Monday, April 28, 2014

South Kaibab / Tonto / Bright Angel Trails Grand Canyon April 28 2014

You know that saying "DREAM IT DO IT"?  I dreamed of this day and now I am doing it!  After much research, contemplation & conversations well in advance, I decided the route that would suit my ability the best would be to hike down South Kaibab Trail, head west and follow Tonto Trail until it met with Bright Angel and then ascend Bright Angel Trail to The Rim.  I knew you do not play this game lightly so went prepared to give myself the best chance at having a successful experience.  That meant parking at the Backcountry Office (a seven minute walk from Bright Angel Trailhead where I would end my day) and catching the 7:00am Hikers Express Bus from there to the South Kaibab Trailhead.  I carried four liters of water, lots of layers, all the essentials such as headlamp, sunscreen, hat etc, and food enough fit for a king.  I knew when sunset was, which meant I had a window of 10-11 hours to finish before dark. 

Hop on board and come along on a wonderful journey with me here!

Yesterday it was a zoo of folks in the Village, so I was very happy when about only 12 of us hit the trail at the same time.  There was a 6:00am bus before me and an 8:00am one yet to come which meant not all start at the same time and we would be spread out.  As it turned out, the 12 of us spread out pretty quick.  I felt like I owned the Grand Canyon this morning! 

My first view as I begin to head down South Kaibab Trail which you can see on the left.
wide-open comes immediately
For the whole way down the South Kaibab Trail, you can see where you are going in front of you and you can look back and see where you have been.  At times the trail hugs a cliff side, and at times it follows a narrow ridge like below.  
The going down is not as easy as you may think.  There are steps that seemed spaced far apart so there is lots of foot reaching and deep stepping which meant watching the trail and not the scenery.  Lots of stops along the way for me due to that because it truly is all about enjoying the journey and that's what I was there for.

taking a break at Cedar Ridge
looking back from where I came
looking ahead to where I was going
stunning views all around
another break at Skeleton Point
This was the view below me from Skeleton Point.
The swtichbacks would bring me even deeper down in.
Follow the trail down, it descends steeply. 
scene around a corner
I made it to my turning west point which was just above the Tip Off.
 Before heading west, I descended a bit more to see what I could see.  
Mules were carrying gear up from Phantom Ranch.  
Sitting at the Tip Off and feeling the moment.
This is where I begin to follow Tonto Trail west.  There was one couple who were heading this way too but they were not ready to leave yet.  There was no one in front of me as far as I could see and I could see far.
This was as far as I could see!
The trail was wide-open and at this low level in the Canyon, it was hot.
Cactus were plentiful and in bloom.  
There wasn't a breeze nor shelter anywhere.
I was in the middle of the Grand Canyon, in the desert.
You do not play this game lightly!
I kept looking back because it was just as amazing behind me.
The Tonto Trail was mostly flat and an easy going trail condition-wise.  I was able to make good time and enjoy the scenery at the same time.  It did seem to go on forever, longer than I expected it to.  I was beginning to look forward to meeting up with Bright Angel and seeing other folks at this point.  When I eyed the bright green, I thought that had to mean something....
...and it did, I was getting close, I could see the flat section of Bright Angel ahead of me.
It was very hot by now.  Thankfully Indian Garden had loads of those wonderful big green trees that offered up shelter, a place to rest and refuel out of the sun.  There were about a dozen or so folks hanging out but no one that I started the day with.  I know a few were heading to Phantom Ranch for the night and others were going back up the way they came down.  I never did see the other two who were doing the route I had planned.  I spent about 30 minutes here then began the 900 meter climb up Bright Angel to The Rim.
I do not have many photos to share of this section.  
I soon realized this was going to be tough and I would have to be digging deep the whole way.  
I stopped very often and always looked back.  
It was quite a sight to see.
As I was ascending, I was catching up with more people who had only gone to Indian Garden.  Some looked rougher than I felt.  Everyone was quiet, just a smile or a very shallow hi was all that occurred in passing.  I know that was all I had the energy to muster up.  I did pass one lady in distress, others were attending to her.  You do not play this game lightly!    

You can see the trail far below in the middle.
The end was now in sight!  I needed to get to that building in the top left corner.  It seemed so close but was taking forever to get there.  There were more and more people now, those that only ventured down into the Canyon a very short distance.  They were spry and chatty and a bundle of energy.  Not me!   
I finally reached that building!  
I was depleted!  
I found a spot off to the side where there was no one then sat down and had a very private moment behind my sunglasses!  This has got to be the hardest hike I have ever completed.  I knew you do not play this game lightly and I went prepared.  It was a dream I had that became reality.  It felt like such an accomplishment!  All that was left was that 7 minute walk to my car and a 12 minute drive to my room.  Yes, I planned well!  

close up of the ascent up Bright Angel Trail

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