The first park we stopped at was the Grand Canyon. We had a reservation to camp at the rim that night, but were hoping for a last minute / day-of permit to camp at the bottom. Being November and that we arrived before the Ranger’s office opened (by driving through the night), we got the permit for the following night easily. Though they did sell out.
That day we explored all over the South Rim. There are different view points, a tower, some native american sites to see. It was really fun. I would definitely recommend giving this some time even if your plans don’t include hiking to the bottom. We also did a free walking tour on Geology, which was great for appreciating all around us that much more and all we would see the next day on the trail down.
We also prepared for the hike the next day by leaving anything we didn’t need in the car and grabbing some groceries at the very expensive park store. We slept at the campsites on the rim, which were not very crowded being that it was November.
We started packing up in the morning while it was still dark out, but by the time we got the shuttle to the trail head the sun was up. There were maybe five couples or small groups all heading down, but we all lost each other instantly. Not just with different hiking paces, but some stopped to use the bathroom one last time, refill water, etc. We were by ourselves nearly the whole hike/day. We would see lots of people at resting areas and occasionally be passed by a string of mules, but it was very peaceful hiking.
I had rented poles for the hike and I couldn’t decide if I liked them or not. The path is well traveled, but it is not so even that you can keep a perfect pace (which I suppose is part of the reason for the poles). Without a steady pace, maintaining rhythm with the poles and my legs required too much concentration. On the other and, a year and a half later, hiking in the Italian Alps, I would find them very helpful.
So we spent mostly the entire second day hiking down to the bottom of the canyon… or to the Colorado River you could say. It was very, very beautiful. Soon we could no longer see the top, and the day would be half over before we could see the bottom — the views changed that much.
We took the South Kaibab Trail down the South Rim. This trail is very well maintained. The path is clear, though narrow and cliff-edge-y at times. There was also a restroom, but there is no water line on this trail (we saved the trail with water for going up). There are big boulders to sit on or rest your pack pretty frequently as well as little clearing with logs or stones for taking breaks and/or snacks.
By the time we reached the bottom we didn’t have much daylight left. We did have time to enjoy the River, set up our camp site, remark on the funny-looking deer that wanted to share our campsite, meet some fellow hikers, and explore a little bit down there but not as much as I would have liked. We also went to two more of those free seminars. First was another on geology (talked about different stuff that the ranger from the day before) then the second was after dark and the ranger told ghost stories about the Grand Canyon (mixed with a little popular history). Both were really good!
We also learned a bit about the life of the rangers. I don’t remember perfectly but I think they spend a week down then a week up — those that are stationed at the bottom, which is the cool place to be stationed. While we have to pack up everything that we packed down, they get the luxury of having a little garbage taken by the mules for them. Only people and mules go down and up.
There is also a little restaurant down there that requires a reservation in advance and serves choice of steak or stew every night.
While not every camp site was in use, the ranger explained that they were still at full capacity because the limits are on number of people not site permits. Only 1% of the bazillion visitors to the Grand Canyon makes the trip to the bottom, so that made us feel pretty special. There is water and bathrooms at the bottom, but again, no trash.
The next day (our third since we arrived at the park) we woke up bright and early to hike back up. We took the Bright Angel Trail up the South Rim this time for a change in scenery. This trail also has a water pump at the half way point, which makes it a good and popular choice. A little into our start our ranger from the night before flew by us at more than double our speed.
There are campsites at that halfway point and if I go back again, which I hope I do, I would stay a night there. I actually would spend two nights, or even three at the bottom and split the climb up with another night. This would give us a day or two to enjoy the bottom and let us take the hike up more easy as well as explore that middle-level between rim and bottom. The only down side would be that this way needs five-days / four-nights worth of food. We did it in two-days / one-night and we still ran out of food.
We ran out of food with an early lunch at the half way point. I blame Daniele for this because he has a really high metabolism, but insists that he doesn’t and that he won’t want any food later. At virtually every meal he insists that he’s so full, he’s never going to be hungry again. But of course an hour or so later he’s all “what’s for dinner?” Really. He does this like every day. But I didn’t know this then as I do now, ya know, special wife psychic powers granted at our marriage ceremony wouldn’t take effect for another six months. So the morning we left I let him talk me into removing from our bags most of the granola bars that I had figured we would need with a “well, I’m not eating any, that seems like a lot for just you” as well as some other snacks I thought would be good for between meals. Of course he ate all of it. The only food he didn’t finish were the baby carrots he insisted on bringing — knowing that I hate raw carrots. Really hate them.
So we continuously ate more at each meal than planned. This was easy to do as after the aforementioned discussion our food plan was optimized for low weight, not high calories. Resulting in nothing left but some baby carrots with 4.9 miles and 3060 feet elevation difference still to cover. So I ate those carrots. But hunger slowed me down and the sky was already changing color by the time we got out of the canyon.
We treated ourselves to a motel that night so we could take real showers. First we drove most of the way to the Petrified Forest, but that’s a story for another day.
The full photo album from these three days is here: