Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hiking Back Out

On the way into the canyon, I was stopping to enjoy the view often. On the way out, I was on more of a mission.

Conventional wisdom is that it takes most people 4-6 hours to hike into the canyon and 8-12 hours to hike out. Also, the rule of thumb is that it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did hiking down.

Since it took us 5 1/2 hours to hike down, that would mean 11 hours hiking up. We decided to get an early start.

At the 4:30 a.m. wake-up knock, we each quietly dressed, took all of our gear to breakfast, deposited our duffle bag with the mule crew, ate breakfast in the canteen and headed out. It was still dark, so we were glad that we'd had the chance to explore Phantom Ranch in the light the day before.

After we crossed the silver bridge, we waited about 10 minutes for first light to hit the trail. Hiking conditions were perfect - cool temperatures, plenty of shade, no mules or other hikers. It didn't hurt that we were still on east coast time basically, so it didn't feel super early to us.

As we hiked along the river, sun already started reaching down into the canyon, trying to heat things up.

While the South Kaibab Trail is build along ridges, the Bright Angel Trail passes through ravines on a track used by animals and humans for thousands of years.

After some relatively flat hiking along the river and then starting toward the rim, the trail ascends the Devil's Corkscrew. The ascent didn't feel bad, despite the diabolical name.

We can see the rim for the first time today.

For the first half of our hike, a creek flows alongside the trail.

We're already approaching Indian Garden - the halfway point, and a popular campground. We haven't seen any other hikers yet.

This area sculpted by water is just beautiful.

We're very close to Indian Garden now. It doesn't feel like we've hiked halfway yet, and the rim doesn't look too far away. The last part of the hike does look steep though!

We stop to snack and rest at Indian Garden. The thermometer says that its 48°. It feels much warmer to us - as we hike in shorts and wicking T-shirts.

The trail is still in the shade, so we continue up.

Several people have talked about how difficult the last 3 miles of this hike can be. We're starting to see the limestone face that we'll ascend to get to the rim.

I didn't pick the best spot to be passed by a caravan of mules! The last two mules in the group practically bumped into me because apparently they like to cling to the wall right here too!

We've come a long way already!

This trail has it's cliffy moments, but it's nothing like the South Kaibab Trail in terms of walking along steep least not yet!

We're hiking, but is the South Rim getting any closer?

We fall in step behind 3 backpackers, one of whom has hiked the canyon before. As he coaches his friends along, he's also coaching us....telling stories of hiking these trails in icy conditions, or saying that it really isn't steep, just steadily uphill.

It's amazing that they built a trail up these limestone cliffs.

We're excited to be getting close to the top. The hike out hasn't been nearly as difficult as we expected. I actually had more trouble on the hike in, because on that hike my ankle was getting fatigued.

6 hours and 15 minutes after we left Phantom Ranch, we arrived on the South Rim!! Our GPS said we hiked 10.8 miles and gained 4200 feet.

I imagined this trip for a long time, and did a lot to be ready for it. I'm glad to say that it surpassed my dreams.....what a great hike!

Our car was a short distance away, so we walked there and drove back to the hotel.

For dinner, we'd made reservations at El Tovar. That food tasted so good!!

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