At the end of Bob, Meet Kaibab, I’d made it to the Indian Garden Campground.
Let me back up just a bit.
First, let me show a map of the route.
Most folks head down the South Kaibab Trail, camp at the Bright Angel Campground (Bright Angel Creek is the creek that comes in from the north), and then head up the Bright Angel Trail.
One reason for doing it in that order is that the South Kaibab has very little shade during the day, so folks head down early. It is also the shorter trail, so it is easier to get to one’s campground. In my case, due to last minute changes, I could not get a backcountry permit for Bright Angel, and had to go all the way to Indian Garden.
The Bright Angel is a longer trail, but it has shade along the way, and water (at Indian Garden, the 3-mile Resthouse, and the 1½-mile Resthouse). That makes the climb a bit easier.
The Grand Canyon is like an upside-down mountain, and that is also what makes it hard. After you climb a mountain, your return trip is downhill. For the Grand Canyon, your climb is at the end.
Anyways, as I said last time, I did the stretch from Bright Angel Creek to the River Resthouse in 100° heat. (By the way, mileages differ on various sources, so only consider them approximate.) By the time I got there, about 12:30, I was pretty zonked. I was a bit lightheaded, didn’t feel like eating at all (which was a sign I needed to eat and get some salt in me), and was plain old hot.
After about an hour sitting there, another group showed up with the guy, Nate, who was suffering the rapid heartbeat. One nice thing about the River Resthouse is that there is a 9-1-1 phone there, so one of his companions called and got advice (cool down by lying in Pine Creek, or by soaking clothing). At that point, I started doing the same, and it really helped.
Then, at 4:00pm, we started up as a group.
Another of my problems was I was just plain old tired. I’d already done about 8 miles at that point. Most of those were downhill miles, which took a real toll on my downhill muscles (you know, the ones that keep you from falling face-first down the trail). Plus my pack was pretty heavy (a lot of water—100° water at this point) and it was bothering my hips. One of my companions at this point actually carried my pack for me for quite a ways, just to help me out. While I had trained, it is rather hard to train for a continuous downhill drop of a mile of elevation.
When I made it to the Indian Garden Campground, I set up my tent and worked on getting comfortable (while still feeling a bit whonky). At that point the Ranger showed up, and I mentioned how I was feeling. Since she didn’t think I had the right amount of salty foods with me, she actually made me some ramen soup to eat—it really helped.
Indian Garden is about 1,300 feet above the Colorado River (total distance to the top is just over 5,000 feet), so it was a hot, but comfortably so, night.
In the morning, I headed up the rest of the way. Again, my hips were bothering me from the descent of the day before. It was a long slog. I started it wearing my moccasins—I just didn’t want to worry about where to place my feet.
Here’s a view of the trail a bit of a ways above Indian Garden. See if you can spot where the trail heads up the rock face.
I can’t spot it either, and I actually hiked it.
Once up there, though, I turned around and took a picture of where I’d come from.
By the 3-mile Resthouse, I was feeling comfortable enough to take off the mox & sox, and stayed that way up to the 1½-mile Resthouse. Just as I was approaching that second Resthouse, down the trail came a mule train.
The South Kaibab is used for up-going mules, and the Bright Angel for down-going. This tends to be against the foot traffic, so the hikers can more easily see the mules and get out of the way.
In the back, you can see their restrooms at the Resthouse, which have special composting toilets. The Grand Canyon (and the other National Parks I visited) seem to do a good job of keeping the environment clean and reducing impact as much as possible (considering 3,000,000 visitors a year).
In this comment, Paul asks about the mule manure on the trails, and how being barefooted affects that.
First, in this picture, and on most of the trail, there really isn’t much mule manure. The trails are mainly this fine (usually white) dust. I suspect that at least part of that dust is the sun-soaked (thereby sterilized) and powdered manure. There is a bit of manure, which I found on this picture from when I headed down the South Kaibab:
There really wasn’t much, and it was easy to avoid.
But even if not avoided (and I think I did manage to step on the edge of a pie once), I don’t consider it a big deal. There’s really nothing in it that is a danger to a barefooted person. It’s mainly (poorly) digested grass, and contains no pathogens that will penetrate the skin. So while it might have an ick factor to step on one, there was nothing to be concerned about.
For the final stretch, past the 1½-mile Resthouse, I put on the mox & sox again. I was getting pretty tired, and the trail was starting to get hot, too.
Here’s the very end of the Bright Angel Trail (taken the next day from a decent overlook). This is an 1800 x 950 picture, so click on it for full-size.
Yes, that is a hole they cut in the rock for the trail to go through. Yes, you can see people on the trail if you look closely.
During the hike, I naturally got quite a few comments. I was expecting a bunch of comparisons to Cody Lundin, but only got one or two. What most folks said was that I was “hard core”. My usual reply was that it looked more impressive than it really was. (The dust, as long as it wasn’t too hot, was really pretty easy and pleasant to walk on.) There were, though, places with a kind of gravelly rock scree, and that (along with the heating up of the path) is what eventually led to my having to add just a bit of padding to my soles. All in all, I figure I did about 40% of the hike barefooted. It would have been nice if I could have done more, but I was there to enjoy myself and not make barefooting a burden.
Here’s a final shot of Indian Garden, from above. It is another very large picture (1500 x 1732), so click on it for the full effect. This one is two separate picture stitched together.
My final thoughts on this hike was that, although I wasn’t always enjoying myself while doing it, overall I liked it and would consider doing it again.
I’d start (even) earlier (which would allow me to be barefooted more). I’d have more salty foods with me. I would consider carrying less water and a filter (so I could get cooler water to drink at the River Resthouse). I would also figure out how to lighten the pack (while still carrying my camera). And I’d really, really make sure I stayed at the Bright Angel Campground.
But this was not the end of my trip out west. More on Monday.