Sunday, May 12, 2024

Arizona: Land of Differences

On April 21, at the forested South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the forecast predicted overnight lows near freezing.  We were camping, and I was worried it would be an unpleasant night.  It didn't feel anywhere near that cold, but yes, it was chilly.

Elk at Mather campground

I got up at 3:45 AM so I could catch sunrise on the South Kaibab trail on my way down into the canyon.  By 6:00 AM, at Cedar Ridge, I'd taken off my jacket.  

South Kaibab Trail at Sunrise, above Cedar Ridge

April 22, midday:  At Bright Angel Campground, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, about 4500 vertical feet down from where I'd camped the night before, it was rather warm--95 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most of us sat around in the shade, periodically wetting our feet or our clothes in the creek.  Others spent the heat at the beach, dipping themselves quickly in the super-cold waters of the Colorado River.  That night my tent was too hot, so I took off the rainfly and lay in shorts and bare feet on my air mattress, nothing covering me.  

Thank goodness for Bright Angel Creek, steps from my tent

April 23:  I did the Devil's Corkscrew (a rather steep and exposed section of switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail) between 10:30 and 11:00 AM, and I rather wished I'd been there a little earlier, as it was plenty warm.  That night, watching the moon rise from the Tonto Plateau near Havasupai Gardens with new friends, a breeze came up and I eventually pulled on my jacket.

Part of the Devil's Corkscrew

April 24:  I had two choices for a pleasant hike the rest of the way out of the canyon:  early morning or late afternoon when the cliffs shade the trail.  Because the heat, while not extreme, not even "hot" by Canyon standards, was still an issue.  Then, on the way out, I met a ranger who said it might SNOW the next day on the South Rim.  Say what?

The fading light as we approached the rim, still comfortable in short sleeves

April 25:  We decided to storm chase on the way home, so we went to Snowbowl near Flagstaff, and...

Yeah.  That happened.

So, I went from supposedly freezing temps at night to an unpleasantly warm 95 degrees in the bottom of the Grand Canyon during the day to SNOWING.  All within the space of four days.  The first temperature swing was in two locations probably less than 5 miles apart as the crow flies (though part of that flight would be a 4500-foot drop), and the second swing was only 75 miles away (though another 2500 feet of elevation difference).

Arizona IS a land of extremes.

P.S. claims that it indeed got to 32 degrees in the early morning hours of April 22 at Grand Canyon Village (though I don't believe it) and NOAA's observations at Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground say the high was 96 that same day (which I do believe).  So...a possible 64 degrees of difference.  :)  

But before I accidentally add to the myth that the desert is "boiling hot" in the day and "freezing cold" at night, at Phantom Ranch (Bright Angel Campground), where it was hot but not scorching during the day, it was a only a pleasantly cool 59 at night.  And at Grand Canyon Village, where it was coldish at night, it was very pleasant during the day.   

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