Thursday, November 6, 2014

Travel Thursday: Overnight in the Grand Canyon

This Travel Thursday I'm following up on my previous post about my epic hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day!!

Destination: Overnighting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
Date of Travel: September 2010
Fun Fact about this Destination: summer temperatures can reach 120F in the canyon.

In my previous Grand Canyon post, I shared my 2008 adventure.  This is the follow up - our return trip in 2010 -- where we improved upon the 2008 hike by setting up an overnight stay this time.

In case you want a recap of the 2008 hike, my husband and I partnered up with two friends and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day despite warnings all around the park like this one:

While we made it down and back successfully in one day, I knew I wanted to do the hike again and do it the right way.  The right way meaning, I wanted to hike down leisurely, stay overnight, and then hike back up the next morning.

The Setup for Right Way to Hike to the Bottom of the Grand Canyon

So, on the first day of August 2009, I camped myself on the phone and waited 20 minutes to reserve six spaces at Phantom Ranch, an option at the bottom of the Grand Canyon if you don't want to hike down with all your own camping gear.  Bunks and cabins at Phantom Ranch are in such high demand in the summertime, that you have to reserve as early as possible, which is the first day of the month, thirteen months before your desired date.

Yes, that's right, I made a reservation on August 1, 2009 so that we could plan our big hiking trip for September 2010.  And that's exactly what happened.

Let's Get to the Hike, Shall We?

So fast forward to Labor Day weekend 2010.  We were living in San Diego at the time, so just as we had done in 2008, we left San Diego on Thursday night before Labor Day weekend, drove to Las Vegas, stayed overnight in Sin City, and then headed off from Vegas for Arizona on Friday after a big hearty brunch.

We arrived at our campground on the south rim of the Grand Canyon around 3pm.  Just enough time to do a little sightseeing, and then we set up camp and made dinner.  It was a perfect night just before big hike!

Bright Angel Trail
In 2008, we took the South Kaibab Trail down, so the second time around, we decided to take the Bright Angel Trail just to see a different route.  The Bright Angel trail is a bit longer, which wasn't a problem since we weren't going to do the whole hike round trip in one day.

Another difference with our 2008 hike became evident pretty early on that day: in 2008 we were graced with overcast weather.  I know that doesn't sound like a blessing, after all, we were terrified that rain would bring lightning and thunder, but an overcast day can be a lot cooler than a day without a cloud in the sky.  You'll see what I mean when I show you photos of our descent into what felt like hell, I mean, the canyon.

We started our hike at the top of Bright Angel Trail, marked by the Bright Angel Lodge.

It was only 8am but it was already 75-78 degrees.  Heat aside, it was a beautiful start.  Check out this map if you are a visual person and want to see the Bright Angel trail in detail (10.3 miles to Phantom Ranch) versus the South Kaibab trail (7.3 miles to Phantom Ranch).

By the time we got to Indian Garden, it was closing in on 110 degrees.  As you descend into the canyon, it just gets hotter and hotter.  There isn't much water available along the 10.3 miles of trail, so you have to plan accordingly, but Indian Garden was one place you could refill water bottles and water packs, so that's what we did.  We also took advantage of the shade and sat down to eat our lunches and cool off as best we could.  Yes, it was over 100F at Indian Garden:

From Indian Garden, we pushed on through the heat.  We soaked bandanas and tied those over our heads to keep ourselves from feeling like we were overheating.  I couldn't believe that it continued to get hotter in the second half of our hike, from Indian Garden to Phantom Ranch.  But it did.

When we got to Phantom Ranch, I was so excited because it was only mid-afternoon.  Despite having made my reservations thirteen months earlier, the only option left was beds in the communal dorms.  Obviously my friends and I would have preferred our own personal cabin, but all the cabins were already booked.  So I booked two beds in the women's cabin and two beds in the men's cabin.  Once we got down there, we headed straight to the dorms to check out our accommodations for the night.  It was so nice to take a cold shower and change into fresh clothes.  My friend Bridget and I immediately took a snoozer.

After a nice nap, we went exploring around Phantom Ranch. We checked out the campgrounds down there (Bright Angel Campground), as well as Silver Bridge.  The amazing thing?  Even at 6pm, it was still over 90F down there, at the bottom of the canyon.

After our little walk around, it was time for our dinner (which we also preordered along with breakfast for the next morning, when we booked our accommodations).  Nothing fancy, but it was one less thing we had to hike down with.

After dinner, we walked around some more, and turned in early, because we were signed up for the 6am breakfast.  We wanted to get a good early start on our hike back up -- we didn't want to have to deal with the heat that we had encountered on our way down.

The hike back up started out nice and cool but it did get hot.  We made it back to the top by lunchtime.  It was a great trip.

Would you hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon if you had the chance?  Have you ever had to plan a trip over a year ahead of time?

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