This is Part 2, go back and START HERE.
OK, where were we? Ah yes, the four of us had finally reached the upper plateau on the East Rim Trail. It was so much cooler up there. It was downright pleasant. It really had the feel of a different place altogether. The vegetation was quite different, and the view was too. There wasn't anything to see if you looked up anymore.
Jeff took a video while waiting for some of use to catch up. Here it's also spliced together with another from Sunday.
When we reached the next fork in the trail we split up. Ellen and I continued on toward Cable Mountain to find a good campsite. Jeff and Zach took a detour to check out Stave Spring. At the Visitor's Center the day before they weren't able to tell us if the spring was dry or running; they didn't know but they were skeptical. But we had used up a whole lot of our drinking water already. It was going be a little scary if there was no way to get more. So what was the verdict?
Yes! It wasn't coming out fast but it was running. Very comforting to know we could fill up tomorrow on our way back down. Meanwhile, Ellen and I had found a pretty good campsite after passing by and trying to get far away from an unusually loud a rowdy camp closer to the spring. Jeff and Zach caught up and we got our camp all set up and dinner cooking by the time it got dark around 9:00.
A pretty nice spot to spend the night.
Dinner was great, we had rehydrated chicken & rice and mac & cheese and some canned chili. I was so dehydrated that basically every time I sat down or crouched or bent over I got half a dozen cramps. Ellen had to take off my socks for me. It was pretty embarrassing. After dinner, dusk had given way to complete darkness and the stars really came out. The Milky Way was in full view and Mars was shining especially brightly (it was in opposition, i.e as close and bright as it gets every 2 years or so). We tried to get some good nighttime sky pics but we didn't really have the proper equipment. Still, these came out OK...
In the morning we cooked up some eggs for breakfast and then packed up our gear. We still had about 2.5 miles to go to get to the Cable Mountain overlook, but the good news was it was an out-and-back trip, so we were able to leave all our stuff at the campsite and not drag an extra 40 pounds per person along with us.
Breakfast of Champions.
Ready to set off...
A burned out husk of a tree and some wildflowers (Showy Goldeneye I think?) on the trail to Cable Mountain.
We made great time without our packs and reached Cable Mountain in about an hour. The thing I will always remember about first reaching the cliff is how my brain just could not make sense of what it was seeing. As I walked toward the cliff, looking at the ground, there was red dirt under my feet, extending a few feet, and then a lip, and then... whatever is behind that is miles away, on the other side of the canyon, and your brain is trying to tell you that your eyes are lying to you and what you think you are seeing cannot possibly be real. Very hard to put into words, but Zach got a nice mind-bending video of what it's like to walk up to the edge and look over.
When the first lodge and visitor's center was built in the canyon, the wood had to be taken from the forests on the upper plateau. A contraption was built here to lower the logs down to the canyon floor via cable, hence the name Cable Mountain. Some of this structure is still here as you can see from the pictures.
The view from Cable Mountain, with Angel's Landing across the way.
Ellen taking in the view next to the cable structure.
Since there are just too many pictures to share, here's a gallery to check out.
We spent a little over a half hour at the overlook before we decided it was time to head back. We had 8 to 9 miles to cover before we would reach basically the exact same point we were at now, except 2500 feet straight down. We made it back to camp in about an hour again, where we saddled up with our heavy, heavy bags for the long march down. Then we hit Stave Spring for a fill up; since we were basically completely out of water at this point. It probably took us a good hour or so to fill up a couple of 5 liter bags because the flow was so low, but at least we got to take a break in the shade while we waited.
Taking a break in the shade near Stave Spring.
It was a long, arduous hike back to the bus stop at Weeping Rock. My knees were absolutely killing me which made the trip extra slow. Thank God it was basically all downhill. We made it back to the bus, where the other tourists wisely kept a wide berth and asked us how long we had been out in the wilderness (just 24 hours? really?). Then back to the car, and finally back to Vegas, where thankfully we were able to take a shower at Zach's place before heading to the airport for our flight back to Philly. We even had time to devour some pizza and watch the new episode of Game of Thrones. Not a bad little weekend.
Looking back up at Cable Mountain.
Me, Zach and Ellen descending the trail (yes, we're in this picture somewhere).