A Marathon not a Sprint

Hiking into the Grand Canyon is a bucket list item for many people.  Such an adventure creates sights of the Canyon few get to experience — here are some recent photos of the awesome place  — taken in the eastern part of the Grand Canyon:

After a year of preparation two of us finally descended into the Canyon via the very steep, very rocky and quite sensational South Kaibab Trail (7.7 miles) — this hike would eventually take us almost 8-hours. To complete:

 The weather in the park was sensational the days of our hikes. The temps stayed below 70 degrees with a light breeze. For most of day — the expectation was temps in the mid-80’s in the Canyon and 60’s at the Rim. This complicated packing backpacks since the adage “lighter is better” is very, very necessary.  Water was the heaviest item carried — not optional since there were no water stops on the South Kaibab Trail. Perhaps the most important equipment were adjustable walking poles (kinda like ski poles). These are the poles that Europeans have used for decades to aid balance and posture while hiking or walking. For years I had pooh poohed poles as unnecessary — an over-reach by Europeans. Boy, was I wrong on that score! The walking poles were instrumental in off-setting the weight of the backpack and the pull of gravity.

There are several resting stops along the South Kaibab with interested in names — no water, but some pit toilets–the first was ooh aah point:


Followed by stops at Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point and Tonto East:

Skeleton Point —  the second photo below provided the first glimpse of the Colorado River — the creator of the Grand Canyon :

And last, though not least,  Tonto East: 

mules are tied to the bar during a rest stop:

 An even better view of the Colorado River from Tonto East:

There were many hikers moving up and down the trail that day — most interesting had to be the mules. — a pack train scooted by us nearly half way down:

Mules are used to move nearly everything down into the Canyon — people, goods, tools, food, etc.,. The first mule train brought to mind — yes, the piece was stuck in my head the duration of the hike — Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, in particular the piece called “On the Trail” the depiction of the mules moving up and down the Canyon trails.This brought to mind the first time I’d heard it — in Sister Leo Clare’s music appreciation class. Dum, de, dum, de, dum, de, dum,da, da,da.

As we peered over the Grand Canyon walls the Colorado River got closer as did the bridge we use to cross it as we drew closer to Phantom Ranch: 

Once we were at the river we entered a short cave and crossed the bridge:

Crossing the muddy and shallower Colorado one is struck by the noise of the rapids even during the dry season:

Finally, we completed a nearly 5,000 foot descent into the belly of the Grand Canyon by reaching Phantom Ranch — a rustic village made up of cabins with bunk beds and bunkhouses with more of the same::


Meals — served family-style and entertainment —  playing cards or board games were offered by the canteen:

As dark approached we got summoned to the canteen for dinner — tables were set with large platters of food. After a raucous evening of gin rummy it was lights out (9:00 PM).

Breakfast, like dinner, was in shifts and served family style — we were the first shift at 5:00 AM. We scarfed down the food grabbed our bag lunches.  

We began our ascent up Bright Angel Trail before sunrise. Though longer in both distance and completion time Bright Angel was the easier climb. The total distance would be 9.3 miles.  The trail begins nearly level to the river on sand that eventually becomes a long series of switchbacks. This hike is also more crowde and hotter –it’s an interior trail so few breezes to be felt.   It begins adjacent to the Colorado River:

Like Kaibab,, Bright Angel. Also boasts a number of colorfully names stops along the trail — unlike Kaibab there was plenty of water and pit toilets available at each stop.  

The scenery in the interior is different:

The shadows of he morning kept us fairly cool — it got warmer as the day moved on.   For the first 5-miles trail followed rapidly plunging Pipe Creek and its tributaries many of which we crossed several times:

This trail was noticeably greener too unlike South Kaibab. Bright Angel also had water/toilet stops:

Plateau Point which is bisected by the two Tonto trails. (East and West):   

and Indian Garden — an oasis and campground as well as a lunch stop for folks riding mules down in the Canyon:

Aand 3-mile stop:

And lastly 1.5 mile the last stop:

Going up this trail provided completely different views of the Canyon — the trail bisected a section of the Canyon that was the original trail down to the Colorado River. Kaibab was originally created to compete with Bright Angel because  it was once owned and operated on a fee basis by Ralph Cameron a local settler.  The National Park Service gained control of the trail in 1925 — ending his monopoly.

More photos from Bright Angel Trail:

I finished the hike humming — “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” after completing a 4,000 foot ascent in 9-hours — greeted by this sign:

Reaching the rim of the Grand Canyon was a triumph worthy of a high five and two bowls of ice cream — Praline Pecan and Mint Chocolate Chip never tasted so good!


About tourdetom

I'm retired. Travel a lot.
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3 Responses to A Marathon not a Sprint

  1. Robert Smolund says:

    Great presentation Tom. I’m inspired to plan a trip like this in the near future. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your hike Tom. Absolutely amazing!

  3. Julie F Hunt says:


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