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APRIL 17, 2009   

More Grand Canyon trip pictures & commentary on this site from 4/11 to 4/20. Our travel tips and suggestions at From the Cuyahoga to the Colorado.

Back to the rim

Early morning sun lighting high canyon wallAfter the wake-up call for 5 a.m. breakfast I was the only one left in the dorm. Didn't seem to be much point in trying to get back to sleep (hadn't worked since 3:30), so I read the guidebook by flashlight for awhile and eventually got dressed and went outside.

Blue sky and sun on the far rim of the canyon looked promising, but it was pretty cold, about 25 degrees. Went and knocked on the door at Joanne's (women's) dorm. She was the only one left there too. I guess we represent the slug-a-bed faction of Canyon hikers. The few, the proud, the lazy.

The canteen

Menu board listing items and pricesHad a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs at the canteen. It was filled with people, apparently mule-train riders since most of the hikers had eaten at 5 a.m.

The menu board shows a pretty wide range of stuff available, especially considering it all comes down by mule.

Today's weather forecast taped at bottom left showed some sun and somewhat warmer temperatures. The "40% chance of snow" chalked on the board was left over from yesterday, thankfully.

South Kaibab Trail

Unlike virtually every other hiker I talked with, we decided to hike out via the South Kaibab trail. Most prefer to come in via the steeper, shorter Kaibab and out on the longer but allegedly gentler Bright Angel. We figured that Joanne's bum knee, better going uphill than down, would be just fine going out the Kaibab. Fortunately this turned out to be true.

Black Bridge across the Colorado River, Grand CanyonLeaving Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel campground we passed the Silver Bridge and crossed the river on the equally lovely Black Bridge, built around 1930.

This bridge has a wooden plank surface that blocks the view of the river below. Because of this it's the only bridge that mules will cross. People don't seem to have this hang up.

View down towards the ColoradoAfter a long series of switchbacks we were high above the river.

This was the first of three serious sets of switchbacks.

View back into canyon from Skelton PointAfter a couple more hours and many more switchbacks we were atop the next ridge at Skeleton Point.

Apparently mules find this an appealing place to fall off the trail, and their remains account for its name.

Fortunately the mules that have chosen this option have not been carrying passengers. I didn't find these switchbacks particularly treacherous, but then I'm not a mule, although carrying a heavy pack uphill I frequently felt like one.

Mule passing on trailSpeaking of mules, we saw them up close and personal several times as they passed us on the trail. Mule trains have the right of way—hikers step off the trail on the mountain side.

Even after they've gone you are reminded of mules by the frequent piles of mule poop and occasional pools of mule piss. I didn't mind it—seemed to be funky in a good way.

View into the canyon from near the rim on S. Kaibab trailAfter—you guessed it—more switchbacks, we were less than a half hour from the rim. It was pretty clear that this would be one of our last overlooks from inside the Canyon.

Felt kind of sad to be leaving, but on the other hand we were dog-tired by this point and ready for the hike to be over.

Al and Joanne next to trail sign at rimWe did it!

Six and a half hours after we left Phantom Ranch we were at the rim. Maybe not as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as when we set out yesterday morning, but not doing too badly. Our time coming out was pretty decent considering our hour and ten minute lunch break. Maybe the time we spent before the trip running up and down the stairs at home paid off.


Sunset from Pima Point, Grand CanyonThere it was, the Colorado far below as the sun set on our last day at the Canyon.

Looking at it from the rim, it's hard to believe that we'd walked down there and back in the last two days.

The lesson learned: put your head down and keep moving, you'll get there eventually.

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2009 APRIL