Went down South Kaibab on Thursday morning after being stuck waiting for the 'hiker express' until 6:30 when they gave up and had us jump on the blue bus to transfer to the green at Mather, last time I deal with that, next time I'll just walk to the Mather visitor center and catch the green line at 5am, and be at the trail head at 5:14 instead of 7:15. Saw a bull elk at the trail head though. Started down with really only a couple other groups that morning and I have to say it was a really pleasant hike. Too many stairs in general for my tastes, but I understand that they're needed with the pack traffic too. Stopped for a bit along the way and enjoyed the views the entire way down. Made it to the black bridge at about 10 and hung out at Boat Beach for a while, then found a campsite at BCG and hung out at Phantom Ranch for a while. Had pondered heading up to Phantom Canyon, but it was pleasant at the ranch and it was enjoyable just talking with random folks. Lots of R2R's and R2R2R trail runners on Friday. We were indeed visited by a ringtail and a skunk on Friday night, which was fun.. and somewhat smelly
Saturday left at about 5 for Clear Creek, were rounding Sumner Butte at about dawn and ran into the only other people we saw on the trail on the way out. Clear Creek was likely the best hike of the weekend, the views are truly amazing the entire time (even though we got to view from Sumner Butte to BCG for the first time going back) and I would really like to go back and do that one again during the winter sometime. When we got back down to BCG we dropped packs and headed to the river and jumped in for a quick bit of refreshment, which was completely sublime and we had fun with the realization later while having a beer at the ranch that more than a few people had noticed out shenanigans
Also saw a big horn while we were frolicking in the river, too bad there was no camera around at that point.
We broke camp and headed up Bright Angel at about 5 on Sunday. We very shortly found that we were walking through a herd of mulies as we turned onto Bright Angel after exiting the campground, which I've certainly never done before as I've never been around any deer that weren't completely afraid of people and while I know that these are essentially tame in that regard it never will cease to surprise me. I was happy that we only encountered mule trains twice, once at about Indian Garden (which was hauling supplies to the ranch) and the second above the 3mi rest house. We also didn't encounter too much traffic at all until past the 1.5mi rest house (I don't think we saw anyone until Indian Gardens at all save for two trail runners crossing us just past the hiker bridge). Once we did start to encounter traffic though it rapidly became somewhat annoying with the frequency of the interrupted forward progress. That being said, sometime Sunday morning clouds started to arrive overhead for the first time during the weekend, which was welcomed for the picture improvements.. even though we would have killed for them on Clear Creek the day before. Was still really, really nice to be in the shade the entire day (and with the creek running) pretty much.. with only the last few switchbacks in the sun. Probably finished up at around 10 as a guess.. given that we'd retrieved the car and were back at Mather campground looking for a shower at about 11. Not too bad since we stopped and took way too many pictures (I have probably about 500 to sort through once my Mac gets back from having it's logic board replaced) and took a long break just before the Tonto Trail intersection and up at the 1.5mi rest houses.
I'm certain at this point that the next trip will be almost entirely in the back country, although the corridor was fine, I really enjoy the less traveled trails and the plethora of possibilities in that canyon are calling