Tag Archives: Bright Angel Trail

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 . . .

My not-so-grand canyon trip

DSCN0147I had been attuned to the weather like a sailor for weeks. The much anticipated morning arrived drizzly and gray. But it was my hope that in true Arizona fashion, the sun would melt away the clouds and leave a cool, clear day for our hike.

Driving to the Canyon, a fine mist covered our windshield. By the time we reached the Backcountry Office, the rain forced us inside to finish getting our gear ready.  It would require two bus trips to get to the trailhead since we had missed the last Backpackers Express.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached the trailhead.   The canyon was filled with clouds which was a rare treat for me. But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for first-time visitors who only had that one day to spend at the canyon. They were going to miss the spectacular views that attract people from around the world.

We had gone down several of the switchbacks at the beginning of DSCN0148the South Kaibab Trail when I noticed that Craig did not have his walking sticks. Our son, Mike, had seen some walking sticks leaning against the restroom at the trailhead. He offered to go back and see if they were still there. In the meantime, the rest of our party pressed on down the trail.

After the switchbacks, the trail became rougher and was at a more severe decline. To make matter worse, large pools of water had collected behind little rock dams all along the trail. Mike caught up with us again–without Craig’s walking sticks.

DSCN0150In spite of the weather and the sporadic showers, I was enjoying the hike, stopping occasionally to take a picture. It was at one of those stops, about one and a half miles down, that I looked back to find Craig flanked by Mike and his wife, Vikki. Craig was walking slowly, stumbling at times, and occasionally getting dangerously close to the edge. It was apparent to everyone in our party as well as perfect strangers hiking near us, that Craig was not capable of  safely finishing the remaining five miles let alone the nearly ten-mile hike that would be necessary to leave the canyon on Monday. There was nothing to do but help him get back to the rim. Mike went part of the way with us, carrying Craig’s pack. Once we reached the switchbacks, he left us and returned to finish the descent.

Craig and I made our way slowly up the switchbacks that had DSCN0149seemed so easy to climb down. Once we reached the rim, we rested for a few minutes and then boarded the first of the two buses for the return trip to our car. On the second bus, I was chatting with some other passengers about our experience. I had just told them that Craig had lost his walking sticks, when I realized I no longer had my sticks either. I had left them on the previous bus. The bus driver used his radio to determine that my sticks were on bus 6. I would have to reconnect with bus 6 in order to get the back.

Reaching our car, we threw our packs into the trunk and walked to the Bright Angel Lodge. There was no need to eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had packed for our lunch. Cold, wet and tired, we were going to enjoy a nice hot meal before going home.  We spent the afternoon retrieving our walking sticks–Craig’s from the Backcountry Office and mine from Bus 6.  While we were waiting for Bus 6 to return to the Visitors Center, it began to snow. In the ten minutes we were away, our car was totally covered with the white stuff. It was necessary to run the defroster for a while before it was safe to drive.  Later, we would pass a snow plow headed for the canyon.

On our drive home in the rain, I contemplated whether we were ready to check in to the Las Fuentes Senior Home. But during the two-hour drive, I concocted a new plan to conquer the canyon. This one is much less ambitious than my original plan. It involves camping at Indian Gardens, which is only 4.5 miles down the Bright Angel Trail. Having some of my gear brought down on a mule is also under consideration. I’m not sure who will go with me–maybe some friends or my grandkids. Sadly, Craig’s canyon hiking days are over.