Alarm clocks came early on departure day. We had a 5:30am breakfast scheduled and we wanted to maximize the energy we filled our bodies with before our hike back out of the canyon. It was still pitch black outside so I went out and grabbed a few last shots of the stars while my brother gazed at the early morning sky and the smell of bacon filled the air. The weather was probably about mid 5os and the skies clear so we anticipated a warm day ahead of us.
Faith, our breakfast host, welcomed us in to the canteen at 5:30 sharp and served us piping hot pancakes, fluffy eggs, big fat sausages and thick slabs of bacon all of which we were able to wash down with several cups of coffee. Like dinner this meal was pretty pricey but was very good and filling as it was all-u-can-eat. It was nice to not have to deal with making and cleaning up breakfast on departure morning as it allowed us to get an early start on our long hike out. Back at the cabin we packed up our bags including all of our trash (you have to pack out all your own trash from the Grand Canyon). We’d planned on leaving about 7:00, but we were all ready to go well before then so we decided to head out in the limited light of dawn.
Down at the Colorado River we crossed to the south side via the silver bridge then followed the river downstream for quite awhile along a very sandy trail lined with some fun oasis-like plants. It wasn’t long before we turned away from the river and began the long slog to the rim. The hiking temperature was perfect and we had a really nice pace going. Unlike our hike down into the canyon on the South Kaibab trail this hike followed and crisscrossed a stream which would allow you to carry much less water and just filter as you need it. If it was spring I suspect some of the stream crossing would have much higher water and could mean wet feet….but I can’t be sure.
Finally we met the sun as we made a ridge just above a really cool area of smooth rock carved by eons of running water and some nice vegetation. We figured (incorrectly we would later find out) this lush area was called Indian Gardens. We shed some layers in anticipation of the sun exposure and increasing temps of the day. While the rest of the team munched a few snacks I went down to try to grab some pictures of the neat little water falls below. Such a cool little area. It would be a really refreshing place to hang out for awhile on a really hot day!
Packs back on we continued on expecting the sweat to really start drenching our backs when, low and behold, we entered back into the shadows of the canyon walls. That little stint in the sun would turn out to be the last time we had direct sunlight until we reached the rim. And, with the increase in our altitude the air actually got cooler as we ascended out of the canyon. It turned out to be some of the most comfortable hiking weather I have ever had!! It was spectacular!
I had been using Strava to track all of our activity on this trip and today was no exception. We were making excellent time according to Strava. I kept checking our progress and thinking, “dang, we’re 3/4 done, we’re gonna be outta here before noon!”. About that time we came to the true Indian Gardens which sit pretty much at the half way point to the rim. WHAT?? Turns out that the GPS on my phone gets fooled in the tight canyons and was over estimating our abilities. Oh well. I felt physically really good. The trail had not been as steep as I expected and the cool temperature made for really comfortable hiking.
We continued along the trail into towards what seemed to be a dead end at a sheer wall. But as we got closer to what seemed the end of the canyon the zig zagging trail up the cliff face appeared. Yet, the trail never seemed to be overly steep. When we were 3 miles from the rim our phones started picking up signal and the dinging and donging of my phone almost made me turn around and head back into the wireless dead zone where real life can be enjoyed. But I texted Steph to let her know that we were safe and sound and almost out of the canyon.
Uncle Rick was apologizing for the slow pace, but he was keeping an amazing pace if you ask me. If I can even consider such a trip when I’m his age I’ll consider myself pretty bad ass. As we neared the top I picked up the pace ahead of the other 4 so I could go get the van and bring it over to the Bright Angel lodge parking lot. As I made the rim the warm sun felt good on my air cooled skin. However, just moments before I’d been in the tranquility of the trail and now I found myself amongst the throngs of tourons wandering aimlessly around the Bright Angel Circus….I mean Lodge. But I’d just completed an amazing trip, in an amazing place with 4 amazing dudes and I found myself grinning inside and out as I considered the last few days of adventure.
We stopped in at the lounge at the lodge for some beer and chicken wings. With some smooth talking from Tom, our waitress Dee ended up warming up to us and eventually sitting down at our table and sharing her life story with us. She also gave us a tip on a great BBQ joint in Flagstaff. With that we loaded into the van and headed to town where we showered at our hotel and made a beeline for Satchmo’s. Dee’s recommendation was spot on and we thouroughly enjoyed our meal here. Bellies satisfied it was time for bed so we could get an early start on the long drive home tomorrow. The drive home the next day went smooth and quick as we made minimal stops. Mom made us dinner at home in Colorado Springs which was a nice break before Joe and I made the final leg of our trip to Longmont. I made it home in time to say goodnight to the kids and Joe made it home in time to start dealing with a mysterious water leak in his basement!!
I highly recommend a trip to the bottom of the canyon and, if you can, a stay at Phantom Ranch. But if you can spend more than 2 nights DO IT!! You really need to spend several days down there in my opinion. I hope to take my family in the near future and hopefully we can make a longer trip of it.
Below are a selection of our photos from the last day but you can see ALL the photos and videos at the album here.
Leaving the oasis
Todd on the edge
Century up close
I don't get it?