One Hell of a Canyon and One Hell of a Hike!!

2 Aug

This is actually a post from my old blog. In fact, this is my first post, ever. I am posting it again here along with pictures from that trip that were missing earlier.

Grand Canyon – Sept 4th 2005

3:30 am
I woke up with a jolt as the alarm rang and realized that today was the day I was going down the Grand Canyon. For a second, I thought that I must have been completely insane to have undertaken the challenge! Even now, I dont have to do this, I thought, as I remembered those crazy web-sites that completely psyched me out by overdoses of warnings about how people have gotten lost and even died in an attempt to hike down to the Colorado river and back up in one day. But then, I just wanted to prove them wrong!
4:15 am
Raghu and I left the hotel at 4:15 a.m. after eating our dinner left-overs for breakfast. We then drove to the Bright Angel lodge, parked our car and waited at the shuttle bus stop. The hiker express picks up hikers from the Bright Angel Lodge at 5:00 am. and deposits them to the South Kaibab trailhead. This was ideal for us, as we were hiking down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel trail. There were a lot of hikers on the bus, some of them first-timers like us and some veterans.

At the start – just after sunrise

5:30 am
Finally the hour had arrived that we had been waiting for and we started the descent. It was still a good 15 min before sunrise and the canyon did not look inviting. But our spirits were high and down and down and down we went. The trail was pretty well-defined but only wide enough for one person to walk at a time. Then I saw the first warning – ‘Do not attempt to hike to the river and back in one day…..blah. blah….You can even die’. And our determination to prove them wrong peaked every time we saw those signs. We stopped to watch the sunrise and it was indeed beautiful. The trail took us round and round and down and down and surrounded by canyon on all sides. It was hiker’s nightmare and a photographer’s dream come true.

Check the winding and unending South Kaibab trail

8:00 am
It was funny that at this hour, we would normally be in bed and today we were half way down the canyon. We were eager to get our first view of the river and there it was – seemed so near yet so far! There was no water on the trail but we found an emergency phone tucked away in the canyon walls. It was amazing how technology had reached deepest wilderness!

Check the emergency phone!!

When you are walking the canyon, you are a pedestrian and there are pedestrian traffic rules to be followed, especially mule-rules. When you cross a pack of mules, you wait on the inside and let the mule walk by you on the outside. We had to display our new found knowledge, a couple of times. I found it intriguing, how well-mannered and disciplined the mules were, inspite of walking so many miles with heavy loads on their backs.

Pack of mules

We finally crossed the black bridge and reached the river-bed at 9:30 am. The Phantom Ranch is nestled in the heart of the canyon and appeared to be in a world of its own. The only technology contact it had with the human world was an emergency phone a few miles back. We had our modest lunch (1 banana, 1 apple, 1 snack bar) with our feet in the river and started on our way back at about 11 am.

Phantom Ranch frontyard

11:30 am
We took the Bright Angel trail on our way up as it was less steeper than the South Kaibab trail. A signboard near the river had suggested that one should soak their clothes in water to stay cool in the hot sun. It was almost noon and we started feeling the hot sun on us and soaking our clothes helped us stay cool and preserve body fluids. The sun felt hotter and hotter as we climbed up and to add to the misery, the backpacks also started putting on weight. We were now taking more rest stops to soak our clothes and replenish body fluids. We reached the mid-way spot, Indian Garden, after about 3 hours. After a nice rest, we started again and to our surprise the trail became very very flat and we felt that something was wrong. Luckily, we had trail maps and soon realized that we had taken a detour to a lookout point and had to walk back 2 miles to return all the way to Indian Garden to get back on track.

Intimidating canyon on the way up

3:20 am – 4.5 miles to go
The next milestone was the 3-mile rest house, which took awfully long to appear. The last 3 miles were never ending and we felt like stopping at every corner. Luckily for us, the sun had disappeared behind clouds so we did not need much fluids. We had to tackle only the physical exhaustion and the glucose tablets we swallowed gave us some extra boost to reach the next milestone, the 1.5 mile rest house. The adventure was slowly becoming an ordeal and the last mile seemed impossible but as soon as we caught sight of the building at the top, our spirits soared and we knew that we had done it!! We were at the top in 15 min and took a moment to look back at the feat we had accomplished.

Looking back at the canyon

We had hiked to the Colorado river and back in one day – 12 hours. The feeling was exhilarating and without a word we walked to our car………

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6 Responses to “One Hell of a Canyon and One Hell of a Hike!!”

  1. Pallavi August 3, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Amazing! superb!! I wish to get an opportunity to do this someday soon!.. before I get old. 🙂 Shud convince rakhal to go on small hike with kids this weekend.

  2. Nishant August 3, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    Awesome!! Great pics. Would love to hike down the GC some day, camp for the night and travel back the next day..sound like an adventure!

  3. AD August 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    @Pallavi – Thanks Pallavi. Aapan ekda kuthey tari gelo hoto hiking la in Bangalore, didnt we? I dont seem to remember any other details.@Nishant – Thanks man! We wanted to stay the night at Phantom Ranch too but that will have to be some other time. Did you know, Phantom Ranch is booked up like a year in advance. You might get lucky and get a same day spot against a cancellation. You should try it out 🙂

  4. AswathiBabu August 5, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    It was a nice virtual tour. Thanking you for the great effort

  5. AD August 8, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    @Aswathi – You are very welcome! Are you also into hiking and outdoorsy stuff?

  6. Mehak August 19, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    such pretty pictures!nice blog 🙂

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