Friday, June 4, 2021

Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 5, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Link to Day 2

Link to Day 3 

Link to Day 4

Day 5 was our last day in the Canyon, on Friday, May 21, 2021.  The night before had been very windy, with regular gusts that woke each of us up.  Despite our shortest hike of the week, we packed up and headed onto the trail early that day, before the sunlight hit any part of the canyon walls.

I had hiked this section twice before - in 2008 with a friend after a couple of nights in Bright Angel Campground along the Colorado River, and in 2010 with my then-10 year old son on a single overnight to Indian Garden Campground.  Now 21, he was excited to return to this trail section and explore his memories from the previous outing.  We attempted to recreate multiple photos taken during that earlier trip.  Frankly, I prefer the shots where he looks older, compared to the ones where I look older.

The final day's hike started out on the Bright Angel Trail from Indian Garden at a 9 percent grade, climbing through the open canyon until it hits a series of switchbacks that ascend at a 14 percent grade.  Even hiking to Indian Garden as a dayhike is very achievable for many people, and there are several major landmarks dividing the hike, with Indian Garden Campground, 3 Mile Resthouse, and 1.5 Mile Resthouse dividing the ascent.

The only real excitement to this trip segment was the appearance of a helicopter, which dropped supplies to a hiker that had reportedly spent the night on the trail after an injury.  Later we came across a large contingent of paramedics running down the trail to meet the hiker with a stretcher that had a single thick tire.  We did not envy those folks bringing that load back up the trail!  The hiker was off trail, and I passed that hiker without noticing the makeshift campsite or injured hiker.

The entire hike segment from Indian Garden Campground to the South Rim was:

4.7 miles
2884 feet gained
2:16 moving time
0:32 stopped time

After 5 days below the rim, it was time to hop in the car, drive to Flagstaff and find a Taco place for lunch and a beer before our two groups went their separate ways.  Will and I headed north through a sandstorm to Kanab, Utah, on our way to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 4, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Link to Day 2

Link to Day 3 

Day 4 of our 2021 Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim was my toughest day of hiking.  It really was two separate hikes.  The first was from Cottonwood Campground, halfway up the North Rim to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River.  It was slowly downhill over 7+ miles.  Then, after stopping at Phantom Ranch for lemonade, we climbed up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground for our final night in the Canyon.  

An early start meant that the the hike to Phantom Ranch was shaded and cool.  I enjoyed this section just as much the second time as I had two days earlier when I first experienced it.

We left camp at 6:40AM, about an hour after sunrise.  It took us 2.5 hours to get to Phantom Ranch, plus about 10 minutes stopped time.  We stayed at Phantom Ranch for about a half hour, then put the packs back on to finish the day's journey.  

After Phantom, the next couple of miles is relatively level.  We crossed the Colorado on a steel pedestrian bridge, and paralleled the river until we reached a side canyon with some privies.  The trail along the Colorado was different than any of the trail we had experienced before.  That is something that always surprises me about the Grand Canyon - there are so many different experiences along the way.

About 2 miles after crossing the river, we came to a canyon with a stream and a building with privies. The trail cut in there and started to climb.  Parts of the trail were relly steep for short sections - my data indicates a 41% grade for about 200 feet as part of the climb.  

You can see from the photo above how exposed the trail was during this climb.

At higher elevations, the trail followed a canyon made by a stream bed.  Lots of birds and trees were in the stream bed below.  Eventually the stream bed rose up to meet the trail, and parts of the trail were pretty muddy from the stream crossing.  

We all made it to the campground at different times.  The young hikers were first and picked out a campsite.  I arrived next and when I arrived, the young guys headed back down the trail to help Mike, while I watched the backpacks and started to set up camp.  Mike was most appreciative of the help, as the trail was even hotter when he made it to the top.

I set up my tent, but had to weigh it down with several large rocks as a wind started to pick up.  That wind never ended, and roared through camp all night - keeping us awake much more than any of us would have liked.  We were all pretty spent, and passed time for the rest of the day re-hydrating and playing multple hands of Hearts card games.  There are fewer photos during this portion of the hike compared with other days - I think it is because this was a tough slog.

The Indian Garden Campground was much more active than Cottonwood had been, and I remembered bits and pieces from when I had camped here with Will eleven years earlier, shown below.

Day 5 description: Link.