In writing up my trip Out West, it’s now time for my backpacking trip down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where I camped at the Bright Angel Campground (after getting a permit).
This was on August 23, 2016.
I had my car-camping campsite up at the Mather Campground. In the past, I’d decamped before heading down, and then recamped after I came back up. But that was quite a bother, so this time, after checking to make sure there weren’t any regulations about leaving a Mather campsite empty for a night, I just decided to leave my camp set up while I backpacked into and out of the Grand Canyon.
It was a short walk from my campsite to where the shuttle bus picked me up (I chose my Mather campsite to keep it a short walk). I just missed one of the buses, so I had to wait about half an hour for another one. That took me to the Visitor’s Center, where I transferred to the bus that would take me to the South Kaibab Trailhead.
The other two times I’d backpacked into the Canyon, it had been late May or early June and it was hot, hot, hot. In late August it’s cooling back down a bit, and it is also monsoon season, so there are a lot more clouds around which make a big difference in comfort.
Here’s the view from along the trail right around Ooh-Aah point.
That picture was taken around 7:45 in the morning. You can see that it has a bit of an odd look about it. That’s my GoPro. On my other two trips into the canyon I carried my good Canon Eos, but that weighs about 2 pounds. On this trip (hey, I’m getting older!) I decided to cut back on weight, so the GoPro (½ pound) won out.
As a reminder, here’s the topo map showing the trail from the trailhead.
Here’s another shot (taken shortly after the previous one) showing O’Neill Butte in the distance.
That extra curvature in the distance is the result of the f/2.8 aperture of my GoPro. It tends to make things look like you’re in a bubble.
Just a little bit further down the trail I decided to stop and take a picture with me in it. Here I am (and again you can see O’Neill Butte in the distance).
In addition to not carrying my good camera, I also didn’t carry a big tripod. In this instance, I was able just to set the GoPro onto a rock.
Also, as you probably notice, I’m barefoot, as I always hike. Well, almost always. On my other two trips into the Canyon, I hadn’t managed to do the whole trip barefoot. The first time I got a late start (because I forgot my hiking stick and had to go back for it) and the trail below the Tip-Off in the early-June sun heated up too much for my feet. The second time I had an incident (see Rolling My Eyes) that prompted me to put on moccasins for a short stretch.
But this time I really wanted to do the whole thing barefoot, and I hoped to use my previous attempts as learning experiences.
By the way, my GoPro does not have a self-timer. On the other hand, it does have a time-lapse feature. So I started the time-lapse at 2-second intervals, and just grabbed the photo in the middle where I posed.
Here’s an animated GIF putting the time-lapse pictues together that
then shows how I got the single picture above.
About 40 minutes later, after passing the Cedar Ridge Restrooms, I was passing O’Neill Butte. (By the way, timestamps on photos are a good way to keep track of my progress and how fast I was hiking.)
There’s a quick switchback near O’Neill Butte. Here’s a blooming agave there.
I always love seeing them with their huge stalks sticking up into the air.
Continuing on, by about 10am, I was approaching the restrooms on the Tonto Platform at the Tonto Trail. There was a tour group, riding mules, on their way up.
On my other trips into the Canyon (again, late-May/early-June), I called the South Kaibab Trail a superhighway because of all the people on it. That was not the case in late August. There were very few people on the trail. This tour group was probably the most I saw. Between there and the river I only saw one other group of people, a couple, and they’d come from the North Rim and were just doing a bit of geological exploring after setting up their campsite at Bright Angel.
At this point, the elevation is just about 4,000 feet. The elevation at the top of the trail was 7,200 feet. I still had another 1,500 feet to descend to the Colorado River.
Here’s a shot just below the Tip-Off.
I did make it barefoot past the spots I’d had to moccasin up before. I’d intended to take a picture of myself just before I entered the tunnel just before the black bridge over the Colorado, but by then I felt I was on a roll and didn’t feel like stopping.
As usual, it was pretty hot down at the Bright Angel Campground, but it wasn’t horribly oppressive. It was maybe about 95°. It still made sense, though, to spend time in Bright Angel Creek just to keep cool. One difference though: since it was monsoon season, and we kept hearing thunderstorms in the distance up Bright Angel canyon, we were warned to sit in the river facing upstream. That way, if a flash flood was headed our way, we’d be able to see it coming and get to the river bank (or even higher) quickly.
Here’s a picture of the view from my campsite, taken about 3:00 in the afternoon. I’m looking south here. Again, it’s the GoPro that gives the picture its aetherial quality.
The campgrounds were not even very full when I got there, so I was able to select from quite a few choice spots. In fact, from what I heard from a ranger, one of the campground spots was not even used. It seems that there is a quota on the total number of people allowed to spend the night down there, adding both backpackers and those staying at Phantom Ranch (the dorms). That quota is dictated by the capacity of the sanitary system.
There was actually another pair that arrived quite a few hours after I did. They’d been behind me coming down the South Kaibab, and one of them severely sprained his knee. Here’s something useful to know: he went to the Ranger Station at Phantom Ranch and got some (strong) pain pills. In addition, he was able to rent space on a mule ($70) to take his pack back up for him. I met (and then passed) him on my way back up the next morning.
Anyways, here’s a final picture of me at my campsite down along Bright Angel Creek.