I was in the Grand Canyon to take a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course through NOLS. We spent one day in the classroom, camping at Mather Campground on the South Rim at night, and then headed out into the backcountry for three nights. The group consisted of one NOLS instructor, one park ranger, and nine students. We had permits for camping on the Grandview Trail, less popular than the central Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, so we didn’t run into many other people. The Grandview Trail was originally created in the late 1800s as a way to access rich copper mines.
The first day we hiked three miles from the Grandview trailhead at 7400′, through the Coconino Saddle at 6210′, to Horseshoe Mesa at 4900′. Parts of the trail still go over historic log cribs, steps attached to the canyon wall to provide a way in and out where there naturally was none. The climate is so dry that nothing decomposes and the original logs are still stable. A lot of the trail was on narrow switchbacks but there were some wider, flatter areas as well. We passed an old mine area, a leftover structure from an old hotel, and many rusty artifacts from the mining era. Of course, even large piles of old tin cans, which at the time were considered trash, are considered artifacts now. Anything older than fifty years gains that status and you need a permit to remove it, even the trash.
In the morning, we went to explore the Cave of the Domes, the only cave in the canyon for which you don’t need a permit. It had a very low entrance, but quickly opened up into a larger cavern. This was a side trip so we didn’t have much time to explore and didn’t go too far in but it was very cool, my first cave experience!
For our second day’s hike, we continued farther down into the canyon to Cottonwood Creek at 3900′, a two or three mile distance. The trail we took was washed out in several areas on the switchbacks, but we were soon on level ground on the Tonto Platform. The trees on Cottonwood Creek were at peak foliage. It was interesting to see that in the middle of the desert but we were on the water.
We made our way back up to Horseshoe Mesa via a different 1.5 mile trail for our third night. Page Spring, the closest water source, was .7 mile and 500′ down the side of a very steep wall, and I volunteered to be a part of this night’s team to go fill up our water containers. We passed a mine opening on the way down, along with an old pump and wheelbarrow. Climbing back up the partially washed out switchbacks with thirteen liters of water in my pack was a workout. The whole expedition took two hours.
For our final day’s hike, we climbed the three miles back up to the trailhead. I finally caught a glimpse of the Colorado River from near the top. This is my second time in the Grand Canyon and I have yet to make it all the way to the bottom. Next time!
We hiked such small distances every day since we were also stopping and doing lessons frequently as part of the course. It was a great experience, with great people, and I am now certified as a LNT Master Educator! If you are interested in taking a two day trainer course or a shorter awareness workshop, I can provide those.
After the course, Greg picked me up and we went to check out the Desert View Watchtower before leaving the Canyon.