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October 2019
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Grand Canyon Day 1

After another tasty breakfast Monday morning in Sedona, we drove back to the Phoenix airport to pick up Dan. We then headed back north to the Grand Canyon. We arrived about 3:30 in the afternoon and our trip organizer, Hanley, met us in the parking lot with keys to our rooms at the Bright Angel Lodge. After a quick unpacking Susan, Dan, and I headed for quick walk along the rim before dinner.

Susan at Grand Canyon

Susan at Grand Canyon

Susan and Brian at rim. Bright Angel trail visible below.

Susan and Brian at rim. Bright Angel trail visible below.

After our hike all five of us headed to the lodge for dinner. Since we had a 5:30 breakfast call the next morning in order to catch the 7:00 am bus to our trailhead, we went back to our rooms right after dinner to finalize packing and get some much needed sleep.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast of bagels, muffins, and coffee and boarded the express bus to the South Kaibab trailhead. The day’s hike was a little over 7 miles with 5000 feet of elevation loss down the South Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch where we would all stay for two nights. At 7:30 am the temperature at the rim was in the 40s and it was clear and breezy. As we descended the temperatures would quickly rise.

We posed for a quick “before” photo and then started down the switchbacking trail into the canyon. The trail started on the side of the canyon wall and quickly descended down through the rock layers until we reach the aptly named Ooh-Ah point.

(L to R) Dan, Steve, Susan, Brian, Hanley

(L to R) Dan, Steve, Susan, Brian, Hanley


Down we go!

Down we go!


Rock layers at top of canyon

Rock layers at top of canyon

Before we reached Ooh-Ah point there was some trail clearing equipment off to the side of the trail. I decided the pickax looked fun and posed for a photo to lighten the mood.

RAWR!

RAWR!

Once we reached Ooh-Ah Point we had a steady set of views that frequently spanned 270 or more degrees. We could see the trail ahead of us in many places until it descended off the plateau and disappeared from sight. We could also look far to the west and see the trail we would ascend two days later.

Brian and Susan about halfway down South Kaibab trail

Brian and Susan about halfway down South Kaibab trail

Just before we reached the halfway point of the descent we got our first glimpse of the Colorado River far below us. While we were stopped to eat and drink at the halfway point we were passed by the first mule train. Our trail was under maintenance and the only mule trains were those carrying supplies to the rangers at Phantom Ranch.

First view of Colorado River

First view of Colorado River


Halfway there

Halfway there


Here burro, burro, burro!

Here burro, burro, burro!


Hi, Dan!

Hi, Dan!

As we continued to descend we continued to catch glimpses of the trail and river below. Eventually we got our first glimpse of Phantom Ranch where we would be staying while at the bottom.

At one point in the descent I spotted two coyotes at a mule hitching point down the switchbacks a few hundred feet below us. We waited and watched as hikers rounded the corner and approached this area. From above we could see the coyotes go from scavenging mode into slinking mode as they checked out the newcomers from a safe distance. It was fascinating to see how the coyotes reacted and hid in the bush and rocks so they would not be seen. It was a great sighting and a reminder that we were in the wilderness.

Phantom Ranch is on the north side of the Colorado River and we were approaching from the south. In order to cross, there are two suspension bridges, the Black Bridge and the Silver Bridge. The South Kaibab trail takes you through a short tunnel and then across the Black Bridge for the final 3/4 mile into Phantom Ranch.

Black bridge from above

Black bridge from above


Silver bridge from black bridge approach

Silver bridge from black bridge approach


Brian and Susan on Black bridge

Brian and Susan on Black bridge

We arrived at Phantom Ranch around 2pm and checked in. The Ranch itself is made up of a common area with a large kitchen (the canteen) where they have tables for approximately 50 and serve meals, sell light snacks and first aid items, and where people can sit around and play cards or chat. The rest of the Ranch is primarily small bunkhouses that sleep 10 people and have their own toilet and shower. There is also a ranger station, a corral for the mule trains, and a set of tentsites by the Bright Angel Creek.

Once checked in we unpacked into our bunks, grabbed a snack and a drink, and sat and chatted amongst ourselves about the hike down and the plans for the rest of the week.

Stay tuned for Part 2

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