Waking up this morning, I was glad I did not abandon some of my cold weather gear in the last cache. It still gets to freezing at night on this trail, especially at 9000 feet, which is how high the Kaibab Plateau gets to. That is the nature of this country. The terrain and elevation profile is so varied, that the weather can shift so suddenly. As soon as the sun came up, we were warm. However, that is when the winds started, and have persisted all day, gusting up to 40 mph. Winds seem to be another constant in these lands.
Our route kept us on the AZT for most of the day. Heck, I think by the time we end up in the Canyon, we will have done about 67 miles of the AZT. I will say, I have been loving this part of the AZT. This section stays between 8400-9200 feet and is punctuated by so many beautiful open meadows. Makes me feel I am in the Sierra Nevada Mountains high country. So beautiful. And of course, at this high, not only do the Ponderosas and Douglas firs permeate the landscape, but so do the Aspens and Spruce Pines. There are still patches of snow as well from the meager winter we had. Despite being high, water is still scarce. Our usual sources are catch basins, ponds, and small springs that unfortunately are most of the time fouled by the bovines. I swear, I bet there are more cattle in these wild lands than deer.
Along the trail where it crossed a dirt road, we crossed paths with these two hunters. Apparently Pete, who was in front of Cuban B and I, had a positive interaction with them with ended up benefiting us later in the day. We reached our last decent water source for about 19 miles at our mile 13 for the day. We had lunch here and camel-ed up, each hauling out 6 liters of water. After about 5 miles, we finally reached the official Grand Canyon National Park boundary and the road that was to lead us to Nankoweap trailhead, which was another 7 miles. After about a mile we heard a gunshot close by. Hunters! Not more than 5 minutes later, those hunters cruised by and offered us a ride. Pete was way behind us, and they had remembered him from earlier. We all jumped in onto the truck-bed, where they already had a fresh turkey kill. They took us all the way to Nankoweap TH and along the way, shot another turkey that was near the road. Those hunters were very nice people. They didn’t have to take us all the way to Nankoweap, for they were not even going there. But they did so anyways. I love trail magic.
Once at Nankoweap, all 3 of us were in awe of the panorama before us. I’ve been to GC many times before but never to this trail head and viewpoint. Way out Northeast, I could still see the Kaiparowits Plateau and Navajo Mountain. To the north, the Vermilion Cliffs, Bryce Canyon, Aquarius Plateau, and Boulder Mountain. Right below us, of course, was Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon. To the southeast I could even see the Little Colorado River Gorge. Damn, I know this land oh so well. Can you tell how many times I’ve been out here?