If the Grand Canyon is one of my happy places than Plateau Point is simply ecstasy.  It’s not exactly a hidden gem, it’s easily enough seen from the Bright Angel trail head, but few make the 12 mile round trek.

_MG_1990As a matter of fact, in the three times I’ve hiked down there I’ve only ever crossed two people on the trail between Indian Gardens and the Point. And that was on this particular trip. It was a couple, and to be honest, they scared the hell out of me. Not because they were particularly menacing, it was just a surprise. See…something happens to the mind in a place like the Canyon. It’s very easy to get lost in the scale of your surroundings. Being in the belly of the Canyon is a jarring reminder of the temporal nature of human existence. One minute you’re walking by the cabins in the lush oasis of Indian Gardens after four and a half miles of steep downhill switchbacks. The path splits from the Bright Angel trail, hugging a rock wall on the left and a stream on the right. Then an expansive sky opens up…and for a mile it’s one wide-open plateau with just a few gullies to offer some undulation. And also an unforgiving sun…but more on that in another post.

There I was walking up one of these gullies, a thousand percent lost in my thoughts, when I saw….people. I must have jumped as if I saw a rattlesnake, because they jumped back to. After a quick laugh, we had the typical trail discussion…they told me to keep on truckin’ because the payoff was well worth it. I already knew what to expect, but part of the joy in a place like that is feeding the anticipation of others. With that, they headed back up the trail…and I down…even if it was mostly flat._MG_2014

After a few more minutes of walking I saw the water tank, and the sign and the railing. I was there. Now the railing seems to be merely suggestive, although I’m certain the Park Service would disagree with that notion. You just don’t get a sense of the scene from behind the rails. I mean you see everything…but railing somehow makes it safe, confined and artificial.

This is the jagged edge where the earth gives way to gravity and wind and water. Massive flat stones jut out into the void of the inner canyon. One of those stones is the spot…the exact spot where I sit and get lost in the enormity of everything around me. With my feet dangling 1300 feet above the Colorado River it’s almost perfectly silent. When the air is still the dull rumble of the churning river echoes against walls of marbled Vishnu schist. It’s the deep point of a scar where the earth opens insight to its origins. There’s almost 2 billion years of history written on these walls._MG_1974

As I’m sitting a group of rafts float down the Colorado. From my perch it looks slow and easy…but the faint cheers after each raft passes through the section of rapids below betray the ferocity of the river. It’s just another moment of perspective. After a lunch break and some pics it was time to pack up and head back. I had a group to meet in time for sunset at Hopi Point.

The fun thing about canyon hiking is that all the pain is in the return trip. And that’s where most novice canyon hikers get into trouble. It’s basic human psychology to expect an experience to be relatively the same. But six miles uphill is a beast. In my case, I spent a bit too much time putzing around at the point so I had to really pick up my pace. Three hours later and a lot of sweat lost I made it up to the Bright Angel trail head, just in time to escort my group to the sunset at Hopi Point…but more on that in another post.

Tags : ArizonaGrand CanyonHikingNational ParkPlateau Point
Kris Ankarlo

The author Kris Ankarlo

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