June 18, 2008
The first full moon after I moved to the Grand Canyon fell on June 18, so of course I had to treat myself to a night hike!
I planned my strategy for a few days in advance. On the night before the full moon, I intentionally got a little less sleep than usual. Then on the day of the hike, I went to sleep after work at 3pm and woke at 10pm, ready to hit the trail at 11 o’clock.
I only carried a crummy Canon pocket camera for photos (with my headlamp and/or the camera’s flash to light up the subjects), so a lot of the pictures came out blurry. In the end I liked the effect, as it adds a genuine but unnatural and even spooky quality to the images.
Steel yourself for some of the creatures of the Canyon’s midsummer night.
Within the first half-mile I encountered a handful of hikers going up the trail, including a group of Asian men whose hike had extended far later than they anticipated.
I wouldn’t see another soul until after sunrise.
Moving along at a slow pace, it must have been between and 1 and 2am when I reached the 3-mile rest house.
The temperature at the 3 Mile House was over 85 degrees at 1am! We can only imagine what the daytime temperatures must have been here, and deeper in the Canyon.
Indian Garden was my turn-around point. I toyed with the idea of going out to Plateau Point, but figured I’d better turn around if I wanted to be at least somewhat functional for the next day.
The Grand Canyon is an absolutely amazing thing to see under the light of the full moon. From the rim you can see all the pinnacles, buttes, mesas, and corresponding shadows they cast, as if in the light of day.
The disappointment on this night was how the moon was too low to the southern horizon, leaving the southern face of the canyon (The area that I hiked) in shadow.
The light of the moon only shone on the Tonto Plateau and the terrain to the north, so only Indian Gardens was in the light. The photos below show the point at which the moon finally shone above the rim. You can also see a few lights in Grand Canyon Village, to the right.
I’m being followed by a moonshadow…
The hours before dawn ushered a steady breeze that kicked up loose dirt along the trail, eerily captured here with the flash on my camera.
Or for you ghost hunters out there, perhaps these could be the orbs of countless spirits.
After all, some Native Americans believe that the Canyon is a gateway to the afterlife.
With first light comes the occasional birdsong over the steady drone of crickets. One thing I’ll always remember about this hike was the sound of the crickets, as though I were back east in mid-summer. I had always assumed the “desert” to be void of the nocturnal noises of insects.
On the last leg before I reached the rim, an army of early-bird hikers began descending into the canyon.
“Aren’t you going the wrong way?” some joked.