Sunday, April 14, 2019
What a day! This morning I booked my flight back home for Saturday morning — I’m so excited to finish this long journey! Then it was time to hop on the first shuttle to the GC.
I had to leave a bunch of food and some new toiletries in my hotel room because I just couldn’t carry it all. I left a note saying it was all free for the taking. Hope someone can use it.
There is a special hiker shuttle that heads straight to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It was full. This trail, and the Bright Angel, are the two paths down to the Colorado River. The AZT runs down the South Kaibab.
I interviewed a few people during the bus ride — I am working, you know! — and then headed on down.
It’s hard to describe how beautiful this place is. The canyon itself, the colors, the vastness. The light was great in the morning and I kept taking photos. I’ve been to the adjacent Havasu Canyon, which is also beautiful, but the Grand Canyon is, well, much grander! Sometimes size does matter.
You might think walking downhill for 7 miles is easy, but it’s not. There are many steps built in the path, but they’re not typical step height/length and that’s hard. A lot of the footing is slippery. And it was quite warm today.
It was shortly after noon when I crossed one of the bridges over the Colorado and was officially on the canyon floor.
I expected the amenities down here to be upscale, but they aren’t. The Bright Angel campground is a normal campground. And the famous Phantom Ranch? It’s expensive to stay here, and I heard a cup of lemonade is $4. I pictured it to be a massive, upscale lodge.
Nope. It’s a bunch of plain-looking cabins, and I didn’t even see a dining facility where this expensive lemonade is sold.
With another 7+ miles to get to Cottonwood Campground, where I’m staying, I decided to put my head down and keep hiking rather than poke around Phantom Ranch. Turned out to be a good call.
I was told the path starts climbing up to the North Rim the minute you cross the Colorado, but very gently. It’s only after Cottonwood, with 7 miles left, that the real climbing begins.
Accordingly, the first few miles meandered along Cedar Creek, which is rushing furiously right now with all the snow melt. The path was kind of like Groundhog Day: hike along a sunny side of the canyon, then curve around and hike in a shady side of the canyon. Over and over again.
With maybe 3 miles left, when I was getting quite hot and looking forward to that next shady bend, the canyon opened up and the rest of the way was all in the sun. And the path began to climb. No!
There was even a water crossing. Thank goodness it was short and shallow, because it was the top of a small waterfall, so the water was rushing pretty hard.
Ensconced in Camp
I was supposed to be relegated to the campground’s stock lot, which is where they put AZT hikers when the campground is full. The stock site I saw was fine, but it was far from the creek access and the bathrooms. I didn’t want to stay there.
I decided to chance it and take a regular site. There were many open sites when I got here around 5, and it being a Sunday in the off-season, I figured there was a strong chance the campground wasn’t full. But it was risky, as I also had an outdated permit.
Yep, when I looked more closely at my permit this morning, I saw the ranger had written it up for yesterday instead of today. Yikes! I didn’t have time to go back and change it, so I camped in the wrong site on the wrong day. Luckily, no rangers were checking.
For once, I was able to eat dinner outside my tent AND not wear my puffy coat! The sites have a metal box to lock your food in, plus a metal pole to hang your backpacks on. Apparently the squirrels here are aggressive and will chew holes in your pack trying to get food.
I’m hoping tonight to sleep in my normal clothes — no coat, hat, hand warmers, compression sleeves or emergency blanket. Cross your fingers!
A hiker told me workers are closing an upcoming section of the trail tomorrow at 10 a.m. to do some rock blasting. Really?!! The section is only 3-5 miles ahead, but of course this is all hiking uphill. I plan to get up extra early so I can pass that section before they close it.
There have been so many snags on this hike. Wish me luck!!
P.S. I think I hear squirrels around my site! Go away!
14.7 miles today
650.4 miles to date
149.6 miles to go