Monday, November 08, 2021

My First Grand Canyon Backpack Since Knee Replacement Surgery

Well, it is nice to have this goal finally achieved! 23 months after having two total knee replacements, my wife and I headed back down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a six-day backpack. While rehabbing after surgery in December, 2019, a photo of me hiking the Tonto Trail in 2017 was placed on the wall of my hospital room to serve as inspiration to see my recovery through. It worked!

And I owe it all to this lovely lady, who was by my side these whole 23 months and made the necessary arrangements for my volunteer lectures at Phantom Ranch! Thank you Helen from the bottom of my heart (and knees).

To say I was bit uneasy to see if my knees could withstand the steep descent of the Bright Angel Trail doesn't convey fully my concern. 

Within 50 meters, my left knee began its odd pain. But after the Mile-and-a-Half House, I took a break and upon beginning again, the pain was gone for the rest of the trip. It apparently was just warming up.

And then it was like the other hundreds of hikes I have completed here such that the beauty and scale of the Grand Canyon took over! This is Jacob's Ladder through the Redwall Limestone.

This is the view from Plateau Point across to Zoroaster Temple. The weather could not have been better for hiking the entire six days.

I had never before noticed these detailed trilobite appendage traces in the Tapeats Sandstone near Plateau Point. The critter was swimming in shallow water but pushing across the bottom sand.

At Plateau Point proper, these trilobite "landing" scours have always impressed me. Imagine the swimming sea creature coming down to the shallow sea floor and scooping out a place for itself. Note also in the upper left a trace known as Corophioides, paired holes at the top of the bedding planes that transition to concave-upwards scours at their base. These are interpreted as dwelling structures for suspension-feeding organisms such as annelids.

One of the trail guides we met out at the Point told me of a trace fossil he has stashed (people steal these things) so that he can continually show his guests trip after trip. I used this technique myself when I was a trail guide. This is a trace known as Rusophycus, a resting or predation escape structure for a trilobite.

A beautiful sunset was seen from Plateau Point toward Dana Butte. Horn Creek Rapid at relatively low water can be seen (and heard!) from Plateau Point.

The Tapeats Narrows along the lower Bright Angel Trail is one of my favorite places in all of Grand Canyon.

Beautiful Buddha Temple framed by Fremont cottonwoods.

Finally, the bottom of the canyon and the Colorado River was achieved.

This was our home for 4 nights - Bright Angel Campground site 17.

I gave a geology lecture to guests at the Ranch each afternoon at 4 PM. I talked about Grand Canyon rocks and how the canyon was carved.

Rocks and resources for the talk were available.

The lectures were well attended and appreciated by tired hikers and sore mule riders.

An outcrop of boudinage in Bright Angel Campground was nearby.

The most beautiful view I know of is located here along Bright Angel Creek.

Thanks for believing I could do this Helen! Let's do it again soon!


  1. A victorious event for Wayne and Helen, Grand Canyon geology and surgical knee prosthetics! I'm elated for you both!

  2. Congratulations on your hiking and presentations! Thanks Helen for helping Wayne get back in his favorite groove.

  3. Wayne, great to see you back on the trail! I have been wondering how your recovery was going. Thanks for the report.

  4. Hi Wayne,
    Glad to hear about your recovery. I had my left knee replaced, along with the removal of 3 screws holding my tibia together at about the same time as your double replacement (September 2019). I was cross country skiing by February 2020, but hiking seemed to be a different story. Tendons and ligaments were in bad shape and I'm still trying to strengthen them (not to mention that my right knee is bone on bone, too). Anyway, at 72, you give me hope. I look forward to hiking into Hack Canyon again and exploring more of the Esplanade. So congratulations on your successful hike. I look forward to seeing you on the trial one of these days. :-)
    Best -

  5. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others, that with hard work, determination, bionic knees and a wonderful life partner, Miss Helen ❤ you can accomplish anything! Congratulations!

  6. Thanks for updating us on your progress, Wayne, and congratulations on a successful trip. It's wonderful that you continue to share your unique knowledge of the Canyon and its secrets. Thanks to you and Helen for opening up all that it has to offer to so many.

  7. This post makes me happy. Love the photos, both for the beauty and the memories.

  8. A great achievement and testament to your hard work to regain strength! Fabulous photos -- I especially appreciate the ones of the fossils, and the landscape views make me want to be back in the Canyon as soon as possible. Thanks!

  9. Congratulations Wayne.

  10. Congratulations Wayne


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