Knock-knock, “It’s 5:00” and the door shuts. For a couple of minutes, I laid there to finish my slumber and to visualize my hike out. My visit had been nice but I was ready to head back. Two other dorm mates were getting ready for the 5:30 breakfast so I got up washed, dressed and began reviewing that I had very thing packed. My duffel, which was a used oats bag for the mules, needed to be dropped off behind the canteen by 6:00, but breakfast first.
Breakfast was extra good that morning. I tore into to it in a big way. I had to make sure I had enough food to hold me until lunch or the rim, which ever came first. A couple extra pancakes, two sausages, plenty of scrambled eggs and enough coffee but not too much, there weren’t rest areas before Indian Garden.
After breakfast, it was all about getting my pack, making sure I had all my things, and dropping off the duffel. With that completed, I turned on my headlamp at 6:30 and began to follow the others who were hiking out. I passed the lead group as we crossed over the silver bridge and up the Bright Angels Trail.
Hiking in the dark was its own world. Although the moon was still very bright with the clear skies, I couldn’t really see beyond what my headlamp illuminated. Soon I was walking in sand. This must have been the sand dunes someone mentioned although it was more like an elevated beach.
The trailed had turned away from the river and began its uphill route. I chuckled when I saw the first rest area with toilets. The toilet was just about where you would want one if you hadn’t thought of it before leaving Phantom Ranch.
Since I packed my tripod in the duffel, I had to wait for the light to be bright enough before I could take any photographs. But that was OK. I’m not one who needs to take a picture every minute. When I take photographs my mind is fully engaged and focused on what I’m photographing which often removed me from what’s going on.
Bright Angel Trail was 10 miles long and followed the inner canyons up to the South Rim. The inner canyons provided shade which helped keep the hot summer sun the hiker. But this was January. Some say they rather hike up South Kaibab for its vistas of the Grand Canyon and shorter distance. I liked both. I would have felt like I missed a very different experience of the GC if I did not hike BA.
During the upward climb my legs were fine. No pain and no loss of strength. It was an enjoyable hike and allowed me time to reflect on my stay at the ranch. In some ways my sore legs forced me to spend my time in and around Phantom Ranch. I saw how the sun’s light bounced off the canyon walls creating this wonderful delicate light. Many cities with densely packed buildings had the same light but instead of rock walls, the buildings had steel, glass and concrete walls to reflect the light. I was able to capture this delicate light in a series of Phantom Ranch cabins and a series of the canyon walls, both will soon to become limited edition prints. The quality of light was not missed by an Arizona watercolor artist who requested to use my photograph as the basis for some of her paintings.
About an hour or so into my upward climb, I spotted two other hikers further up the trail. I eventually caught up to them. They were an uncle and nephew who sat at the Canteen table with me at dinner the previous night.
The nephew was a retired amateur boxer. He now teaches boxing. They had a few great tales of their travels. We hiked together for most of the trail. As I stopped to take a photograph, they would move ahead, and then I would catch up to them. They helped provide scale to some of the photographs.
Back at the Ranch around 8:00, the mule riders departed.
We arrived at Indian Garden, the halfway point around 8:30. We were making very good time. I was shocked to see the place had lost so many trees. Seeing the hollow inside of a remaining stump I understood why they had to be cut down. As we left IG after our short rest, I saw this rather-to-the-point NPS sign. It was good for a few chuckles.
I put my camera away near the Three Mile Resthouse. From there it was all about adjusting my breathing to the higher elevation because we were now moving above 5280ft, the elevation of where I live. My mantra was “more breaths, less steps”. Soon I was back to my normal hiking pace and my breath hit a very comfortable marathon rate.
I parted company with my fellow hikers at the 1.5 mile RestHouse when we stopped to put on our ice cleats. In the last mile several hikers passed me on their way down. A few were with packs, some did not have ice cleats, and a pair of runners wore lightweight running-shorts, lightweight t-shirt, running shoes and only had a single water bottle. I thought, “there’s the full range of dress.” How confusing was that for the naive novice hiker who may not have a healthy respect for the environment of the Grand Canyon.
I reached the rim by 11:30! Five hours up! Wow! What a contrast to the over seven hours it took me to hike down. Looking back, I had it easy. Sunny days, no clouds, perfect weather for my January hike. A week later I saw some photos of a group of hikes who had lots of rain. The trail was a mini river rushing down. They looked soaked. I was very happy that my hike turned out as it did.
Below are the photographs of the canyon walls. They make for great pictures to be hung in corporate offices and homes. Naturally colorful and not too abstract so that you know they are photographs of rocks.
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