[by Shelley]“Getting to the bottom is optional. Getting to the top is mandatory.”
The exact opposite of this is true for climbing mountains but it's certainly a suitable saying for hiking down into the Grand Canyon. We caught the shuttle from the Backcountry Information Center at 9 a.m. and were at the start of the South Kaibab trail and on our way about 20 minutes later.
The South Kaibab follows a ridgeline down, one of the few trails that does not go down one of the side canyons. Therefore, you get an excellent and wide open view the whole way down. Although it didn’t feel like we were “meandering” we certainly stopped a lot to take photos and enjoy the view. Near the top it was cool and windy but got much nicer the lower in altitude we went. The trail was wide, well maintained and very gradual descent of 4800 ft over 12 km. Much easier on the knees than I had expected it to be!
There weren’t a huge number of people on the trail. This is the off season so we just showed up and hiked. During high season, people book months, if not a year in advance to hike into the Canyon.
We booked into a cabin at Phantom Ranch. I know, I know! Very decadent of us not to carry tent and sleeping bags and stay at the campground! It was rustic but quiet. The ranch, campground, ranger station and mule pens are set in a very beautiful side valley. Meals at the ranch are served “family style” with everyone passing dishes around the table. We had a very yummy vegetarian chile with salad, cornbread and a humongous piece of chocolate cake for dessert.
The next morning we had a quick but filling breakfast and were on the trail by 7:30. We headed up the Bright Angel Trail, an ascent of 4400 ft (yes, the altitude of the rim at Bright Angel is 400 ft lower than Kaibab) over 15 km. The first hour of the hike is along the Colorado River so no elevation gain. Within a couple hours we got to the Indian Garden campground and passed most of the people who'd had an earlier breakfast sitting and had started out ahead of us.
Again, great views on the way up although more enclosed in the canyon until we got higher up. The trail was quite good, although a bit icy as we got closer to the top (in the shade). We plugged along at a steady pace and made it to the top in 5 hours (guidebook estimates 6-10 hours). The trail was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Both Andrew and I felt our legs were tired but not sore. Having said that, the Grand Canyon is not to be taken lightly. There are lots of people who have died over the years from heart attacks and heat stroke in the summer.
The next day we drove out of the park via Desert View and stopped at several of the scenic overlooks as well as the historic lookout just before the park exit. We ended the day at my Dad’s place just outside Phoenix at Apache Junction.
|2011-01 Grand Canyon|