In 2022, after 2 years of pandemic shutdown, Ananda village re-opened its Springtime at Ananda tours of the Crystal Hermitage Gardens. Many thousands of visitors came out to view the 17,000 tulips.
There is much more to the gardens than 19,000 tulips.
The gardens have been evolving for over 30 years when the Crystal Hermitage was built by Swami Kriyananda. For a long time it was enjoyed by Swami and also the village residents, however in the past 10 or so years has become a destination for visitors from the Bay Area, Sacramento and Reno as well as many locals.
Any time I am in the nearby towns of Nevada City or Grass Valley and mention I live in Ananda Village, it is met almost always with “oh the tulips are so lovely. I enjoy coming out to see them”
Over the winter, 19,000 tulips were planted, trails rebuilt, and other improvements made. This year Mother Nature has delayed the bloom with cold, wet weather so far.
The good news is the gardens will be open probably clear into mid May.
We were minding our own business, finishing up plans for our Below the Rim trip one evening in late February, when I received a text from our Tucson friends. The invite was to come up with them to Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Upon first blush we thought it to be too much however, as you can see from the thread below, we reconsidered. And the new adventure began
Since we had reservations for camping, hiking and cycling in both Tucson and Scottsdale post Canyon trip, we thought we could just tack on the Alaska trip at the end. We would Fly from Phoenix to Fairbanks and return then drive home. We used air miles to help defray the costs and set the plan in motion. What an overestimation fantasy in our minds that was. We had forgot we were in our 70’s. Haha.
After the Below the Rim trip we were enjoying southern Arizona, camping, resting, cycling, hiking, however the temps were, on average, 12-15 degrees below our expected range. Bummer. We had thought it would be mid-high 70’s so we could thaw out before we ventured to the far north.
We underestimated how much energy it would take for the canyon trip and spent numerous days, more than expected, in recovery. The Alaska trip seemed daunting. I was questioning my decision to fly from Phoenix. Sraddha wondering if she will really have the energy to do a long flight and spend 5 days in subzero weather. 20-20 Hindsight often happens
After several days of contemplation, discussion, making decisions, then changing. We finally decided to change flights to depart from Sacramento and drive home. Again, in retrospect driving home 5 days earlier would have been in our best interests. Alas, we drove home on a forced march, 1000 miles in 2 days, overnighting in a lot behind the Barstow Walmart. 1 day before the flight.
We arrived around 5 Pm to find a nearby lightning strike the previous day, had killed phone and internet service in our house along with many of our neighbors. 🤨 Spent a lotta time the next day helping to fix the phones/dsl while also packing for Alaska trip. Sraddha elected to remain home instead of travel….Smart woman that Sraddha…
After a frantic dash to the gate in Sacramento dragging all my luggage, I settled in for flights thru Seattle and on to Fairbanks in central Alaska. The Flights were on time and I had a window seat which presented an amazing view of the mountains and glaciers of SE Alaska.
One day wevisited the ice sculptures which had been made a couple weeks ago. Starting to melt a little but still fun to see. Not as many as in pre-covid days as the festival is still recovering.
During the day we made several trips around the area. One day we went over to the University of Alaska and hiked some of the trails. Found some good Pub food too. Also, visited the Alaska Pipeline built back in 70’s when I lived in Seattle. The pipe, carrying warm raw oil, is 3 feet interior diameter. My neighbor used to install insulation on the line back then. And, of course, we had to visit the North Pole. Yes, there is a small town nearby called the North Pole. It has Santa’s workshop and the Santa Claus House. Being a rail fan and model railroader, I had to get a photo of me in front of some Alaska Railroad engines. Proof of life, etc
Never figured out where people surf around Fairbanks although they do surf down below Anchorage on the bore tide down below Anchorage in Turnagain Arm. Question: What Alaska town is known as the surfing capital of Alaska? Answer: Yakutat, located on the norther reaches of the inside passage. Even has a surf shop.
By now you’re probably asking yourself where are the photos of the northern lights? Funny you should ask since this was the main purpose for the trip.
Truth is the lights were fantastic the night before I arrived. Even seen down in the lower 48. See this article written the day I arrived. However, the 4 nights I was there, they didn’t reveal themselves. We stayed out late after midnight and got up at 2 AM also. One night we drove up Murphy Dome to the top near an Air Force satellite station and saw nothing but clouds and snow. It was 3 degrees too. 🥶 The photos above are from my friends who did see them the night before I arrived.
On the day of my return flight we woke up to 4 inches of fresh snow, thankful Phil had a great automobile for the snow. No issues getting to the airport. A bit disappointed at not seeing the Aurora, however, I guess my email to Mother Nature didn’t make it out of her junk email box. What an interesting journey to the north country. I hope she installs spring soon.
This post was created while we were still recovering from our epic “Old Fart trip Below the Rim”, We love to visit farmers markets, and one of our favorites is the Weekend Heirloom farmers market in Tucson. Not much to say other than we enjoy the visit and picking up some favorite unique food items. Well maybe a few notes along with a few photos for your viewing interest.
It is along the Rillito bike trail just north of the university a couple miles, so many 2 “wheelerites” (aka cyclists) show up in their togs. They even have a “Bike to Market” day. How Lib.
The market walkway has 2 distinct covered areas each about 1/4 mile long and lined with vendors. In the middle is a large plaza area.
We both love Salvadoran food and Selena’s has become our first go-to stop in the morning.
We love plantains (similar to banana) which are roasted and delish. We usually get a tamale too.
We usually skip the craftsmen and artists and check out most of the veggie vendors. This one had potential.
I never liked radishes growing up because they were spicy hot and sometimes bitter. However Sraddha taught me that spring radishes were sweet. They are. Turns out my dad grew summer radishes. One is never old enough not to learn new tricks. MEMO to KENT—REMEMBER THAT. Corollary. Spouse usually right. 🤣
Sometimes, tho, you just have to go with the flow and have to visit the best Gelato stand in Arizona, or maybe the west, for that matter. We have traveled in Italy and tasted great gelato. This rivals it. Called Frost. We are not sponsored. Next door is a pizza place called Sauce. So we like to say, “let’s do Sauce & Frost” and we know whence we talk. Such great communication.
Which do you prefer? Radishes or Gelato? And Why? Leave a comment.
We are a few days removed from the hike and still feeling worn out. We are in Tucson area having moochdocked at our friends place, doing laundry and looking at photos. We moved over to the Tucson Mountain Park to commune with the cactus. Then over to Catalina State park, then over to our friends place in Oro Valley. We have absolutely no ambition to hike despite being in very good shape. No injuries. Just drained. Interesting. It’s like we floated on a sea of grace and hard work to make the hike down and back. And now feel a part of us was left in the canyon.
Granted we are really ok just feeling like a couple slugbugs. Still in recovery tho.
We are asked if we would do it again. Being in the canyon is magical. Being on the rim looking down is magical (if you spend some time doing so, not just 30 minutes of selfies).
We loved being in the canyon. We loved the hiking. The tent camping not so much anymore.
We wouldn’t mind staying a few nights (minimum 3) at the Phantom Ranch to savor the area more deeply. However, practically, that presupposes a 1 day hike down and 1 day hike out. Is it doable? With some additional conditioning it would make it a little easier. With some planning, we could arrange for most items to be transported by mule both ways thereby only needing to carry water, essential first aid, and snacks for hike down and back. Will we?
The key here is planning and the phantom ranch lottery is chancy. Nevertheless we will take some time to recover and decide later if we wish to make an application for a permit and reservation.
In the meantime, we will savor the experience, with gratitude, enjoy the memories and photos, laugh at our foibles and move on to what is next. Like visiting the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Desert or Dessert?
We are doing a little walking and bike riding. Exploring. Running errands. And on to the next day, the next moment, the next adventure.
The memories remain fresh. The images still return. Glad I took a bunch of photos. Would we love to return? Yes!. Will we? Um….TBD.
We begin our last day of 4 with a “hearty” 🙄 breakfast and coffee as we discussed our plans. Temp is about 37 degrees. Temp at the rim is probably 25 but will rise to 45 or so by the time we arrive 5.5 hours later. Be sure to click on the scenic photos below, to expand and enjoy.
We break camp and pack up trying to get an early start on the 4 mile 3000 ft switchback hike pretty much straight up with snow the last 2.5 miles as you can see from the photo below. It appears daunting but doable.
A perennial stream, Garden Creek, cuts through Havasupai Gardens, which is great for soaking aching shins. But there’s an even more significant water source here—a pump house. (Photos below from the internet).
What is truly amazing is that this water travels thru a 16-mile pipeline from a natural spring about 3,500 feet below the North Rim, across the Colorado River and up to Havasupai Gardens. From there, it is pumped to the South Rim, without which there would be no water on the South Rim where a large portion of the 6 million who visited the park in flushed toilets, took showers and filled water bottles.
A little side note: we were told of the 6 million visitors annually, 1 percent or 60,000 walk at least a little ways below the rim. Of that, only 10% or 6,000 hike to the bottom. Wow. Pretty rare company I guess.
The first mile let us get warmed up for the switchbacks. Then the fun begins as much of the trail is shaded, a but muddy here and there AND, definitely icy. Some parts get sun but not much so we stopped in the one place for sun to take our major break. Glad we did.
Up the switchbacks we go. Not a lot to tell here. Huff Puff! The photos do the speaking.
I stopped several times to look around and take a snapshot of the view of the deep canyons
Eventually we made it,but didn’t get a photo right at the top of the trailhead right near Kolb Studios. We celebrated, then headed directly to the shuttle bus station, ready for a shower back at the the van….which we hoped survived the cold during our trek and it did so admirably. We had left the electric heater turned on low, the Truma water heater on Eco (42 degrees) and it survived the 25 degree nights with 40 degree days. YAY!
We did it!!! Not bad for a couple old farts approaching mid-70’s who hadn’t backpacked for almost 40 years. About 25 miles total in 4 days. 5000 feet down and 5000 feet up. 3 nights in a very small tent (ask us about it 🤣). We were ready to celebrate with a good meal at El Tovar Lodge with our companions. I will do a postmortem in a day or so for those interested. Suffice it to say we are glad we did it and tent camping is probably not in our future. All in all it was amazing and satisfying. Over a week later, we are still in recovery.
We want to thank our guides, Mandy and Kendrick for their patience, understanding, expertise and support along this journey. We couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without you. Their website is https://www.mandyleaphoto.com/
Today we hike 4.5 miles ascending 1,400 feet up to the Havasupai Gardens (formerly called Indian Gardens) Campground. For the first mile or so, from the Bright Angel Campground to the traverses exposed sand dunes, then across the silver bridge across the Colorado River, and west through more sand dunes to the Pipe Creek/River Resthouse area. The pipe under this bridge carries all the water supporting the south rim.
More sand dunes keep us busy for another mile on south side of river with various examples of the Vishnu Schist, the oldest formation in the canyon at 1.8 billion years. Talk about ancient.
From the Pipe Creek resthouse, the trail turns south following a creek through a meandering gully of water-sculpted stone and shimmering cottonwood trees.
From the NPS website: “While the South Kaibab Trail follows a ridge line, the Bright Angel Trail conforms to a fault, keeping to the back of the canyon during the first few miles. Views on the Bright Angel Trail are framed by massive cliffs, and by virtue of being a shadier trail with natural water sources, there is more plant life and animal life along the Bright Angel Trail than on the South Kaibab Trail. The majority of this trail’s elevation change takes place in the upper four miles of trail via a series of switchbacks that can seem endless.”
The trail becomes steep once again where this gully empties into the broad, bowl-shaped Pipe Creek drainage. This section of switchback trail, affectionately referred to as the Devil’s Corkscrew. And we could see why and I wouldn’t exactly say “affectionately” 😉
We continue up through some limestone following Garden Creek to the Havasupai Gardens Campground where we spent the night. Traditionally this was a key native American site where families lived and grew all kinds of vegetables and crops with the year round water. It is also the current location of a major NPS water pump station.
After making camp, we headed out the 3.2 mile round trip “stroll” to Plateau Point, to view the river from a different perspective and eat our meager dinner in the wind. I had a surprisingly decent Phad Thai (as good as it can be when you just add hot water) We saw a California condor fly over. Condors are one of the nations best animal comeback stories. In 1982, there were only 22 California condors left in the world.
Now there are about 400 Condors within the states. Returning after dusk, using headlamps, we gazed up at the lights of the Yavapai Geology Museum 3,000 above. Time to turn in, and rest for the final day tomorrow of 3,034ft climb in 4.5 miles.
Camp was in the Bright Angel Campground just up from the river and about 10 minutes from Phantom Ranch. On our day off, we rested up after a fairly grueling hike then went exploring. Click on any of the photographs to expand for better viewing.
Our party consisted of 2 couples, and our guides. So we had 3 tents and you can ask us in person about our tent and sleeping experience. 🤣. Suffice it to say we slept fairly well, however there were some comedic moments.
Our meals were the freeze dried type, supplemented with hot tea, coffee and our own snacks.
We used a JetBoil to heat the water, pouring it into the bags while stirring with our “Spork”. We then usually put the whole packet inside our down jackets for some warmth while waiting for 7-15 minutes. My fave was the Pad Thai. Oh, and the Crème Brûlée 😋, Tho we didn’t have a butane torch for the final touch, it was still tasty. Almost anything can taste good after a descent into the canyon.
We strolled around on our rest day checking out Phantom ranch and hiking a couple miles up the Bright Angel Canyon. My fave part was sitting on a rock being serenaded for 5 minutes by a Canyon Wren. Quite a melodic variety.
Phantom Ranch is the famous lodge down in the canyon started in early 1900’s, now is run by Xanterra which runs the lodging and concessions on the rim. Until the early 50’s, most people rode down by mule. Now many hikers visit but permits are needed. Today, it is one of the most difficult hotel destinations to access in the US. Reservations usually are 15-18 months out and via some sort of “lottery” system. The campground is a little easier.
I could share many photos of the canyon, as it was such an amazing place. You could feel the Divine in Nature here very easily. The Vishnu Schist is the lowest geological layer we encountered, rock over 1.8 billion years old. Lots of flora everywhere. Cacti of many flavors, cottonwoods in the lower canyon. The trail follows the water line which brings water from a spring just below the north rim down to Phantom ranch then all the way up to the south rim. More on that later.
Of interest to me, was the telephone line which, in 1935, was added to run from the south r to the ranch and up to the north rim. Remnants remain can be seen along the trail in wires and pipe poles, some of which have been used in the campgrounds on which to hang packs. Maybe we could use some at Anandabell?
We went down the the beach where river rafters stop and take on fresh water.
Let me just say, well, we froze while dipping in. 🥶🥶🥶😂. The video is short (13 seconds) from in and out so we didn’t dally around at all. You can watch it above.
A full moon presented us with the opportunity to test our iPhone 14 nighttime capabilities. Not bad from what i can see.
We returned the second evening to eat house-made cornbread, veggie chili, salad and dessert at Phantom Ranch Canteen where our guides had made reservations months in advance. Unfortunately I didn’t have any photos. Satiated, we returned to our camp and went to bed. Guess we were tired. (Ya Think?). The next day (3) we head up to Havasupai Gardens.
We spent 4 days hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon with 4 other people. 2 guides, Mandy Lea and Kendrick, and 2 wonderful people, Jan and David, from Minnesota. It was the first time our guides and taken a whole group of folks over 70 years of age! Each day will have its own flavor and blog post.
South Kaibab Trail begins near Yaki point just a mile or so east of the visitors center. We camped at Trailer village with hookups to ensure heat in our van while on the hike, since the south rim temps were forecasted to be from 22-39 F. A big snow storm has blanketed the rim the prior week.
NOTE: this is a long post.At least look at photos. Click on them to expand.
We took the blue line shuttle from camp at 6 AM to meet our group at the Backcountry Info Center on the west end of village. Grabbing a coffee at nearby Maswik Lodge, we board, at 7AM, the “Hiker Express” shuttle directly to Kaibab trailhead on the east end. See maps above with red circled areas.
A sense of anticipation was building. We had hiked the first mile or so down to Ooh Aah point last fall and before during dry season, but ice and snow is a different cat on a steep downhill trail. Dangerous and slippery, we tried to stick to the uphill side of the trail.
Knowing there was snow/ice we were using Kahtoola micro-spikes which slip over our boots and provide stability down the series of steep north facing switchbacks to Ooh-Aah point and on down 1.5 miles to Cedar Ridge where we rested. Below this was mud, ice and mud-ice or “mice” in which we slipped a bit. Ask me about it. Needless to say we should left spikes on for another half mile. We continued down a good trail (except for the mud) to Skeleton Point, about 2.7 miles and 2,027 ft below the rim.
The next leg was down a very steep, rugged switchback called the “Red & White’s”on a trail blasted out of limestone cliffs, down to the Tonto Plateau. 4.5 miles and 3,200 ft below the rim. It’s called the “Red & Whites” because the limestone is white, however it is tinted red from all the other minerals and rocks around it. It was challenging but we made it down safely.
The Tonto plateau runs through the park on both sides of the Colorado river about 3000 feet below the rim and about 2000 feet above the river. We stopped for a rest at the “TipOff”. Which is a junction spot for the So. Kaibab and the Tonto Rim trails. A composting toilet Bathroom break helped, and we removed shoes to check the hot spots on feet. We refreshed the moleskin, dried out socks and headed on down.
On the trail over 5+ hours now, we “tip off” into the gorge down switchbacks and really fun areas. Trail is in good shape. we snack during the down-hike. Me on clif bars, Gu, peanut M&M’s. Sraddha has Kind bars and Gu. We each have 3 liters of water and electrolytes for the 7.2 mile, 4,872 ft elevation drop. There is no water on the trail. My pack weighs 29 lb. Sraddha’s is 19-20.
Our guides, Mandy Lea and Kendrick have about 30 trips into the canyon. Experience has taught them to take care of the details and one of these details is to send down gear as much gear as possible with the mules, which included our sleeping bags and food etc went down earlier and awaited us at Phantom Ranch. This makes such a large difference Mandy led the other 2 people, Jan and David who are faster while Kendrick stayed with us
I didn’t take a lot of photos on the last leg as we were tiring. We made it thru the tunnel, across the suspension bridge and more or less trudged along the river, one…step…at…a…time. We were grateful, exhilarated and super glad we made it to the bottom before sunset. About 9 hours, 7.2 miles, 20,000 steps and 4,872 feet below the rim.
We camped at the Bright Angel Campground right near the confluence of the Bright Angel creek descending from the north rim and the Colorado river. Phantom Ranch itself is about 1/3 mile up the creek from the river. (so-to-speak). More about that later. We set up camp and ate, grateful we made it safely and more or less sanely.
Daytime temp in mid 60’s and night time the low-mid 40’s. Most importantly the whole hike was in dry weather. I can’t stress enough how much this made our trip enjoyable. The previous week’s trip, our guides tell us, was colder, and much wetter. That’s a story for another day. Let’s just say we felt blessed.
Hopefully, i can find the time to make a shorter post about day 2 tomorrow. If you reached this “low point” 🙄. I urge you to subscribe to future posts on my home page and also leave any comments or questions. I will respond. I am not a big social media person, but it helps to know people read this.
Drove Saturday to the Canyon from Needles marina. We elected to cross the Colorado River into Mojave Valley and proceed up through Bullhead City and over to Kingman and I-40, t hen onto the Colorado Plateau. Dregs of a big snowstorm blanketed the area. We stopped in Williams for lunch.
Sraddha found a place on Yelp called Nany’s Tacos. It was amazing, so amazing we forgot to take pix. Suffice it to say that any place, you walk in, hit with delicious smells and greeted by the owner, is usually fabulous. It was. We rated it 5⭐️ on Yelp.
Stomach’s fortified we ventured north on Highway 64 to Canyon Village. The Sun came out for awhile then played hide and seek the rest of the day.
Wow. We had stayed in Mather campground many times, so first time in Trailer village where we could hook up power, water and sewer…Well, at least power. We borrowed a broken snow shovel along with our axe, to clear away patches of ice in order to unpack and even get out of the van. Then We decided to bundle up and catch the shuttle out to visitor center to catch a glimpse of the sunset.
Normally, we have plenty of room for everything we take with us on our travels. This trip is different. We have backpacks for our hike and also duffel bag full of cold-weather clothes for our trip to Alaska. So we put the furniture outside and the extra gear in the garage when camp.
We also got a glimpse of the Kaibab trail, down which we will journey Monday morning.
Monday, we will hike down the trail loosely following the ridge in the red highlight. We have ice spikes for our shoes for the first mile or so and will need again for the return hike. We will have no internet so will publish more of the actual hike later. Essentially, we hike down to the river first day. Spend 2 nights at Bright Angel campground as explore. 3rd day we hike out up to Indian Gardens and spend the night. Then day 4 finds us returning the rest of the way on the Bright Angel trail. We feel blessed to be doing this and feel it an adventure which will challenge us, and make us stronger for the future ahead.
Yesterday, we headed out late morning after a 2 day dig in the snow. We made it to Orange Grove RV park just south of Bakersfield by 7 o’clock. Enroute to the Grand Canyon south rim where we plan to spend 4 days hiking down into (and out of).
This morning, we walked around the park picking oranges (yes, it isan Orange grove) with my cousin, who rendezvoused with us there on his route north. Fun to see them. Rving in their 80’s and had delicious oranges too
We proceeded east over Tehachapi via Barstow to Amboy crater.
We stopped in Barstow for fuel and had a “Barstow Walmart“ experience. Hard to describe that in an email, you had to be there.
Amboy crater is on the eastern side of the Mojave desert on the old route 66 highway,an old cinder cone from many eons ago. We shouldered our canyon backpacks as a little preliminary hike before heading out to the Grand Canyon. 4 miles later we felt pretty confident that we could do the canyon
That’s is that is assuming we could stay upright. Very steep and narrow. Easy without the packs, Treacherous (never again) with.
Now, as the evening sun sets over the Mojave desert, and the golden light illuminates the beautiful boulders and dry landscape, we proceed along the highway down the hill towards the Colorado river atNeedles, California (also known as to us as Noodles,California), where are we will encamp for the night
Tomorrow we head up to the Canyon. We will encamp I’m Trailer village. Hi temp is 40, low is 20 or well 🙈. From experience we think if we keep plugged in with heater on, we will be ok. Daytime above freezing and☀️☀️to warm the van.
Prayers willingly accepted. (Memo to Kent: “what were you thinking when you omitted to this?”)
More later, assuming we don’t get run off the road by sleepy truck drivers on I-40. Ah, the life.