Sunday, December 4, 2011

Getting Ready to Go!

The six women Otterbein University students and one brave male student are anxiously awaiting our January term experience.  All of us (myself included) are physically active people to begin with but there still seems to be a general nervousness about whether the chosen trails and especially, the Grand Canyon, will be "a bite more than can be swallowed!"

As the leader of this excited group, I am not too concerned.  The trip has been arranged to ensure that the required level of physical ability required to hike in and out of the Grand Canyon (the culminating experience of the two weeks in AZ) will not be a problem. We'll spend our first seven days in Tucson where there are four mountain range to hike.    My hope is to explore Sabino Canyon, a popular park in Tucson, perhaps even taking a night hike up Blackett's Ridge, and then explore most of the rest of our hikes in the Catalina Mountains (my favorite range) to the north of the city.  

Animal and plant life and terrain will be quite different from that experienced in Ohio in January.  Students will be required to keep a nature journal of each day of exploration.  I know that several of the students have been to AZ but certainly not to explore the outdoors in JANUARY as we will be doing. My sense is that students will have new boots and a day pack to get accustomed to in addition to the terrain and elevation changes in Arizona that are fairly different than those experienced in Ohio.  I'm confident that the sunnier skies and more temperate conditions of AZ in January compared to Ohio will encourage all in adapting quickly.

Following our stay in Tucson, we will venture to Phoenix for two days.  Chances are we will take the short, but strenuous hike on Camelback Mountain in the city, or if that is too busy, hike nearby Squaw Peak (old name), on the first day of our stay.  Likely we will explore the Superstition Mountains and/or those along the Apache Trail as we head north toward the Sedona/Cottonwood area.

Anyone who has been to Arizona has either been to the Sedona area or has heard about this red rock area.  In many people's mind, this is an area that must be seen for the color of the rock and the unique formations.  We'll spend two days here exploring the trails.  It will likely be a bit chillier than what we had experienced in Tucson (ave. 65 high, 42 low) vs. Sedona (58, 23) and we might see some makings of snow because of the increased elevation.  Trails are usually softer (rockier in Tucson, red earth in Sedona) with less elevation change but we should be in decent shape for some longer hikes to prepare us for the Grand Canyon hike ahead.

Our nights before and after hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon will be in Flagstaff at the Grand Canyon International Hostel.  We will be "experts" at hostel living by this point having lodged in such accommodations in Tucson and Phoenix.  Hosteling is a reasonably priced way to find housing and many college students can "make" a trip happen if they can secure such.  Breakfast is usually included in the price (usually $15-$30/night).  You meet people with amazing stories of their adventures.  Often there are people from other countries who are especially inspiring with their stories.

From Flagstaff, we'll drive the 70 or so miles, likely in snow and with increasing elevation (peak at about 7000' at the South Rim of the Canyon), to start our decent into the Canyon via the South Kaibab Trail.  This 7+ mile trail will be downhill for about 4000'.  Our "landing" will require crossing the Colorado River to get to our dormitory accommodations at Phantom Ranch.  We'll enjoy a hearty dinner at the "lodge," get a good night's sleep (hopefully) and head the 9+ miles out of the Canyon the next day via the Bright Angel Trail.

My goal is to expose students to new experiences including hosteling, the amazing system of state and national parks in this country, to another way of being physically active OUTDOORS and not in a gym setting, to cooking out of a crockpot or packing a snack/lunch in a day pack, to the history of the park system, to the geology in another state so different than Ohio, and to the team work necessary to co-exist for two weeks with some people who you don't know terribly well!

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