Who really wants to admit they have a bucket list, but I do. Being able to hike in the Grand Canyon has always been on the top of my list. Growing up in rural Wisconsin one can only dream of a landscape that feels like something out of a western movie. Desert winds, shadow canyons, mules, and ravens who speak to you.
Paul and I called the Bright Angel Lodge in high hopes of a cancellation. We lucked out and were told to arrive by the next morning (7 am) for the waiting list. We drove from Santa Fe as fast as we could and got to the Grand Canyon on time. We could stay at Phantom Ranch in a cabin!
We parked the van at the Mather campground and packed our bags to hike down. It was a 3.3 mile hike just to get to Kaibab Trail Head. There we put on our micro spikes because of snow and ice on the steep top part of the trail. We had shorts on but it got warm soon enough down the trail and we were thankful. We enjoyed dropping lower into the depths and feeling more and more like we were becoming enveloped in the landscape. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get down (7 miles) but we ooohed and aaahed the whole way.
Crossing the Colorado River and heading up to Phantom Ranch, we both knew how lucky we were to be in this special place. The weather was now about 70 degrees and we could sit outside with feet in the creek.
Our cabin was rustic but almost an extravagance when you think of how much effort it took to build one here.
(thank you Mary Colter) The food was family style, hearty, and delicious. You could order wine or beer(which we did) and play games or cards until the wee hours (defined here as 10pm).
Paul and I both woke with sore legs but I was able to shake out a short run. Up the rushing bright angel creek starting in the dark and watching the sky lighten the canyon walls. I got back in time for a communal breakfast with plenty of coffee, eggs, pancakes, fruit, bacon etc.. to motivate you or move you to nap. We left around 8 am to hike up Bright Angel Trail (9.8 miles) thinking it would take us more time than the descent.
This trail was a surprise in that it was mostly accompanied by water, first the Colorado River and then heading upward we zigzagged across Garden creek and Pipe creek to the Indian Garden Campground. This was the only water stop along the way at this time of year.
From there it is switchbacks up, up , and up getting cooler as you go. By the time we reached the top (4 hours) it was windy and cold. A shuttle bus gladly took us back to the campground.
The next day we rode our bikes to Hermit’s Rest. More views from the top with vista points that left me feeling overwhelmed. I was still awe struck and loved watching colors on canyon walls change with the sun and cloud shadows.
The intimacy was gone though. It was nothing liked being deep in the heart of the grandest canyon.