|South Kaibab-Bright Angel Loop, AZ|
|South Kaibab-Bright Angel Loop, AZ|| |
South Kaibab-Bright Angel Loop, AZ
|Hiking||16.87 Miles|| 9 Hrs 9 Mns ||2.36 mph|
|5,777 ft AEG|| 2 Hrs 1 Min Break|
|This trip served many purposes: (1) an end-of-the-school-year/start of summer trip for my younger kids; (2) a fitness test for our upcoming backpacking trip on the Inca Trail in Peru next month ( ); (3) one more trip on our National Parks pass before it expires; (4) a chance to get my 21-year-old daughter below the rim to the Colorado (the last of our 5 to do so); and, perhaps most important, (5) a chance to meet the guy she has been dating and "audition" him for the role of boyfriend (and perhaps something more) . I can't think of a better way to get to know someone than spending 8-9 hours with them on the trail in one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
So, I took Friday off work and we headed out early from Phoenix. We planned two stops along the way--an exploration of the Slate Lakes Lava Cave, as well as a quick trip to Red Mountain. Both ended up being fun side adventures, for which I wrote up separate, brief triplogs.
After our side trips, we dropped by the Ten-X campground south of Tusayan, where we would camp for the night, and scoped out our spot. Then, we headed into the park and out to the Desert View Watchtower, where we would meet up with my daughter and her boyfriend, who were driving down from southern Utah.
I had never been to the Watchtower before. It's a pretty impressive structure, as were the views. As for presumptive boyfriend, he greeted me with a handshake, but hugs all around for my wife and other kiddos.
After Desert View, we stopped at Lipan and Grandview points on our way back. I let boyfriend lead on the drive, and we all took bets in our car how fast he would drive. Would he go the speed limit? I placed my bet on 5 mph over--enough not to be an annoying stickler, but not so fast as to leave the impression he couldn't be trusted with my daughter's safety. My prediction played out--50 in a 45mph.
After enjoying the views, which were slightly hazy due to some control burns and perhaps the wind whipping up dust, we made our way over to the Backcountry Office, where we parked boyfriend's car. He and my daughter then piled into our Suburban and we headed back to the Ten-X campground.
We set up tents, and my 13-yo son was a good sport to volunteer to be BF's tent mate for the night. We enjoyed dinner, s'mores, and conversation around the campfire, as the full moon rose over the campground. Encouragingly, BF seemed to have a good sense of humor and reasonable intelligence.
After a pleasant night's sleep, we broke camp and were on the road by 7 am. Parked in the Visitor's Center parking lot, took the shuttle to the South Kaibab TH, and hit the trail shortly after 8 am. I had been down SK on a couple of other occasions on the first leg of a R2R, but had always begun before daylight. So, I was looking forward to seeing something more than a sign at "Ooh Ahh" point other than pitch darkness. Ironically, the sign was missing at the point, but the views weren't .
The descent was steep but beautiful. The only downside was the volume of hikers on the trail (on my early morning R2R trips, I typically see only one or two other hikers before Phantom Ranch). I think my favorite views along SK are just below Tip Off, where the the River first comes into view and you have that sweeping trail view of the dark red/magenta rock leading down into the inner canyon.
The river was running green and beautiful. We crossed the black bridge and headed over to the BA bathroom where we filled up on water; the girls enjoyed flush toilets; and we wandered up Bright Angel Creek, where we cooled our feet off in the creek, while enjoying lunch in the shade of the cottonwoods.
After lunch, we headed over the Silver Bridge, after which my youngest son and daughter (13 and 12) decided we were not moving along fast enough and took off. We didn't see them again till the top (they beat us by well over an hour).
Pipe Creek was running stronger than I had previously seen, and the BA drainage was quite lush and green.
I decided to take the old Devil's Corkscrew up Old BA, just to shake things up a bit. BF manned up and decided to come with me. I enjoyed the diversion. We rejoined the "new" trail where it intersected with Old BA. I've wanted to take Old BA all the way up to Tonto, but I was torn by the desire to explore the cascades of Garden Creek, off to the side of the "new" trail, as it rounds the prominence and circles back towards Indian Gardens. The latter option won out, and my oldest and BF joined me in the short side-trip down to the cascades. The water was running strong and the several "jacuzzi" pools proved irresistable. I tried each of them out for good measure and was very much refreshed. Meanwhile, BF and my daughter laughed at my enthusiasm and chased down lizards on the surrounding rocks.
The three of us caught up with my wife and third daughter at Indian Gardens. The approach to IG was again lush and green. There were a ton of hikers milling around IG and I found out later from my two youngest that, while they were there, the wind broke loose a large branch from the cottonwood tree that stands next to the water fountain and came crashing down on the fountain. Luckily, no one was injured.
The rest of the hike out was uneventful, though I'm always amazed at how long those last couple of miles seem ....
We topped out to the applause of our two youngest and then it was over to the Mather campground for showers and back to Maswick Lodge for dinner.
BF proved himself to be a strong hiker, enjoyable company, and basically a nice guy. And even though he's still clearly out of his league, and despite a semi-awkward "bro-hug" as we parted , I guess I'll let this relationship continue for now (... as if I had a choice ). After all, my wife and father-in-law took a pretty big chance on me 24 years ago , so I guess the least I can do is pass that chance onto the next generation of basically nice guys.