Our last look out the picture windows over the Grand Canyon.
The canyon is pretty in the morning.
We pack up, took our packs to the truck and checked out. There was a small café with coffee and pastries right there. We started our drive to Backcountry Office where we could ask for a hiker credit for the 2 nights we didn't stay at Cottonwood campground. The Ranger was great and submitted a request for the credits.
A list of statistics of the fatalities in the canyon posted. If we had seen this before the hike, would it deterred us? Nope.
Now to explore the Eastern side of the Grand Canyon. We had not been to that portion of the park before.
There are several impressive overlooks and we stop at many of them to take pictures.
Grand View Point was impressive and a possible starting point for a future multi-day hike.
Our final stop is Desert View Watchtower which is another Mary Coulter structure. It is styled as if it were used by the native people who lived in the area of the canyon but in reality it is only a tribute to those cultures. The tower was built in 1932 to look as if it were much much older and even has “repairs” as part of the original design. It stands at 70 feet tall and a 30-foot base. The tower has a concrete foundation and a steel framework which are hidden in the stones both inside and outside of the tower. On the interior there are drawings to represent each of the tribes that have lived in or around the canyon. They were copied from known prehistoric designs.
The views of the canyon were our last this trip but still very impressive.
Some statistics of the canyon:
The canyon is 277 miles long and 2,600 square miles or slightly large than Delaware.
An average of 10 miles across and about 1 mile deep.
The Colorado river averages 300 feet across.
In 2022 the park received 4.7 million visitors.
Of those 240 people, staying 2 nights at the Phantom Ranch which makes us part of a VERY exclusive group.
There is a café here and they have Ice Cream! Finally!
Finally at noon, we head towards Winslow AZ for fuel and late lunch/early dinner at our favorite resturant Relic Road Brewing. They have fantastic sandwiches and Shawna likes the beer.
The hike has been amazing, exhausting, challenging, beautiful,… It is hard to believe just yesterday we were deep in the canyon.
We are both looking forward to getting back to our little house on wheels.
Things we learned:
Pack less snacks
Bring muscle rubs for pain
Magnesium oil for leg cramps
Lysine is necessary
Need open-toed camp shoes
Should carry 15% of body weight instead of 20%
Mountain House meals we liked:
Chili beans and Mac
Biscuits and gravy
Our last day in the Grand Canyon. It was a cold night, 46 degrees. Near the Colorado river the night temps were around 58. We are up at 5am with the sun already brightening the tops of the canyon.
I got coffee started and gave a cup to Shawna. Then more boiling water for the breakfast. Last of the freeze-dried food that we will eat on the hike. YEA! This morning it is Biscuits and Gravy with Sausage.
As we are packing up camp, a deer walks right by our campsite. Big ravens and squirrels are checking all the empty campsites.
For the last climb out it is only 4.5 miles but it is 3000 ft of elevation change. Our packs are the lightest they have been on the whole trip. We only carry 2 liters of water each.
We have mules pass a couple of times on the trail. Rangers taking pack mules down with supplies for the Ranger Stations. Then trainees with two Havasupai trainers on mules headed down and then back up. They are learning how to guide the mules.
It takes us 7 hours. We take long breaks and talk to many people along the way. Lots and lots of day hikers who were very curious about our big packs. When we told them we had just spent 7 days in the canyon, they were flabbergasted. OK, maybe just really surprised.
We started at 8:15am, arrived at top of rim at 3:15pm. Exhausted but I really wanted Ice Cream.
We got more water at the water fill station. Walked to Bright Angel Lodge to see if they had any cancellations.
I walked up and asked the person at the desk if there were any rooms available. I told her what we had just done and that we enjoyed staying at Phantom Ranch for two nights. She looked surprised but after checking, her face changed and she said one was available. At first, she may not have believed me. When she told me that the room was normally $325 a night and at Thunderbird Lodge with canyon view picture windows. As soon as she said she could give it to me for $250, I said DONE and handed her the credit card.
The view from our room was great! The entire wall was a picture window.
It was a very short walk to the room and then I took the bus shuttle over to the BackCountry parking lot to get the truck.
We got showers, talked with family, and celebrated by having a really nice dinner at Yavapai Tavern. My Elk burger was fantastic.
Time for a good nights rest with all the niceties of modern society. Tomorrow more exploring as tourists.
Up early, by 5am, but we have over an hour before we need to head to Phantom Ranch for breakfast so we break camp and put all but the food in our packs.
On our walk to the Ranch Canteen, we passed the Wonder Women and Mary Poppins packing up their equipment. We said Goodbye, thanked them again for their videos, and wished them a safe hike. They are heading out of the canyon today and will be well ahead of us by the time we finish breakfast and start up the trail.
We were a bit early so got some coffee and relaxed at a picnic table. Squirrels, hummingbirds, ravens, and a deer kept us entertained while we waited. At breakfast, we had really good conversations with a couple of physical therapists. By the time we were finished, we were stuffed. All the eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit that we could eat.
There are several items around the canteen from days past.
Today, we hike south on Bright Angel Trail to Havasupai Gardens Campground. It is 5 miles with only a 1500 ft. elevation change. We were heading out by 8:30am. Shawna's feet are better except for her big toe on her right foot. She has “moleskin” which hikers use to pad and protect toes.
WOW! The river is WAY up. We were warned that the release of water would raise the river level. It is impressive.
We cross the silver bridge for the last time on this trip and turn up the canyon toward the south rim.
The climb goes through dramatic transitions. For the first mile and a half, we head west along the river and pass old rock walls, dry, but the Colorado is still in view.
For a little while, we follow the river but soon turn south towards the rim.
We did see a few flowers but also a small snake.
The trail then turns south, up, and into a ravine where we cross a small stream several times. The views back down show just how much we have climbed.
A little later there are small trees and grass. This then develops into large trees and a small meadow. Garden creek wooded area is such a surprise over the rest of the area. Suddenly, we are in shade and cool with lots of green when most of the canyon is almost exclusively bare rock.
As we leave the "garden" area, we know we are getting closer to the campground.
We are able to hike it in 5 hours with 3000 feet in elevation gain. That is very encouraging. The first sign we were getting close to the campground was a pump house that moves water from the south rim to Phantom Ranch.
Then we came to the day use area with many tourists/day hikers. As the Rangers say, "the closer you get to the South Rim the dumber the people." There was one guy with a six pack of beer IN GLASS bottles and puffing away on weed. Idiots can be found anywhere people congregate in large groups and sometimes small ones.
It is a safe bet that the glass bottles are not going to make the 4 mile climb back to the first garbage can at the rim. Oh and it is a federal offense to even possess weed ANYWHERE in a National Park no matter what the state law says. Yes, I know I used an old term but Ytube gets excited when some words are used.
There was a pit toilet and fresh water spigot. This was the first water since the Ranch but we knew that the campground would have both with far fewer people using them.
The campsites at Havasupai Gardens Campground are nice with clean composting toilets. We set up camp and had dinner. The views from our campsite were amazing. As soon as the sun passed behind the canyon wall the temperature started to drop… fast. The wind also picked up which did not help.
The plan is eat and go to bed by dark. Tomorrow morning, we are expecting mid 40’s. Tonight's dinner is Chicken & Dumplings. After adding a little salt, it was not that bad. Lasagna and Beef sauce was heavy on the tomato but okay.
In a nearby campsite a family was talking very loud. I guess they don't realize you should use hushed tones. They did get quiet by 8pm. Refer to Ranger rule above about getting closer to the rim. Two young men showed up just at dark, they quietly setup and had dinner. We could hear their conversation about a good day is arriving at camp and not being hurt. Later in the night, we could hear one of them snoring very loudly. Such is camp life.
We hope to get started by 6 am in the morning. If we get started early, we should be on the rim early afternoon. There is another 3000 feet of gain. The plan is to stop when we need and snack much of the way up. Like they say in the Canyon “Down is optional but up is mandatory”. It will take what it takes.
Last night was a bit restless. The wind picked up for much of the night and some of the old windows started tapping or rattling. We could always hear the creek and rocks rolling along with the water but the tapping was new.
Breakfast was “Breakfast Skillet”. It is OK but Sausage and Biscuits is better. Coffee from the canteen was great as always and is only a short walk from the cabin.
We did have a visitor.
Time to leave the cabin. I am still a bit surprised that this was also the cabin the Teddy Roosevelt stayed in many times when he visited the Ranch.
The buildings at the Ranch were designed by the Architect Mary Colter. I am SO impressed with her designs. All the buildings fit into the surrounding environment and functionality. She utilized local natural sources when possible. The canteen building has a couple of interesting elements. A grain grinding stone found near the ranch and a strange wood/rock combination that she thought looked like a catchers mitt and ball.
Time to head out but as we walk out we will pass several more of the ranch buildings. One is now the bunkhouse for the employees. Originally, this was a rec room and changing area for the POOL. Yes, there use to be a pool directly in front of the building. It was filled in when laws changed that required treating the water with chemicals.
Today, we move back to Bright Angel campground.
Packed and out by 7:30am we got to our selected campsite #19 and it was empty. It is small but it is further off the creek so a bit quieter. We also have a bit more shade, closer to the bathrooms and to the fresh water spigot. We emptied our packs, hung them up, moved food to the food box, and then filled water bottles. The water from the fresh water spigot is, to say it nicely, “mineral rich”. Starting out orange and after filtering it is clear and clean. These Sawyer filters are fantastic. I back-flushed several times to clear the sediment out of the filter.
The mules are packing out again. This never gets old.
We decided to hike the river trail between the silver bridge and the black bridge. This is a short hike so we just grabbed a couple of bottles of water for the hike.
We walked down to the Colorado and then across the silver bridge to the south.
The river trail passes high on the cliff above the river on the south side. We got wonderful views of the river, canyon, and the canyon where we are camping on the north side of the river.
There were a few flowers along the way.
Next we walked back across the black bridge and then back to the campsite.
Time for lunch. The far bank of the creek was in shadow so we found some grass there to sit. We still have lots of “trail snacks” so that becomes lunch. Beef sticks, peanut butter & crackers, trail mix,… they are heavy compared to the freeze dried meals so it will reduce our weight when we hike out.
The whole water system at Bright Angel campground has failed. We have to get buckets of water from Bright Angel Creek to flush toilets. That is dangerous because you could get pulled into creek.
After lunch, we walked back up to the Ranch to fill our bottles there. The Ranch water system is still working and is filtered by them so much cleaner.
When we got to the canteen Kristie, Annette, and Mary Poppins were there relaxing. They had just returned from a hike up as far as they could go up toward the North Rim. We had another great conversation sharing our love of nature. Shawna and I learned a lot about them and what was planned for their next adventure.
We have a scheduled meal tonight at Phantom Ranch. We ate stew dinner again tonight and the food was delicious.
When we got back to camp, it was dusk and we could see small bats flying overhead eating their dinner.
Tonight was warm and we kept our sides up on the tent for the night. No chance of rain and clear skies so we looked out at the milky way.
We slept hard last night and woke up at 5:30am. The beds were not great but they were BEDS. Both of us got better sleep than we have had for days. I walked 80 feet to Canteen to get coffee and check to see if we can stay another night. So nice to get coffee and bring a cup back to Shawna. By 6am, we were boiling water for breakfast. The Breakfast Skillet was better once I added Tabasco. We had some tiny 1/8th oz bottles but it was more than enough to spice up breakfast. The people at the canteen said they would know by 7:30am if we could stay another night. We had a visitor for breakfast.
There were 23 hikers that had planned to stay at Cottonwood campground that had to share campsites last night at Bright Angel Campground when it was already supposed to be full. They were tent next to tent. Yes, we are staying at the cabin another night. The luxury of beds, bathroom, electricity, a mirror & sink, showers (Wow, The showers) make the $200 per night worth it.
Below is the Ranger Station. They have Starlink at both the Ranch and the Ranger Station for internet.
We will need to find the Ranger to let her know that she does not have to make room for us in the campsites. We will be moving back to the campground tomorrow so no showers for three hot and sweaty days.
Took a short hike to the Colorado river today. Took lots of pictures.
Talked to Ranger Della again to not worry about fitting us in tonight at the campground. Della is famous among the Rangers. She has been a ranger for many years and 25 years of that time at the Grand Canyon. She is from Florida and specifically Lake City. From the first time we met her, we thought she was amazing. When she found out, we were also from Florida from then on she refereed to us as her “Florida People”. Cute! I told her about warning off some hikers about trying to continue on to the North Rim. They were young and determined to get through no matter what. Della said she had warned several hikers that if they were found at the north rim they would be given a big fine and taken into custody then back to the south rim. We took pictures of the sign Della posted to warn hikers.
We walked back to the campground to scope out a good site for us to use tomorrow. Number 19 looked best. It is closer to the bathrooms, only big enough for a single tent, and had some limited amount of privacy.
The building below has been around for quite a while. It was built by the CCC in the 20's. We found out that Tommy/Grandpa hiked down to here in the 60's. I found some pictures of what things looked like then. Not much has changed.
From the campground, we took a 2 mile hike down to the Colorado, across the White bridge, along the far bank trail and then back to camp. There is a planned high water release and it should reach this area tomorrow.
We took pictures to show the difference in the regular level and the highest amount that is released down the Colorado for the last 30 years. They plan to release about 40,000 cubic feet per second. WOW! The reason to do this is to flush silt down to create or build up existing sand bars. It will also clear the deeper channel of build up.
The trail is very interesting. This is also one that was made by the CCC. From the high over the river we could see rafters going down the Colorado. Something to add to the bucket-list.
Back to the cabin for lunch and some relief from the heat. Today's temperature is in the upper 80’s. Did I mention that our cabin has AC? That $200 per night seems better all the time. From what I can tell, the bathrooms were added to this cabin in the 40’s going by the type of door handle it has. Sorry, it is so blurry. It reminded me a lot of my Grandparent's front door handle.
Speaking of rafters, we saw some of the guides walking up with dry bags to send out on the mules and take back dry bags of supplies waiting for them at the Ranch. That is an interesting way to resupply. By mule.
Relaxing, we did a bit of people watching. Rafters coming up to get something to drink at the ranch canteen. AZT hikers with disappointed looks on their faces knowing they will have to turn back. Trail runners made obvious by having little but a camel-back of water and a continuous jogging pace.
Amazing thing happened today about 4:30pm. The ‘Wander Women’, Christy and Annette, and their friend, Mary Poppins walked up to Phantom Ranch while we were sitting there having a drink. We have been following their hiking, backpacking and biking adventures for several years. They are amazingly positive people. We knew they are hiking the AZT this year and wondered when they would be in the Grand Canyon. Surprised and delighted to met them in person. They inspired us to do more hiking and backpacking after watching their videos in 2020.
I immediately asked if we could buy them something to drink. We had an amazing visit. They hike out on Tuesday. Maybe we will be able to visit more later.
They do a great job of showing what the trail we hiked looks like and how difficult it was to hike.
We show up for a few seconds near the end of their video at 29:08.
After our visit, we headed to the cabin for dinner. Chili Mac and Beef and Beef Stroganoff with noodles. Chili was good but the Stroganoff needed something so a bit of salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese helped. The cheese was from a small packet we got a week ago with some pizza.
We spoke with Ranger Della and an Emergency Med Tech on the Clear Creek Trail. The Med Tech had just come back from that hike and she told us her experience. It was a bit more difficult than we needed to try with feet still needing to rest. As they say here “Down is a choice but back Up is required.”
I will put tonight's GoPro night video here.
Awake at 4:30am with the sky already past twilight. Off to a quick bathroom break before making coffee. We are in site 2 and it is over a 500 foot walk to the bathroom.
Boiled water for coffee and by 6:45am, Mike goes to Phantom Ranch to check about getting a cabin. They didn't get the list yet, so after an hour they told him to come back at 9am. Good since he wanted some breakfast. We did get a cabin. YEA! The cabin was empty the night before so we can use it now instead of waiting until 12:30pm. Wonderful!
Breakfast was freeze-dried Biscuits and Gravy with Sausage. Yes, no kidding. Not bad but the sausage is chewy and the biscuits a bit dry. Love watching the sun light up the canyon walls.
The mule train passed on the far side of the creek. They make this trip at least once a day. Hauling supplies in and trash out.
We pack up camp and go to our cabin. The cabin is one of the original 1922 ones. Wow! The stories these walls could tell! You can see where the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) mudded the big stones in to make the walls. The original stove pipe heater is gone but there is evidence of one and the hanger for the fire poker is there. Originally this was a cabin with porch but that has been enclosed to make more room for bunk beds. Yes, there are lots of bunk beds in the cabin, five to be exact. We would have preferred a queen bet but all the other amenities make up for that. Real beds, our own bathroom and sink, very very nice showers in the bath house, AC/Heater,…
Shawna’s blisters were healing and she wanted to try a short hike. We only packed what we needed then set off for a short 4 hour day hike up North Kaibab trail towards the north rim. Yep, Cottonwood is the campground that we were supposed to camp at tonight.
The "Box" is where the canyon narrows it is beautiful with soaring walls of the canyon far overhead, so many teeny tiny flowers blooming, cactus, and a few lizards.
This is the same trail we would have taken to the north rim but because of damage to the trail and a rushing creak over the trail we can not make all the way.
Just after we passed the second bridge over Bright Angel Creek, we heard a voice call out “My Florida People”. It was Ranger Della. She went to Cottonwood campground to make sure no one was there. She also stopped anyone thinking they could get there. She took pictures so she could print them out to post throughout the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch to alert everyone how dangerous the Wall Creek crossing the trail was. We let her know we had a cabin so she didn't have to find us a campsite for tonight.
The rock of the walls is ancient and it looks it.
Much of the time, we could see the old power poles installed in the 30’s by the CCC. At one time, the poles brought power and phone service to the Ranch and Rangers station. In many places, the wire is still attached to old glass insulators.
The canyon splits at one point where the Phantom Canyon connects. Normally the creek flowing out and joining Bright Angel Creek is small but to day this is almost a river. The name of the canyon is from the fact that many can pass by the connection and miss noticing it at all.
The trail was built by the CCC and other than recent repairs the original walls protecting the trail from the creek still stand.
Some of the formations were impressive. So was the rock slide.
The hike was hot and tiring. We appreciated the times when the canyon turned and put the trail in the shade. When that happened, a cool breeze from the rushing creek filled with snow melt was very much appreciated.
Shawna’s blisters are worse so even this short hike may not have been a great idea. The canteen sells beer and wine so that helps a little.
After our hike, we took showers, wow, worth the price of a cabin just for that. All the hot water we want soap, shampoo, conditioner, disposable wash cloths,… Fancy!
Back at the cabin, we washed our clothes and socks in our sink. They didn't take long to dry in the sun out on our picnic table. So nice to have clean clothes and clean body after 4 days.
Dinner was freeze-dried Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, and Chili with Macaroni with Beans. Not bad. Better than most of the other meals we have had on this trip. We have been keeping track of which ones we like at those we don’t. On our next hike, we will know what to buy.
Another bonus is that we can throw away our trash as well. We have our own trash can in the cabin. Normally, we would pack out all of our trash. So less weight to pack out.
We relaxed in our air conditioned cabin and got to bed early. Tomorrow morning, we will find out if the cabin is available for another day or if we need to talk to the ranger about sharing a campsite. We are hoping for a cabin.
Did not sleep well, every movement had muscle pain or leg cramps. Awake at 4:30am, as were most of the hikers. I got up first and after a quick bathroom break started making coffee. Boiled water on the propane stove and drip over our own ground coffee (Kauai) in a filter into our cups. This is something we were not willing to give up to save weight. Yes, I still make coffee for Shawna every morning and usually bring it to her in bed/sleeping bag as I did this whole hike.
Early hiker breakfast is served at 5am at the Canteen. Late breakfast is served at 6:30am, we have a reservation. All you can eat, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, butter, syrup, pineapple rings, orange juice, coffee, tea. It is a few minutes walk to the canteen at the ranch so we get going a little after 6am. They serve free coffee in the mornings and we sat with others to have an early morning chat.
Breakfast was great and being a hot “someone else cooked” real food not Freeze Dried meal was a big plus. Dehydrated eggs and sausage is not all that great as you can imagine. Most of our breakfasts in the canyon are going to be freeze dried. We are trying to track which ones we like and dislike.
Some of Shawna’s 8 blisters went down, only her biggest blister on her big toe looks pretty bad. She took out her extra boot inserts. Hopefully it will make a difference. We have never had a problem with blisters wearing our boots with the DarnTough socks but the inserts are new so that may be the problem.
Our view from the campsite North and South.
Now to explore the valley. We decided to walk down to the Colorado river and saw a NPS helicopter land to take an injured hiker to the rim. She broke her foot/ankle hiking down yesterday on the same trial we hiked. Her friends said she tripped and fell on the trail about 3 miles from the bottom. Two of her 3 friends came ahead to get help as she hobbled to the tip off point shelter. She is young, in her 20's.
Last night we saw a ranger carry ice pack and crutches toward a campsite. That must have been for her.
We walked to the Silver bridge and took some pictures. Walked back to the Black bridge to view a Hopi archaeological site.
After that, we walked back to our campsite to relax and have a “snack” lunch. We have WAY too many snacks and it turns out that freeze dried food is much lighter. We did a little bit of stretches and massage our feet, ankles, calves. Put something on Shawna’s blisters. OUCH!
We talked with Ranger Della. She is also from Florida and for the rest of the time we are here we are know by her as “Her Florida People”. She had some warnings about water over the trail to Cottonwood. She said it was pretty high with fast water and didn't recommend us trying to cross it. Della showed us a video. We had already decided that if high(knee deep) we would not go. We asked about where to camp since our permit was only for Cottonwood for Sat and Sun nights. She said she would make room for us somewhere, that we would have to share a campsite with others who also would have been going to Cottonwood or be at the group site for the AZT hikers. Della is fantastic. Since our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd plans failed this will put us on plan 4. So Plan, Backup Plan, Emergency Plan so now we are on Our Emergency Backup Plan.
After lunch, we went to the Phantom Ranch Canteen to get a couple of beers. I asked if they had cancellation for a cabin for Saturday night. We figured it would be a slim chance but it never hurts to ask. We were put on a request list, noting that we were at the campground and couldn't get to Cottonwood. They said come by before 7am tomorrow when they get a list and if there was availability, pay for the cabin.
So now we have a plan #5, Don't know what we are going to do, but we will figure it out plan.
If we get the cabin it will leave space for others in the campground. We told Della what our plans were and she said “You don’t have to do that. Those cabins are really expensive.” I told her it was a “new experience and if we could make more room for others we would grab it”.
Rested the rest of the day to give Shawna's feet a break and to write about our experiences so far. We cooked our dinner Peppered Beef and rice also Chicken Teriyaki. We both thought the Teriyaki was better of the two. After cleaning up we both took a walk down to the bathroom hoping that would be the only time before dawn. Of course it did not work out that way. We have headlamps that are red light to not wake others on the walk down and back. We went to bed at 7:30pm. So tired, hopefully we will sleep better tonight.
A few more pictures of creatures and flowers in the valley.
This is a dark sky location so I tried again with the camera to get a night timelapse.
I am going to order something that will allow a longer video. 12 seconds is not enough.
4:20am, wake up, drink coffee, breakfast bars and honey buns, load truck, put keys in hotel drop box, and drive to BackCountry Office parking lot.
We arrived at the BackCountry parking lot and wait for hiker shuttle to South Kaibab Trailhead. It is 22 degrees outside and we have all our layers on. Excited!!! The sunrise was at 5:02 am. So we didn't have to drive in the dark for very long this morning.
When we arrive at the South Kaibab Trailhead, the over achievers(trail runners) take off. We drink some water and top off our water bottles since this will be the last water till we arrive at the campground. Then a quick visit the pit toilet as this will be the last we will see of anything close to a bathroom for a while. Our plan is to take time enjoying the canyon, take lots of pictures as the sunrises, and avoid injury. As long as we arrive in time to setup camp and get to dinner at Phantom Ranch we are okay taking our time. We think it will be 8 hours of hiking today but that will be an under estimate.
Our packs are heavy. There is no water along this trail from the rim to the Colorado River. We must carry 4 liters each for 7 miles to Bright Angel campground. That is 8.8 lbs. of weight. This will be our heaviest water carry for the whole trip.
The trail has the wood across the trail to prevent erosion but the step downs are between 12" and 24"deep. This is very painful to our knees.
In just a mile, we took off our puffy jacket. Each mile later another layer was removed. It is warming up quickly.
Soon we came to OOH AAH Point. This is at one mile from the start and have dropped 600 feet. For many of the day hikers, this was the turn around point. Time for some posed pictures. The further we go the fewer will be on the trail with us.
From here we can see the trail down into the canyon.
Our next stop from OOH AAH Point is Skeleton Point. We have hiked 3 miles and dropped another 1400 feet or 2000 feet from the start of the trail.
It was a nice place for first lunch/third breakfast.... It's not only a Hobbit thing but a hiker thing.
A mule pack train came up as we were ready to continue.
We thought the first part of the trail was challenging but I think the remaining was even harder. Lots of step downs and amazing views. The Colorado is much closer now.
Shawna’s comments about the last of today's hike:
“The last 2.5 miles were not as steep but by then my knees and thighs would start to shake. I was worried I would fall on the trail. With sheer drop offs, this was bad. The last mile, I would stop every 15 minutes to rest and rub my thighs. Drink more electrolytes in my water and suck on hard candy for energy. We knew this trail was hard. There was a point where I knew we were not as prepared for this difficult of a hike. By then, it was too late to turn back, all we could was continue. I apologized to Mike for suggesting and encouraging him that we could do this. After reflecting on my weak legs, I believe that I did not eat enough carbs on the hike down."
Our normal speed on a hike is 1 mile every 45 minutes. We had planned on it taking 8 hours for the 7 miles knowing we would purposely be slow and steady, and taking many pictures. Toward the end, I just kept telling myself left foot, don't fall, right foot, don't fall, pay attention to hard drop downs, don't fall. Slow, steady gets you there safely. This isn't a race, just a journey and an adventure. We left the rim at 6:47am arrived at the Bright Angel campground at 5pm. Over 10 hours of pounding down 4,700 ft of elevation change. Temp down at the bottom was 82 degrees.
Seeing the river, black bridge, and the campground gives us hope that we will finish this day without injury. It was neat to see the rafters at the beach landing area on the Colorado River.
As the end of this day's hike gets close, we have to stop many times.
The tunnel to the Black bridge and the trail along the far bank gives us encouragement.
The hike was brutal even though it was only 7.1 miles. The drop in elevation was 4700 feet from the rim. There were dozens of switchbacks and many really deep step downs.
We did see some cactus, flowers and a couple of lizards.
We arrive at Bright Angel Campground just before sunset. As we walk past all the filled campsites hoping that one is still available. There should be one because though we don’t have a specific site reserved one site should be held for us to use. We reach the last two sites and they are empty. Of the two, we take the one on the creek side of the campground. Camp still has to be setup quickly because our reservation at the Canteen for a stew dinner is at 6:30pm and need to be on time. With our camp all set by 6:15 there is still another .3 miles to Phantom Ranch for dinner.
We got to the canteen with 2 minutes to spare. Feels so strange not carrying our packs but did bring head lights for the walk back to camp since sunset is at 7pm.
The building used to serve meals is original to the establishment of the ranch in 1922 and designed by Mary Colter. At least 50 or more can be feed at the same time.
From the beginning the ranch was popular with all kinds of people, including politicians, entertainers, the wealthy, and even European royalty wanting to “Rough it” in the canyon. Teddy Roosevelt loved the ranch and visited often and was not the only President to visit the ranch.
At 6:30pm, canteen door open. Everyone had an assigned seat. The food was very good and served family style with pots and bowls of food already on each table. The stew had plenty of beef, vegetables, corn bread, excellent salad, brownies, tea, water, bought an $8 can of wine as well. Conversations with fellow diners/hikers was great. So tired we had to tell ourselves to take a bite, chew, chew, take a bite and chew. It has become a mental game to do what is necessary. By the time, we stand we are full.
The meals are a bit pricey but how many people can say their food was delivered by pack mules? Our dinner is $42 each. Breakfast tomorrow cost us $29 each. They also sell lemonade, ice tea, beer, wine, and snacks.
Our campsite is #2, it is the furthest from the toilets. Wow, I didn't know we would have flush toilets, sinks with cold water and soap for washing up, luxury for a BackCountry campsite. Outside sink for dishes as well. Fresh water to fill bottles. We were expecting pit toilets. Each campsite has a cleared sand area for the tent, picnic table, food storage box big enough for all our food, and a T pole to hang our packs.
Taking off her boots Shawna discovered her feet were hurting from multiple blisters. She has never had blisters before on her toes. We have hiked with Keen hiking boots and DarnTough socks and never gotten a blister. She thought the heat in her shoes was just from tiredness and the day getting hotter as we hiked down. I wonder if the inserts we had added might have caused this. So she put on lueko tape and moleskin for padding. Her feet are going to be sore no matter what. We just need to protect them from infection. My feet were only sore but with no blisters.
Finally, to bed at 8pm. “Hiker Midnight”. It will be in the 50's tonight so we will be plenty warm in our 20 degree sleeping bags. Our sleep pad is insulated as well. It is very comfortable. The Bright Angel Creek has become a roaring river with all the snow melt coming down from the North Rim. It is very noisy with the sound of rushing water being constant and we hear rocks rolling in the creek. It is amazing and hard to believe we are here at the bottom of the canyon. We fall asleep quickly and hoping the sound of the water will not force us to make a middle of the night bathroom trip.
This hike was beautiful, wonderful, amazing, and awe inspiring, but it was also brutal, painful, and exhausting. It pushed us the most of any hike we have ever done over the years. With all the hardships of the day, as we hiked we still stopped to enjoy the beauty of each layer in the canyon. The view from the rim does not do it justice. From below it is so much more impressive and at night it is very dark. The lights are from people with flashlights walking to and from the bathroom.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon about 10am. Went straight to the BackCountry Office to check in and find out about trail conditions. Our expectations for the hike are high and we are very excited.
Our plans had already changed from Rim to Rim to Rim. The North Rim is snowed in and damage has been found to the trail preventing us going beyond the Cottonwood Campground.
The Ranger on duty warned us that there was knee high water over the trail just south of Cottonwood campground preventing us from camping there. She changed our permit with an extra day at Bright Angel campground. Hoping that the water running through Wall Creek would go down. Normally this is a little creek or dry creek and easy to cross.
We are so impressed with the rangers. They are fantastic and enthusiastic.
Next stop was Phantom Ranch check in desk to make sure they know we will need the meals at the Canteen that we had already paid for online. We have two breakfast and dinners at the Ranch.
We have a couple hours before check in time at our motel so it is time to play tourist at the rim. First, we look around the small museum at the lodge.
The shuttle took us to Hermits Rest. This is a building at the west most location that we can travel on the south rim. In the past, it was a place of rest and refection. Now, it is a gift shop. Oh, well. We did get a great view of the muddy Colorado River.
Warning short History lesson ahead:
The Grand Canyon is over 270 miles long.
At its widest almost 18 miles wide.
The maximum depth is over a mile or about 6,000 feet
The canyon has been used by people for thousands of years. There are eleven different tribes that have been identified to have used the canyon over the centuries. All have their own story of its creation but most reference a huge flood cutting the canyon.
In the 1500's the Spanish explorers came to the area, the Hopi were guides. Soon the south rim became a small village of miners and eventually entrepreneurs trying to attract tourists.
Throughout the 1800's there were many times that trappers and miners came to explore the canyon down from the rim. In 1869, John Wesley Powel took the first scientific exploration of the canyon on Colorado river mapping and documenting the canyon and river path. Many more followed with each focused on a different portion of science but primarily geology.
Several mines were started in the canyon but most failed after a short period of time. Dan Hogan came to the canyon in 1890. He and some friends are the first known hikers to complete a rim-to-rim-to-rim backpacking trip through the central corridor in 1891.
Hogan started The Orphan mine in 1893 and which was 1000 feet down from the rim. It operated until 1969 when the land was transferred to the park service. The mine produced 4 million pounds of uranium oxide, 6 million pounds of copper, 100 thousand pounds of silver, and 3,000 pounds of vanadium oxide. The value of the uranium alone has been estimated at $40 million.
Another mine that was important to know of was the Last Chance Mine which operated from 1890-1929. They built the original Grand View Hotel and stagecoach trails from Flagstaff. Though the mine was very profitable the primary reason that this operation stands out is that they built much of the Bright Angel trail.
By the early 1900's, buildings were being constructed along the south rim to support tourism. Many of the early buildings were designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter who was an American architect and designer. She was one of the very few female American architects in her day and lived from 1869 to 1958. She was AMAZING! All of the iconic buildings of the Grand Canyon park were her design. We ate in the Phantom Ranch Canteen and stayed in a cabin she designed. Look her up if you want to know more.
I could have added twice as much as I have already but this is more about the hike than the history of the canyon. The Harvey Girls, CCC constructions, political battles over control, founding of the Phantom Ranch,... More on our visit to the ranch later.
End History... Sort of...
We stopped at the location where the park was dedicated 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt loved the canyon and visited often. He also used the cabins at Phantom Ranch including the one we stayed in.
We took pictures at the beginning of Bright Angel Trail. This is the trail we will be returning on in 7 days. It will be quite a climb from the bottom.
We road the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead to see what the trail looked like. Some of the switchbacks can be seen and the snow on the North Rim is in the distance. It will be a challenge. South Kaibab is considered the hardest of the trails to hike down. We will back here at sunrise to start our hike down into the canyon.
Time for some pizza for lunch and off to our hotel, Grand Canyon Inn. It is 35 minutes south of Grand Canyon NP. The furniture was neat. I just hope the bed is better than the last motel.
We get some dinner and some sleep. Our alarms are set for dark thirty.
Our packs are ready and clothes for the days between are packed. We definitely want clean clothes to wear on the day we leave the canyon. It is common for hikers to wear the same clothing for days. We have pants, several layers of shirts, extra underwear and socks.
We will stop at motels along the way to make our last day as short as possible without driving the entire distance in one day. It is important that we check in at two locations at the Grand Canyon to confirm we will be eating at Phantom Ranch and at the BackCountry Office that we are hiking down.
First stop is Winslow, AZ. We will definitely stop in at Relic Road Brewing Company for dinner. Every time we pass Winslow we try to get a lunch or dinner. They make Fantastic sandwiches.
Full and heading to the motel for some sleep.
Wow! The Quality Inn here is not much to get excited about. I am not sure what grade of plywood they put in the beds but they are very firm. The free breakfast was good.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...