Heading down The Kaibab during magic hour on the coldest day of the year was like getting a private showing at Dylan’s Candy Bar… few are present so you begin fumbling around scatter-shot. Only hardcore hikers or foolish old men come out in these conditions. It was seventeen degrees but I didn’t notice. Enthralled, I lost my sense of time, my vertigo… and my footing… the rest is in the book.
Difficult to believe, but the dark chasm below was our destination on that hike to Phantom Ranch. But how to get down to it?
Some people were born to entertain. This young couple I met on the shuttle van became the basis for the two blithe spirits in the book. They weren’t going to Phantom Ranch, and later in the story, I’d find out why.
It looks dangerous because it is. A sneeze, cough, or innocent stumble can send you rolling ultimately to free-fall. This kind of thing is pervasive on the South Kaibab Trail. The worst thing you can do is become distracted by all the colors. Good luck with that.
Vertigo is not acrophobia, as I found out in THE CANYON CRAWL.
We were holding our own against the thirty-somethings above.
South Kaibab Trail below Ooh Aah Point.
Switchbacks lead to more switchbacks leading to Cedar Ridge which we mistakenly thought was the half-way point of our hike. As you’ll read in the book, I renamed it The Kasbah with good reason.
Tin roof in the distance is the latrine at Cedar Ridge. It took us an hour to switchback our way down.
NPS employee hiking to work. The zig-zag trail winding around and down in the background takes you to The Plateau where it drops near vertical to The Colorado. The trails change color with a change in mineral content at different layers.
Life and Death in a timeless embrace — the strangest beauty of all.
The woman walking away up the trail is a seventy-one year old I met here at Cedar Ridge. “Annie” hiked down to Phantom Ranch that morning and is on her way back to The Trailhead. She was wearing Birkenstock sandals and unfazed by the frigid weather or arduous demands of The Kaibab. It took us five hours just to reach Cedar Ridge. Enough said. Annie is on whom I based the character “Cira” in the novel.
As our lunch companions fled the scene and became pixels on the trail to Skeleton Point, I re-christened Cedar Ridge, “The Kasbah,” in memory of the moment.