|Backpack||35.50 Miles||4 Days |
|5,749 ft AEG|
|We drove up late Thursday afternoon and met up with most of the group for a late Thursday dinner. The next morning, we got up to a crsipy temperature... you know, the credit card scraping of the windshield kind. After a nice warm breakfast, we went to the Backcountry Office, got the permit, loaded on the shuttle and we were off around 8:45AM.
SOUTH KAIBAB is all its cracked up to be. At the top the trail was dusted with snow on the sides for the first mile or so and it was a bit nippy. However, I was glad to finally be heading down that big ditch everyone talks about. There were nine of us happily hiking down to the bottom stopping at each vista to share in the glorious views of the canyon. I do have to say, I was glad when we finally got to where the sun was shining and even tho we didn't have any Fraleys, the colors seemed intense and beautiful.
We encountered a trail crew just above Cedar Ridge. That's quite the process they have going on there plus they have to climb back out every day. However, what a place to have to spend your time earning your wage. Cedar Ridge really is lovely especially with O'Neill Butte in the foreground. We spent a little time here goofing around and enjoying the environs. Getting down to Skeleton Point was lots of fun as we switched back and forth. Along the way I encountered a group of squirrels including a very entertaining one right next to the trail.
Once we got to Skeleton Point it was a bit windy and almost immediately Wendy calls out to me to come to where she is as she points out the mighty Colorado below and gave me some more information about the GC. Just before we started back down the trail to TipOff I said to Wendy, "I think I've done pretty good on this steep part of the trail." Wendy says, "but Angela, we haven't made it to the steep part yet". I gulped loudly and got very wide-eyed. Uh, oh.
Once again as we got toward the bottom of those switchbacks I was struck by the beauty of what I call the Grand Canyon plain, the Tonto Plateau. I was struck by its spaciousness as well as its simplistic beauty. Once we made it to the TipOff rest stop several folks put their packs down by where the mules are tied. I didn't like the idea of having to lift my pack all the way from the ground to my back so I went a little further and joined up with a couple of the guys who had found some nice rocks to sit on that were above the ground giving me a little more leverage to lift the pack on my back. The last couple days of the hike, I would get a lot better at the pack lifting. I was forgetting to use my knee to balance my pack before throwing it up on my back; that really helps.
From TipOff it is 1.8 miles to the Suspension Bridge with that last mile containing the steepest part of the 1,470 foot elevation drop. The initial part of the trail down the TipOff is pretty nice especially as you come on to Panorama Point. I even did a little movieing as I came out on the Point. Not too far from there, Karen spotted a couple Mountain Sheep (a mother and her young 'un) up on the canyon side just below a spire. They entertained us for awhile and even granted us an incredible photo opportunity as the mom stood high on a big rock on the cliff and looked down on us. Karen even got a photo of the young one as it jumped from one rock to the other. We considered ourselves very lucky to enjoy such a moment.
It was good to finally get to the Bridge. We took the obligatory "bridge" photos and made our way to the other side where the rest of the group was waiting not too far from there. Clyde had hiked ahead to get us the group site with the building structure. It was a great campsite... if it just hadn't been so cold. I was happy about the very nice restrooms with running water and of course, you can't go wrong with the Canteen.
RIBBON FALLS is even better in person; however it was not my original destination when I started hiking Saturday morning. I had planned to meet up with 2 other of the group and explore Phantom Falls but I decided it was too cold for that plus I was making excellent time so I continued down this amazing and easy trail along the creek anxiously waiting for the sun to get above the canyon walls. I wasn't sure what my goal was for this hike whether it was going to be time or mileage but I ultimately decided since I was rolling along pretty good, I would turn around at the 6.5 mile point so that I could claim my longest hike ever.
This hike takes you through some incredible terrain including a couple marshes. I was quite surprised by this. You hike near the creek or near the canyon walls or both crossing 4 bridges and from narrow to wide paths. I was delighted to eventually run into some fall color too. I stopped to have a little lunch before heading back and also shed some of my layers as the sun was now shining very nicely and of course the views were stunning. I had encountered about a dozen hikers coming and going. I was just so impressed with the fact that I, "tibber", was on the infamous North Kaibab trail at the bottom of the GRAND CANYON .
As I was just starting back, I saw Ambika in the distance. I hardly got to say hello and she says I'm going to Ribbon Falls with them as it's not too far away. I didn't put up much of a fuss 'cuz now that I knew how easy the trail was, I thot perhaps I could indeed make it to Ribbon. She and Guru took me under their wing and off we went. It's nice to hike by yourself but it's so much more fun to share this experience with others . After all, it IS the GRAND CANYON.
We made good time and decided to try the creek crossing. After investigating a couple different possibilities, we went back to the first one. Guru crossed first and dropped his pack and cameras before coming back for the shorter-legged Ambika as a couple of the rocks were a bit far apart. Luckily, another hiker came along and provided an assist. He and his wife were from Canada. We sat next to them at breakfast the next morning. They were a delightful couple. Apparently they are working on her bucket list.
The trek to Ribbon once you cross the creek is fairly quick and as we got to the bottom of the Falls we encountered Wendy, Gary and Karen having their lunch. We had a quick bite to eat and then did our climb up and around the back and to the side of the Falls. Altho the light isn't the most cooperative, the Falls are really photographic. It was also nice to sit and just enjoy the scene for a few minutes while Ambika & Guru finished off their photography. We did our last glamor shots and headed back around 1:45.
This time we opted for the bridge. The hill coming up from the bridge is not so bad. The rest of the hike was lots of fun as we enjoyed the amazing geology, flora including fall colors and the weather as well as each others company. We took a very leisurely pace arriving back at sunset (5:30ish). It was pretty neat to see a deer next to the Phantom Ranch sign. I was treated to a "wendy" special dinner when I got back to camp after completing my longest hike (16 miles according to Scout from campsite to Ribbon and back).
INDIAN GARDENS The next morning we didn't get on our way until 10:15. I was happy to have done Ribbon Falls the day before because now my muscles didn't seem so tight. --(Ambika gave me a very helpful hint and suggested toward the end of a hike - take nice big steps so that you can stretch your muscles. I ended up doing this a couple times and my muscles seemed to relax a little)-- The first thing out of the gate is crossing the Silver Bridge over the massive Colorado. It really is magnificent. I took a movie along the way. And then it was a matter of following the river for awhile before heading in the direction of the South Rim.
Not too long after we headed south, we saw a backpack and Tiffani informed us that Clyde was across the way at Garden Falls. After a very brief encouraging discussion from Wendy, all 3 of us took off our packs and made our way down across the creek and up to the bottom of the Falls. Tiffani tried to go up the way Clyde had but wasn't none too pleased by the slick rock bed. Meanwhile Wendy had found a way up to the right and we gladly headed that way and made the short scramble up to the area where Clyde was waiting for us. This was a worthy short side trip as you got a lot of bang for your buck . We hung out for about 1/2 hour or so before heading back to the trail.
Awh yes, the Devil's Corkscrew and all those steps was our next task. Clyde decided we should count each screw. There are 8 or 9 depending on where you consider the top.... anyway that made it fun and the time went by a little faster and before you knew it, we joined the group gathered along the trail near the top of Garden Falls. If you look to the Northeast from this area you can see one of those upward geological masses (rather than the horizontal lineage) that shows the lift in this particular part of the canyon. It really is cool looking.
We had a quick snack before making our journey through the incredible tree-lined creek of the Great UnConformity layer. What a layer! It really is something. There was a touch of fall color and some most impressive Cottonwoods along the way as you head up toward Indian Gardens campground. You also cross the creek a few times. The campsite is very nice and we pitched our tents under a large tree dressed for autumn.
PLATEAU POINT The mile and a half hike for sunset started at 4 o'clock. We moved at a pretty good pace and as usual, a couple of the hikers seemed like they sprinted to the Point as the rest of us hung back and grabbed some photos including of some deer along the way. The hike seems longer than 1.5 miles but fortunately the trail is pretty nice. We took tons of pictures of the Canyon, the River, the Landmarks, and each other before we sat down for our snacks, supper and/or beverages. Wendy sang us a couple songs and shortly after that, we made our way back to camp and finished off the nite with some libations (butterscotch schnapps and/or hot chocolate or oozo) and talk about the water table in Phoenix.
BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL Ok, the part of this adventure we all didn't look forward to other than the scenery and reward at the top. I think we started around 8:30ish, others had left earlier, and made our way up the first mile and a half. About 1/2 way during this starting section I realized I was clippin' along pretty good and not feeling too wasted yet. Wendy, Guru, Ambika, Karen and I met up at the 3 mile house. I was pleased to know I had conquered Jacob's Ladder in a satisfactory fashion. Some say that can be the worst part of this hike out so I'm thinkin', "not bad, not bad".
However, the last 2/3rds weren't any piece of cake. The steps seems like they are higher and the trail seems steeper. I didn't mind the mule trains from time to time either. The toughest part of the haul up to me was between the tunnels as now you hit some elevation and the trail is going up at more of an incline. I would have to take a couple more breaks here as now the 40lb pack seemed to be getting heavier and this 3/4 mile trek seemed to go on forever. I couldn't stop very long though cuz my calves would start cramping. I guess this was a good thing as it kept me moving plus knowing we were so close to the top you could feel it.
It was glorious at the end just like it was in the beginning. I was tired but exhilarated. I was pleased I FINALLY got to experience the Canyon like so many of the rest of you. I was always so envious. It's everything everyone says it is. I'm still feeling the soreness in my calves but I said to myself, the pain would not matter on this one. We walked to get Tonto at the Backcountry Office and drove over to Bright Angel Lodge where we met up with the rest of the crew in the lounge and then had lunch shortly thereafter before our parting group photo outside of the lodge overlooking the canyon.
THOUGHTS: The ONLY lo-light were the nippy evening temperatures. I am making a little more progress about dealing with the cold like turning my buff into a hat, using the skinny car visor on the benches and below my sleeping bag and of course the sleeping bag liner.
Some Highlights - seeing the mom and kid mountain sheep above the S Kaibab; what a treat,
crossing both of those bridges I've seen so many times in photos,
walking along Bright Angel Creek and seeing Ribbon Falls in person,
getting over to Lower Garden Falls,
enjoying Plateau Point at sunset,
and last - completing the 8 miles in and 100 out . I was glad we had cool temps for the climb out as I can only imagine how much harder it would have been with heat.
This was billed as a Beginners Backpack. Wendy , as usual, was a great trip leader . I think it was wonderful to have several experienced backpackers along; especially those that had spent time in the Canyon as they could share so much and answer almost any question you might have plus they knew when to point out landmarks or would know if you were almost there yet .
It was fun to hang out at the Canteen during the evening hours where we played Yahtzee (I shook a few, Wendy shook one on a "demo" but never during the games and Tiffani... well ). Clyde had the bestest booze as usual. The prime tequila made Wendy's renown Mango Tango cocktails even better. EVERYONE loved them.
I'm glad I have been able to do this and I do look forward to my next foray into the Grand Canyon. At the same time, I am saddened by the news of this week regarding GPSJoe. It kind of takes the edge off.
I will be adding short movie links in the next week. Heh I got them done this week:
Day One: South Kaibab Trail http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnmWHeuqIuQ
Day Two: N Kaibab Trail - along Bright Angel Creek to the 6.5 mile mark from the group campsite at Phantom Ranch toward Ribbon Falls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsGPBUKy_ZI
Ribbon Falls and back to the group campsite at Phantom Ranch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deSxvEjQ-2w
Day Three & Four: Bright Angel Trail including walking across the Suspension Bridge, a trek over to Lower Garden Falls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ9l6o4XMOo
Plateau Point and a quick flick of a mule passenger train coming down Bright Angel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdFjAU8rv6w
The photos... well, that will be awhile.
||Autumn Foliage Observation Light
|For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination. |
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.