The Hike Down the Grand Canyon
Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
60Trip End Jul 31, 2011
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Where I stayed
What I did
Hike down the Grand Canyon
The bus took us to the South Kaibab trailhead which is close to Yaki Point. Those two places are off limits to private vehicles which is why we all have to take this bus
Around 4:30 the bus let us off at the trailhead. Surprisingly it was light enough to hike without a flashlight. We took a few min. to get our gear arraigned and to take each other’s pictures right before we went below. The first half mile you’re just in awe that you are actually hiking down the Grand Canyon. You don’t see that much of it as the sun is still not up yet and you’re hiking along the edge of the rock wall. Then you hit Ooh-Aah point right below the tip of Yaki Point and you can see the Grand Canyon in all its glory. And the soft light of that right before sunrise look could not be beat
The first rest stop was at mile 1.5. This was called Cedar Ridge. By this time it was 5:30 and the sun was up. At each rest stop I tried to make it a habit of downing an energy gel, drink a quart of water or Gatorade, and eat something salty or a granola bar. The funny thing was I found it hard to eat (a rarity for me) but I knew I had to force it down to keep my energy going. Most of these rest stops had a composting bathroom. Now usually these things stink to high heaven but all the ones I used on this trip were pretty good.
Over the next mile and a half to Skeleton Point I passed this huge rock called O’Neill Butte just sticking out of the Canyon like a sore thumb. You can see this for over half the trail so it is like the symbol of the South Kaibab trail. The trail to the butte is relatively level (for the Grand Canyon) but as you get past it there is about a half a mile of a steep decent with switchbacks. My hiking was doing pretty well as I had a good rhythm with my sticks. There were other hikers that were much faster than me but their packs were much smaller. Soon you arrive at the second major feature of the trail, Natural Arch. The gradual decent to Natural Arch fools you as you pass it, for right past it you drop way down to the Tonto Plateau
At the Skeleton Point rest stop it was starting to warm up a bit so I took off my outer shirt and sleeves. I had my one liter of water, some Indian crackers, and another energy jell. After my 15 min rest I was back on the trail. For the 30 min. going through the Tonto Plateau the trail is desolate as this feels like your typical Southwestern desert. But don’t let this fool you as soon you arrive at a point called The Tipoff.
This is where the Grand Canyon drops off considerably into the Colorado River. It might be because my body was wearing out with my 50 plus pound pack on for several hours, but this was the hardest part of the hike. Relentless steep switch backs with no let up. The one thing to keep you going is that you now have a clear view of the Colorado River and the black bridge crossing it. So every 15 min. or so when you see the river again it looks a little bigger. What really got my endorphins going was the first time you could hear the roar of the river. Now I think I can make it to the bottom. You have to be very careful on this segment as there are several parts of the trail where if you slip, you take a 1,000 ft
Finally you see the black bridge in front of you. As like a cherry on top of the dessert you have to go through a short tunnel to get there. It is pretty neat to see this bridge going across the Colorado from inside a tunnel. The black bridge is a suspension bridge so it shakes a little. The Colorado is 50 feet below so no missteps here. I walked it very slowly. I don’t take many photos here as I’m to the point of exhaustion now and don’t want to drop the camera in and lose all my cool shots from today. At the end of the bridge you walk down some steps to go back under the bridge (ankles don’t fail me now). It is now only a flat half a mile to the Bright Angel Campground – my place for the day. As long as you have a reservation for this place you pick any open site. Unknowingly I picked site 27 which is my lucky number. All this activity for the day and it was only 9:30 in the morning.
I took off the backpack and just collapsed for 10 min
Around noon I was awoken by a nibble on my foot. It was this fat squirrel!! These squirrels are fat due to eating all this human food. I guess the foreigners, who make up half the people of these national parks, would call these American squirrels.
Now a little lunch. I boiled some water with my stove and cooked some Indian lentils with pita chips and Gatorade. Then it was time to walk around the place. The campground is situated on the Bright Angle creek which is the size of your typical mountain creek. The Phantom Ranch was a half mile up the creek. This is like the 5 star resort here. Full meals and bunk beds with everything. While I had to tent camp and carry everything down. Next time I’m staying at the Phantom and ordering all the meals. It will be much more expensive but I’ll add some months to my life that I’m sure I’ll lose by trekking with a full pack
By now it was over 90 degrees and my campsite was totally in the sun. So time to take a dip. I put on my swim shorts and found a small rock dam in the creek. This made a nice little pool to sit in. It was SO COLD when I first went in VERY slowly. But after a few it felt so good. I stayed in here for about an hour and just enjoyed hearing the water flow down the canyon and watching the birds go about their business.
Drying off was no problem as the humidity was so low the air just sucked the moisture dry in a matter of seconds. I then grabbed a book to read in some shade somewhere. I found the ampatheater under some trees with nobody there a nice place. I read for about 30 min. before the girl I met on the bus came along. I did not see her the entire time on the trail as she took more time than I did. She was enjoying every second of the hike while I was just trying to survive. Her name was Beatrice and she was German but living in Holland. We really struck up a good conversation about anything and everything. We really had a lot in common. After a few hours of talking she went off to her organized dinner at Phantom Ranch while I was going to cook mine back at camp. Since she was on her own I talked her into staying with Pooja and I when we got out of the canyon
For the next hour before my dinner I walked around the Colorado River between the two bridges. I took some pictures of the river and canyon as the sun was coming down. Hardly anyone else was out on these trails which made it peaceful. Around 7:30 I came back to camp to set up my dinner of freeze dried Indian beans and rice along with many of my salty snacks that I brought down. I think now I brought down so much food that it will last for several days instead of the two I’ll be out. Mental note: don’t bring so much food. Beatrice came to join me for her post-dinner snack. She had some vegetarian stew which she said was very good. She also brought down some fruit for us to snack on. When you’re really tired from doing some physical activity, you’re not very hungry. My Indian food turned out pretty good but very heavy. I could not even eat half of it. Now this food weighs more than before. Why is this a problem? Down here you have to take all your trash back out.
Beatrice and I talked and laughed some more until about 9:00. We were both very tried and needed a good sleep. Since tomorrows hike was suppose to be twice as hard as the hike down we knew we had another early wake-up time to start the morning. After she left, I put all my food in the canisters and the rest of my stuff in the tent. The stars were unreal above with billions showing through. But I was way too tired to enjoy them and went right to sleep.