The Beginning of an Era

Our Initial
Backpacking Trip
The Grand Canyon

Rim to River to Rim:
North Rim & North Kaibab Trail,
Phantom Ranch area,
South Kaibab Trail

(Brian & Doug, October 1994)

Travel Trip Photo: Fall color & South Rim inner gorge from Phantom Ranch

Brian and Doug took their first backpacking trip together into the Grand Canyon in October 1994 (Note: Brian and Wes, the other original Ol'fart, had done a rim-to-river-to-rim the previous spring.) They drove from the Denver area to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park and camped at the North Rim Campground. They spent the following day exploring, dayhiking and photographing the fall color in the North Rim area. Awakening early the third day, they drove to the North Kaibab trailhead, parked the car and began their epic adventure into the wondors and grandeur of the Inner Grand Canyon -- down the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River, explored the Phantom Ranch area and up the South Kaibab Trail to the South Rim.

Website photos, with captions and slideshows (with music):

North Rim & North Kaibab Trail: The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was in full fall splendor! Driving in from Jacob Lake, on top of the Kaibab Plateau, the meadows were painted in rich golds and yellows, with a hint of snow and frost from the crisp fall evenings. The North Rim is situated at just over 8,000 ft, so the habitat is much like the mountains just west of Boulder and Denver. The North Kaibab Trailhead is situated at 8,240 ft, and descends 5.640 ft in 14+ miles to the Colorado River, just below Phantom Ranch. Needless to say, the hike is a wondrous experience, and a particularly arduous one when carrying a full backpack. Highlight points were:
*Roaring Springs (and caretaker Bruce Aikens idyllic rest stop) at 5 miles and 5,220 ft;
*Cottonwood Campground, at 6.9 miles and 4,080 ft (where most sane people stopped for the night to break up the hike);
*Ribbon Falls, at 8.5 miles and 3,720 ft;
*The Box, where the trail enters the inner gorge;
*Phantom Ranch, at 13.6 miles and 2,545 ft;

*Bright Angel Campground, at 13.8 miles and 2,480 ft;
*and, finally, the Colorado River, at 14+ miles and 2,400 ft.
Total hiking time from rim to river was just over 8 hours.

Hiking from the North Rim to the River, from the standpoint of climate and Life Zones, is the equivalent of hiking from Canada to Mexico and the Sonoran Desert. Geologically, it is a walk through almost 2 billion years in time. The different rock layers and formations that the hiker passes through from Rim to River starts with 270 million yr old Kaibab Limestone at the rim and continues through time all the way to the inner gorge's basement rocks of 1.5+ billion yr old schist, gness and granite.

Phantom Ranch area: Brian and Doug camped 2 nights at the Bright Angel Campground. On their rest day, they hiked the 1.5 mile loop River Trail that goes down from the junction just below the campground, hooks up to the lower South Kaibab Trail to cross the Black Bridge and start up the south rim gorge, before breaking off on a spur and descending west to the Silver Bridge and back to the junction. They also explored the Phantom Ranch area, including (and especially) the Canteen, where they were treated to a hot supper and breakfast, as well and imbibing in the the liquid refreshments offered there.

Phantom Ranch is an oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, situated along Bright Angel Creek just above the confluence with the Colorado River. It is operated for a National Park Service concessionaire. The only way to reach the Ranch is by foot or mule, or by raft. Accomodations, besides the nearby Bright Angel Campground, consist of dormitories and several sizes of cabins. The Canteen offers a welcome refuge for weary hikers and saddle-sore mule riders, as well as providing breakfasts and dinners, plus snacks, drinks and boxed lunches. Ranger talks are offered, in season, several times a week.

South Kaibab Trail: Brian and Doug were on the trail at first light, for the 7+ mile hike out the Canyon. The objective was to get far enough up the trail, before the heat of the day set in, to a point somewhere in the area of Skeleton Point, after which the temperature usually levels off and then slowly drops as the hiker continues up toward the South Rim.

The South Kaibab Trail begins on the north side of the Colorado River, crosses over the Black Bridge and climbs 7.3 miles and 4,860 ft to the South Rim at Yaki Point, just east of Grand Canyon Village. It is very different from both the North Kaibab and Bright Angel trails, in that, instead of following drainage and sub-canyons, it climbs and follow ridge lines. This offers the hiker an almost continuous panaramic view of the Grand Canyon as one ascends or descends the trail. The downside is that there is no water and very little shade, both of which are readily available on the North Kaibab and Bright Angel trails. Hightlight points of the hike were:
*The Black Bridge across the Colorado River, with its 20'+ long tunnel blasted through the bedrock on the south side of the river; *The steep 1,270 ft ascent for 2.1 miles out of the inner gorge up the Tonto platform;
*The Tipoff, at 2.7 miles and 3,870 ft, the first designated rest area on the Tonto platform, with composting toilets;
*The Junction with the Tonto Trail, (which runs east and west for 93 miles along the south side of the Colorado River), at 2.9 miles and 4,010 ft;
*Skeleton Point, at 4.3 miles and 5,200 ft, typically the hottest point of the hike out, where the rising temperature is finally offset by cooling from the higher elevation;
*Cedar Ridge, at 5.8 miles and 6,060, the last major rest area, with spectacular Canyon views and composting toilets;
*The South Rim, near Yaki Point, at 7.3 miles and 7,260 ft.
Total hiking time, from river to rim, was appoximately 5 hours. From here Brian and Doug took a shuttle to Grand Canyon village, had some lunch and a few well deserved beers and boarded a shuttle van than took them on the 4 hour, 240 mile trip around and back to the North Rim, where their car awaited them for the long drive back to Colorado.

This marked the end of a monumental and spectacular hike, and, at the same time, the beginning of many adventures to and into the Grand Canyon!

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