Grand CanyonSince it was National Park Week and NPS was offering free admission I took them up on it and headed out to my favorite park in AZ for the South Kaibab-Bright Angel route. I had done it back in 2005 and at that time had a pretty miserable experience. This one was much better, since then I've learned a lot about myself and hiking in general so by the end I was still moving pretty well.
Tuesday I drove pretty much all day, despite the map telling me it's a mere 458 miles which should take less than seven hours. Every time I've visited here it just takes forever. Also I probably drove a little slower since the Mustang doesn't have cruise control (or A/C). I stopped for gas in Apple Valley, at the AZ border and in Williams, where I also picked up some food. Arriving near dusk I didn't get to go out and do touristy things like watch the sunset, but I did wander over to the market plaza so I could figure out where to catch the bus in the morning for Yaki Point.
I set my alarm for 5am, had breakfast and waited for the bus for a bit, yet still arrived at the trailhead by 6:40. It was cold in the morning, I had on three shirts plus a windbreaker and gloves. Once I got going on the trail I was able to shed layers pretty quickly, especially once out into the sunny inner canyon. I took a short break at the Tip-Off, and then just steadily walked downhill. The South Kaibab trail is rather steep since it's just over six miles to the river and drops nearly 5000 feet.
Once at the river I kicked back on Boat Beach, had some lunch, waded in the river and visited with a few other hikers plus some folks on 21-day rafting trips.
After that the trail crosses back over the river and then heads parallel for about a mile. The whole time I was thinking about the total trail of nine miles and the same elevation gain, meaning the actual uphill part would be just that much steeper. Indian Garden was a welcome sight as it was getting pretty warm by then and I had a Clif bar along with a bottle of Propel fitness water (I couldn't find any powdered Gatorade!). Talking to some people coming down, they said that the water was on at the 3- and 1.5-mile rest stops, so I didn't top off my Camelbak although I did mix up another 20 oz of Propel. Turned out they were wrong but I cut them some slack since English probably wasn't their native language.
Just before I reached the 3-mile stop I saw a woman sitting on some rocks with her head hanging down so I asked if she was OK. Her reply was to ask if I had anything salty so I sat down to look through my food supply. Unfortunately I didn't, but I gave her most of the Propel drink and she said that helped a lot. She turned me down when I asked if she wanted me to walk with her, she had a friend waiting at the rest stop. When I got to that point about five minutes later I was surprised to see a sign saying no water, and sure enough the pipes were capped off. Uh-oh for me.... I walked on, thinking I would need to conserve and decided to take inventory once I reached the 1.5-mile resthouse. Once I got there, I drank the last four ounces of Propel and dug out my bladder. Sadly, I only had about six ounces of water in there, meaning about three drinks. I figured I would have to be real careful and only take a sip every 15 minutes or so since it would probably be almost an hour to reach the top. About halfway up from there I got lucky when I saw some water seeping out of the rocks, I managed to get a few drops into my bottle. It took about 85 drops to get me a mouthful of water but that really felt amazing and gave me the energy to push on to the finish. I got to Kolb Studio just before 4pm, making the day about nine hours total.
I highly recommend this hike, just not much later than April since the heat in the lower/inner canyon would be oppressive.
Lots of pics:
Takes forever to get there. Lots of desert scenery along the way.
It didn't get as low as 29 degrees but was much colder than the 41 that the bus driver told me.
My first actual view of the canyon this trip, at the South Kaibab trailhead.
Switchbacks right at the beginning of the trail.
Getting sunny out in the early morning.
Skeleton Point view.
I never thought of the trail as dangerous but this makes it look like a steep dropoff.
Looking west or down the canyon.
Black Bridge across the river. The mule trains take this trail because the bridge has a wood bottom, they don't like to see the river while crossing Silver Bridge.
Cold cold water there. It's usually about 48 degrees but felt good to get the shoes off.
About to cross Silver Bridge after leaving the Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel Campground area.
Trail turns abruptly away from the river here after nearly a mile of flat walking.
Kicking back at Pipe Creek.
These signs are at the major trailheads, this one also at Indian Garden, warning about attempting the very hike I'm doing.
Switchbacks starting to get serious about the uphill just after leaving Indian Garden.
View back into the canyon from the 1.5-mile resthouse.
Water coming out of the rock. Took me about 2-3 minutes to get the 100 drops.
Last few steps to the Bright Angel trailhead.
Celebratory brew with my dinner.
The next day I stopped in Williams again for gas and food. My 66 on Route 66.