Tag Archives: backpacking

Day 3: Indian Gardens

It was still dark when I emerged from my tent to begin the day. My plan was to be on the trail by five a.m. and if things went well, I would reach Indian Gardens before the heat set in. I tried to make as little noise as possible so I wouldn’t wake the rest of the camp, but before I was ready to leave, Mike and Vikki were up. They wished my “Happy Mother’s Day,” and urged me to be careful. I could tell by the look on Mike’s face that he was concerned about watching his mother walk away from camp alone. But we had all agreed that this was the best idea. The rest of our party would be staggering their start so that there would always be someone coming up behind me in case I needed help. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. I was already at Indian Gardens before most of them left camp.

As I hiked down the trail and out of the campgrounds, I felt exhilarated. I was embarking on a great adventure. The nearly full moon lighted my path, making my headlamp almost unnecessary. I hadn’t gone far when I realized there was a large animal on the left side of the trail. It turned out to be a doe, who walked past me close enough that I could have petted her.

Soon I reached Silver Bridge that would take me across the Colorado River. It is a long suspension bridge with a mesh floor that makes the river visible below as you hike across the bridge. The ranger told us that there have been hikers who made it that far and had to turn around because they were too afraid to cross the bridge. I wondered what it would be like crossing in the dark, but it didn’t slow me down at all.

I had hoped to reach the River House, a mile and a half from the campgrounds in an hour, but thirty minutes later, I was there. After another thirty minutes, I found myself at the bottom of Devil’s Corkscrew. Once again, I was attempting the section of the Canyon that had been the most difficult for me hiking in. Only this time, I would be climbing up the Devil’s Corkscrew. Up I went, and to my surprise, it was difficult at all. The sun made its appearance as I neared to top. I stopped to take a picture as a group of men were coming down the trail. One of them said, “You’re making this look easy.” Another man asked if I would like him to take my picture.

With the biggest challenge over, I stopped at the top for a snack and to put on sun screen. After a brief rest, I was ready to begin again. This time, I would be completing the last leg of the four-and-a-half-mile trail. It had been my hope to reach Indian Gardens by nine o’clock, but it was only seven-thirty when I arrived. After a short rest, I hiked to the campground and located our campsite. Now I just had to wait for everyone else to arrive.

My Second Attempt at Conquering the Canyon

Those of you who read my blog may recall that last year I attempted my first backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. That trip came to an abrupt halt when my husband, Craig, ran into difficulties. It was obvious that he was not capable of such a demanding trek.

A year later, I was attempting it again without Craig. This time I would have to prove myself capable. If I turned around and gave up, it would be because I couldn’t make it. Our party was pretty much the same as last year–My son, Mike and his wife, Vikki, her brother, Bill, and his wife, Katie, Mike’s son, Christopher, and Vikki’s son, Chris.  Instead of going down the South Kaibab as we did last year, we used the Bright Angel Trail in and out. It is about three miles longer, but less steep.  We extended our trip to four days and split our exit into two parts–allowing one night at Indian Gardens, before the four-and-a-half-mile climb to the top.

Hiking the nine-and-a-half miles in was the most difficult for me, and the main reason was the heat. I was hoping for an early start, but it was after eight o’clock when we began our descent. I reached Indian Gardens at about one o’clock, and was already feeling the affects of the temperature.  I rested there for a while and began the last five miles at about one forty-five. At first the trail was fairly flat, although rocky and crossed the creek several times–That was until I reached something aptly named the Devil’s Corkscrew. I stood at the top for a long time, afraid to start down. I watched other hikers go down it, and tried to convince myself that I could do it. Finally, I started down, By that time, the heat was making it very difficult and there was no shade at all. I was stopping quite often, leaning against the side of the canyon to rest. I attempted to reach my son on the radio, but was not successful. It had been at least an hour since I had seen another human being and I was getting a little concerned about my ability to finish the hike. Just before I reached the final switchbacks, I abandoned my pack in an effort to get close enough to reach someone on the radio. At last I did and learned that my grandsons were on their way back to help me with my pack.  I reached the Bright Angel Campgrounds before dark. Too tired to eat dinner, I crawled into my tent and slept. I’m sure I was suffering from some dehydration as my legs were cramping. Chris,  who carried my pack the last few miles, was throwing up from exhaustion. But we were all safely at the camp. Tomorrow would be a day to rest and explore the canyon. Then I would have to face the next two days’ climb to reach the rim. Could I make it? I had my doubts, but I needed to do my best to make it on my own–not putting anyone else’s health at risk.

To be continued . . .

Getting Ready to Hike the Canyon (It only took 67 years.)

grand canyon 20I retired three years ago. It seems to me that one of the purposes of retirement is to fill in the blanks of our lives–to do those things we were too busy to do during our careers. That’s why we make that requisite “bucket list.”

Having lived my entire life in Arizona, and being a avid hiker, I am embarrassed to admit that I have never been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. About twelve years ago, Craig and I hiked down Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point. It was a grueling nine-hour hike to complete the twelve miles in and out in one day.  Getting down was fairly easy, but the climb back up was exhausting. When we reached the rim I told Craig that we had to go directly to the lodge and eat dinner. I knew that once I got to our room I would not leave it until morning.

Surprisingly,  we are better prepared to hike the Canyon today than we were back then.  Busy with work, we had little time to hike on a regular basis. The only real planning we did for that trip was making reservations at the lodge.  Now that we are retired, we walk a two-mile route near our home almost every day. Once a week, we try to take a longer (4-7 mile hike). To get ready for this trek, we have been going on even  longer hikes up steeper elevations.

My biggest concern is carrying the gear, as we will be camping for two nights at Bright Angel Campground. Some thirty years ago, we went on backpacking trips with our son’s Boy Scout Troop. I recall being loaded down with heavy packs and hiking ten or twelve miles into the wilderness behind a gaggle of chattering scouts. Craig and I usually arrived first at the campsite. The boys took frequent breaks and I liked to keep going–not because I had more stamina, but because stopping meant taking off the pack and I wasn’t sure I would want to put it back on. It was better for me to just keep going.

Last summer Craig and I found a terrific deal on camping  backpacks at Costco. Apparently that was the impetus I needed to plan a hiking trip into the Canyon. The difficulty of getting a permit was an excuse I often used. Oddly enough, I was successful at getting  one on my first try.

One of the advantages of waiting so long to attempt this hike is that the equipment we need is better made, cheaper and more light-weight than it was thirty years ago. Back then, backpacks were huge monstrosities with frames for attaching sleeping bags and tents. Backpacking gear was horribly expensive.  We rented packs from the Hike Shack until we were able to purchase some used ones. Everything from tents to sleeping bags was heavy and bulky.  I suppose we have the space program to thank for the wonderful options we have today.

We were able to completely outfit our trip at Walmart.  There we   DSCN0142 (1)found sleeping bags that weigh less than two pounds and a two-person tent that weighs five. We bought everything we need for about $150. It all fit efficiently into our packs and we’ll be carrying less than thirty pounds on our backs.

With our packs loaded we went to a nearby trail and walked a four-mile circle. Everything went smoothly. Amazingly, I could hardly notice the weight. That’s because my pack is ergonomically designed to put the weight on my hips–not my back and shoulders.  I am feeling optimistic about the undertaking. I’ll let you know in a future post just how it went–complete with pictures, of course.