I've gone down the canyon, now I must come up!!
Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
60Trip End Jul 31, 2011
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Where I stayed
Trailer Village Grand Canyon National Park
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Hike up the Bright Angel Trail
My sleep throughout the night was fitful. I did not put the rain tarp on the tent since it was pretty hot. However, it did get a little cool a few hours before dawn. Every few hours I had to wake up and put another layer of clothes on. At first I just slept on top of my blanket with shorts on. By the time I woke up I was under my blanket with pants and a shirt on.
Beatrice woke me up a few min. before 4. She was already packed and ready for the hike up. Of course, staying at Phantom means you don’t have too much to carry
By 5 I was on my way. It was light enough to hike without the light. This would be a 9 mile hike out of the canyon with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain with my huge pack. Can I do it? I knew I had too – it was just a matter of how long. The first mile and a half was pretty easy as the trail paralleled the Colorado River. The hardest part of this segment was crossing the silver bridge. The bridge just had metal grates for a floor that are just laid down. I had to hold my hiking sticks up so they would not fall the 75 feet into the Colorado. It was best not to look down as all you could see was the Colorado rushing by. This really messes with your head as you feel like you’re going to be swept away by the river. Better just to look ahead and get across without anything crazy happening.
After the bridge was the one mile hike along, or 100 feet above, the Colorado. Much of this part was sandy which made my feet and poles sink into the ground
The next mile was very pleasant. Yes, I was going uphill, but not too steep. You walk along Garden Creek which had plenty of trees and the canyon walls were steep to keep out the sunlight. There was a water fall, a small cave, and a few creek crossings. Then came the "Devils Corkscrew." One solid mile of steep switchbacks. This was the first hard part of this 9 mile trail. Now the sun was hitting me most of the time. This sun can really sap your energy. Another thing that saps it are the high steps. I can climb a steep ramp as long as I have some momentum. But the one foot steps are hard on the knees. I have to plant both of my hiking sticks on top of the step and push myself up. Without the sticks my knees would have been shot a long time ago. At the top of this steep assent was a heavenly spot called Indian Garden.
This was the halfway point on the trail as far as the length, but not for elevation
After Indian Garden the trail was fine for another half mile – still uphill but just gradual. Then it was time for the true test. The last four miles would be straight up steep trail with endless switchbacks. At this point I was making good time. Maybe I’d be out by noon for a 7 hour hike out. But this part would slow me down considerably. 85% of the time I was in the sun with the heat sapping every ounce out of me – the good news was I kept drinking Gatorade like it was going out of style so I stayed hydrated. I just could not eat as much as I needed too. Now each successful step was a victory. Each step was one step closer to the top of the rim. This next mile took over an hour as I stopped a few times before the next rest stop. I’d find a nice shady area with a rock to sit on and chill for 15 min., down another jell and Gatorade, and use my handy water fan which really felt like an AC on this warm day
I reached my next goal which was 3 mile rest house. This means I only have 3 miles to go. On a regular trail this is nothing. But with over 2,000 more feet in elevation to gain this seemed almost impossible. Unlike the peacefulness of Indian Garden, this place was small and had a ton more people here. Since the Bright Angel trail is the main highway trail down the canyon it was very crowded. Now you get families with kids who have hiked a little too much with the wrong shoes and no hat. Even without the one ton backpack, these people were more tired than I. They were just not prepared. I stayed here for almost 45 min. to charge the batteries (not much of a charge left.) Beatrice was there to cheer me on – she waited for over 30 min. for me to get there. Now more than ever I wished I’d stayed at the Phantom Ranch and carried a light backpack. But I must live with my mistakes and carry on to the top.
Between 3 miles and 1.5 miles rest houses, I took as many breaks as I hiked. Every bit of shade was a new rest spot. The problem with the rest spots was putting the pack back on. I just knew I’d throw my back out one of these times by swinging my one ton pack on my back. Every step now became harder
Now I’m at the mile and a half rest house. Beatrice was there waiting for me. This time it was almost 45 min. she waited. I must be getting very slow. I stayed here for close to 45 min myself just trying to mentally prepare for the last segment. Down went another energy jell, a liter of Gatorade, nuts, and anything else to give me an excuse not to continue.
Now for the last mile and a half. Tons of tourists now – many of them not so smart. Wearing flip-flops, carrying milk jugs of water, no hat, screaming kids, etc. No wonder the park service tries to scare you when going down into the canyon and why so many people have to be rescued. I guess they need park rangers at the top of the trail asking questions to people going below to make sure they have the mental capacity to go down. However, with the size of my pack, maybe my mental capacity was not so hot. I tried to rest at each shade spot again, but this time not to sit down
MADE IT!!!! 2 in the afternoon which means I was on the trail for 9 hours. What a relief. These last two days I will always remember. Funny what the human being can do when you put you put your mind to it. Just like those jell packs gave me energy to keep going, this experience just boosted my confidence in doing anything. I had a nice guy take my pic right at the top. Now it was time to go back to the truck which was a half mile away. What’s another half mile? Well I knew this surge in adrenalin would wear out very soon and I better be back at the RV when it did. I walked down the hill to the Bright Angle bus stop and there was a bus right there. My bag and I squeezed on. I might have been an interesting sight and smell to all the “clean” tourist on this bus. I did feel like a star as many of them asked about the trip.
I just had to go two stops to make my truck. I just threw the back in the back and my weary legs could barely shift the gears to get back to Trailer Village. Back at the RV, Pooja was just chillin out. She had done a three hour ranger tour of the South Kaibab Trail yesterday and took Quique on a few walks along the rim trail. I just sat down for about 30 min. just to detox from the experience and rest before I could take that much needed shower
After the power nap it was time to do something for the rest of the day. I went out to the truck to get the bag and surprise, there was Beatrice. I did invite her to stay with us tonight and roughly described where our RV was. So she found us to see if the offer was still good. Of course it was. Pooja and Beatrice hit it off great as she is a lot like us.
Now to do some stuff. Took two bags of clothes to the Camper building to do some washing. After that I dropped off Pooja and Quique to do another part of the rim. It’s good that someone has some energy. Then I took Beatrice to her hotel to fetch her bag. I brought Beatrice back to the RV so she could shower and freshen up while I went back to finish and fold the clothes. By the time I did the clothes, I had run out of time where I was to pick up Pooja from the overlook. Besides that the sun was setting so everyone and their brother would crowd the rim to watch it drop.
Somehow I was able to find a parking spot for my big ol truck. I had to walk a half a mile to find Pooja and Quique on the rim. We watched the sun go down. It is really cool to watch this on the rim and watch all the shadows against the canyon grow and the shades of the rock change color. After the sun slept, the crowds rushed out. I took us back to the RV to meet up with Beatrice. I was so tired now that we had no choice but to go out and eat for dinner.
We walked to the Market area which is only half a mile
Back at the RV it was now just a little past 9 and it was time for Beatrice and I to hit the sack. Pooja blew up the air mattress for Beatrice which was best since my energy was spent. Pooja did put some icy hot on our legs that made everything burn for a bit. In no time I was snoozing away in my very own RV bed which felt very comfortable.