Before writing about my day 2 adventure, I have to explain something that happened in day 1! Do you remember during day 1 when I mentioned I couldn’t find my new Ultimate Direction Pack that my friends from work bought me? Well after eating dinner and heading back to my campsite at the end of day one, I drove into the campground and as I was driving by the camp host’s site, I saw my pack hanging in a tree near his camper. I DID have the pack the night that I arrived and I put in on the trunk of the car as I was setting up camp, just as I thought. What happened was, the wind picked up that night and it was gusting to the point that it was hard to set up the tent, therefore blowing the pack off of my car into the campsite just down from mine. The couple that was camping there, left while I was out on the trail that first day and so they dropped the pack off at the camp host’s site. The host told me that they didn’t know who’s it was, so they dropped it off with him. He hung it in the tree hoping someone would recognize it and pick it up. Lucky for me I saw it…YES now I had my Awesome Ultimate Direction Pack, back!!!
Day 2: After a good night sleep, I was up at 5 a.m and ready to get started for my day 2 Grand Canyon Adventure!! I was a little surprised at how good I felt after spending 9.5 hours in the canyon the day before, although it was a relatively easy day. My plan this day was to take the South Kaibab Trail down to where the Tonto Trail crosses and take it over to the Bright Angel Trail then back up to the rim. The total miles for this hike is around 13 miles, not bad for the second day’s hike.
Again, I wanted to hit the trail by 6 or 7 a.m to get an early start to beat the heat, but by time I packed everything up I needed and walked to the South Kaibab Trailhead it was 8 a.m. Once at the trailhead I snapped a couple pictures, then started down the trail. Immediately I noticed it was steeper going down than the Bright Angel and the Views were more than spectacular! At one point I was feeling a bit annoyed at myself for wanting to capture every ounce of the Canyon’s beauty with a picture, but I couldn’t resist. I held the camera in my hand as I started into an easy paced run down the dusty and winding trail, snapping pictures in all directions as I descended into the canyon. The Canon Powershot A3200 camera that my friend Scott lent me, must have one heck of an optical stabilizer, because I was snapping away as I ran and the pictures came out amazing. I’d recommend this camera to anyone.
I was making good time finding my way down the trail, only stopping to drink some water t0 stay hydrated. There’s no water on the South Kaibab trail, so it’s imperative to carry enough, especially during the late spring and summer months. I was carrying around 4 liters, which turned out to be much more than I needed on this trail, better to have too much than not enough I guess. I actually ended up using the same pack as the day before because I could fit more bottles of water in it. My new Ultimate Direction Pack would have worked great if I would have taken 3 liters or less. I’ll know for next time. I continued down into the canyon and made it to Cedar Ridge in good time. Cedar Ridge consists of wide, flat open area with a couple lone trees offering a patch of shade and some toilets. It seemed to be a good place to take a break and get out of the fleece and long tights I was wearing up to that point. When I started from the rim, the temps were in the 60’s, but at Cedar Ridge they were already in the low 90’s. I stuffed them in my pack, drank some water and took a few minutes to admire the views!
I rested for 5 or 10 minutes while picking up a conversation with two younger couples from Colorado. I asked how far down they were going and one of the guys said “down to where they tell you NOT to hike to on a day trip.. the Colorado”. They looked fit and were confident in their abilities, in fact they said they had just come from 3 days hiking Bryce Canyon. I thought for a second then said “awesome, mind if I join you?” They were excited to have some company, “as long as your friendly” they responded. In typical Joe fashion, I changed plans mid stream and now I was in for a longer day. I was totally stoked to be seeing the Colorado river and the Phantom ranch, it was going to be an awesome adventure!!
I was in the rear taking some time to snap a few pictures, then running down to catch up with my guides.
As we made our way down the South Kaibab Trail to the river, we seemed to be moving in unison, each of us immersed in deep thought, with just the sound of our steps on the dusty trail. There was something spiritual about moving down the canyon in silence, surrounded by some of the most beautiful creation on earth. It seemed like only minutes and we had traversed 4 or 5 miles to within site of the Colorado River. I was feeling great!!
The final stretch of the South Kaibab drops quickly over steep winding trail to a tunnel cut through the rock that opens up to the mighty Colorado River. As you exit the dark tunnel and step out onto the walking bridge that crosses the Colorado, you feel as though you turned the page and stepped into a new chapter of awesomeness! One can’t help but to stop and relish the experience!
Once you cross the river, the trail takes you through an intersection that heads up onto the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim or to the Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Creek campground, eventually leading to the Bright Angel Trail. We followed the trail heading to the Phantom Ranch but first we HAD to stop and soak our feet in the 55 degree Colorado waters. There’s a white sandy beach area that welcomes hikers to do just that. While we were there we stopped to eat some lunch followed by a heart stopping plunge into the frigid water.
After eating one of the best tasting peanut butter and jelly burritos ever and cooling off in the River, I decided that it was time for me to break off from the group and head down to the Ranch for some exploration. I thanked my friends for the trip down and allowing me to join them, said my goodbyes, then headed down the trail.
From the Beach it’s about a half mile to the Phantom Ranch, first passing through the Bright Angel Campground. Even though it didn’t take me long to get to the campground, my clothes had dried and I was feeling the heat again. The campground is a beautiful oasis at the bottom of the canyon, with the Bright Angel Creek running right through it. I couldn’t resist the calling of the cool bubbling stream to stop again and soak my legs and dusty feet. The beauty of this day was that I had no schedule or even sense of time, why not enjoy the moment.
After cooling off I headed down the trail to the Phantom Ranch. I was told by someone on the trail that If I go to the Phantom Ranch, be sure to get a glass of their famous and most refreshing lemonade. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my rest, before heading up 9 miles, than a cold glass of lemonade.
I normally wouldn’t carry any money with me when venturing out onto a trail since it would serve me no purpose, yet for some reason I grabbed a 10 dollar bill and stuck it in my pack. Good thing I did, because lemonade was 2 bucks a glass, worth every penny of it, mind you. I sat quietly under a shade tree and enjoyed my lemonade while watching some weary hikers eat their lunch and a small group of runners doctoring up their blistered feet, before heading out of the canyon. I was relaxed but not tired and anxious to work my way up the last 9 miles to the Rim.
Heading out on the trail through the campground I followed the signs that said Bright Angel Trail, which led me down a short trail to another suspension walking bridge and over the Colorado. After crossing the River, I picked up the Bright Angel that meanders along the river for about a 1/2 mile, till it turned into the canyon for the long climb out.
The longest section of the Bright Angel Trail that DOESN’T have drinking water on the trail, is from the Colorado River to the Indian Gardens Campground that is 5 miles up. I made sure that I filled up before I left the campground earlier, knowing the temperatures were near 95 F. The one nice thing about the trail along the first mile and a half stretch is that it follows a stream and I could wet my hat and scarf to keep cool. I hiked for over an hour and a half before I saw one other person on the trail. At first it was a little eerie being alone and looking up at nothing but canyon walls, but it didn’t take long and I was cruising along deep in thought. I was working my body physically, yet de-stressing my mind totally…..I was in a good place!!
I saw my first signs of life about a 1/2 mile from the Indian Gardens Campground, it was a guy running slowly past me. It was strange watching him because he was running as though he was focussing on his form, knees up, arms pumping forward and back using his upper body, back straight, gate was in check, yet he was moving barely faster than I was. He looked somewhat animated in his movements and offering only a slight nod as he passed by, as though he was on some sort of assignment. He may have been camping below and out for a training run, whatever the reason, it was good to see some life. A short time later I arrived at the Campground.
The Indian Gardens Campground is also a small oasis of greenery and shade with a stream running through it. There was a water source where some hikers were hanging out to rest and get out of the sun. To most it was the last stop on their way down, then they would turn around and head back up. I could see myself camping here someday, like the other campgrounds in the canyon it requires a backcountry permit. I stayed just long enough to fill my water bottles and then I headed out.
I was still feeling good heading out of the campground and since I was near this part of the trail the previous day, I put the camera away and focused on hiking and running the last miles. I started running up the canyon at a fairly slow pace, stopping to walk every 20 minutes or so till I was within site of the Lodge at the top of the Bright Angel Trail. When I stepped up onto the rim, it was 20 degrees cooler, so I threw my fleece back on and admired the views while celebrating my accomplishment of covering almost 20 miles in about 9 hours 20 minutes. After turning to walk back to my car, I realized I was parked about 5 miles away near the South Kaibab Trail, I was at the Bright Angel. I could have taken the shuttle back closer to my car, but I decided to run instead. In total I covered nearly a marathon distance. After a hot shower and eating some hot soup, I was exhausted, but also thinking about what trails I would explore for my day 3 adventure!! As I was looking at my map under the glow of my headlamp in the tent, when I fell off to sleep. Day 2 was another awesome adventure!!