| Hopping Along the Bright Angel
I've owed you all this trip report for almost a month now, especially those of you who pitched in to my fundraising efforts. It's quite lengthy and could be pretty boring if your name isn't Bryan or you expect high-quality narration. I'm pretty embarrassed by this 9-mile trip, since it's the only time my less-than-stellar conditioning and care for my body has ever bitten me. Feel free to ridicule me, I know I did once I made it back to the rim!
Back in January, I attended a kickoff for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's new (at least in KC) Hike for Discovery program. I had just finished planning my February trip to Guadalupe Peak and hiking fever was beginning to set in after a few long months of Midwestern winter, so the thought of hiking down into the Grand Canyon after raising a ton of money for a good cause was very appealing.
Saturday, 5/17 - KC to Phoenix
We flew out to Phoenix crazy early in the morning with the hope of a quick jaunt up Camelback Mountain, but temps were running 105-110 and the thought of hiking wasn't particularly appealing. After drinking poolside and getting a nice sunburn, we headed to Chase Field to watch the D-backs play the Tigers. Conveniently, Max Scherzer (Mizzou alum) was pitching and it was a nice night for a game.
Sunday, 5/18 - Travel Day
We woke up bright and early for a four-hour bus ride from Scottsdale to the Canyon via Sedona. I wasn't all that impressed with the tourist trap of psychics and mud wraps, but Bell Rock was beautiful and the terrain started to look more scenic. Passing through Flagstaff, we got a great look at Humphreys Peak. Apparently, they had gotten 11" of snow earlier in the week, but temps were pushing 80 in town and it had completely melted off.
Humphreys Peak (AZ highpoint):
We reached the Rim Trail at the Canyon late in the day and had just enough time to walk a mile or two and snap photos.
We headed off to the Grand Hotel and had our inspirational dinner, where we were told our group of fundraisers, chapters mostly from the Midwest with some from the Southwest and Cali, had raised $1.2 MILLION to help fight leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. That made the months of begging everyone for money well worth it!
Monday, 5/19 - Canyon Day
We woke at 4am to an array of breakfast foods, which I tried to eat despite hating breakfast before a long hike. After scarfing down a muffin, some OJ, and other "good" breakfast foods, the dozen of us headed for the Bright Angel Trail piled on the bus. We made it to the TH just in time to catch sunrise, which was basically as spectacular as you'd imagine. Sadly, my photography skills just couldn't capture it:
First light on the rim:
We made slow but steady progress down past the 1.5- and 3-mile rest houses as the cool, shady weather quickly warmed past 80 degrees. The changes in rock composition were evident even to a geo-dummy like myself, and made for some stunning pictures.
With such a large group, we were all slowing each other by taking hundreds of photos. A kick in the rear from the guides got us up to speed and I stayed at the front of the pack to our turnaround point, Indian Gardens.
Here, I learned the most important thing in my relatively short hiking career - NEVER eat a meal that you didn't make or pack yourself. The pre-packaged PB&J was light years different than homemade, it was actually one of those Uncrustables. I would regret eating it for the next two hours!
After lunch and a change of socks, we started back up the canyon walls. It was just past 10am, and the ranger's temp. gauge showed 101 degrees. I didn't doubt it, I was beginning to sweat water out about as fast as I could sip it down.
I stayed with the fast-paced trio at the front of the pack for about a mile until my stomach began to hurt and I had slowed to a crawl because of it and a twisted knee from three weeks back that had begun to ache. I could feel the sun beating down on me as I shifted my weight to my right side and reached the 3-mile resthouse. I refilled my hydration bladder here and waited for my stomach to settle. Our group had spaced out quite a bit, but I headed out before the slowest 1/3 caught up.
Things got really fun at this point as two tendons in my knee felt completely blown out after another 100 yards on the trail. I basically hopped and hobbled on the right leg to the 1.5-mile resthouse and chugged down over 3L of water in that short period of time.
The final leg of the trail was switchback city, something like 30 turns and 1500' of elevation to re-gain. The hobbling wasn't working so well with about half a mile left, and luckily the hike leader from the Ohio chapter forced me to take my pack off for a bit. It probably only weighed 15 pounds, but that was an amazing breather for my knee and I was able to scoot forward to the homestretch.
Being the proud jerk that I am, I apologized for him having to carry that extra weight and took it back to finish up the trail (finished in a next-to-last tie with a heat-exhausted trail buddy). All in all, I had downed almost 3 GALLONS of water, and the scales showed I had still lost nearly fifteen pounds. Needless to say, I hate summertime in the desert and will stick to Colorado hiking once temps break the 80s!
On the return:
Despite my struggles, this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and a fantastic trail. If you're doing the Grand Canyon in the summer, I highly recommend it for the abundance of running water at the resthouses, I'm not sure how you could possibly survive the 100+ heat without it!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):