We're back from paradise but...; but, I'm already planning my next two trips.
Sometimes I wonder if I would ever get enough and be ready to say no more hiking and backpacking. I rarely get excited but I looked forward to this adventure with growing anticipation. The trip was planned about a year and a half ago for August 2007 but the reservations were changed to avoid the heat of summer that is over 110 degrees.
The Group. (Larger version)
Kevin, on the left in the photo above, was the central person in the group. He and Julie used to work together. Soria, next in line, is from Ecuador and works with Kevin's wife. Allen is an accountant who lives near Chicago. By coincidence Michelle, next in line, is also an accountant and works at the university in St. Paul, Minnesota. On the right are Julie and myself.
Kevin, Allen and Michelle met in Colorado a few years and stayed in touch. They've taken other trips together and have more planned for the future. I asked Michelle how she got into backpacking. "I was at a conference in Las Vegas. A group of us rented a car and drove to the canyon. When I saw it I said to myself I've got to get in there!" Allen likes mountaineering. He's climbed some peaks. He attempted the highest peak in Mexico and make it over 17,000 feet when the altitude got the better of him. I've experienced altitude sickness only once and know what he felt and why he chose to stay behind while the others in the group climbed the remaing 2,000 feet to the peak.
Our destination isn't visible. (Larger version)
We met by the fireplace in Bright Angel Lodge and took the 9AM shuttle to the North Kaibab trailhead. The trail is 7.2 miles in length from the top to Phantom Ranch on the far side of the Colorado River. The trail descends 4,714 feet in altitude.
Mules and Riders. (Larger version)
Adventurous people weighing less than 200 pounds can take a mule trip. Notice the third mule in the photo above. He's carrying a small girl but he was hurting. As we watched him pass going uphill he was lagging behind the second mule, his head was drooping, his tongue was hanging out and his feet were dragging over logs on the trail that prevent erosion.
More Switchbacks. (Larger version)
"How are the knees?" I asked. He appeared to be in his sixties and wasn't carrying a pack. He used two trekking poles and was cautious with each step. "They've given out" he replied. "I owe my brother a couple beers for carrying my pack." I look ahead and saw his brother, who may have been an older brother, with a pack on each shoulder. Hiking downhill quickly becomes painful. Knees begin to ache. Years ago I knew when I had gone five miles because that's when the pain began. Now, it starts within the first mile. Good boots that are broken in, fit well and laced tight prevent blisters and lost toenails. Six years ago Julie and I hiked to Havasu Falls in the western part of the canyon. She lost the nails on both large toes from boots that were too small. On this trip neither of us had problems with our feet. We kept going down and ignored the knee pain.
Three Hikers on a Red Trail. (Larger version)
The immensity of the canyon is somewhat incomprehensible. It's 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. It's awesome to stand on the edge of a cliff and look straight down 1000, 2000 or even 3000 feet. Can you see Kevin, Michelle and Allen on the trail in the center of the photo above?
Final Switchbacks to the River. (Larger version)
The final switchbacks that lead to the river made me think of lemonade. The canteen at Phantom Ranch sells what has to be the best lemonade I've ever had. When we arrived and Julie checked her hydration pack she found water in the hose but not in the bag. She was one drink short of emptying it. There is no water on the South Kaibab so we had to carry enough for the entire trip. After warm water the cold lemonade is refreshing.
If you look at the larger version of the photo above you can see a building and trees in the side canyon that leads a short distance to the campground and Phantom Ranch. Also, there are people on the beach.
Black Bridge. (Larger version)
There are two bridges over the river. The South Kaibab leads to the black bridge which was built in 1928. Is is used by hikers and mules. The south end of the bridge leads into a short curved tunnel. There is a newer silver bridge a short distance to the west that was designed to support a water line that carries water to the south rim. Hikers but not mules use the silver bridge.
Looking Back Across the River. (Larger version)
The sides of the canyons and the area along the river were covered with scattered flowers. The canyon walls on the south side of the river show the difficulty of constructing trails. There is a trail visible in the photo above that was constructed with hard labor.
Home for Two Nights. (Larger version)
This is the first time I've stayed in the dorms which are segregated into men's and women's, ten people per dorm. Someone asked if I knew the others in the dorm. The answer is no other than Kevin and Allen. Meeting strangers is part of the adventure.
Well, that's the trip to Phantom Ranch. On my next post I'll have photos of the ranch itself.