Grand Canyon - August 2004

I went to the Grand Canyon in August of 2004. On August 2nd I hiked from the South Rim down the Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch, then along the Colorado River to the Bright Angel Trail and up to Indian Gardens, took a short detour to Plateau Point, returned to Indian Gardens, and finally back up to the South Rim. It was a mostly overcast day which made for great hiking, but less than perfect pictures.

The next day I acted like a tourist on the South Rim, stopping at the various turnouts and overlooks. It was pretty cool to be able to look down and see where I had been and the trails I had hiked. Unlike the day before, the skies were clear and so were the pictures. I hope you enjoy this virtual hike.

Map of South Rim trails with my shown route in red. 20 miles, 11 hours.
Me on the 5am shuttle bus from Bright Angel Lodge to the South Kaibab trailhead. It was actually quite chilly at the time!

I was tired. I arrived at the park at about 11pm last night, having just finished a two day survival course. The campground was full, so I ended up sleeping in my car.

The National Park Service does their best to discourage people from attempting what I am about to do.

I should probably mention that I run 3 miles a day, and that I spent the previous week in Phoenix, hiking and getting used to the heat.

A warning to mere mortals...

My wife made me promise I wouldn't attempt to hike to the river and back. As my wife, it is her duty to demand such a promise. And as my wife, she knows this was a promise I would break. She knowingly shakes her head...

I added this photo in 2006. I realized my comments above were quite cocky. They were meant to be in fun. Nevertheless, I would hate to think that I may contribute in any way to someone experiencing illness or death inside the Grand Canyon. It does happen as described here:

Margaret died just a few weeks before my hike. Many people attempt a rim-to-river-to-rim hike every day. Many have no trouble. Please, be in shape, leave early, carry three times as much water as you think you'll need, wear a brimmed hat, allow plenty of time, and stay on established trails.

I began my descent at about 5:30am. Not the best light for photos. You can see part of the trail I will hike.
Down, down, down...
Every step is down...
Looking back up to the rim.
I actually had a little rain.
In truth, I hadn't planned to go to the river. I was going to go part way down and take the Tonto trail over to the Bright Angel trail. But with these overcast skies, it seemed like a great opportunity to hike to the river.
The trail below Skeleton Point.
Looking from Skeleton Point to Plateau Point. I will return to the South Rim via the Bright Angel trail through the wide canyon below Plateau Point.
Some parts of this trail are not for the faint of heart.
First view of the river...still very far away...
Cliff-hugging trail.
One of two millipedes I saw on the trail.
Not even half way down yet. And this is the easy part!
Natural arch. Do you know the difference between an arch and a bridge? Answer: A bridge spans water, and arch does not.
Second of two composting toilets. No water. You actually go to the second floor to take care of your business!

The Tonto trail crosses the Kaibab trail here.

Getting closer to the river, but still a long way to go. You can see the river trail which I will take to the Bright Angel trail.
The first of two pack trains coming up the Kaibab trail as I was descending.
Looking down (almost straight down!) to the silver bridge and Phantom Ranch.
Looking down to the black bridge and Phantom Ranch.
Pack train on the trail, rafts in the river.
The tunnel which leads to the black bridge.
Above the black bridge, looking downriver to the silver bridge.
Emerging from the tunnel onto the black bridge.
Me on the black bridge.
On the north shore of the Colorado River, looking up river.
Indian ruins near the river.
Indian ruins near the river.
Bright Angel Creek below Phantom Ranch. A true oasis.
The phone at Phantom Ranch. No coins. Checking in with the office...Hi Bessie!

Have cheese crackers, will travel.

The silver bridge.
Along the river trail with the silver and black bridges in view.
River resthouse.
More water than I expected.
Long climb up. It's just the beginning.
Twisted landscapes.
Approaching Indian Gardens.
Looking back from just before Indian Gardens.
Enroute to Plateau Point (1.5 miles from Indian Gardens.)

This was the warmest part of the hike: the trail is fully exposed to the elements.

Approaching Plateau Point.
Colorado River and Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point.
Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point.
Skeleton Point from Plateau Point (I was there this morning.)
Colorado River from Plateau Point.
Me at Plateau Point. The last time I was here was 1979, 25 years ago. Plateau Point hasn't changed, but I have!
Looking west from Plateau Point.
Heading back to Indian Garden from Plateau Point.
Thermometer at Indian Garden.
Well past Indian Garden on my way to the top. I felt great until mile 17 when I really bonked...
Also cool...
This tunnel is just a hundred yards or so from the top. I made it!
Red dust from the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, showers are available at the campground!

Begin Day 2

Plateau Point and a tiny glimpse of the river from the South Rim.
Kaibab Trail from the South Rim.
I'll stop talking now and let you just enjoy the scenery...
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Copyright © 2004 by Bill Qualls. Last updated March 10, 2006.