|We wake at first daylight, Harley agrees to be our Bright Angel Lodge spokesman. So I take him over, while Chris and Doug break camp. When we pick Harley up, its bad news - no steak or stew tonight. Well, the lunches are not bad, so dinner tonight will be a Phantom ranch lunch, plus we'll each take one up the trail tomorrow. We pig out at the cafeteria, park the car at the Bright Angel Trailhead, and wait for the shuttle to Yaki Point.|
|Putting on the packs to go take the shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead at Yaki Pt||Chris waits for the bus to Yaki Point|
|We arrive at the South Kaibab Trailhead around 8:30. A picture is taken of the first timers. Then we begin the trek down. The South Kaibab has an easy walking surface, due to the countless mule trains that walk it, but it also has the steepest overall grade of any of the rim to river trails on the south rim side. So we encourage Harley and||Chris to use their hiking poles, which can help ease the stress on knees and toes. The decent begins on the east side of the head of Pipe Creek Canyon. We head north, switchbacking sharply down through the Kaibab (250 million years old), Toroweap (260 million years old), and Coconino ( 270 million years old) formations with spectacular views into the canyon.|
|South Kaibab trailhead at Yaki Point|
Doug, who did the trip down with his wife, Ellen, in 1996, decides to head on down ahead of us
and explore the Tonto Trail East, where Doug, Wes and I, will be hiking this fall. When we move
out beyond Yaki Point, we can see a few hikers heading down our trail to Cedar Ridge and
O'Neill Butte. Further west, we can see the Plateau Point trail heading straight out across the
Tonto Plateau to its lookout on the lip of the Inner Gorge, 1.5 miles from Indian Gardens, where
we will be tomorrow.
At 1.5 miles and 1,100 vertical feet our trail enters the Hermit Shale (280 million years old), at Cedar Ridge, a popular destination for day hikers. It's time for a break. Packs off and time for a bathroom break. Our backs begin to adjust to the weight. We are all still strong, no big deal!! This hike in the Grand Canyon is, so far, so good..
Once again we head down, northwest into the Supai Group (300 million years old), just before the Cedar Ridge-O'Neill Butte saddle. The trail now traverses to the north, down through the Supai, along the east side of O'Neill Butte. We have continuous, expansive views out into the Grand Canyon, made possible because the trail stays high along ridgelines. The trail becomes long steep switchbacks through the Redwall (330 million year old limestone), passing briefly through the Temple
|Butte Limestone (370 million years old), then into the Muav Limestone (530 million years old). Soon we reached the Tonto Plateau (540 million years old Bright Angel Shale), as we descend northwest around the nose of the ridge separating Pipe and Cremation canyons.|
|Major break at Cedar Ridge||Lunch break on the ridge leading to O'Neill Butte|
|Then it's down to the intersection of the Tonto Trail, where we think Doug awaits us. We take a major break here to use the pit toilet and to prepare our bodies for the descent ahead. Doug had explored the Tonto to the East. He had dropped his back off the trail and then had run about 2 miles east. (Doug and I hike in running shoes, in case you are wondering about running in hiking boots.) He left us a note and continued on down, ahead of us, to find a campsite at Bright Angel Campground. So we're off to the Tip-off, so named because it is at the verge of the Inner Gorge (an emergency telephone is here). We have now descended a little over 4.6 mi. with a drop of 3,260 ft. To reach the Kaibab Suspension Bridge, our next major destination, we have 1.7 miles and a drop of 1,520 feet ... Hard on tired legs.|
|At the Tipoff|
|We descend now into the Inner Gorge. Here a geologic mishmash, created by numerous faults down through Shinumo Quartzite, Hakatai Shale, Bass Limestone (members of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, 800 billion to 1.2 billion years old). When we reach Panorama Point, elevation 3,600 ft., we take a camera and rest break. From this point we have a dramatic view of the river, some 1,200 feet below, the River Trail, and one of the footbridges over the Bright Angel Creek. Then again down, till we are hiking through the oldest rocks in the Grand Canyon, the Vishnu Metamorphic Complex (up to 1.7 billion years old).|
|First full view of the Colorado River, from Panorama Point|
We are now drawing closer and closer to the black Kaibab Suspension Bridge and none too soon
for Harley and Chris. The Silver Suspension Bridge comes into view a half-mile down river. Then
we reach the junction with River Trail, finally the tunnel, and the bridge. WOW!!
The Kaibab Bridge was built in 1928. Its 440-ft. long, hangs about 75 ft. above the Colorado River, and contains 67 tons of structural steel; all of it packed down on mules. The bridge is guyed and supported by eight main steel cables, each one 550 ft. long, 1-« inches in diameter, and weighing over one ton. The cables could not be brought down on mules, so each one in turn was unreeled and carried it down the South. Kaibab Trail on the shoulders of 42 Havasupais, like a gigantic snake.
|Still a half mile to go to the Bright Angel Campground; but it's level! Now we are on the North Kaibab Trail, in a desert-beach environment. The trail heads toward Bright Angel Canyon, skirting along a wall of Vishnu Schist, with the broad delta of the Bright Angel||Creek stretching out to the left. We come shortly to the 800-year-old Anasazi ruin, discovered by Major John Wesley Powell during his exploration of the Colorado River in 1869. It could have supported up to 16 people and had two periods of occupation between 1050 and 1150 A.D.|
|Harley and Chris on the north side of the Black Bridge, just 1/2 mile from Phantom Ranch|
|Finally, we reach the Bright Angel Campground. We have been on the trail for six hours or so, have hiked 6.9 miles and dropped 4780 feet. Doug secured a campsite, then had walked back to greet us, and we follow him to the campsite next to the Bright Angel Creek. It is now time|
|to relax and recover. After sitting a bit, we set up the camp for the night. Since the weather looks good, we all decide to sleep out in the open. Doug and I decide it is time to have a beer or two at the Phantom Ranch Cantina. Chris and Harley will join us after a recovery nap.|
|Harley, Chris and Doug set up camp||Time for a brief afternoon snooze!|
|Phantom Ranch is located 0.4 mi. north of the campground. Built in 1922, Phantom Ranch consists of cabins, primarily used by the mule riders, and male only and female only dormitories that were added in 1976 to accommodate hikers. Other buildings exist to house in employees of Fred Harvey and the Park Service. A dining hall where one finds the canteen, is the|
|center of activity. There is also a telephone available to call home and say, "so far so good." We pick up our lunches, one for tonight and one for tomorrow. T-shirts unique to the Phantom Ranch are purchased. Harley and Chris decide to head on back to the campsite. Doug and I remain behind for a few more beers.|
|Harley at the Phantom Ranch sign||Chris at the Phantom Ranch sign|
|Later we all make the trek out to the Colorado River. We sit a bit, then head back to the site to sit, read, relax, etc. Night comes quickly and before long we are all sleeping.|