In a word: Wow. Or another word - Yay!
But of course this is not a triplog with just one word. It was four days, for pete's sake.
I had met Sue before - after a Take A Hike hike up Mount Wrightson. Anne I met at last year's Ash Creek Fall Foliage hike. John - well, I've known him and hiked with him several times over the last year or so. And Ann's friend Cindy I had only just met. And I had been in New Orleans for work for the past three weeks, so there wasn't much workout just prior to the hike (outside of up and down Bourbon Street). Anyway, so that's the stage - Here goes...
Day 1, Friday: Down the South Kaibab Trail to the Bright Angel Campground. A piece of cake, right? Well, I can tell you that my muscles have not been sore after a hike in years, but this little stroll - downhill, no less - kicked my pumpkin. You just try doing 35-pound squats continuously for four hours - it's not easy. We did discover the Canteen down at Phantom Ranch right away - so none of us went without a little lubrication (although I think Cindy2 waited for the butterscotch schnapps back at camp). We did go back to camp to eat (except for John, who had ordered the steak dinner). At 7:30, there was a Ranger talk at Phantom. Since this was just before the Canteen re-opened at 8, we decided that we might use the informative lecture as a basis for intelligent conversation over lemonade. We then learned that Ranger Pam, who has been in the Canyon for 14 years, was about to give her last lecture on Monday - she was reassigned, by choice, to Carlsbad Caverns. Lucky us to see her before she left! Pam is fantastic - such enthusiasm.
Day 2, Saturday: Phantom Ranch to Ribbon Falls. This would be an easy 13-mile day had it not been for the aforementioned squats we all did the day before. It is relatively flat. To answer your questions, Angela, we went across the bridge on the way there. On the way back, we decided to try to find the stream crossing. John was going to show us how it was done. After the third boulder hop, down he went, though. No harm, but he did get a little wet. I went after, and managed to stay dry. However, the rest of the group opted to go back to the pedestrian crossing. The pedestrian crossing - I should mention - is a big up and downhill that John and I were happy not to repeat. John, Sue, and I also decided to do a little bit of exploring around the falls when we found ourselves in a bit of a precarious perch on a not-too-stable ledge. We made it fine, but they really should've placed that "Dangerous - Go No Farther" sign on the other side.
For the record, if you want to visit the alcove to the right of the falls, there is an easier way than up to the left and going behind the falls and over. There is an easy climb to the right of the falls. Another night at Ranger Pam's lecture to discuss at the Canteen. Gosh, I could get used to this "wilderness" backpacking. (and flush toilets? This was luxury!)
Day 3, Sunday. The beginning of the ascent up Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens. This was an easy day and some of us even got naps before we went out to Plateau Point. This part is not to be missed! If you were to give up a side trip, I'd give up Ribbon Falls before I'd give up this little 3-mile round trip jaunt. There are no words. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBKDXWP7lOU
Day 4, Monday. The rest of the ascent out of the Canyon. By now my muscles had already been there, done that, and were not causing me any grief. However, my lungs were not so lucky. This is a pumpkin-kicker if there ever was one, but it is only 4.5 miles from the Indian Gardens Campground, so it doesn't last long. We were all out by noon. We did notice that the people coming down from the rim seemed to be heavily clad, and we understood why just a little down the trail when the wind picked up. It was chilly up there!
Another word about the weather: I think I ordered the best possible time to do this hike. It was absolutely fabulous weather: Not to hot, not too cold. Very cold at the rim, though. For our purposes, it was perfection. Fantastic for my first backpack in the Canyon. I do believe that I'll be exploring this geologic wonder again.
A big thank you to all of my peeps who made this trip a success.