Grand Canyon trip report

I hate blogging about trips because I end spending the trip thinking about what I will show or tell people instead of actually paying attention to the trip itself. I also hate taking photos because any famous landmark is already thoroughly documented by better photographers than I. But I took a few photos for my family, and, what the heck, I’ll write a few comments around them and stick it on my blog.

I hiked down and back up the Grand Canyon in two days, following the Bright Angel Trail and staying at Phantom Ranch one night. Shortly after dawn, the walls of the canyon lit up in gold. Here is me about 2 miles down the trail, attempting to smile for the camera.

The trail is insane. It’s literally cut out of the rock most of the way, with sheer drop-offs of tens or hundreds of feet. Here’s a little piece of it, about 6 miles down:

I stopped for some lunch near the bottom of this part of the trail, consisting in large part of Ritter hazelnut chocolate (I’d always thought the “Sport” designation on the wrapper was ironic, but it turns out it’s one of the easier things to choke down on a hike). I was startled by a miniature landslide over my shoulder and turned to see a squirrel about two feet from my eyeballs. Ever since I learned that squirrels can chew through lead shielding on phone lines, I’ve been wary of them. Their bite strength is comparable to that of some sharks – around 6000 or 7000 psi. I view them as teeny tiny land sharks dressed up in cute bunny fur. Needless to say, I did not give the squirrel any of my Ritter “Sport.”

It’s hard to get a sense of scale on this photo of the Colorado River. If you peer closely, you’ll see a suspension bridge in the distance. It’s a foot bridge with open metal grating as the flooring. I had a good time staring directly down into the river as I crossed and activating the “Aigh, I am falling!” part of my brain.

I got to Phantom Ranch about 7 hours after I started. I was being neurotically careful of my feet and legs since I knew I had to hike 9.6 miles UP the canyon the next day and I’ve only been hiking again for about a month now. Fortunately, the high in the bottom of the canyon was only 90F that day, so I didn’t have to worry about getting too hot and dawdled my way down. When I arrived, I felt basically perfect, which is a first for a 9+ mile hike of any sort for me. I’m going to hike this way more often.

Here’s the canyon around Phantom Ranch:

And the next morning, looking way too cheerful for 5:45am:

You can see a little of the straps of my cheesy Vera Bradley backpack. I think I’m the only person to hike the Grand Canyon wearing a paisley backpack, ever. Notify the Guinness Book of World Records.

The hike up was harder, of course, but I decided to take my time again because it was so fun the day before. I ended up hiking up the canyon in 7 hours and 15 minutes, 15 minutes more than my time down, which just shows how lazy and wonderful the hike down was.

Sunrise from the bottom of the canyon:

A waterfall in the canyon below Indian Gardens:

Me attempting to smile again:

Halfway up, I was molested by squirrels again. I hate hate hate squirrels, but decided to get a photo for one of my nieces, who thinks sharks in bunny fur are the most wonderful thing ever. As I rummaged around for my phone, the squirrel slipped closer… and closer… [Jaws music] …

And closer… And then the damn thing bit my boot! The dark spot on the upper left is the bite, if you look closely you can see two tiny shark^W squirrel tooth marks:

I threw rocks at the squirrel to scare it away, but it thought the rocks were food and scampered after them. Eventually I just had to get up and go find a less squirrel-infested part of the trail to eat my Ritter Sport.

9 thoughts on “Grand Canyon trip report”

  1. Follow only if ye be men of valour, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived!

    But YOU did, nice job! ;)

    1. It’s definitely not a good hike if you have a fear of heights. While the trail is pretty wide and by itself not too scary, the mule trains add a Donkey Kong-like element of fear. In some places in the trail, you have about 30 seconds warning after the mules come around a corner, and if there’s nowhere to get off the trail right there, you have to run back in front of the mules until you find a spot you can cram yourself into while they rumble by. It stressed me out even more because I’d often be hidden in a little nook where the mules couldn’t see me until a couple of feet away, and I was afraid that would spook them.

      But the other two trails down into the canyon don’t have mules on them and I think you might be okay with them. The trail is so wide it feels more like you are on the bottom of a cliff (one side of the trail) rather than the top of one. :)

  2. The sunrise from the bottom of the Canyon looks amazing!

    “It’s hard to get a sense of scale on this photo” — Agreed! I don’t know if you agree with me, but even being there, the sense of depth is blurry too. You just “see” without actually realizing how far things actually are.

    For a moment there, I felt like looking at a gigantic, live, 2D wallpaper.

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