With our alarm set for 5:00 and hopes of catching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, we were sadly disappointed to emerge from the tent at 5:30 to the sun already in the sky 😦 (Most of you probably know that neither of us are very good at waking up).
Despite losing the opportunity to see the sunrise, we were still determined to get a good hike in! We made our breakfast of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and got our rations ready for our hike – sandwiches, snacks and water!
With the temperature around 60 degrees on the South Rim, we layered on our hiking clothes and drove toward the visitor’s center to park and catch the trail head.
8:00 on the dot we began our hike down the Bright Angel Trail, with our destination, Indian Garden, just 4.5 miles away. The visitor’s center suggested allowing 6-9 hours roundtrip, and we were ready! Once we started the descent, we quickly warmed up and lost a layer of clothing – the first rest area/water spigot was 1.5 miles down, at which point we filled up the Camelbak and continued on.
The first 1.5 miles seemed to fly by – we were going downhill let’s remember. We thought we were making some pretty good time, but maybe the mule ride would have been a better choice, riding ON the mule rather than hiking through its droppings?!
By mile 3 it was getting HOT and we were ready for another fill-up on water, and a quick snack of Goldfish (the saltine ones!) and wheat thins…glad we were prepared with the recommended salty snacks! Next we were into the danger zone, the area of the canyon where temperatures can exceed 110 degrees and has very limited shade.
By 10:45 we made it to Indian Garden, which was incredible! It’s an oasis in the desert – part of the canyon that taps into a natural spring, creating lush vegetation, shade and a great area for the next stop! The Grand Canyon National Park has built a campground in Indian Garden, as well as some picnic areas. We were happy to take a break, put our feet up and eat some lunch!
The view from “the bottom” of the canyon was gorgeous. It was hard to believe we had just hiked down the cliff that stood before us. Even though it was a sweltering 105 degrees, we decided to take our tired legs the 1.5 miles more to Plateau Point – the end of the Bright Angel Trail. Luckily, the remaining mile and a half to the point was flat, but it didn’t make it any less scorching. We were truly walking through arid desert – nothing but dirt and cacti surrounding us, with not a spot of shade.
There were times we contemplated turning back, but we knew we would be disappointed with ourselves if we did. Finally we saw a water tank, and some mule hitching posts – a sure sign that we were close! We climbed a few rigid rocks to the plateau, to a sight we will never forgot – the Colorado River winding its way through that canyon. We could even see a few rafts making their way through some rapids (we’ll definitely make it back someday to do that!)
The panoramic view at the point was incredible – no matter which direction we look, the canyon walls were massive. We made it to Plateau Point in 4 hours, (oh boy, they say it takes double the time to make it back up!)
We enjoyed a brief rest out at the point, finding some respite from the sun by the shade of an overhanging rock. When we started our hike out of the canyon, we kept looking at the daunting feat ahead – the same 6 miles we just hiked, only uphill.
Thank God for those water stops every mile and a half! We made it back to Indian Garden in no time at all, running off the adrenaline of reaching the point. The next 4.5 miles, however, were a true test of stamina and endurance.
With the sun beating down, and sweat dripping off, we reached each of the stopping points, filling up with water and a few snacks for that last burst of energy we needed. Finally, 9 hours after we departed the trail head, we made it back to the rim. Phew!
We couldn’t wait to shower, although our campground didn’t have the facilities. Luckily the national park has a great camper services area – $2 for 8 minutes…just enough time to scrub the layer of dust and dried sweat off!
We slowly hobbled back to camp for dinner – salad and pasta (maybe we should have carbo-loaded last night?) Early to bed, early to rise…2nd chance at a Grand Canyon sunrise tomorrow?
Grand Canyon, AZ to Grand Canyon, AZ – 0 miles
-Ally and Patrick