Monday, 26 October 2015

Grand Canyon - day 2

The plan for today was simple - go down to the Canyon, and get back before 6 pm, to catch the shuttle back to Flagstaff.
There is a trail called Bright Angel Trail, that connects South Rim with the North Rim, over the course of 37 km and about 1500m down and up.
My original plan was to do this trail one way on the first day, and come back on the next day. But the North Rim Lodge closes in mid October, and it requires booking well in advance (I suppose half a year isn't too much). So in the end I decided to explore the South Rim on the first day (which I already did), and just go down and up on the second day.

There are several points along the Bright Angel Trail, that guides are recommending to hike to. In the official Grand Canyon guide they are all listed, with distances, estimated times to complete, and difficulty level. The hike to Indian Garden (925 m down, 14.4 km) is described as "very difficult", and - according to the guide - takes 6 to 9 hours. Then, from Indian Garden, you can continue to Plateau Point - total of 940 m down, 19.5 km, 9-12 hours, "very difficult" as well.
From the Indian Garden you can also carry on on the Bright Angel Trail, towards Colorado River and Phantom Ranch (which is just across the river). You can stay there, or you can continue to the North Rim. Or you can come back. But, there are those signs everywhere:

Well, I didn't need any more encouragement to go to the river and back. The guide also says that you should allow more-less twice as much time for coming up, than it took you to get down.

So I thought, if I leave at 8 am, I have 10 hours to do the round trip. Should be enough.
And it was. Sorry to disappoint you, but there won't be any dramatic events, nothing that would make your heart stop. It was very pleasant hike, the weather was fantastic, the views were breathtaking.
The whole thing - about 33 km, 1500 m down, 1500 m up, took me about 7 hours. 3:15 to get to the Phantom Ranch, and just under 3:30 to get back. I was quite surprised that going up was almost as fast as going down, probably altitude training before that have worked after all.

Have some pictures first, and let me tell you more about hiking the Grand Canyon:

Basically, it's all the time either up or down. I'm actually glad that my initial plan of doing rim-to-rim and back didn't work out. I was planning to run this, but - unless you're a mountain runner - it's not the best place to run. Not only going down (or up) all the time, but also quite easy to trip, twist an ankle, fall off the cliff, or get run over by a mule. So definitely not a good training ground for a non-mountain runner.

The first part - about 7 km - takes you down to the Indian Garden. There are a couple of rest points in between, where you can get some water. Then the area around Indian Garden is reasonably flat. The Garden itself is amazing - it used to be cultivated by Native Americans for centuries, as it has a reliable source of water. It's a true oasis - you get there, and suddenly you're surrounded by beautiful, thriving green plants.

Until Indian Garden, you can meet quite a few people. I think I was passing hikers every couple of minutes. From Indian Garden, if you decide to go towards the river and Phantom Ranch, there is almost no one on the trail. A few people coming from the other direction, who camped at the Ranch.
It's actually a shame that so few people choose to continue towards the river, as I think this part of the hike is even more scenic. The landscape is more dynamic, after every turn there's something new and different, constant play of light and shadow.

Finally, there is Colorado River:

From there it's only half an hour walk across the bridge to the Phantom Ranch. There are a few lodges for hikers, and a camping ground. It seems like a popular resting point for people doing the rim-to-rim hike. Again, as with the North Rim Lodge, it requires booking well in advance, if you want to stay at the lodge at Phantom Ranch.
Also, as all the guides say, if you're going to go down to the canyon for longer, you should take a means of treating the water, as the pipes are breaking from time to time. That was the case when I arrived at Phantom Ranch - there was no drinking water there. Fortunately I had enough with me to get me back to Indian Garden.

On my way back, I took a rest at Indian Garden. Met a squirrel there. There are signs everywhere, telling you to "Keep the wildlife - wild" and not to feed squirrels.
Clearly, it's not the hikers who should to be the main audience of those signs, as that's squirrels that fail to recognise their wildness:

Squirrels are even more common than mules here. And mules are common. At least judging by the amount of mule shit on the trail. I met only one group of mules on my way - a group of tourists on a popular mule ride down the canyon, but probably it's enough to leave their trail, if they're doing this every day.

On the way back, my main occupation was to watch how the Canyon is changing depending on the lighting. It looks quite different in the morning light, in the high sun of the midday, and in the lowering sunlight of the afternoon. That alone is worth spending a day down there.

I got back to the Grand Canyon Village just after 3 pm, so I had enough time to learn the day's lesson: 16-inches pizza is _almost_ too big for one person.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, your pics are awesome, although I'm glad I didn't come with you because I'm not sure I could have done this "very difficult" hike at your pace...