To the bottom and back

At the start of our trip, all smiles.
At the start of our trip, all smiles.

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – Last summer I volunteered in Kenya, Africa and one of the first questions I was asked was, “Where are you from?” followed by inquiries into whether or not I had hiked the Grand Canyon. The answer was no.

I’m from northern Arizona and I’ve never hiked the Grand Canyon.

As much as I love the outdoors and hiking, I had never been the whole way to the bottom.

Grand Canyon hiking trip.
Grand Canyon hiking trip.

Last month I decided it was time to remedy that situation. I bought a backcountry permit, enlisted a few people to got with me and prepared to hike to Phantom Ranch.

My oldest brother was supposed to hike with me, but found out he was deploying to South Korea in February. So his wife and my sister joined me.

We visited the military surplus store for MRE’s (meals ready to eat) and packed our backpacks.

My first hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon - more than I could have asked for.
My first hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon – more than I could have asked for.

We decided we would hike down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel, one of the most popular hikes at the Canyon.

Shadows from the cloud playing peek-a-boo on the Canyon walls.
Shadows from the cloud playing peek-a-boo on the Canyon walls.

It was a perfect day – the clouds rolled across the sky lazily, creating dark shadows on the cliffs. We stepped aside for mule trains, laden with tourists and packs and took time to chat with breathless hikers trudging up the trail.

We stepped aside to let mule trains pass by.
We stepped aside to let mule trains pass by.

The places I had heard about all my life slowly came into focus – Skeleton Point, Tonto Platform, the black mule bridge on the Colorado River and finally the Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch.

The campground and Phantom Ranch were not what I was expecting – they were more.

Cabins at the Bright Angel Campground, marking the entrance to Phantom Ranc.
Cabins at the Bright Angel Campground, marking the entrance to Phantom Ranch.

We found a campsite and set up camp, chatting with the volunteer who came by to check our permit.

MRE's at the campsite, thank God for brothers in the military!
MRE’s at the campsite, thank God for brothers in the military!

 

 

 

 

Later we joined other campers and those staying at Phantom Ranch’s lodges at the little amphitheater to listen to the evening ranger program.

Ranger Mandi Toy, captivated audiences with her storytelling at the evening ranger program.
Ranger Mandi Toy, captivated audiences with her storytelling at the evening ranger program.

The The interpretive ranger, Mandi Toy, enchanted us all with the story of Bill Beer and John Daggett – the first two men to swim 277 miles of the Colorado River in 1955. We held our breath waiting to see if they would come out the other side of the Canyon alive.

After the program we walked over to the Canteen, where visitors purchase snacks, drinks, souvenirs and postcards that are taken, by mule, to the rim to be mailed.

Bright Angel campgound rests quietly beside the gurgling Bright Angel Creek.
Bright Angel campgound rests quietly beside the gurgling Bright Angel Creek.

Finally we wandered back to our tent and lay soaking in the 50-degree night air. I have spent many nights curled up in a sleeping bag, breathing crisp night air, wondering about the beauty surrounding me. That night was no different, I lay in my sleeping bag, listening to the Bright Angel Creek gurgling outside wondering about this wild, beautiful place.

After purifying drinking water, (the water in the Trans-Continental Pipeline in the Canyon is currently under repair) we broke camp and headed for the bridge.

One of the two bridges you cross when going across the Colorado River.
One of the two bridges you cross when going across the Colorado River.

We went up the Bright Angel Trail that morning and had decided to enjoy the experience and take our time.

The sun's golden rays peeking through in the early morning light.
The sun’s golden rays peeking through in the early morning light.

I lagged behind – snapping pictures, waiting for the sunrise to flood the Canyon walls with rays of gold and hues of pink and red.  I looked up just in time and inhaled deeply – taken aback by the beauty I was witness to.

Going up the journey held as many surprises as the hike in.

Lush greenery and waterfalls were not what I was expecting, a pleasant surprise indeed.
Lush greenery and waterfalls were not what I was expecting, a pleasant surprise indeed.

Who knew there were waterfalls and spiraling rock formations with tuffs of green shrubbery and grass clinging to the sides. I stared in awe at the greenery in the Canyon. Having grown up in Arizona, I had not expected such lushness.

We pressed on, stopping occasionally to adjust our packs and take in the view. Playing tag along the trail with fellow hikers -each in turn stepping to the side, and inquiring about one another’s trip.
It took us three and a half hours to hike down the South Kaibab trail and five hours to hike up the Bright Angel.

The dizzying trail where we made a suprisingly quick ascent to the top.
The dizzying trail where we made a suprisingly quick ascent to the top.

At the top we asked a passing tourist to snap our picture.

“Where are you from? Did you hike to the bottom?” he asked.

“Yes, I hiked the Grand Canyon,” I said.

Read more at http://grandcanyonnews.com/

Happy hikers.
Happy hikers.

 

 

“We hiked in and made it out.”

 

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One thought on “To the bottom and back

  1. You just brought back so many happy memories! I was a Park Ranger in the late ’80s/early 90’s and spent 7 weeks at Albright Training Center in 1991. One of the best times was the 3-day hike into and out of the Canyon following the same path you took. Breathtaking views and just an awesome sight. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Like

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