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Old Bright Angel Trail
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mini location map2012-09-03
23 by photographer avatarwritelots
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Old Bright Angel TrailNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 03 2012
writelots
Hiking10.80 Miles 2,914 AEG
Hiking10.80 Miles   9 Hrs      1.20 mph
2,914 ft AEG
 
1st trip
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So I'm getting ready for the trip to the North Rim and I'm looking for a decently hard hike that isn't on the North Kaibab trail. Not that NK isn't a perfectly decent trail, but all my time on backcountry routes of late has left me with a bit of distaste for the corridor routes. The North Rim doesn't have nearly the plethora of options that you get on the south, and many of the trails are only accessed by longish drives on dirt roads (which also wasn't appealing as Angela promised Tonto we'd keep him clean).

So this one pops up. Looks like fun. Clyde says he was hoping to check it out, too. Angela is keen at first, but reads herself into a corner and starts worrying about the elevation gain coming back. I mean, come on, it's the GRAND CANYON ;)

Finally, not wanting to hike on a little-traveled route alone and not having anyone else I trusted interested in the whole trail, I decided to let discretion be the better part of valor and I agreed to hike only to the top of the Redwall where the descriptions said we'd find a pouroff and good views.

Clyde knows me too well and warned me ahead of time that he wasn't going to be talked into 'just getting to the bottom of the Redwall'. Sigh.

We started out on an old road route that knocked a mile or two off the Ken Patrick part of the hike. Not only was this short cut convenient, but it was actually quite pretty. Walking along the old road alignment offered some interesting insights into how the vegetation has begun (or not begun) to reclaim the roadbed after 30 some years of it's disuse.

We made the Ken Patrick pretty quickly, and since we picked it up at a point beyond what we'd seen a couple days before, it made for interesting walking as well. Although we still could not see the canyon, the forest was pretty and the burned areas gave us plenty to look at with a great wildflower display.

Once we made it to the Old Bright Angel sign, we regrouped and Clyde put me out front. At first I was thrilled - I love route finding, and being in back I generally only get to route follow. However, it quickly became obvious that point was a good bit of work as I pushed through the thick oak growth and hacked through the tall weeds. Chris was right on my tail, which was nice because we got to talk and share adventure stories - but if stopped too short I got a bump :) Kept me going pretty quick.

I only lost the trail at one point, and we were only off for about 20 yards before I realized it and we backtracked to the right route. Otherwise I found the old track pretty easy to follow in general compared to other 'offtrail' routes I've followed in the area. The description was correct when it said that the area does not suffer from erosion as much as other trails, and with the dryness of the slope there wasn't the dense vegetation growth that might cover it. An experienced hiker should have no trouble following the top portion of the trail.

We made it to the pouroff at the top of the Redwall right on schedule and stopped for our lunch. Angela had put some awesome sandwiches together, and we feasted heartily. Good thing, too, because the way out was ALL UP! If pushing through the oak shrubbery was hard on the down hill, it was murder on the up. It almost felt as though the trail was rejecting our against-the-grain ascent.

I let the faster hikers go on ahead and Lori, Angela, Clyde and I hiked as a team. Although it felt a little slow, looking at the stats it didn't seem so bad. Angela was still in pretty good spirits when we reached 'the sign', which had been her motivational goal for the first couple of miles of the climb out. Once she got there, she took off like a rocket! I had to rein her in or risk getting myself left in the dust!

Just a little note: we didn't see signs of a single other human being the whole time we were on the Old BA. That right there makes it worth every bit of the trouble! The amazing views (better than you get on the NK) were a bonus!

I was pretty sure that we'd found our trail out at one point, and since it wasn't marked I convinced Clyde that it was right as well. We called back the rest of the group (who were just a little ahead) and we started through the forest on what we thought was the same old road we'd come in on. Instead, it was a different old road. Who'd have thunk that there'd be two nearly identical old roadbeds just waiting to fool unsuspecting hikers tired from the climb out? The nerve!

We were much too far in by the time we realized we were on the wrong route, turning back wasn't really an option. Daylight was fading and we were hungry and low on water (I was out of water - but more on that in a minute). Clyde was navigating using his new IPone app, and while I think it was pretty good, it didn't replace a GPS with our old track on it. Eugene had the track on his GPS, but wasn't really comfortable leading the group or relinquishing his unit. My GPS had run out of battery and died a ways back.

As we're wandering up and down these big forested hills, trying to follow the 'veer left, veer right' directions we were getting from Clyde (who was walking while watching his phone), I started to get that hint of anxiety that I get when I feel lost. When we stopped for the fourth or fifth time to get our bearings, I grabbed Angela's GPS, Scout, (with her blessing of course) and said "This way..." as I began to hike towards the cars. It's amazing how well people will follow you if you act like you know exactly what you're doing.

We followed a small gully to the main meadow we'd parked on, and in no time we were back at the cars where we had more water and relief for our tired feet. Angela was so glad to see the meadow that she re-named it Scout's Meadow - and I think it should stick.

So, I drank almost 4 liters of water on this 10 mile hike. True, it was warm, but hardly hot - uphill but not extreme - and tough but not ridiculous. I think I drink too much water, but I don't know how to reduce. I only drink when I feel thirsty, and I try to concentrate on taking small sips when I do. Needing 4 liters a day minimum is inconvenient when hiking multiple days under dry conditions, so it may be time for me to seek real help with this problem that most folks won't think is a problem...

Sigh. The hardships of backpacking ;)
Named place
Named place
Bright Angel Canyon
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
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