Completed the McKittrick Canyon Trail to McKittrick Ridge last Friday. “The Notch” is a grand entrance into a storybook, hidden world. It looked like Thailand in that canyon. Mossy-like sheer cliff-faces. But the payback to get to the Ridge is not for the faint-hearted. The Saddle looks so easy on TV, but it’s precarious indeed. Like high-wire trapeze in crosswinds (at least for me). The mileage on most publications tell you seven miles and change, but it's really eight. Very disappointed with GMNP Rangers. No hospitality or engagement. Uniforms too clean from doing absolutely nothing. Not one smile. Didn’t provide weather advisory or tips; didn’t provide info on active running water sources; just typical warnings, which were neither helpful nor informative. Told us we would be the only ones in the entire canyon.
Temp was 91 on Friday with cloud cover at 2-5pm. 92 on Saturday with absolutely no cover. We had to use our silver sunbrellas to combat the rays. White rocks from the drybeds were slow torture in that heat. Crunch, crunch, crunch and giving off heat from the ground beneath our tired feet. We took recommended water and it still wasn't adequate. Gotta ration water on the way up too; very important. My biggest mistake. We drenched ourselves in the running creek past Pratt Cabin. Did wonders for the last mile. Nice and cold.
Make sure you download a high quality map for offline use. Grotto was an oasis from the heat and a safe space for us when the hike got rough. The shade at The Notch was very helpful as well. The shaded rock is cool to the touch no matter how hot ambient temp is. Helped a lot at break time on the way down. It was easy to forget to eat, and think feeling weak is something else.
There was a snake coiled in a tree like Adam&Eve right by our pathway by the cavernous wall after the grotto so be aware. My girlfriend looked like Neo from The Matrix bending backwards away from that snake. And I was Morpheus...Also saw fresh black bear tracks on trail between Pratt Lodge and Grotto. Made the hair stand up on my forearms.
We had way too much weight on. My pack was 42lbs. Not smart, I know, but lesson learned.
We stopped by a State Park in Junction, Texas on the way to Austin. A lady Ranger was riding her bike on a trail in 97 degree heat. When we entered the headquarters, the ranger there said, “Welcome!” and gave us a pass for free to drive around the park. Also gave us some history and advice for planning a future visit. We felt welcomed and informed.
The GMNP rangers could stand to learn a few things from state rangers.
One thing I wont forget: The Canyon winds in the middle of the night on McKittrick Ridge, building up like some mythical dragon taking deep breaths and blowing by the mountain walls and being released into the canyon.