Grand Canyon – Day 1

When: April 2007
My rating: 9

First time I hiked Grand Canyon was on Memorial Day weekend of 2006.  Let me tell you:  BIG MISTAKE! Unless you thrive in a 100-degree weather, you’ll be miserable if you hike during that time!
This time I did it right:  together with my husband, Andy, we decided to go during perfect weather of mid-April.

Day 1

We started out from the South Rim at South Kaibab trail.  The trail goes on for 6.3 miles all the way down to the river.  Because it’s downhill all the way, it doesn’t take very long to get there.  We started out at around 11am and were down by the river at around 2pm.  That doesn’t mean that it’s a “walk in the park”, the 6 miles cover 4860 ft of elevation!!  Although I’m not too big on hiking poles, I highly recommend using them on this section, especially if you have bad knees.

The trail is very well maintained, there’s no way anybody could get lost.  It starts out pretty wide and gets narrower as it gets closer to the river.  First thing we noticed when we stepped onto the trail was red dust.  By the end of this hike we were covered with it, and our shoes were permanently stained as with a brick-red dye.  What doesn’t help is the fact that the trail is also used by mules so passing by them really stirs up some dust clouds…  It was well worth it though =)

mules on the trail

Gosia on trail, butte watermark  part of the trail with O’Neil’s Butte in the background

Like I said earlier, the trail leads all the way downhill.  It’s pretty steep but not horrible.  It has just a few drop-offs, but they’re really not too bad.  There was hardly any wind when we went so there was no worry we would get blown off the ridge or anything like that.

Grand Canyon trail watermarkpart of the trail

Section with a drop-off watermark

About 3 miles from the traillhead (1.5 miles from Cedar Ridge) we came to an intersection with Tonto Trail.  This point is well marked with a sign and there are also toilets on the right (no water again).  We actually spent the night here, but more about it later.  It only took us 1 1/2 hours to get down to the river (another 2 miles).  Once we saw a bridge going across Colorado River we knew we weren’t far…

Grand Canyon trail 2 watermarkSouth Kaibab trail with view of Colorado River

bridge from a distance watermark

bridge a little closerbridge on the Colorado river

We crossed the bridge and had a nice lunch near a campground on the other side of the river.  There are some cottonwood trees there so it’s not as hot as it is on the trail, which provides little or no shade.  I should mention here that the deeper into the canyon we went, the warmer it got as well.  If you’re as crazy as I was on my first Grand Canyon hike and go in the summer, you can expect over 100 degrees in the gorge of the Canyon!!! Also, the air is so dry there that I couldn’t feel myself sweating.  It’s so easy to fall behind on water and most of all, electrolytes.  I ate a full box of salty crackers and still got mild hyponatremia (too much water, not enough sodium).  This time the temperature was somewhere around 80F.

After enjoying a little break we started heading back up the same trail.  We certainly could have decided to camp by the river (or at the Phantom Ranch lodge) but the reservations have to be made very early, and we wanted to camp by the trail we would take the next day.  Once we got back to the junction of South Kaibab trail and Tonto trail we turned east (left when heading up) and came to a flat, vegatation free spot (5 minute walk from the juction).  You still need an overnight permit to camp there (it’s a BJ9 area on the map) but it’s pretty easy to come about.  There is no water available anywhere close so make sure to fill up by the river or at the trailhead if you’re not going all the way down.  We didn’t have a tent with us since the temperature wasn’t supposed to get below 50F.  We had a tent footprint, our thermarests and sleeping bags.  We didn’t have a good sunset that night since the sky was overcast, but it should look something along those lines:

DSCN0904pardon my fat ass… this is the first time I hiked in GC in 2007

Luckily for us, the clouds cleared and we were able to sleep under million of stars…

In case you wouldn’t have a sleeping bag and got cold, I know there is a box right by the junction with a very warm sleeping bag and other necessary survival supplies.  The code on the box is all zeroes, at least that’s what it was in 2006.  There’s also an emergency phone in case you’re really in trouble.

We went to sleep and woke up to a somewhat cloudy day but ready for another adventure.


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