This past Christmas, my family and I spent our holiday, backpacking at Grand Canyon. It was definitely an adventure. Normally we would spend the holidays with family and friends at home in Fort Wayne, but since my husband had a week off from work and the kids were out of school, we decided to fly to Las Vegas and drive to the Grand Canyon.
There are over 400 miles of trails in the Grand Canyon, but most people stick to a few well-traveled trails on the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. The most popular round trip route is to hike the extremely steep South Kaibab Trail down to the Phantom Range, situated at the bottom of the canyon, camp at Bright Angel Camp Ground, then hike up the mountain the next day on the less-steep Bright Angel Trail. However, we camped two nights at Indian Garden Camp Ground which is halfway down the mountain, and day hiked for the most part.
We rose early and had breakfast at the Canyon Inn Cafeteria. Afterwards, we got our backpacks ready and loaded them onto our rental car and checked out of the hotel. We drove to the Bright Angel Trail head, parked our car and strapped our backpacks on our back and headed for the trail. It was a good thing we had our ice spikes ready, because from the rim down through the first mile of trail was icy and slippery. The view at 7,000 feet is spectacular. The different layers of sandstone colored with brown, red, and orange, the calm wind that sweeps through the empty canyon, and even the clear blue sky that showed up more often than not while we were there, helped to put us in a tranquil state of mind.
On our first quarter mile trail, our sons decided to hike down the mountain on their own. I was hesitant as usual, maternal instinct kicking in, regardless of their age. My husband was busy with his camera and I must admit he is a great amateur photographer. For the trip he had brought along his relatively expensive digital camera, and he took excellent and clear pictures with it. It is possible he is mastering his engineering linear or graphic focus technique to capture superior pictures.
As we proceed along towards Indian Garden we were passed by a family group that included grandparents. They had been hiking since 6am from the bottom of the Canyon, and at about 1pm they were about a mile from the rim top. We took a bathroom break at 1½ mile emergency outhouse and again at 3½ miles rest stop. Before we reached our second stop, my cell rang and our sons were at the Indian Garden campground, almost 5 miles from the top. It took us another 3 hours to reach the campground after that. The campground was pretty well kept, each of the sites were clean and came equipped with a picnic table and bins to keep your food in and we also found clean water and an outdoor restroom. At 5pm the sun set and at 6pm, it was pitch-black in the desert, but we managed to set our tents and cook dinner before it got too dark.
It was cold on the first night. Temperature fell to the mid-teens. We woke up in the morning to find our water bottles in the tent frozen solid ice. There were frost and ice from water condensation inside the tent walls. We washed our face and boiled some water for tea and cooked some sausage for breakfast. Then we hiked down to the bottom of the Canyon, about another five miles away. Along the way, we passed by mules carrying food to the bottom Canyon Inns. There were a dozen mules each carrying a visitor trotting along at a steady pace. It isn’t recommended that you hike down and back up the canyon in 1 day, however, as a tour guide riding one of the mules told us, it’s possible for the mules to do that because they can manage and extra two miles an hour.
Three miles down from Indian Garden, we came across the Colorado River. From this point on, there were two bridges, the Black Bridge and the Silver Bridge over the Colorado River. The mules can only cross the Black Bridge due to the fact the Silver Bridge has too much open space. As the sun rises, temperature rose, and around noon it reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As we arrived at Phantom Range, we went straight to the cafeteria, but were not able to order any hot meals because they have to be preordered in advance so the mules can bring in the supply. However, we did get some candy for the trip back up.
The second night at the camp was not as cold. The temperature was in the upper twenties and we slept better. At dawn, we arose, boiled some water, cooked our breakfast, packed up our tents and headed up the trail. The hike up was just as fascinating as the hike down the mountain. The beautiful view of the mountains and elevations paints excellent pictures. We came across people all over the world, Germany, Japan, Australia, as well as, Oklahoma and Seattle and they ranged from age 10 to 60. Many whom we came across took a moment to say Hi and catch a well-earned breath. As usual, our sons reached the Rim top about 2pm, and we didn’t arrive until 5pm.
The winter seems to be the best time to hike in Grand Canyon. The weather may be a little cold at the mountain top, but, as you hike down the trail, temperature picks up. Wearing layer of clothes and Under-Armor is also helpful. Try to avoid cotton as they do not dry fast and as you perspire, moisture soaked shirt can be freezing cold. Also, don’t forget your ice spikes!
Editor’s Note: Anglea Beyer is the manager of Zheng’s Buffet next to the Gabriel Post Office on Bluffton Road. She is originally from Malysia. She speaks Maylisian, Chinese and English.