I have been staying with my dad in Las Vegas for the last several weeks, so it only made sense to finally plan a trip to the amazing cayon since it is only about a 4-hour drive from Sin City. Unfortunately, most adventures in the outdoors actually require having some amount of appropriate gear for the particular adventure. Given that almost everything that I own (including my camping gear, skiing gear, and climbing gear) is still in Scotland, planning a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon seemed a little bit ambitious. As luck would have it, however, I happened upon a phenomenal Garage Sale at REI. They were selling off all of their rental program gear because people didn’t really utilize the program. Fortunately for me, I was able to come by a new sleeping bag, nearly new tent, and a new backpack for the grand total of $120...79% savings! Suddenly I found myself fully equipped to go on a backpacking adventure!
|New gear all ready to head down to the river|
December/January can be an unpredictable time to visit the high desert of Arizona. As it turns out, Mother Nature decided to ring in the New Year with a big winter snowstorm. The rim of the Canyon received 9-12”, and they even got snow at Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor...not something that happens very often. I decided to hold out for a few days to let the snow melt a bit and to let the temperatures warm up a little bit, too. Although my $28 got a pretty nice REI sleeping bag, it is still only rated to 25º!
I arrived at the Backcountry Office at 8:00 sharp to obtain the necessary permit to camp in the canyon and then set off with the other backpackers braving the icy winter conditions on the trail. I decided to hike in on the South Kaibab trail that gives phenomenal views of the canyon to the east. It was a beautifully sunny day, and I really enjoyed the steep hike into Bright Angel Campground/Phantom Ranch.
On the shuttle bus to the trailhead, I happened to meet three guys from Austin, TX: Bob, Bear, and Bob’s Brother-In-Law (BBIL). As they continued telling their stories, I realized that these guys were quite the characters! Bob (61) had previously spent at least 50 days in the canyon and was clearly the trip leader and canyon expert, and this was BBIL’s (65) first visit. Bear (71) was returning for his 3rd time to the canyon...since the time that he had a heart attack part of the way up the North Rim Trail and still walked out! I set off before they did and didn’t see them again until the bottom.
|Added bound of getting to see the rim blanketed in snow on|
the south side...
|...and sunshine and no snow on the north side!|
I really enjoyed all of the interesting geology and different rock formations that are so prevalent throughout the canyon. Additionally, it felt like an added bonus to have so much snow blanketing the beautiful red sandstone!
|1st view of the mighty Colorado River|
|Home is where you set it up|
|Bear, BBIL, Bob|
|The morning mule train bringing in the steaks for the|
fancy folks' dinner
Unfortunately, I only had time to spend one night in the canyon so I headed back up the next morning. I wanted to make the most of my time, so I planned an ambling route to get back to the South Rim. From the campground, I headed out on the River Trail and connected up with the bottom section of the South Kaibab trail.
From there, I traversed across the midway
plateau on the much less traveled Tonto trail that connects the South Kaibab
trail with Bright Angel. I really enjoyed this section of the hike, as I didn’t
see a single other person! As it turns out, I quite enjoy experiencing nature
without anyone else around! The Tonto trail joins back up with the Bright Angel Trail near the Indian Garden
campground. From here, it was about 4.5 miles back to the Canyon Village on
fully snow packed trails.
|Where you go to get away from the people|
I was mildly amused by the range of characters that I ran into once I got fairly close to the top. Several people were “amazed” that I could have hiked “all the way” from the canyon bottom with such a big pack in just one day. Others had grand allusions of hiking all the way to the river and back that afternoon in their leather jackets, Toms trainers, and inexplicably absent water bottles! I had to highly discourage them from their plans, suggesting that the round trip might actually take them upwards of about 12-14 hours! Since almost everyone I know is very adventure savvy, I often forget that a lot of people have no idea what hiking 9.5 miles down and 9.5 miles back with about a mile of elevation loss/gain actually entails!
I made it back to the rim and headed to one of the overlooks in plenty of time to truly enjoy the sunset and the amazing colors that the Canyon has to offer once the sun starts going down. It was truly incredible to see how the colors changed as the light from the sunset started doing its desert dance!!
|Sunset beauty to the east|
|Sunset beauty to the west...almost looks like the Serengeti|
(at least how I imagine it looks!)