Big Hole in the Ground

June 16, 2017

by Steve

We recently spent a week at the Grand Canyon. We were last here just three years ago, when doing our bucket-list rim-to-rim backpacking trip, and we didn't think we'd be back so soon. But people told us, "Once you see the canyon by hiking through it, you'll want to come back." We didn't believe it at the time, but here we are. The canyon seems to have a pull on you, especially near the edge.

There are limited places for a large RV at the Grand Canyon. Most RV people stay in Williams, about an hour away. The main campground in the National Park does not have electricity and is limited to vehicles 30 feet or shorter. There is a trailer village in the park that has full hookups and can take longer RVs, but it is always booked far in advance. So imagine my surprise when on a whim I checked on availability and found a site in the trailer village big enough for us, and available for eight days. I grabbed it. And so we had eight days staying right at the canyon. Jane wanted to be able to walk out the door and go hiking. Well, the campsites are a ways from the rim, but they are as close as you can camp to the rim. Plus there are elk that hang out in the campground and walk right past your window.

We hiked on several of the trails, including Hermit's trail, which we have not been on before, and went farther down the South Kaibab trail than we previously had. Here's the view from about 2.5 miles down South Kaibab, or 1/3 the way to the river. We hope to take this trail all the way down someday, while our legs are still good.

The South Kaibab has some spectacular views, but it also has precious little shade and no water, so you need to be careful about the sun and heat when you're hiking it.

We hiked the Bright Angel trail for a couple days. On one day, we just descended to "mile-and-a-half rest house" to see how our legs were doing with an 1100 foot vertical descent and climb.  And then the next day we went 4.5 miles down to Indian Garden, a hike that includes 3000 feet of vertical. That made for a nice day hike, and as the temperatures were not overly hot, we didn't really have to worry about hiking during the heat of the day.

I read somewhere that the Bright Angel trail is the most-hiked trail in the world. Six million people visited the park in 2016; most of those went to the south rim, and a significant number decide to go at least a little way down the Bright Angel trail.

And why not? It's good trail with great views and a nice stopping spot every mile and a half with shade and water. Just be smart about it. Hike early in the day, avoiding 11 am to 4 pm on hot days, carry lots of water (we carry 4 liters each), wear good hiking shoes, and know your abilities. They say it takes the average person twice as long to hike up as it does to hike down. (For us, it's only slightly slower going up.) There are always people getting into trouble and needing help getting out or being rescued. As a result, Backpacker magazine considers the Bright Angel to be one of the most dangerous hikes in America. It's not uncommon to see people in flip-flops, carrying one cup of Starbucks coffee, and seeing how far down they can go. Don't  be one of them!

I've got a feeling that we'll be back at the canyon before too long. We are wintering in Tucson Arizona this year, and so the canyon will only be a day's drive away. We've never been there in winter, so there's always something new to see.

Happy trails to you.

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  1. Hi Steve, we miss you- glad to see you're enjoying life!
    Jack and your 5th floor work friends.


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