Where in the World….Grand Canyon 2013

So after I go on a long trip I am usually exhausted and trying to play catch up when I get home. I TRY to blog about my experience, but sometimes the weeks roll by and before you know it I completely forgot I didn’t! This happened with my trip last year to the Grand Canyon as well as some other trips so I am going to try and go back to them on Wednesdays and post. I am calling it Where in the World Wednesday, but knowing me it definitely won’t be every Wednesday.

Ok so some background. My best friend Cindy is very outdoorsy. She has gotten me out of my comfort zone when it comes to hiking and camping. I mean don’t get me wrong. I love hiking and camping. It’s the falling to your death, being attacked by a bear kind of fears I struggle with. The previous year she had wanted to go hiking on Colorado. It was a last minute trip and with all the Disney races we had planned I just couldn’t scrape together the money to go. She had a blast and wanted to try and do something like it every summer. Last summer I had suggested going to the Grand Canyon.

I had been to the Grand Canyon once before in Senior Year of college. We had decided to go to Vegas for a week. Anyone who has been to Vegas knows that a week is a LONG time. Toward the end of the week we decided to rent a car and drive to the Grand Canyon.

At that point I was overweight so hiking was out of the question. We literally got out of the car, took some pictures, and then left. We proceeded to drive ACROSS Arizona to the painted desert which was a long drive and not the best attraction to go to. It was all-in-all a fun trip though.

When Cindy suggested going camping/hiking again I thought that the Grand Canyon would be fun now that I was more active. I also have two friends that just moved to Arizona so I was hoping they would want to join us as well. Sadly they could not. Instead it was myself, my sister Cheryl, my best friend Cindy and her (then) boyfriend Frank.

We flew to Phoenix and got a rental car. Finding one that would fit all of our suitcases with camping equipment was rough. We really had to pack that thing! Then we got brunch at the restaurant where my friend Stacey was working at the time. After we hit the road!

On the way we stopped at the supermarket to get supplies. We figured it would be easier getting them there than bringing them in our luggage, which was heavy to begin with. After we drove through Sedona. The red rocks were beautiful.

After we looked around we decided to stop for a drink at Oak Creek Brewery. They had a lot of craft beer on tap and it was nice on such a hot day.

It took about 4 hours to drive to the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Because of the time change and the long drive and the stops we took we didn’t get there until dusk. We had to find our campsite, unload and set up our tents quickly before the sun went down. We had to do a lot of stuff with our headlamps on since it is SO DARK there at night. After we set up we headed over to the Bright Angel Lodge to get dinner. Once we got back to the campsite we got ready for bed and passed out. It was a long day and we were planning on being up early to hike.

When we woke up in the morning we were shocked to see an elk right outside! Oh nature.

It took a lot longer than I had expected to get ready for the hike. Cindy planned the hikes for us. She had applied for a backpacking permit and got one in time so that we could hike down to the Colorado River and stay overnight at Bright Angel Campground before hiking back the next day. Bright Angel Campgorund is a 10 mile hike from the South Rim. In my mind I was like 10 miles is nothing (being a runner who covers 13.1 miles in 2 hours). Boy was I wrong. More on that later. Going off what I assumed we needed for the hike Cheryl and I split up two backpacks with supplies. Cheryl had two sleeping bags, two bed rolls, clothes, food and water. I had the tent (which we had to take down that morning), clothes, food and water. I had a smaller bag so it couldn’t hold as much. Both our bags were EXTREMELY heavy. We learned later we could have left some stuff back at the car.

Once we were packed we headed off to the buses to bring us to the Bright Angel Trail.


The views into the canyon were breathtaking!

When I first read about the trails I was nervous I would go tumbling off the edge. The paths are not safe at all but there is a decent amount of room to maneuver. Most had steps cut into the ground so it was easier to climb.

It’s crazy how all of this was carved by the river over thousands of years. So amazing to see in person.

This trail had water stops along the way since a lot of people do part of it as a day hike. I was thankful since it started to get REALLY hot the further into the canyon we got.

Also the further into the canyon we went we saw less and less people. It was like hiking by ourselves!

We stopped to eat and refill our water at Indian Garden which is 4.9 miles in. I couldn’t believe how long it had taken us and we were only halfway! It was also mid afternoon at this point and HOT!

After we ate our peanut butter bagels and avoided being attacked by rock squirrels we headed back out again. We had to get to camp before dark!

The next part of the canyon was different. It went from rocks to trees, streams and stone. It was interesting how many different eco-systems we walked through. This area was mainly flat which was nice. Because Cheryl’s backpack was heavier and heavy in general we kept switching the bags since we would loose feeling in our shoulders. You can see how huge those bags are!

The next decent we got to was called something like Devil’s Corkscrew…not sure exactly but it was an almost vertical decent trail. My toes were screaming once we got to the bottom!

We finally made it down deep into the canyon where it was mainly rocky riverbeds and streams. Cindy even stopped to pump her own water.

Then we turned a corner and saw it…the Colorado River! The dirty, dirty Colorado River.

At this point I was beyond exhausted. We had to walk along the river to get to the bridge to bring us across. That was pretty cool. Sadly at this point I was so tired and sore I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I should have. We had reached the River Resthouse and the campground was still 1.5 miles away. I was in agony and almost started crying. I just wanted to stop at that point. FINALLY we reached the campground. Even though we were both crazy tired and sore and on the verge of tears Cheryl was able to smile that we had finally stopped moving.

Cheryl and I had only packed two peanut butter bagel sandwiches. One for lunch the way down and one for lunch the way back out. We also had some fruit and granola bars. We had read online that the Phantom Ranch at the Bright Angel Campground had food. We were sorely mistaken. They had dinner but you had to be there at a certain time and prepay to eat. We had to wait until the cafeteria opened at 8pm. We got a bagel, a piece of packaged sausage and some jelly along with water for dinner. I was so mad that was all they had to eat but I just had to deal with it. While we were waiting for the cafeteria to open it started to rain. We had left our backpacks outside the tents since we didn’t want any food smells in the tent. We ran back and put them inside.

Once we got ready for bed we realized we didn’t need a few things. One was sleeping bags. It was SO HOT in the canyon I slept in barely anything. I even brought long underwear because it had been so cold the night before at the top. I was sad because it was raining I couldn’t see any stars. In the middle of the night though we got a visit from some animal friends. Frank had dropped an old food wrapper outside and some lemurs, yes lemurs, came snooping around looking for food. They started attacking our tent and being a light sleeper I was freaking out. They climbed onto Cindy’s tent but she didn’t even wake up! The one good thing was the sky had cleared so I was able to see my stars :)

The next morning was crazy. We woke up early because the ranger had told us an electrical storm was moving through the next day and we needed to get out of the canyon as soon as we could. Oh great just what paranoid me needed to hear. When we woke up it was pouring so we really couldn’t pack up. I was freaking out and since we couldn’t leave as early Cheryl and I suggested taking the South Kebab Trail back. It was only 7 miles compared to the 10 we had done the day before. I also hate repetition. I knew going back the same way we had come down I would be miserable knowing how much further we had to go.

Finally the rain let up and we were able to leave.

The water was even dirtier than the day before because of all the rain.

The trail back was very steep going up. They had planks of wood so you wouldn’t fall. Once we did a long decent up there was a lot of flat areas.

The rain had stopped but it was overcast which was nice since it was still very humid out. The one issue with the South Kebab Trail is there are not water stops and no running water to purify. We had to conserve but luckily Cheryl and I had kept the water bottles from the cafeteria the day before. It made our bags heavier but it was necessary.

Once we got to Skeleton Point we looked and saw that storm the ranger had mentioned rolling across the canyon. I was so happy we weren’t near it. There was a lot of lightning. It is crazy to see a storm over the canyon.

The end of the trail was rough. We were out of food, almost out of water and exhausted. We had to keep stopping to rest because we had a lot of blisters and our feet were killing us. We finally made it out though! Once we got back to camp we set up our tents to let them dry out since we had to pack them wet. Then we headed back to the Bright Angel Lodge to eat. I ordered so much food because I was so hungry but once it came out I could barely eat! I did have a very nice ice cold beer though.

Hiking to the Colorado River and back in two days is not something I would really recommend. It was exhausting and grueling. The experience was one of a kind, but if I had to do it over I would probably take a day at the river doing some smaller hikes and exploring the area before hiking back out. I would even love to go back and raft down the river to Phantom Ranch and then hike out. Rafting looked cool except falling in would be horrible. The water was so dirty!

The following day we packed up everything and drove to another part of the canyon to hike to Havasu Falls. That adventure will be next Wednesday!


2 thoughts on “Where in the World….Grand Canyon 2013

  1. Pingback: Where in the World….Havasupai Grand Canyon 2013 | The Simple Things

  2. Pingback: Hiking the Catskills – Poet’s Ledge | The Simple Things

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