I love the Bright Angel Lodge. I really do. I find it to be my favorite place to stay in the park for a variety of reasons. It’s historic, but not as fancy or expensive as the historic El Tovar. It has a 1970s, road trip with the Brady bunch sort of feel to it. And to sum it up, I just feel incredibly at home there. Needless to say, the entire hike up from the Phantom Ranch I couldn’t wait to see the Bright Angel Lodge, and treat myself to the creature comforts of a hot shower and clean clothes.
We started the day with a 430am wake up call. I kind of felt bad for those women in our cabin who were not scheduled to eat breakfast until 6:30am. Note to anyone who will be staying in the Phantom Ranch, you might as well opt for the earlier breakfast because you will not be able to sleep anyways.
At 5:00 am we were at the canteen and were seated with a group of older hikers who seemed to be from Vermont, or Massachusetts, or somewhere from the Northeast. We ate hot pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage, and filled up on coffee and tea to open our rather bleary eyes. By 5:45am we were off hiking on the Bright Angel Trail back to the Southern Rim, which lies about 9 miles above. There was a solo traveler with us who wanted to accompany us in the morning as he was driving back to Wisconsin that day as well. We begrudgingly said yes, though the entire time he was with us I was convinced I was starring in my own serial killer drama where I would be stalked and killed. Needless to say, after about half an hour into our hike, when the sun finally came up, he thanked us for our company and took off. As usual, we were taking our sweet time, enjoying the scenery, and taking a ton of pictures.
We continued to hike upwards passing only one other hiker on the trail; a single young women like ourselves who probably left about an hour and half after us and booked by us rather quickly as she hurried her way to the top. Yesterday, I didn’t think I could enjoy a hike as much as I did on the way down, but today’s hike was just as magnificent. With the low light of the early sun, the weather was still cool and mist so we were comfortable for the first 5 miles of the trail. About half way up the trail, we came across a camping area filled with cottonwood trees and little creek running along side it. This little pit stop was called Indian Gardens and provides a good rest stop for those hiking the entire lenght of the Bright Angel Trail in one day. Many hikers who are hiking back up from the top often split their trip by spending a second night here before they make thier way back up to the rim at the Bright Angel.
We stopped at the camground to use the facilities. This is one of the few places on the trail where there are bathroom facilities and a year-round water supply. Being we were hiking in the spring, the temperatures were fairly mild, but when one is hiking in the canyon in the summer there is a real danger of experiencing heat stroke or dehydration. As a result, there are numerous reminders throughout the park to be aware of such dangers and do everything possible to prevent them. This was one of my favorites:
After leaving Indian Garden, ..well, it was all up hill from there. The trail was not exposed to the morning sun the rest of the way and we ran into more and more day hikers who looked freshly showered and rested as we slowly appoached the top of the canyon. The most interesting people we met along the way was an old couple who were hiking their way back from the bottom as well, only they had split the trip and spent an extra night in Indian Garden…smart! Anyways, this couple was celebrating their 40th anniversary, they had been married 40 years earlier at Phantom Ranch and every 10 years they hike to the bottom for thier anniversary. I thought this was one of the coolest things I have ever heard and was inspired to try and stay fit and healthy so I could hike and bike and do all those fun outdoor things I love to do until a bright old age.
About 3 miles down from the bottom we came across a rest house with water, only the water was not yet turned on for the season which was fine because we had plenty with us still. Now we were getting excited to finally finish, but the next mile and a half to the next rest house was the longest mile and half I have ever hiked. It consisted of a steady incline of sun exposed switchbacks that were not overcrowded with tourists coming down for a better view from the top. I was miserable, and I must have looked it because many of these tourists continued to ask if we were okay. God only knows what we smelled like at this point. Finally, after pushing our way through to the rest stop, and continue for another mile and half more, we reached the point of the trail head at the rim and we had completed our hike into the Grand Canyon safely!
We grabbed our stuff from the car, headed off for a quick shower at one of the park’s campgrounds, and were off for an 8 hour drive to visit my brother and sister in-law in Yorba Linda, California.