Date: 10 Apr 2003 20:49:40 -0000
Subject: THE CANYON, THE CANYON, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CANYON
Travelogue I- Ed and Edith Gray
Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and OUT!
My three son's, Curt from Phoenix, Jack from Rapid City and Tom from Mesa and myself decided
to meet and do the Grand Canyon Hike. I remember years ago standing on the south rim and
looking down on some buildings which I though might of been Phantom Ranch and I said someday
I'd like to go down there! Well thanks to Tom we all got a chance. He has been down twice
before and has friends who have connections but even so we thought it was going to have to be
called off for lack of a permit! It is spring break time and even more importantly after it
starts warming up but BEFORE IT GETS HOT! It easily gets to be over 100 degrees in the
bottom of the Canyon already in May. The NPS allows so many people per zone and it was
filled up but if we hiked to the bottom, on up the north side and out to the east about 2 1/4
miles we would be in another zone and Tom convinced them we had back country camping
experience and could make it from the top to the spot by the first night so we were in, we
had a permit!
When I write these travelogues I try and provide additional information for those who might
want to do the same thing or go to the same area that would of been helpful if I had known.
The easy way to got to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is via Mule, looked more like Jack
Asses to me but they said mules. I asked one lady and she said it cost $129.00 for the round
trip. In all cases if you stay at Phantom Ranch you do not need a permit. The second easiest
way is to have reservations at Phantom Ranch, hike down with just water and some snacks in a
small day pack. The hotter it is the more water you need. I'd say at least one gallon. The
third way and by far the hardest way is to backpack but that also can be made easier!
There are two trails down from the south rim, the South Kiabab and Bright Angel. The South
Kiabab is shorter, about 7.2 miles but very steep and the Bright Angel is 9.4 miles but not
as steep although the last 4 miles is up all the way with constant switch backs and lots and
lots of step ups!
The easiest way to back pack would be to take the Bright Angel Trail both ways as there is
drinking water along the way and drinking water at Phantom Ranch so you have to carry far
less water where on the South Kiabab there is no water so you have to carry all your water.
WATER MEANS WEIGHT!!!! Over 8 pounds for a gallon. Another advantage of the Bright Angel
Trail is you can camp at Indian Gardens about half way down or up as may be the case so if
it is to streneous for you to do in one day if you can get the permit that would really help!
Doing it with more than one really helps as you can spilt up the weight of the tents,
cooking pan and stove.
Good gear is of extreme importance, the most important being a broken in, known pair of
hiking shoes. One needs good hiking socks that wick away the moisture! If you know where
your "hot spots" are at put duct tape over them before you start. As you are hiking the
first time you notice a hot spot starting, stop and put duct tape over it. You can use mole
skin but my boys who do lots of hiking say duct tape is better and much cheaper. Another
trick is when you stop to rest is take off your shoes, turn your socks wrong side out and
let things dry out. Obviously have a good hat and sunscreen. Also if lounging around in
sandels be sure to sunscreen your feet so you don't burn them, that is a DISASTER!!!
Drink water all the time, by the time you feel thirsty you have gotten to a deficet and
it is nearly impossible to catch up. Having and eating quick energy food is essetial.
The hike is equivalent to the energy expended in a marathon! We mixed gatorade powder
with our water. We used what are known as "CAMELBACKS" which was a 100 oz. pouch with a
hose and you suck on it like a straw. I highly recommend something like this. You have
the hose under your backpack strap and can just reach down, put it in your mouth and take a
drink. Jack and Tom who hike a lot were on my case all the time about drinking every 15
minutes no matter what. They have been with others who did not listen and got "GOFFEY" on
We spend Friday shopping as I needed a CAMELBACK and we needed to get our food and a few
other items. We spent Friday night and Saturday morning laying out our gear in Curts garage
and going over Jacks proven hiking list. I will confess to NOT REALLY understanding the
significance of weight when backpacking. By that I mean the difference a few pounds makes.
LET ME TELL YOU NOW IN HINDSIGHT THAT 5 pounds lighter is a MAJOR, MAJOR DEAL! If you
think about it when you climb up over a mile each time you step up a foot that is 5 foot
pounds and with the switch backs you likely go up nearly 10,000 feet so that is 50,000 foot
pounds. Just think how much energy is expended lifting 50,000 foot pounds more!!!! It is
huge!!! The boys saved my bacon getting my pack adjusted correctly and also showing my how
to pack the weight.
My pack going down weighed 32# without water and then I added on 100 oz. plus 2.5 liters which
was about 10# of water so I ended up about 42#. Jack and Tom had a tent and cooking stuff so
they were at about 45#. I had to many clothes! I used to laugh at these pants with the zip
off legs to turn them into shorts but no more as for hiking they are the deal! One needs to
be down to around 25# without water if at all possible. I took some things I would not take
We got to the south rim on Saturday afternoon and I got an update from our friends the
Duxbury's via cell phone on the SDSU women basketball national championship game up until
half time. We got to the motel and I was going to give them a call and discovered they had
ESPN2 so I was able to watch the last 10 minutes on TV WHICH WAS GREAT!!!
We headed down Sunday morning, it started out chilly but soon warmed up. It really got
painful going down with all the weight being so steep! My conditioning did not use the
muscles used in going down. I ended up getting really "rubbery legs" The last ways was
tough but we got to Phantom Ranch and rested about a hour and I put my feet up above my
heart to try and help the legs recover as we had over 2 miles to go uphill to get to the
other zone on what is called the Clear Creek Trail. Going up went better than down and
I did better but eventually got tired out so the last 1/4 mile was a long, long ways! We
sat up camp on the Tonto Plateau. It was a beautiful site high up above the Colorado on
the north side. We had a great supper and settled in for the night. The stars were
The next morning we hiked back to Phantom Ranch and got into the Bright Angel CG thanks to
Mike the ranger who helped arrange it the day before!I don't know what happened to me Sunday
but on Monday no problem hiking and no problem hiking out on Tuesday! I definitely am
conditioned for going up hill and not down! We had a relaxing day at the CG and ate well!
We took lots of pictures and got organized for the trip out on Tuesday.
By 7 am we were on the Bright Angel Trail headed out and by 10 am we were at Indian Gardens
and 4.5 of the 9.5 miles up and out. The last 4 miles are much steeper but it was only about
80 degrees and I was not carrying near as much water and we had ate most of the food so the
pack was about 35#, WOW!!! what a difference that makes, you just can not believe it! The
feet held up well with just a couple of blisters that really did not cause me a problem.
Jack and Tom went on ahead and Curt and I took a slower pace but we were at the top in 6
hours TOTAL so very, very pleased with that and felt great! BTW when we started out we were
really sore, especially if we had to step down.
We went on into Flagstaff and decided to get something to eat. WOW! When we got out to
walk over to the eating place all of us could barely walk. A fellow seen us and said you guys must of hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. We all got a big laugh out of that!