Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A Winter Grand Canyon Hike

Sorry everyone - I took a month off. I am now back to blogging. This first post after my break highlights a winter hike down to Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This is an excellent time to be here.

Photo by Gina Longo
The temperatures this time of year are usually the cold side in the morning but the sun is often out and by 10 AM is is nice and warm. Here I am answering a question by one our guests on the South Kaibab Trail.

Photo by Gina Longo
In spite of the cool temperatures, it's always a good idea to get an early start on the trail. That gets us to the destination sooner where more fun can be had!

About three miles down the South Kaibab Trail is this eroded breccia pipe. Breccia is an Italian word for very angular deposits. However, the word pipe signifies a cylindrical shape that extends through the strata for thousands of feet. These are important features in the Grand Canyon region because many of them are rich in Uranium. We can say that the breccia pipes are uraniferous. Of course, this one will never be mined because it is inside the national park. But those located outside the park are sometimes mined. These features form on top of a cave whose roof progressively collapses with the material coming to rest on the cave floor. Through time, the process leaves a vertical shaft filled with breccia - a perfect environment for soluble uranium to precipitate out into the matrix of the breccia.

At the Tip-Off, about five miles in, we saw the mules hauling out trash from Phantom Ranch. What an essential Grand Canyon scene!

Look at this lovely woman fixing of lovely trail lunch - yum! Helen, my wife, is seen in her element along a Grand Canyon trail. She added so much to the success of this trip.

A young Bighorn sheep watching the hikers go by the trail. That's Buddha Temple in the background capped by a thin layer of the Toroweap Formation which rests on top of a thicker white band of the Coconino Sandstone (note the thin planar band at the contact of the two).

The same sheep now seen in front of Zoroaster Temple.

This is the River Trail paralleling the Colorado River. It is one of my favorite day hikes while staying in the Phantom Ranch area. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 using a lot of dynamite.

As luck would have it, we saw the Park Service mules bringing down the groceries for the rangers.

Helen raced ahead and got everyone's keys to their cabins. This is Norma Longo, a friend with whom I have traveled with before. She is also a geologist and was doing this hike for the second time.

There were still golden cottonwood leaves in the early winter.

Photo by Gina Longo
Wayne and Norma on the River Trail.

A beautiful scene on trhe Bright Angel Trail in the Tapeats Narrows.

This passerby was standing along the Bright Angel Fault as it cuts through the Redwall Limestone, so I asked him to admire the fault for scale. The two buttresses on either side of the wall are on the upthrown side of the fault (about 150 feet of offset here). The wall has been sheared smooth by movement along the fault.

The cavities formed when groundwater percolated through the downthrown block and intercepted the fault. All of this. - fault movement and cavity formation occurred while the area was still buried and before the Grand Canyon formed. Later erosion (helped with a bit of dynamite) then exposed the rocks.

The Jacob's Ladder section along the Bright Angel Trail.

If you would like to come with me and Helen on an informative Grand Canyon trek while staying in cabins two nights at Phantom Ranch (meals included!), write to me to reserve space on two trips I am offering next December! I hope to see you there!


  1. This is very informative blog. nice images. thank you

  2. It was a great read. I loved reading your post. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I would also like to visit this place for hiking in the future.


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