Okay, sorry if I scared anyone. To start, everyone made it out safely, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time in the canyon. We did get a late start out of Flagstaff and made it to the park by 2pm. Our permits were all good to go! The road out to the trailhead was too icy to drive, so we hopped on a shuttle around 3pm, after re-packing our gear. We finally got out to the start of the trail around 4pm; we strapped on our gators, snapped on our microspikes and began our trek down the steep switchbacks.
The beginning of the trail, like the entirety of our hike, was absolutely breathtaking. The depth and grandeur of the canyon is really unimaginable. In all directions we were surrounded by soaring red and green rock faces, with snow-capped peaks. The canyon plummeted down far below what we could see and expanded outwards on both sides for what seemed like endless miles. The pictures can hardly do it justice–although Li, our own professional photographer, did an excellent job of capturing it’s beauty.
Our hike down about 4,000 feet over 7 miles took about 3.5 hours; we ended up hiking in the dark for about 1.5 hours. Kilian lead the way, practically running down in front of us. Danny and I stopped about every 5 minutes to take a picture of something or discuss whether this face or that could be climbed. Li followed behind us, taking photographs. When we finally reached our campsite, we quickly set up camp. Danny and I cooked some surprisingly tasty freeze dried food, while Li and Kilian cooked up the raw ground beef they had hiked down.
We woke up the next morning to mule deer walking around the campsite! They must have been very used to humans because we got could get pretty close to them before they would walk away.
We set off on our second day of hiking: a 13 miles round trip, across the mostly flat North Kaibab trail, to Ribbon Falls. Again, Kilian set off at a speedy pace with Li in tow, while Danny and I played around on the trail.
After the hike back we all cooked and walked a half mile to Phantom Ranch cantina. Phantom Ranch is a sort of hike in hotel and restaurant. All of the people that take mule trains down the canyon stay at Phantom Ranch. Backpackers can call ahead and reserve a room or a steak dinner. Though we reserved neither, we went to the cantina after dinner to buy some hot chocolate and M&M’s! Yumm!
Our next day was a 4.6 mile hike up about 1,200 feet to Indian Garden Campsite. We started the hike by crossing a beautiful bridge that spanned the canyon, and saw some rafters floating down the Colorado River below us.
Danny’s knee was hurting, so we hiked slowly while Kilian and Li sped ahead. We had a fantastic hike, with plenty of stops to enjoy the views. Around 2pm we stopped for lunch and met up with Kilian and Li, who decided that they would prefer to hike out the last 4.7 miles that same day. After much debate, we decided to continue our slow-poke pace and camp by ourselves. The campsite was at higher elevation and was colder than the first, but we slept fine. We woke to a beautiful view!