10:55 AM PDT, a Saturday in April
I am on a plane right now heading home to Baltimore from Las Vegas… it was a business trip. As we fly over the Grand Canyon, it brings back incredible memories from just last week when Lewis Klotzman, Landi Heller, Yoko Madow and I did a six day backpack trip deep into the canyon. It was a wonderful trip. So as I am on the plane, I figured I would pull out my computer and start typing some of the great memories from last week. I would like to share our really cool backpack trip with you.
Our plan was to backpack down the Grandview Trail and then head west across the Tonto to South Kaibab, go down to Phantom Ranch for a couple of days and then ultimately head out of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We allowed six days for this hike. The trip was planned well over a year in advance.
We started out on Saturday, April 14, 2012. Lew, Yoko and I flew to Phoenix from Baltimore, and Landi flew in from Detroit. After arriving we jumped in our rental Chevy Traverse and started on our four hour drive towards Grand Canyon. We did make a stop at Whole Foods in Phoenix to stock up on some food and eat some healthy lunch.
I could probably drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff along I-17 in my sleep these days as I have done it so much. But we did hit a little surprise in Flagstaff this time – an April snowstorm! The snow was actually coming down so hard that we didn’t know if we’d be able to make it through Flagstaff – we discussed the possibility of staying there overnight.
But after making a Target run and stocking up on more food and other assorted stuff, the snow had subsided a bit so we decided to continue to Grand Canyon and we ultimately made it there slowly but surely!
Sunday was an easy day. We used it to shop for final supplies, chat with the rangers at the backcountry office about our route, take a short recon hike down the Bright Angel, as well as ready our packs. We decided that we would pack ice crampons (cleats that clip onto shoes) for the trip tomorrow due to snow on the trail.
Hike Day 1 – Monday we were in the shuttle in time for a 10:30AM start of our journey from the Grandview Trailhead. At the trailhead we met an older couple that was hiking down to Horseshoe Mesa to spend two nights. Since there is no water on the mesa, they will need to descend about 1000 feet from there for their water. I sincerely hope they did OK.
The hike down Grandview was beautiful but not simple. Steep and uneven tread. We did not use our crampons as there was little snow and ice on the trail which disappeared about a mile or so down. Oh well.
A short time later we arrived at Horseshoe Mesa. It was hard to imagine how large this mesa really is. We saw lots of artifacts from the old copper mining days. After a little rest and some snooping around, we started down the trail that would take us to Cottonwood Creek.
The trail to Cottonwood Creek was tough. Very steep with plenty of loose rocks that make it so you better be watching every step. I actually took a fall and scraped up my left leg. I was lucky not to have been injured any more than that because quite honestly, it could have been bad.
It was nice to arrive at Cottonwood Creek. Walking along the creek, we found a few nice camping sites. The first one that we came across was taken by a guy named Kevin that we would later become quite close with. He was hiking by himself.
I noticed that my left big toenail took quite a beating with the constant downhill it had to endure to get down to Cottonwood. With all of the hiking, skiing and running I do, I have never had a toenail go black on me and I was hoping this would not be the first time.
We set up for the evening, filtered water, talked a lot, made some dinner, hung up our food and ultimately went to sleep for the evening among the beautiful sound of the water from Cottonwood Creek.
Continued (see below)!
Day 1 – Grandview Trailhead to Cottonwood Creek
Day 2 – Cottonwood Creek to Grapevine Canyon along Tonto Trail
Day 3 – Grapevine Canyon to Lonetree Canyon along Tonto Trail
Day 4 – Lonetree Canyon to Phantom Ranch along Tonto and S. Kaibab (to be posted June 3)
Day 5 – Layover Day at Phantom Ranch – Hike up Utah Flats (to be posted June 17)
Day 6 – Hike out of Canyon – Phantom Ranch to Bright Angel Trailhead (to be posted July 1)