Friday, September 23
Start: Westlake Village, CA
Stop: Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ
With stars twinkling over the Grand Canyon, I peer down from the South Rim and see the slow movement of headlamps. Some in the Indian Garden Campground and some still methodically moving up the Bright Angel Trail with many more miles to hike. Perched on the rim next to the lookout is El Tovar Hotel, a historic fixture of the park. The decadent restaurant is packed with people. It turns out that they serve the best. Filet. Mignon. Ever. The meat melts in my mouth and I just kinda dream that it will just go on forever and ever. I’m sure it’s not the dessert coffee but I sorta toss and turn all night with anticipation for tomorrow’s adventure. The brain works through all the doubts. What about all that down? Will I get blisters from my new shoes? Why am I pulling the classic rookie move and wearing new shoes? Will it be the trail of suffering because I have not done an ounce of training? But more than doubt, there is excitement. A bubbly curiosity for what the canyon will bring.
Saturday, September 24
Start: Yavapai Lodge
Stop: Indian Garden Campground
I wait as long as I can and then roll out of bed to take my last shower for a few days. I don my usual hiking attire and hoist my 18 lb. pack (with water and 3 days food). That darn calzone is really weighing me down. Well, those two juicy apples are pretty heavy too. Uncle Phil and I find the Rim Trail as the morning sun reaches its fingers into the canyon. We see deer grazing, squirrels jockeying for food, a bunny that thinks it’s hiding and a condor sunning itself on a cliff face during our meander to the Bright Angel Lodge breakfast. By 10:30am foot hits trail and we bound down with a certain kind of glee and energy that only comes at the beginning of a hike. We pass hundreds of people who are huffing and puffing their way back up to the South Rim. I smile, exuding positive climbing energy for anyone that may need it. Where the trail is narrow, I yield to those climbing with all their might. Most people are in good spirits but some are visibly struggling against the incline and elevation. And then there are those with snide remarks. The heavy-breathing father of a neon-clad God family mutters, “You won’t be so happy when you have to do this.”
There’s high class compost toilets with fans to dry your ass as well as water at miles 1.5 and 3. I tighten my shoes after a short break at the Three Mile Resthouse and listen to the many foreign accents floating through the air. We’ve already descended 1900 ft. and it’s still another 1100 ft. down until our destination at Indian Garden Campground. People clad in jeans push by with tiny packs so I guess they are day hiking out from Phantom Ranch. The temperature rises slightly but the effort going down is so minimal that I’m barely sweating. Indian Garden is an oasis where there is a small flowing creeklet. The ranger gives a talk at 2:30pm about all the wild things that come out at night. With the threat of skunks and scorpions, Phil changes his cowboy camping plans. A few hours before sunset we hike the 1.5 miles out to Plateau Point to see what colors may splay across the sky and rocks. The muddy Colorado River reflects blue as the canyon walls start to glow orange. The air cools but the rocks are still warm. As the last wedge of sun slips down, the canyon turns Arizona red and we make it back to camp in the last wisps of light.
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