dotted with fall color fed into Bright Angel Canyon, where shafts of sunlight cast down from the gray clouds above gently illuminated its confluence with the Colorado River.
Perched above that sprawling view, the Grand Canyon Lodge sits vigil over it all. Built in 1927 from limestone and Ponderosa pine harvested on site, it has that classic National Park lodge feel: a massive, imposing atrium; soaring, peeled timber ceilings; stone columns and enormous windows. The whole thing feels like a cozy, inviting fortress with one hell of a view.
The optimistic blue skies of the afternoon proved to be short-lived though. We watched from the massive windows as a storm front that began on the distant South Rim seemed to engulf the entirety of the Grand Canyon before eventually enveloping the North Rim as well. For several hours, rain and wind lashed at the lodge as we happily enjoyed the view—from the inside.
But even the storm eventually grew weary, its fury spent on an afternoon spectacle. Waiting there when it was all over, as if patiently biding its time for the tantrum to pass, the sun lit the canyon ablaze with the reds and oranges of sunset. The whole thing seemed to come alive in a soft glow that lasted only minutes—long enough to heighten our anticipation that much more for tomorrow’s hike into the heart of the canyon.