We woke up Monday morning to rain, thunder and lightning. I was feeling a little anxious and not really wanting to venture out on an overnight hike in this type of weather. We actually called to see if we could push our reservation back a day, but there were no vacancies. Apparently, you have to book the Phantom Ranch several months in advance. They even have a lottery system to try and make it fairer to get a reservation. We didn’t know it at the time, but the only reason we were able to get a reservation was because the mules had gotten ill. Any people who planned on riding up and down into the canyon on a mule had to reschedule. As a result, we were able to get in.
We decided to wait inside our trailer to see if the weather would change, and it did. In hindsight, having mostly cloudy weather was actually a gift. We got a late start, but at least the thunder and lightning had dissipated.
We started our descent at the top of South Kaibob trailhead.
We were wearing our rain gear since it was still drizzling on and off. You can see the clouds that engulfed us at times.
The sun was beginning to peak out while the view would only get more intense as we continued down the trail.
We ran into two mule-team drivers carrying supplies, and we briefly spoke to them. We were still unaware of the sick mules.
I recorded some of our conversation.
In the next photo you can see the winding trail that these mules had just come up and that WE would be walking down.
Time for a selfie with a view.
It was at this point that we had our first decent sighting of the Colorado River. Due to lots of rain, the water was a brownish, muddy color.
Not long after, we could see one of two suspension bridges that cross over the river.
If you look at the picture below and follow the bridge from left to right and zoom in, you can see the tunnel entrance on the trail that would lead us onto the bridge.
Once over the bridge, you get a good view of what was once a thriving Bright Angel Pueblo community.
Now we began the last half “flat” mile to Phantom Ranch.
Unfortunately, I never took any pictures of the lodge or our sleeping quarters. Phantom Ranch had one large building (the lodge) where breakfast and dinner meals if purchased up front, were served family style. They also sold beverages, snacks, and gifts. There were a bunch of small cabins that could sleep four in two bunk beds, and larger cabins slept ten in five bunk beds. Each cabin had one private bathroom and a separate private shower. I slept in a ladies ten-bed cabin and Scott slept in the men’s. It brought back memories of my Girl Scout leader training days.
Out steak dinner Monday night was delicious! Baked potato, broccoli, salad, and cornbread came with it. On Tuesday morning, we had the 5:00 a.m. time slot for breakfast. When we finished eating, it was still dark outside as we began what we thought would be an 8-10 hour hike. We were going up, after all, and the sign says to double the time it takes you to go down to hike back up. Off we went into the quiet, dark early morning with the hopes of finishing in ten hours
Thank goodness for headlamps!
Our ascent would be via the Bright Angel Trail. It was two miles longer than South Kaibab Trail but supposedly not as steep. Both South Kaibob and Bright Angel begin at the top of the canyon and end at the Colorado River. You can take one trail both ways or hike each one way. South Kaibob is shorter but steeper, which is why we chose to hike down it up Bright Angel. After crossing over another suspension bridge, we made our way along this unknown trail in the dark. The sun would soon begin to rise, and I welcomed the natural light.
At 1.5 miles, there was the first of two rest stops. We took a short break to take in our surroundings. We had been walking near a creek for awhile now, and the sound of flowing water is music to my ears.
We were back on the trail again and wondering when the we would actually start gaining some real elevation.
This route, so far, was not very challenging as the elevation gain was pretty gradual. Before long, Scott was first to spot a small waterfall .
At about 4.7 miles into the hike, we passed through Indian Garden, a beautiful oasis that was a special place for both the Native Americans and people seeking peace and quiet today. It is another popular camping location in the canyon.
Notice the lush greens.
At this point, we began to feel the elevation gain.
Here we are looking back on the winding trail we had just climbed.
Finally, we saw the first of two tunnels which meant we were closer to the end. Follow the brown dirt trail on the right from the foreground and it will lead to the tunnel.
And now another look back. We’ve come a long way baby!
Before we knew it, there was the second tunnel. My pace picked up at this point. The end is near.
One more selfie…
One more look…
We were tired when we got to the top, but it wasn’t as challenging as I imagined it would be. We finished in just over five hours, the same time it took us to go down less miles. We kept up a good pace, and there were only a few sections where the incline slowed us down.
We did it!