Hiking the Grand Canyon
By: Lois Requist
I was offered reservations at Phantom Ranch, the only lodging at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. So, I went with two friends in mid-October, an ideal time as summer’s heat is brutal.
We left the South Rim about 8 a.m. on the shady, Bright Angel Trail, the mostly wide, “superhighway” of trails. Four mule trains passed us en route.
Falling off and down thousands of feet wasn’t a clear and present danger, but tripping, turning an ankle, or hurting a knee during the 5,000-foot descent was. The trail went from smooth to rocky, requiring constant attention. I couldn’t risk looking out or down without stopping.
We had lunch at Indian Garden before continuing on the 10 miles to Phantom Ranch, where we arrived at 3 p.m. We checked in at the one room that serves as dining hall, bar, and lobby. Accommodations are cottages (without showers) or dormitories with showers. Everything’s pretty basic. Meals are hearty and served family style. This gave me an opportunity to hear some of the other visitor’s stories. Some hiked down in 3 hours, while others hiked the Kaibab trail by moonlight. Four young men were doing a “double cross,” without stopping, that is, going rim to rim and back again, totaling 46 miles, a 10,000-foot descent, and 10,000-foot ascent.
First morning, at 4:30 a.m. a rap on the door and a voice announced the time. We had the late (6:30 a.m.) breakfast that day. By then, most of the 100 guests had gone-on foot or by mule. A young French woman from New York-a banker-hiked down yesterday, and would climb out today.
I watched the sun hit the peaks; by 10:00 a.m. it reached us in the canyon.
On the next day, we got up at 4:30 a.m. The 70-year old woman from Wales who hiked down with her husband was out the door before 5:00 a.m. to get coffee and to head up the trail.
At 5:40 a.m., we filled our water bottles, turned on flashlights, and left in the dark. We reached the suspension bridge and faced the “very steep” switchbacks of Devil’s Cork Screw.
Occasionally, I stopped to look at the rocky formations, the green Colorado River, a waterfall, the layers of green, red, and white rock, tiny lizards skittering along. The wonder and history sank deep inside me.
We’d been told it took half again as long to climb out. I was pumped, though. We reached the top about noon.