(This is Part 2 of a 9 part blog series. If you missed day one head back to this link.)
Wednesday morning was beautiful, clear, crisp and cool. We packed up our campsite, filled the car and headed over to the Backcountry Ranger Station, where we left the car and boarded one of the many buses that shuttles vacationers around this splendid park. We had decided to take the Kaibab trail down to the Bright Angel Campground and return via the Bright Angel trail. Kaibab is shorter (7 ½ mile) and steeper than the Bright Angel (9 1/2 mile).
So off we went on the South Kaibab trail around 7:30 am with our 30 pound backpacks with the hope of arriving at our campsite around noon. The further down the canyon we went the hotter it became. Also, the further we went the less people we saw. The trail was stunning with wide open expanses and great views of the canyon in all directions.
There are two major destination points along the way on the Kaibab – Cedar Ridge and Skelton Point. Both of these were magnificent with a wider viewing plateau for exploring and picture taking. Because this trail is steep there are numerous ‘steps’ along the way. These steps make the trail more stable and better for the mule teams that frequent this path, but make it harder to establish a good stride for hiking.
At quite a few locations along the way you can see multiple switchbacks ahead as it descends the side of a cliff or mesa. By the time we had gotten to the 4 ½ mile point it was pretty darn warm and we were feeling the effects of the sun and our overstuffed backpacks. More frequent stops were in order for food and drink. We also took advantage of any shade opportunity to briefly escape the sun.
Sometime after noon we arrived at the suspension bridge that crosses the Colorado River. It was quite a relief to be at the base of the canyon, but on the other hand, we were now subjected to the hottest part of the canyon nearing the hottest time of the day. It was 103 degrees in the shade and the sun was beating off the walls of the canyon making it feel a crispy 115+. We hustled the last ½ mile from the bridge to the Bright Angel Campground and staked claim to a campsite in a semi-shady location.
By this point in the hike I had jokingly suggested that the name of the campground be changed from Bright Angel to Dark Angel, to reflect the sinister nature of the temperature that pervaded the campground. Despite the fact that we drank over 100 ounces of water on the way down, we were both dehydrated. After cooling down with the help of a nearby stream, we walked the ½ mile to Phantom Ranch, because they have an air conditioned lodge and snackbar. We sat in the cool air & consumed 32 ounces of lemonade and chased that down with 32 ounces of ice water before going back to our campsite. All afternoon the breezes that blew through the campsite were hot and it was hard to stay cool. After we ate our camp dinner, the temperature seemed to cool down somewhat, into the mid-80s. By bedtime at 8:30 pm it was still toasty so we slept on top of the sleeping bags under the stars and moon. Since we went to sleep so early, it was not surprising that we both awoke about 3 am to answer nature’s call and decided that it was best to break camp and head back to the rim before the sun came out.
Continue here for Day 3