Why do we travel? Is it to fulfill a longing, to see and experience new cultures, or is it simply to move, as the name of this blog suggests? During our latest vacation, we hiked down to the floor of the Grand Canyon and then up again. It was a test of physical endurance and it was a feast for the eyes. As one of the signs warn, going down is optional, coming back up is mandatory. The Canyon is 227 miles long, one mile deep and up to 18 miles across. The Colorado River’s persistent flow over time has cut through the layers upon layers of rock, exposing two billion years of geologic history.
To get to the bottom from the South Rim there are two trails – the Bright Angel Trail, described as a popular, scenic and moderately difficult hike. The South Kaibab Trail is somewhat steeper than the Bright Angel Trail, and it follows a ridgeline with spectacular wide-open views. We took the South Kaibab during the first week in February. The weather on the day we left was cold but sunny and precipitation free.
We started at 8:00 am and arrived at the Phantom Ranch at about 4:00 pm. The ranch provides Spartan accommodations, and it is run with corporate like efficiency. When we were there two dinner options were offered, a 5:30 pm steak dinner and the comparatively lighter fare at 7:00 pm, offering a stew. You can purchase beer or wine with your meal. Dinner is served family style, and there is plenty of good food for the weary hiker.
We lucked out during the first night and were able to stay at one of the coveted and few private cabins. The cabins feature a queen size bed and a bathroom with a sink. Shower stalls are communal and just a short walk from the cabins. The other option is to stay at the unisex barrack style cabins with bunk beds. The second night I stayed at a cabin with a 30-year-old woman who was celebrating her birthday by doing something “big.” There was a mother-daughter hiking team, and another woman who was more or less a regular hiker, from Arizona.
On the second day we decided to go see the Ribbons Falls, a must see according to the hikers we met during dinner. It was over a 12 mile hike from the ranch to the falls, and it was pretty strenuous, but well worth it. The water mists 100 feet over moss-covered stone to a pool, relaxing and magical at the same time.
On the third day we hiked back up and up and up some more for over 9 miles using the Bright Angel Trial. We stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge, and had dinner there too-decent food, not too expensive. It never felt so good to just sit and eat. We had a view of the canyon and even though we had spent three days there, I just wanted to look at it and never stop. Hiking down the Grand Canyon is a magical experience and a must do for every go girl.