Got up at 4:15 a.m. to drive to the West Rim Trail. Arrived shortly after 8:30 a.m. without incident. The shuttle guy arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and drove Dog and I on the 40 minute trip to the trailhead in an old clanking van.
Dog and I are dropped off at the trailhead, and we head across a small meadow to the woods shortly after 10 a.m. Almost instantly, Dog puts his head down to sniff something, and the pack slips right off. I don't know how he did it, since the straps felt tight to me, but he did. We need to readjust. I hooked the buddy leash to a ring on the back of the pack. This keeps the pack from sliding forward, and I get some added aid on the uphills from his pulling.
Soon we are heading up the mountain, and I am much encouraged as the climb is not nearly as extreme as I expected from the elevation change diagram on the trail map. It is nowhere near as steep as the Chilkoot Trail. I allotted 2 hours to get to the top of the hill (including my breathing breaks), and I was up and had covered almost 2 miles in not quite 90 minutes.
At the top of the hill, the trail follows a grassy woods road through open woodland. We took a water break before moving on. Dog soon wanted to stop and smell all the poop he saw on the trail. We saw fox poop, deer poop and raccoon poop and probably some other poop that I couldn't identify--not bear poop, though. Soon we were seeing rodents—squirrels and chipmunks--so he was smelling under every log we crossed in hopes something would appear.
Surprisingly, at least to me, the knee did okay. It twinged a bit for the first mile or so, but after that I didn’t feel anything unusual and didn’t really think much about it. Whether the Advil finally kicked in or the change in the wrap helped, I don’t know. I didn’t stop taking the Advil, though.
Soon we passed a tin dynamite shed—not sure what they were dynamiting—and crossed the West Rim Rd. On the opposite side of the road was a small memorial, “In Memory of John Steck 09-16-05” with a small stone cairn, some fall mums and a bouquet of flowers.
Soon we descended off the rim for the first of what I called “hollow hopping.” We’d descend 1-2-300 feet, go through a small hollow that might/might not have water, climb back out of the hollow, cross a small section on top of the ridge and then start the whole thing over again. The first day was crossed Bohlen Hollow, Dylan Hollow and Steel Hollow, where I decided to camp, making our goal of 7.19 miles for the day.
We didn’t see a soul all day. I tried taking pictures at the one overlook we passed, but kept getting a nasty beeping message from the camera that said I didn’t have enough light. The weather was dreary and gray, and the forest was wet but it wasn’t raining. Dog was pretty tired during the last mile we walked and laid down the instant we stopped. I set the tent, used the wonderful Jetboil stove without incident, hung the pack and settled in for the night.