Just over a year ago, I went on an incredible three-week trek to Nepal and Tibet.
By combining my hobbies of exercising and traveling, I made up my mind that I would do a big trek or hike every year as my motivation to stay in good shape. Late last year, I decided that the Grand Canyon would be my 2012 destination and my brother agreed to start training and meet me there in early June for a two-day hike to the bottom of the canyon and back.
While there are numerous outfitters and trekking companies that will gladly charge a lot of money to do all the logistics for a Grand Canyon hike, part of the fun for me is researching the trip and doing my own logistics. Our original plan was a 25-mile Rim-to-Rim hike from the North Rim down to the Colorado River and then up to the South Rim. Camping overnight in the canyon requires a National Park Service permit, so I faxed mine as early as possible (four months from the date of my trip) and hoped for the best, as there aren't a lot of campground sites in the canyon and they fill up fast. In February, I found out that we got an alternate camp site, which meant that we'd have to hike about 20 miles on the first day and the remaining five miles on the second day.
Starting in February, I called weekly to check on reservations at Phantom Ranch, a camping area built in the 1920's with rustic cabins located at the bottom of the canyon, but reservations can be made up to 13 months out and fill up very quickly. I had no luck until just a week before the trip, and was able to get two spots in a male dormitory cabin, complete with five sets of bunk beds, along a dinner time for the famous steak dinner. All supplies at Phantom Ranch are brought down from the South Rim via a daily mule train.
But a big wrench got thrown into my plans just an hour before I departed to the airport. I called the canyon to confirm my reservations and found out that a broken water pipe had washed out a 45-foot section of the North Kaibab Trail and closed it for about a week - this meant we wouldn't be able to hike Rim-to-Rim. After some quick calls and Internet searches, I cancelled some of our logistics and quickly made new plans to do a 2-day hike from the South Rim. I drove to the airport, flew to Phoenix and then on to Flagstaff, where my brother picked me up after his long drive east from central California, where he lives.
We enjoyed the 90-minute drive north up to the Grand Canyon Village, checked into a basic Maswik Lodge cabin and got some sleep. The next day we checked in at the Backcountry Information Center and decided to go down to Phantom Ranch via the South Kaibab Trail, a steep seven-mile descent to the Colorado River. We walked along the Rim Trail in the morning and drank lots of water, as it was pretty hot an dry. We drove back down to Flagstaff and spent some time checking out Walnut Canyon National Monument before grabbing lunch and heading back up to the Grand Canyon. After an early dinner, we checked into the nice Yavapai Lodge, repacked our rucksacks and got to bed early to get some sleep before our 4:15am wake-up call for the next morning. The plan was to catch the 5 a.m. 'hiker's express' shuttle to the trailhead.
Next up: We hike down the South Kaibab Trail, enjoy the day in and around Phantom Ranch despite the 107 degree F temperature, and get ready for the hike back up to the South Rim.