Tag Archives: Colorado River

Day Two: Bright Angel Campgrounds

After a restless night’s sleep, I unzipped my tent and peeked out to see a beautiful day. It took a while before my muscles would react enough to stand up and walk. After a breakfast of rehydrated biscuits and gravy, I was ready to do some exploring.

The first place I wanted to go was Phantom Ranch. I expected it to be some distance away, but it was only a short walk from our campgrounds.  Phantom Ranch is a collection of small cabins and a bunkhouse with beds that can be rented by hikers. We headed for the canteen, which is open to the public,  so to speak. I was delighted to discover that I could buy a lemonade with all the ice I wanted. This was especially enjoyable after a day of drinking tepid water.  The rest of my party was excited about the fact that the canteen sells Bright Angel IPA–a beer that can only be purchased there. This would necessitate another trip to the canteen in the afternoon.

Returning to the campsite, Mike checked on the beer and wine he had left cooling in the creek. Then we decided to explore Bright Angel Creek to the place where it flows into the Colorado River.

The water was cool and refreshing on such a warm day and we couldn’t resist getting into the creek. Swimming in the Colorado River is dangerous due to strong currents, but we did find a sort of inlet where we could wade in the river. 

After lunch (rehydrated mac and cheese) I decided it was time for a nap. After all, I needed my rest for the climb out. It was while I was resting that I devised my plan to get out of the Canyon on my own power. I knew that it was the heat that made it so difficult for me to keep going on the hike in. If I could leave very early in the morning, I could hike while it was cool and get a good head start before the heat set in. My plan was to leave at four o’clock and to reach Indian Gardens by eight-thirty.

In the afternoon, Mike took me on a hike to see Black Bridge. It is an engineering wonder, held in place by huge cables that are embedded in solid rock. There are eight cables and two wind cables. To get a cable into the Canyon required forty-two Havasupai men to carry them down the South Kaibab Trail.  We walked across the bridge and through the tunnel on the other side. From there I could look up at the South Kaibab Trail, the trail I attempted to go down the year before.

On our way back to camp, we passed by some Indian ruins of the Pueblo People. There are several residences and a kiva.  There was also the grave of  Rees Griffiths, a trail foreman who died from injuries he received while working on the Kaibab Trail.

After dinner, we were visited by the ranger, a friendly woman with quite a sense of humor. When she learned of my difficulties hiking in, she pointed to Mike and asked, “Is that your son, your natural son, that you gave birth to?” When I assured he was, she told him that since the next day was Mother’s Day, as a gift, he should carry something from my pack. After some consideration, I decided to leave my sleeping mat for him to carry, thus lightening my load by about four pounds.

As darkness settled in, I crawled into my sleeping bag and wondered if I would be able to sleep, knowing what tomorrow would bring. Would my plan work? Would I reach Indian Gardens on my own power?

To be continued . . .

There’s more than one way to explore a canyon.

DSCN0183Although I haven’t given up on my plans to camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, my failed attempt left me searching for alternative ways to enjoy the canyon. I discovered a fantastic opportunity to explore–not only the Grand Canyon, but Glen Canyon and Antelope Canyon–by air, land and water. It was an excursion offered by Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines and it is worthy of a spot on everyone’s bucket list.

Because our twelve-hour day would begin at  5:45 a.m., we decided DSCN0159to drive to the canyon the day before and stay at the Thunderbird Lodge–very nice accommodations on the canyon rim. We arrived at the canyon in time to enjoy a picnic lunch. After checking in to our room, we decided to use the shuttle to take the DSCN0169West Rim Drive. We usually avoid this option on day trips because it is so time-consuming, but since we had a free afternoon we gave it a try. It was a cloudy day, but no rain fell on us as we traveled from viewpoint to viewpoint, each more spectacular than the one before.

Up early the next morning, we had a short drive back to the airport in Tusayan. On our way, we were distracted by a group of elk–including a small calf, and were almost late for our flight. After a box DSCN0185breakfast, provided by the airlines, we boarded our ten-passenger plane and began the flight over the eastern Grand Canyon and into Glen Canyon.  Along the way, we enjoyed views of the Colorado River, and could see the rapids in many places. We flew DSCN0189over the famous Horseshoe Bend–a 260 degree bend in the Colorado River.

After flying over Glen Canyon Dam, our flight continued over beautiful Lake Powell, finally landing in Page, Arizona.  DSCN0201

The next leg of our journey was by land. We were loaded into the back of trucks that had been fitted with bench seats and driven ten miles into the desert. We arrived at a place that seemed pretty desolate. There we not a clue to the spectacular wonders we were about to see in Antelope Canyon.

DSCN0217Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land. During the monsoon season,  water flows through the canyon and whirls around at up to thirty miles per hour. The result is a canyon one quarter mile deep filled with rock formations that can only be seen to be fully appreciated.  We were fortunate to have a guide who knew all the tricks to get the really superior pictures.DSCN0234DSCN0231











Returning to the airport, we boarded a bus that took us to the base of Glen Canyon Dam.  There we climbed aboard our pontoon watercraft for a fifteen-mile, still-water float to Lee’s Ferry.DSCN0242

The rock formations along Glen Canyon provided spectacular views. Along the way, we floated through Horseshoe Bend that we had seen and photographed from the air.DSCN0264

Once again we had a very knowledgeable guide who helped us appreciate what we were seeing. He told us that the dark color on the rocks was oxidized manganese  called rock varnish. It takes about a thousand years for that process to take place. Our guide pointed out a place where the rock face had fallen away and some varnish was visible–indicating that the rocks had fallen a thousand years ago. DSCN0261

When we reached Lee’s Ferry, we left the Colorado River and began our three-hour drive back to the South Rim.

On each leg of our excursion, the guide asked where everyone was from. There were travelers from Australia and Brazil. Some people were from Florida, New Jersey,  and Minnesota. But we were the only ones from Arizona. It seemed strange that fellow Arizonans wouldn’t take advantage of such a superior opportunity–especially one in our own back yard.