Grand Canyon Hiking and Backpacking Trip: South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails; May 1998; Brian, Doug, Harley and Chris

Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Harley standing on the South Rim
of the Grand Canyon
Trails Illustrated Map

Text and Photos by Brian

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Prologue

My father-in-law, Harley Randolph, recently died of cancer in September of 1999. In the spring of 1998, Harley went with me to experience the Grand Canyon. With us went his grandson and my nephew, Christopher Proffitt, and Doug. Harley seemed to have enjoyed the trip, although we rarely talked about it afterward. Upon his death, many of the pictures featured in this write-up were found on the wall in front of his desk at work. I learned from Lois, his wife, that he often told the story of this hike to people who visited his store. At his funereal, the Minister talked about the trip. He quoted Harley -"I hiked down the Grand Canyon and I crawled out."

This write up of this trip is my tribute to him. It was an honor to have known him.

Background:

About a year before the hike, Harley said to me, "Next time you go to The Canyon, I'd like to go." Now, in all the some ten years I'd known Harley, I'd never known him to hike, let alone backpack. Our trips to the Canyon were now four to six day backpacking hikes. Not easy for even us, who work at being in condition year around. What to do? A problem, for how can one say "No" to one's father-in-law?.

Then an idea began to form. Our major hikes were done in the fall. The spring was open. If handled correctly, this could mean two trips to the Canyon in one year. So, at Christmas 1997, I suggested to Harley that we go down in May of 1998. We'd include Diane, my wife, and Chris, his grandson, if he wanted to go. All agreed to work out, all agreed to take several practice hikes. Harley lived in a condo complex, of some 12 floors, in Colorado Springs. A natural place to experience up and down hiking. The training plan was developed: every other day, starting with 15 minutes and building to 60 over the next 5 months, going up and down We would schedule several hikes with packs, to get a feel for distance, elevation gain and time out on the trail.

Our first and only training hike, sad to say, was a hike with maybe 1500 feet of gain and loss over some 7 miles. Not really what I had hoped for, but at least something. When I quizzed Harley and Chris about daily training, Chris indicated he had a half-decent schedule going. Harley indicated that his schedule must have been working, for he felt very strong after this hike. But I should have asked, "Are you doing the 12-story work-out?"

With just a few weeks to go, we determined that Diane's schedule would not allow her to go, so now I had an opening. I called Doug and, by time I'd hung up, he was already packed.

The trip:

Our work schedules dictated that we drive straight through on Friday, hike down and spend Saturday night at Bright Angel Campground, come out on Sunday, drive till 10 p.m. or so, then return home on Monday.

Day i May 15, 1998

Doug arrives at my home at 6:00 a.m. We add his gear to my stuff in the trunk and wonder where we will fit two more
Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Harley and Chris loading the
car at Colorado Springs people and their gear. After a quick double-check of my staging room, nothing seems to be left, so it's a good-bye kiss from Diane and we are off. We arrive at Chris' home in north Colorado Springs around 7:30. He is ready and we put his stuff in the back seat till we pick Harley up, at which time we will reorganize. We say our good-byes to his mother, Cindy, and Carissa, his sister.

We arrive at Harley's around 8:00 and he is somewhat ready. We debate taking his car but decide to stay with my car, since we know the tape works for the book tapes. So we tie some of the gear on top of the car, using the bike rack to help secure the gear. Some 30 minutes later we are ready and we are off!!!!!

  Harley and Chris loading the car  
Since we are leaving from Colorado Springs, we will take the southern route, Interstate 25 to Walsenburg. Then its highway 160 all the way to highway 89 outside of Tuba City, Arizona. Before long Doug starts our first book tape, a mystery. Harley has brought along his business books and posts his ledgers. Chris listens with his eyes closed, or is he cat napping? We get to Pagosa Springs around 12:30, lunch time. We find a sub sandwich store and locate a park next to the San Juan River. A bit of relaxation, then it's on the road again.

At the Four Corners, there is a sign showing the way. I vote to go and stand in four states, or would it be two feet, two hands in four states. Anyway I get voted down. The rest want to get to the Canyon ASAP. So off we go. Harley has his cell phone, so we have him call the Bright Angel Lodge to see if we can get reservations for the Phantom Ranch's night meal. No cancellations yet, but keep trying, we are advised. Some 3 calls later, still no luck, but Harley and Bruce, the reservation monitor, have established quite a relationship.

We arrive at "The Canyon" around 6:30 p.m. We first go to the Bright Angel Lodge; we really want those reservations for
the night meal at Phantom. No luck, but we are told to come first thing in the morning, around 6:00 am, when all cancellation will be known. We then go to Mather Campground, find our campsite and set up the tents. We put up the 3-man for Harley and Chris Doug and I put up tents, just in case of rain. Doug and I end up sleeping out in the open, for the night is clear. Then it's off to the Cafeteria for a filling night meal, then to bed in the dark. Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Harley and Chris near the
Bright Angel Trailhead at sunset Grand Canyon Hike Photo: Chris unloads his gear at
Mather Campground on the South Rim
  Harley and Chris near the Bright Angel Trailhead at sunset     Chris unloads his gear at Mather Campground  

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