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Old Bright Angel - Miner's Route Loop, AZ
mini location map2014-03-07
38 by photographer avatarwritelots
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Old Bright Angel - Miner's Route Loop, AZ 
Old Bright Angel - Miner's Route Loop, AZ
Hiking avatar Mar 07 2014
Hiking10.50 Miles 2,067 AEG
Hiking10.50 Miles   7 Hrs      1.50 mph
2,067 ft AEG
1st trip
Partners none no partners
On our "free day" on the GCHBA Volunteer Project, I originally wanted to climb to the Battleship. However, when I started to query my fellow adventurers on theirplans, it seemed that I'd be alone on that one, and I wasn't sure scrambling off route in the GC solo was the level of adventure I was up to. Instead I wormed my way into the group doing the Old BA - Miner's Route Loop, and since I'd never done that one before - I knew it'd be a good time.

It is a great hike. Both routes are reasonably easy to follow for seasoned canyon route-finders. Just look for the spot where you think a route should go, and more than likely you'll be right. For the top of the Old BA, it's super easy - it's a well engineered trail that provides views of ancient granaries and the historic phone line. Below the Tonto Trail was a new piece for me, and it shows less of the solid engineering and more of that "follow gravity" mentality to get you down to Pipe Creek. As an alternative to the Devil's Corkscrew, it's definitely more direct - but I'll probably stick to the new BA when I'm bearing a pack.

I was wearing a pair of nice Ex-Officio pants that I'd found at a thrift store in Tucson. Turns out these pants were actually pretty old and/or worn out, because the first test on a bit of sliding and they split nearly the whole seat out. So, I spent a few lovely minutes sitting by the side of the trail, pants around my knees, duct taping them back together. Thank goodness I'm not as shy as I once was!

At Pipe Creek, we rejoined the new trail, and we ran into Callie with the NPS trail crew at the toilets just above the river. Her job involves hiking from Indian Gardens to the lower toilets on the BA and South Kaibab trails for maintenance and cleaning - so she's in super amazing shape. We invited her to join our hike, and she was genuinely excited at the idea. She had some chores to finish up first, but she thought she'd try to connect with us at Phantom Ranch.

We hiked over the Silver Bridge into Bright Angel Canyon to say hello to some folks and get our Lemmy fix (what are the odds that I was hiking with 4 guys and they ALL passed on the Tecate?). We ran in Sjors in the campground - he usually runs our volunteer projects when we're in the BA campground. He told us to watch out for the condors that have been nesting in the area - including a fledgling which hasn't been numbered yet. His observations of the birds below the rim are always amazing, even more so considering that he does it while also working harder than most paid employees (he's a volunteer himself). My hike time excludes the hour we spent relaxing by the beautiful Bright Angel Creek. Callie caught up, and after a few chores in the BA campground, she was ready to do the up trail with us - one she'd never done before, so she was particularly excited.

Crossing back over the muddy waters of the Rio Colorado, we caught the Miner's Route just past the Silver Bridge and started up. Straight up. At times, it felt like the route should feel scary-impossible, but the footing was always stable. Not that I'd be eager to follow it down or anything - but it's not as bad as it looks from the bottom.

The route provides several small saddles, where we took quick breaks and enjoyed views of the Granite Gorge. I was glad to have Callie along, because though she was in amazing shape, she was also happy to hang in the back with me and chat. She would be fun to hike with even in the worst of circumstances, but it was great to hear some of her own canyon stories. It was also nice to have a girl along so I had someone I trusted to take a photo of the duct tape patch on my pants ;)

From the top of the shist there's a short contour around (that's still pretty steep), then a fun little "ramp" through the Tapeats. None of it has any real exposure - which was perfect for me - but there are still good views. Once we popped up onto the Tonto and passed the Miner's Monument it was smooth sailing. There's no real route back to the trail from there, but it's easy enough to head up the plateau knowing that at some point you'll cross that well-worn track.

An additional benefit of the trek was that it completed yet another portion of the Tonto Trail for me. I've done every piece except the Gems and the bit between S.Kaibab and Bright Angel. Now, I've done the latter as well, except for about .25 miles which I can easily pick up next time I head down.

Once back on trail, we cooked along - with a short stop to talk with other hikers near Burro Spring. I loved the Pipe Creek Amphitheater - very classic Tonto Trail views - and the massive pouroff at the top of the Tapeats from the western finger of the creek.

When we got back to Indian Gardens, Callie stopped at the toilets, dropped her pack and got back out her rubber gloves to finish her work day. She said she knew that hiking with us would mean she'd be working late, but she was glad for the diversion. I had to give her kudos - just doing the hike was a good day's work, and now she was going to clean composting toilets for a few hours on top of that! What a girl!

Back at the bunkhouse it was quinoa and hamburger gravy for dinner with salad and pudding for desert. Slept in my tent to the gentle whirr of the toilets and a fairly noisy campground - but it was still sweet!
Throwing a Wendy

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Bright Angel Creek Medium flow Medium flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Burro Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Garden Creek Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Pipe Creek Light flow Light flow

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Pipe Spring Dripping Dripping
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