After spending the night of August 23, 2016 at the Bright Angel Campground, it was time to head back up to the top. While heading up is a change in elevation of about a mile, in some ways it’s not as hard. For one, you’ve eaten some of your food so your pack is lighter. For another, you don’t have to carry as much water, since you can refill at Indian Garden (and then at the 3-mile and 1½-mile Resthouses).
On the way up I did get quite a few people asking how my bare feet were doing. My answer: “They’re just fine; it’s my hips that are hurting. I’m used to hiking barefoot; but I’m not used to carrying this pack uphill all the time.”
I’m sure just about everybody has a picture approaching the Silver Bridge after having left Bright Angel Campground. Here’s mine from this trip.
[Click for larger picture.]
Again, this was my small aperture GoPro instead of my good digital camera, since I didn’t feel like carrying the extra weight. The picture was taken at about 6:50 am. Sunrise had occurred about an hour earlier.
About an hour later I’d reached the spot where the Bright Angel Trail leaves Garden Creek for a bit. It’s kind of funny, at least for me—in the past I’ve hiked up the trail right alongside the creek, and all of a sudden I would realize, “Hey, what happened to the creek?”
Here’s what the topo map of the trail shows:
Anyways, this time I remembered to watch for the split, and got this picture.
Garden Creek heads up in the distance, just in front of the rock outcropping, and near the greenery. The dry bed in the foreground is the small creek that splits off from Garden Creek.
About an hour later (photo time-stamp: 8:55 am) I was approaching Indian Garden.
If I remember correctly, at this point I am still below the point where the Tonto Trail comes in from the left. It’s up behind the ledge on the left.
Temperature management is always of concern in the summer months. For hiking in mountains, the usual rule is that the temperature will usually be about 4°F cooler for each 1,000 feet you go up. That works the other way when going down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Going down 5,000 feet means it is usually 20°F hotter down there. The following will give you a flavor for that:
That shows the temperatures on June 20, 2016 at the three weather stations at the South Rim, Indian Garden, and Phantom Ranch. (I collected the data in June in anticipation of my August trip, just so I had a feel for what to expect. It was quite a bit cooler when I was there.) But if you look at that graph, you can see than going down to the bottom gives you an extreme temperature shift as your day goes by. You start on the blue line, grab a bit of orange, and then end up green by the middle of the day. On June 20th, that was over a 50°F temperature increase.
On the other hand, though, the trip back up to the top is fairly stable. You start on the green line and transition eventually to the blue. And that’s what happened when I came up from Bright Angel Campground. My day started at around 78°F, and it was only about 80°F at the top. Pretty much a constant temperature.
On the other hand, I was still hot. After all, I spent the time climbing 5,000 feet!.
Continuing on, I entered Indian Garden (but still before the water plant). Here I am.
You’ll notice that I have my shirt off. (I was hot, okay?) That’s the way I usually hike (even though I didn’t notice anybody else doing so going into or out of the Grand Canyon). So I’m going to take the opportunity here to answer a question that appeared in a comment in my post Opening the Window:
I love your hiking outfit.
Just hope you don’t get sunburn.
That was in reference to this picture when I was exploring La Ventana at El Malpais:
There are two schools of thought, and two traditional methods, for keeping cool in desert environments.
The first one is that adopted by Arabs. Here’s a picture taken by my friend Eric Ingram in Merzouga, Morocco showing his guide, named Mohamed Ali.
(Notice he goes barefoot, too!) But the Arab way is the long, flowing robes. For those of you wondering, the color of the robe really doesn’t matter. See Why do Bedouins wear black in the desert?. What matters is not the color of the robe but that its billowing sets up convection currents that help keep the wearer cool.
The other traditional method, though, used in the desert Southwest, is illustrated by this Smithsonian picture of two Mojave in 1871.
There are plenty more examples. This picture of a Hopi is from Edward Curtis’ “The North American Indian” (early-1900s):
Or, from the article The Ecstasy of the Long-Distance Runner by Ernie Bulow in the Gallup Journey magazine we get this picture of the Zuni runner “Old Man Laate”:
and this picture of Native American runners signing up for a Fourth of July race in Gallup (while undated, it looks to me like it could have been between 1880 and 1920?):
Note, of course, that they are running the race barefoot.
These are people who have a lot of experience at keeping cool in this sort of environment. I tend to prefer it myself, as the “Window” photo (and many other photos from this trip) show. But I also didn’t want to look too outside the norm for the rather crowded Grand Canyon corridor.
I also hiked minimally-dressed because of the fact that I’d managed to suffer from heat exhaustion on my previous trip into the Canyon three years ago. Here’s what I wore then.
That shirt was of a type that was supposed to wick away my sweat and keep me cool, but in retrospect I have my doubts. When I think about it, shirts (of any kind, including wicking shirts) do keep me warmer. And they don’t have the sort of convection (since, to wick, they are usually close to the skin) that Arab robes get. So I think that had at least something to do with my heat exhaustion. And that is why I made the deliberate decision not to care what others might think if I was shirtless.
I made one other change to counter what could have contributed to my heat exhaustion.
In the past I’ve always used CamelBaks with my backpack. My pack is an old external frame (which I prefer to internal frame) Jansport that does not support the bladder, so I’ve added some CamelBak attachments to Nalgene bottles to feed out of the side pockets. Here’s a picture that shows how that hooks up.
What I realized, though, is that while the CamelBaks are supposed to allow you to sip your way down the trail, I just wasn’t doing that. I’d remember to drink, but then I don’t think I drank as much as I should have because of the limitations of the flow through the nipple, so I’d stop before really drinking enough. And then I wouldn’t start back up when I should have. So I may have dehydrated myself without knowing it.
Anyways, that meant that this time I did not use the CamelBak attachments. Instead, I made sure to stop regularly and take off the caps and guzzle the water. I also had a spare, smaller mixing container that I would drop a Nuun into, for salts and electrolytes. I found that they worked much better for me.
Oh, and while I’m at it, here’s another hot-weather, packing-into-the-canyon trick I used.
Folks know (just ask any ranger) that ramen is excellent Grand Canyon hot weather food. My trick is knowing that you don’t have to cook it (so you don’t have to carry a stove). I just put it into a Ziploc double-seal freezer bag and added some dehydrated shrimp for some extra protein. Add water, zip it, and let it sit in the sun for about 30 minutes (guarding against squirrels!) and it will be totally edible (and darn good!).
So anyways, when I’m out hiking in a hot area without a lot of people, I’ll go with just the small shorts. And even along the Grand Canyon corridor, with a hot August day, I forewent the shirt (though my shorts were longer). It seems that we, as a society, have gotten really, really body conscious in the last 40 years or so.
Here’s a picture of me at the Twin Falls Tea House in Yoho National Park, Canada in 1971 (that year had a really hot summer in the Canadian Rockies).
Not only am I shirtless there, but you can see that the man behind me near the door was also shirtless. I also have other pictures from that same visit with other men and kids shirtless, too.
It’s like we’ve collectively decided that there is something wrong with the human body. There is so much body-shaming going around and we all have become afraid that somebody might say something. Despite it being a hot day, I was the only shirtless person who I saw ascending the Bright Angel Trail that day. (Ditto descending the South Kaibab the day before.)
Well, I’ve reached the age where I don’t give a damn. Not only that, but I bet when you looked at the Native American pictures above, you thought they looked just fine. Their dressing like that is part of your expectations. But for somebody like me doing it today, it is somehow jarringly different.
Yes, the skin on my body is starting to lose its battle with gravity. But that’s just what older humans look like. And, in fact, the skin on my body has nothing on the skin on my face (and pretty much every older person’s face). But we don’t make fun of faces for getting old—why is it OK to make snarky remarks about other parts of the body?
I’ve long said that, if you are bothered by the fact that my feet are bare or that I am with shirtless, and if you really want to improve the scenery you wouldn’t make me put on shoes or a shirt, you’d make me put a bag over my head. Other than that, there is nothing intrinsically ugly about any of it, except that we are used to seeing old naked faces, so they look more “normal” to us.
Okay, enough of my rant. Let me finish getting out of the Canyon.
Unfortunately, it seems I always have fewer pictures coming out of the Canyon than going in. Coming back up I’m concentrating on staying hydrated, and I’m in the mental zone of making it back up top.
But I do have one more picture, this one from near the Ranger Station at Indian Garden. There were wildfires on the North Rim and they were putting a lot of personnel there to help fight them. It also appears that they were using Indian Garden as at least one of the staging areas.
Thus, there was a helicopter that kept coming and going. It happened to be going just as I passed by, so here it is.
(Look at the lower left, just after it lifted off.)
From there on up it was the usual stops at the 3-mile Resthouse and the 1½-mile Resthouse. For the final stretch the trail got more and more crowded (as is always the case) and I got quite a few comments about my bare feet.
In the end, I was able to do the whole down and up trip barefoot (which, to me, really enhanced the experience). It just took me a few tries to learn how to do it right.