A note: we made it back to Maine! The hiatus from our travelogue can only be explained by the fact that I thought I’d wait to type up our last few stops on the road trip until we got home, but then when we got back there was a million things to do (and a million cat hairs to vacuum from our couches), and writing went to the wayside. Thank you to our friends that texted us and asked us if we were okay and if we had disappeared into the wild wild west. My lesson has been learned; either write as we’re going, or suffer the consequences of being a procrastinator. And there really was no reason to put off writing about the Grand Canyon, because we had a wonderful time.
As we drove towards the south rim of the Grand Canyon from Zion, the weather steadily became colder until we were in the 30s. We wanted to get an early start to descend into the canyon the next morning, and freezing rain predicted for that evening into the next morning made camping sound like no fun. Fortunately, it was mid-week and off-season, so we were able to find an inexpensive hotel room at Maswick Lodge in the park. The last time we took showers was a week prior in Los Angeles, so we welcomed the chance to clean-up. We scored permits at the Backcountry Office, did some last minute grocery shopping, packed our bags, and double checked to make sure we had everything for our four days in the canyon.
The next morning we hopped on the hiker shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead, and started hiking down in full rain gear due to the cold and drizzly conditions. We didn’t get too many views on the way down on account of the low hanging clouds, but we made good time and after six miles we were able to break for an early lunch with a nice view… and squirrels. There are signs all over the main corridor trails in the park saying not to feed the squirrels. I always think that it is pretty easy not to feed wildlife, you just don’t feed them; but these squirrels were determined to get our attention. We got our food out quickly, and I stood-up as I ate, my food bag between my feet, to protect my food from the squirrels (and the squirrels from my food, human food isn’t good for animals and habituates them to people). Then it was a few more miles down, across one of the bridges spanning the Colorado River, and to find a spot at Bright Angel Campsite. We made it to camp around 2pm, the hike down was a little over 9 miles and went much faster than we anticipated. Phantom Ranch is at the bottom of the canyon, a 5 minute walk from where we camped, so we walked over and had a beer at the canteen. We went back to our site and made friends with the girl camping next to us, and we played a good game of gin rummy. It was neat to swap stories with her, she was a climber traveling around the southwest, and talking and card playing made the evening pass quickly.
We spent the next two nights camped out at the same spot, and did a dayhike out to Rainbow Falls the first day. We were able to walk behind the falls, and the whole spot was an oasis in the dry, dusty canyon. The second day we hiked east for ten miles or so, catching views of the Colorado River, and then turned around and repeated those miles to get back to camp. We normally like to do loop hikes, but the Grand Canyon is so impressive, we had no problem repeating all the beauty that came along with the trail.
For our last night in the canyon, we had planned a short 4ish mile day to Indian Gardens campground, but read at the rangers station that rain was predicted for that evening. Between the rain on the PCT, and the rain that we will experience on the Appalachian Trail in a few weeks, we’re trying to avoid it when we can. So we got our hike on, and instead hiked the full 9 miles out of the canyon in good time. We made it to the rim for pizza, unpacked our bags, and hopped in the car to Flagstaff- where we quickly ate more pizza, and planned out the last week of our road trip. This was my second trip to the Grand Canyon, and I cannot wait to go back! We purchased a map of much of the canyon, and I had no idea just how many trails were in there. Next time we hope to spend a couple of weeks backpacking around the canyon, exploring beyond the popular trails.