You know us by now and how we do things as cheap as possible. This was still in our "working days" so we only took one week to go to Arizona and the Grand Canyon was the main purpose for the visit. We used our Air Miles points to get us the flight and we took along our tent and sleeping bags to keep our budget on the low side.
We arrived in Phoenix and planned on spending a couple of days there before heading to the Grand Canyon. Kevin had done research before on the Grand Canyon and what to see and do. We both like hiking a lot so he was looking at all the hiking that can be done in the Grand Canyon. Do you realise that of all the people that go to visit the Grand Canyon, only 1% of those ever venture below the rim itself. Well we were going to be part of that 1%. Kevin found out that you can actually hike to the bottom of the canyon and then camp down there or stay at Phantom Ranch, in cabins or dorms. We decided this was something that we wanted to do.
Before we left Ottawa, Kevin had booked us a night in the dorms (male and female are separate) as the cabins were more pricey (the tent we brought with us was not the type of tent that you can backpack with) and it was only going to be for one night. He also booked us a dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for each of us for the hike out.
Can you see the trail switchbacking on itself all the way down this section?
On Friday we called Bright Angel Hotel to see if the trails would be open. They recommend that you go down the South Kaibab Trail and come back out on the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab Trail is much steeper and they don't recommend climbing out on this trail. We were told that the South Kaibab Trail would be open but not the Bright Angel, so if we wanted to do it, it would be a strenuous hike out, of course we said we would do it, we were just so happy to be able to go to begin with knowing that we may not have been able to do it.
So Saturday morning we drove to the trailhead and left the car there. In the slow season this is possible in high season they have buses that will take you there as there would be too many vechicles in the area. The first part of the trail was snowy and icy so we put on our Yaktrax or you could use crampons (they are highly suggested). There are NO barriers along the trail, just you and the trail. It is one mile straight down from the top of the canyon to the bottom, but about a 5 mile hike, LOTS of switchbacks. The trail is only about six feet wide, if that in spots, wide enough for the mules to go down. The view was spectacular! We figured it would take us about four hours or so to hike down. We carried lots of snacks and lots of water (this is a must, especially in the summer months). It was difficult to make good time because we had to stop around every new bend. Each time we turned a corner there was another beautiful view, so of course we had to stop and take a picture, but the pictures just don't catch the majesty of the canyon, and words just can't describe it.
About four and a half hours later we finally reach the bottom. I felt exhausted and that was just climbing down. You know what the problem with climbing down canyons is compared to climbing mountains. When you climb a mountain, you can turn around anytime you have had enough because the climb down will always be easier. When you climb down a canyon, you have no choice in the matter you HAVE to climb out, there is no other way. So Kevin and I both looked at each other and thought tomorrow we have to climb all the way back up, how are we going to do it?
Ranger station at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon
There is a wonderful area at the bottom where Phantom Ranch is. Lots of nice kept buildings, everything is brought in by mule trains, only in absolute emergencies will a helicopter land. There is a ranger station there as well as a campground. We went to the main building and sat down and had a beer! Got ourselves settled in the dorms and then went back to the main building to chat with other hikers. Dinner is done in two sittings we were in the earlier one and it was set out in long tables with everyone around them. Dinner was great and later we chatted again and played cards with some of the others.
Going back up!
It was a fantastic experience and I wish we had more time and a proper tent so that we could have stayed in the canyon longer. I guarantee that we will be back to do this again one day, we have the proper tent now. There are so many trails in the canyon that need to be explored and I want to see them. Now that we have the motorhome I am sure that we will spend a lot more time in that whole area.