I had Friday off and a 15 mile run planned, but on a whim we called Phantom Ranch (a small dorm at the bottom of the canyon) to see if they had any last-minute cancellations (in the warm months they book months in advance). To our surprise, they did--that night and the next. We booked the beds, threw everything in the car as fast as we could and took off on the four hour drive to the south rim. After parking at the visitor center, we threw all the food in the pack and hustled to catch a bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.
It's hard to overstate how beautiful the canyon is, and the South Kaibab has most of the best views. Before long we were also getting great views of the river as well. (Click on any of the images for a larger version).
|The Colorado River is in the center; the cottonwood trees off to the right are along the Bright Angel Creek|
|"Hang on--Joe has to go to the bathroom again"|
|They were everywhere. In other news, bushes are delicious.|
We walked back to the dorms (there are separate dorms for men and women) in the dark and settled in for bed. We had decided to go part of the way up the north rim the next day so I set my phone alarm for 5am and went to sleep. Emily did the same until she was awoken by a family who showed up at the dorms around midnight; apparently they had underestimated the time it would take them to get down by... a lot... and had ended up hiking the last few miles in the dark.
It seemed like I had only been asleep for a couple of hours when my alarm went off. I dragged myself out of bed and started getting ready for my run. Our plan was to leave separately, with me going for my regularly scheduled 15 miler and meeting Emily at Ribbon Falls (about halfway up the North Kaibab) for lunch. I was dressed and about ready to head out the door when I looked out the window. It was pitch black outside. Odd. I thought sunrise was supposed to be around 5:15; shouldn't it be light by now? I dug my watch out of my backpack. 2:10am. Son of a hamster! Somehow the time on my phone had gotten changed. I reset it for 5am--again--and tried to fall back asleep.
I did--briefly. It turns out there is a 4:30 wake-up call whether you want one or not. Now very much awake, I headed out on my run. The lower half of the North Kaibab is the most runnable section of the Grand Canyon trail system. It follows the Bright Angel Creek through a small box canyon for three miles before the canyon widens out a bit.
|That's the south rim of the canyon in the distance|
We both agreed that Ribbon Falls was one of the most idyllic places we have ever seen. "Fern Gully" was how Emily described it. The photos don't do justice to the place. They also don't show you how thick the moss was, how clear the water was, or how cool and refreshing the air felt.
After we left the falls we headed back to Phantom Ranch. After soaking our feet in the Bright Angel Creek, we ate our lunch at the canteen and played Scrabble.
|The look of a man who would rather run another 15 miles than play a whole game of Scrabble.|
One of the unique things about the Grand Canyon is it's the only place in the U.S. where mail is carried by mule. All of postcards sold at Phantom Ranch have this stamp:
After the Scrabble game finally ended (Emily won), we went to a couple of ranger talks (it's been 20 years since a confirmed snake bite in the canyon, but 7 people are bitten by squirrels every day), had dinner by the river again, and hit the sack.
Another 4:30 wake-up call. By this point in the trip we were both exhausted but there was only one way out (actually two, but faking a snakebite to get a helicopter ride out seemed a bit extreme). On the way past the mule corral there was a mule deer nonchalantly having breakfast with the mules.
|I swear--there's a deer in the photo. It's just to the left of Sasquatch (and Elvis).|
|If you look closely there's a crescent moon and Venus|
|Perfectly clear, but looks emerald green|
|I found myself craving Yoo-hoo all of a sudden|
Soon we were across and headed up the Bright Angel Trail.
|You can see both bridges over the river--silver is closer, black is farther away|
The trail follows Pipe Creek for several miles until you get to Indian Gardens, which I consider the prettiest of all the campgrounds in the canyon.
|The group of trees in the valley is Indian Gardens|
|Jacob's Ladder is after this, but we had stopped taking pictures by then.|
|"Did I leave the stove on...?"|
And that was our relaxing weekend.