Thursday, March 5, 2009

4 Day Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

Basic plan – Drive to South Rim. Park Car. Take Shuttle to North Rim. Hike to Cottonwood, then Bright Angel, then to Indian Garden Campgrounds, and then back to the car. Reservations are required at all campgrounds and for the shuttle.

To the North Rim, Sunday September 3 2006
We happened to park next to a Transcanyon Shuttle and ate our lunch on a nearby picnic table. As we were eating, Chris, the driver, arrived. He invited us to put our packs on the van and then invited us to ride up to Bright Angel Lodge with him. Chris looks like Santa Claus. Summer job perhaps? At the BA Lodge we were joined by 9 other people plus another van full. In our van there were 3 people who had just finished their hike and were going back to their car. The rest of us were going to start our hikes the next day. Some people had reservations for beds at Phantom Ranch so they were going to travel very light and intended to get to the Ranch in one day. The rest were only going to Cottonwood on the first day. Some people had meal reservations at Phantom to compliment their Bright Angel Campground reservations. This took many calls to pick up spots from cancellations. We arrived at the North Rim at 5:30 and checked into our rustic cabin. We enjoyed the sun setting until our dinner reservation at the lodge. Lights out at 9. Norm too cold. Bonnie too hot.

Down to Cottonwood, Monday September 4
Arose at 5, prepared and ate oatmeal in our cabin. Caught the 6:15 shuttle to the trail head along with 7 others. The three fellows with day packs were going all the way to Phantom Ranch. The other party was a mother with her adult daughter, son and daughter in law. We saw them several times throughout the day. It was about 60 degrees at the top. We were first to start down and saw two deer almost immediately. Just before lunch another hiker drew our attention to a small rattle snake right next to the trail. We saw many lizards that would scurry away and then stop and do a few pushups. We enjoyed all the colors in the rock as well as the effects of the desert varnish. We saw a wrangler bring down an empty mule and then bring a (presumably injured) hiker back up. We met a strung out party from NY and California; all ages and sizes. We met a volunteer from Tennessee with a ranger shirt. Her job was to assist hikers and keep them from doing anything dumb, like hiking down further than they could hike back up. We passed her later as she assisted a hiker. She gave us advice about the Roaring Springs side trail: “Don’t bother, there really isn’t a good view.” She also told us where we could access the creek if we needed it. She told us a little about Maverick, the gentlemen who is 79 years old and is crossing the canyon 79 times this year. We stopped for lemonade at the pump house and added water to our bottles there. The mother and daughter-in-law caught up with us there. The mother was packless. Evidently her son was carrying his and her packs down. She had been stressed by the heat. The daughter-in-law waited with her for a while and then went back up the trail to assist her husband. By the time they got to camp at 6pm, Mom had her own pack again and everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

We made good time to the Coconino lookout and to the tunnel and then slowed somewhere in the Redwall. We rested in the shade several times. We stopped for lunch way down in the Bright Angel Shale at about 11:30. We arrived at Cottonwood at about 2:30. We walked past several sites but dropped our packs at No. 6 due to the excellent shade. Bonnie was very ready to be done for the day. We took a very refreshing dip in the Bright Angel Creek with many others who were camping at Cottonwood. We rinsed our clothes. We took a nice nap on the picnic table at our campsite. We were pretty happy with our new Camelbacks. Bonnie had the beginning of trouble with a few of her toes which eventually turned black. We had the amazing freeze dried chicken breasts for dinner. They start out like graham crackers and then turn back into real chicken.

Down to Bright Angel CG, Tuesday
Up at 5am with the alarm. On the trail by 6:45. Saw two more mule deer just out of camp. First stop, Ribbon Falls. We left our packs near the main trail. We had the falls to ourselves for about 20 minutes. It’s really a beautiful and unique place. Guys from Texas and NY joined us, and we took their pictures in the little cave in the travertine. We sent via e-mail. After hiking each hour we rested for 15 minutes. We had lunch under a rock overhang which gave us needed shade. Bonnie enjoyed the complex make up of the rock with schist, granite, mica, etc. As the temperature increased, the day got long. Norm kept looking for the bridges and Phantom Creek. We ran out of water just past where Phantom Creek joins Bright Angel. We found a shady spot and were happy to have the excuse to get wet in the creek. Norm filtered about 2 liters and drank as much as he could stand. People told us we were just about to camp but we were happy to take the break.

We were equally happy to have a lemonade and a cool tea once we reached Phantom Ranch. What a busy place with hikers, mule riders, and river rafters coming and going. Took Bonnie’s picture under the thermometer near the campground bridge. It read 120 degrees. We took site No.3 on the creek side of the trail and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the creek. We had Pad Tai freeze dry dinner. We will try not to buy that again. Too many competing tastes and too spicy. After dinner we walked down to the boat beach and put our toes in the Colorado River. It was running quite brown and so there was no temptation to jump in. We then went a ranger talk about bats. It was humorous and interesting. Of the 38 species of bats in North America, 36 eat bugs. Great. The other two each fruit. None drink blood. We had seen 3 dead or dying bats on the trail. We went to bed about 8:30 but slept poorly due to the heat. Neither zipper on the tent would go past half way so we were completely vulnerable to bugs, but had fortunately no problems. Time for a new tent.

Up to Indian Garden, Wednesday
Arose at 5am and were on the trail by 6:40. First two miles are up and down and sandy. The trail gives up all the elevation you gain. We were passed by the “Bat” ranger from last night’s talk. We passed him as he stopped to help some other hikers. We took a refreshing break in the shade next to Pipe Creek. Bonnie soaked her bandana. We were in 100% shade until 8:45 and then in and out of the shade all the way up to IG. Again we stopped for 15 minutes after hiking each hour. The middle third of the trail is swithch backing through the schist and granite. Seeps in the schist supported pools with tadpoles. As we broke into the Tapeats Sandstone, we rejoined Pipe Creek and enjoyed the resulting plants, trees and birds. We took a 45 minute break, and might have even napped a bit. Flies make a decent nap difficult.

We met the “Bat” ranger. He was coming down but he had never passed us on the trail. He got a chuckle from our quizzical looks and explained that he had come up an old trail along the old pipeline over by Plateau Point. He says some climbing is required.

We were into IG by 11:20am. Few sites were occupied at that point. We had lunch at our shady campsite. Bonnie washed her hair. Norm walked out to Plateau Point. With no pack and on level ground, it seemed like quite a short hike. It got cold and windy and rained big drops for just a few minutes. Nice pictures of the morning’s climb as well as Horn Creek Rapid where Norm’s raft flipped in 1994. Definitely worth the walk. Bonnie was alarmed by the weather change and pulled some of the gear back under the shelter.

Didn’t see very many people on the trail today. The first couple seemed to have a day on the beach in mind since they were carrying a patio umbrella. We passed three women who were soaking in Pipe Creek. They asked if hysterical laughter was a sign of heat stroke. Caught up with a young woman who clearly had a “bad” knee. Her friend was carrying both packs. We still couldn’t keep up with them. The three hysterical women arrived in camp at about 4:30. Two of them had some of the third woman’s gear. They were still having a good time. They all collapsed and fell asleep by 6pm but then woke up about midnight and made dinner.

We had Chicken Teriyaki with Wild Rice but Norm wasn’t Wild about it. Bonnie shared an orange to improve the meal. Nothing is as good as an orange in the desert. We shared Norm’s melted Toblerone Chocolate for dessert while we played Trivia. We took a walk around the campground, and enjoyed the cooler temperature. Due to the rain we hung the packs inside the shelter instead of on the varmit-proof hanger. Norm spotted a mouse in the roof beams but in the morning there was no sign that the mouse had bothered the packs. All of the food and garbage was in the ammo boxes provided by the NPS. All three campgrounds provided ammo boxes.

On to the South Rim, Thursday
We awoke to overcast skies. We hoped for the overcast to stick around but not yield any rain. We started playing “tag” with a younger couple from Austin TX. We took each other’s pictures. We saw many day hikers with a great array of clothing, water and food supplies or lack thereof. We met a young couple who were dressing in black and who had no food or water. They were already beyond Mile-and-a Half House. They assumed there would be a store at Indian Gardens. We encouraged them to turn around soon and Bonnie gave them her plastic bottle with some water.

Norm had just mentioned jokingly, “When we meet the Grandmother from India carrying a baby, we are almost at the top”, when we met a middle aged couple from India. They had hiked all the way beyond Three-Mile House, in street shoes and long pants but they did not have a baby. We rested just beyond Mile-and-a-Half House. Norm looked down the side of the slope and saw two, unopened one pound cans of Spam. He imitated a girl saying “I just can’t carry them any farther.” Bonnie pointed out that no girl would be carrying Spam, so they must have been abandoned by a guy. We had a good laugh. We passed a group who was doing trail maintenance. We thanked them. We met another volunteer in a ranger shirt, who was hiking the trail to assist and to keep people from trying to do more than they could actually do. We suggested he look for the couple in black. They eventually caught up with us and passed us going up. They had wisely turned around soon after we met them the first time. Near the top we heard, “Why is the trail muddy. It hasn’t rained.” Thank the mules for that. We met a total of five mule trains, all at spots where it was easy for us to get out of the way. We spotted the petroglyphs, up on the left before the second tunnel. We reached the trailhead sign which is a mandatory photograph, but there was no one there to take out picture. Bonnie heard voices above and she asked a person to come down and take our picture. We got our picture, but it started to rain right at that moment. We hustled up to Bright Angel Lodge before we got too wet. We looked for Rim-to-Rim T shirts but couldn’t find them in our sizes.

We ran into the Austin couple at the showers near the Mather Campground. Norm gave Bonnie 4 quarters for the shower. Too bad the price had gone up to 6 quarters. We had lunch in Tusayan and were on the highway by 3 and down to Phoenix by 6:30.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Uncle Norm - Thanks for posting this one . . I've been waiting:-) As you probably know, this is the trip dad is taking Amy and I on. I've been doing dayhikes every weekend trying to prepare (and as much during the week as possible). It's nice to see what I'm actually preparing for! I love reading your posts, it's always very interesting to see where dad has been, etc. Thanks!