Parked, got on the bus. I had decided that I was going to walk the South Kaibab Trail to the Tip Off point and then walk back up to the trailhead: 4.4 miles (7.1 km) one way or 8.8 miles (14.2 km) round trip.
On the bus I overheard one of the passengers talk about his plan to hike the canyon. He was going to go all the way down to the river from the South Kaibab trailhead and then up the Bright Angel trail to its trailhead. He also advised walking back up the South Kaibab trail since the trailhead was at a higher elevation and steeper drop so the climb back up would be harder. Made a mental note of that.
Got dropped off the trailhead.
Took a picture before the descent. It is about 8:50 AM
I begin walking downhill.
Got to the Ooh Ahh Point.
The view is definitely makes you feel like Oohing and Aahing.
Self shadow pic.
Stopping from time to time to appreciate the view.
I get to the Cedar Ridge
And there is that standing rock.
I love these views of the canyon.
It is also a cloudless day.
I love this walk. The views of the canyon are just breathtaking.
I get to Skeleton Point and take a short break to munch on some food.
Take some pictures of the surrounding landscape.
I continue walking and run into some mules and some people riding them. These ‘lucky’ people are riding the mule back up the canyon instead of walking. Grrrr!
Wish it was smoother.
Look at the moon.
More scenic views.
I get to Tonto East and take a break. I have been walking for about 2 hrs. I believe this is the tip off point.
I rest in the shade and talk to a fellow hiker. At this point I have to decide if I am going to walk to the Colorado River and up the Bright Angel trail to its trail head or turn around right here and up to the South Kaibab trailhead. I am undecided and scared. Even though I have walked across Spain the warning from the Visitors Center and the trail tell you not to walk down to Colorado river and back up on the same day.
The lady I’m talking to tells me that I can do it. I want to do it. But the logical part of my brain is fighting with me. Finally she says something that lights the fire within my soul to do it. At this moment I get committed. Upon reflection now it is amazing to see how people walk into your life or situation and provide guidance and/or encouragement. This lady is my angel for the day. For what I lacked in moment to keep on going she provided with just the power of her words.
First close sighting of the Colorado river
Continue walking on between various rock formations and paths.
Now I see the bridge that I have to cross.
And through a tunnel.
Across a bridge.
The river looks still and calm but looks can be deceiving.
The other side of the bridge and the boats around.
I begin walking on the other side of the Colorado river.
And am close to the Bright Angel Campground
The Bright Angel Creek is nearby
And finally get to the Bright Angel Campground. I have walked 7 miles (11.3 km) in 2.5 hours and descended 4780 feet in elevation. I take a break and start talking to Dave and Bill who are walking from the North Rim (North Kaibab trail) to the South Rim – Bright Angel Trail. They are walking 23.5 miles (37.8 km) in a day. They are much older than I and I am in awe of them walking greater distances in a day. One day I aspire to be as fit as they are.
And now to walk towards the Bright Angel trailhead 4380 ft (1335m) over 9.5 miles (15.3 km)
I continue walking across the second bridge.
Turn back to look at the second bridge I crossed.
I prefer this terrain over stones and steps.
Panoramic view of the Colorado River.
Creeks. A good sign that I am getting closer to the Indian Garden campground.
My legs are starting to get a little tired, and I can feel myself need to slow down.
I begin to rest a little and along the way I run into two young hikers: Trevor and Tulley who decide to explore a little cave as I move on.
Getting higher and higher in elevation.
I see Tulley and Trevor as they pass me up earlier near a pool of water.
The amount vegetation continues to grow.
I continue to stop and take repeated breaks I’m getting tired more frequently. Definitely not out of water but losing a lot of salt. I run into Dave again and he gives me some electrolyte pills because I am definitely losing a lot of salt and don’t have any to replenish myself. I am reminded of my time in the Camino when my walking buddy Janet was craving for electrolytes and they made a difference for her.
I continue walking across the beautiful terrain.
And finally get to the Indian Garden campground.
Dave is not far away and we take a break together.
You can see the white salt on my black tee. There is lots of it everywhere.
After a good 30-40 minute break we continue to walk together. Dave is joined by Bill who used to run ultra-marathons. Bill is older than Dave and I and I am in awe of him walking from the North Rim to the South Rim in one day. I’m tired and these guys are walking 7 (11.3 km) more miles that I.
I see the final stretch. Lots of switch backs. But it is the toughest part. Fortunately we have protection from the sun.
As I walk up my stride gets narrower and I need more frequent breaks. The electrolytes help but I don’t have that burst of energy I was hoping for. Occasionally as I ascend closer to the trailhead I turn back and take more pictures.
I also keep looking up to see how much further the trailhead is.
The first rest house called the 3-Mile Resthouse. 3 more miles to the top.
After a short break, Dave, Bill and I continue walking.
After what feels like eternity we see the second resthouse: the 1.5-Mile Resthouse. We all take another break.
My legs are shot. I have to now walk much much slower. I can feel my body giving away and I am concerned if I am going to make it. I don’t want to be that guy who calls for a ‘helicopter ride’. I tell Dave that I will meet him at the top for a drink after this.
Along the way I turn around frequently to absorb the oncoming sunset and the view.
Finally the tunnel. This means I am 0.8 miles from the trailhead. Every minute feels like an eternity.
The colors are just amazing.
I can now see the trailhead from afar. I get excited and feel a surge of energy to get there more quickly.
The final views as I get closer and closer.
Turn around moments.
The trailhead is just around the bend.
Getting so much closer. Seeing warning signs for people walking down.
And finally at 6 PM I get there. My legs are tired but since I am on flat ground I feel much much better. I see no sign of Dave so I decide to go drink at the bar. Dave probably got tired of waiting for me since I really took my time coming up the final stretch. I walked 16.5 miles (26.6 km) down 4780 feet (1457 m) and back up 4380 ft (1335m).
After getting a drink and a bite to eat I take the bus back to the car. I take a picture of my legs and the dust on them.
I pushed myself today. And I am quite proud of it. Walking the Grand Canyon was quite a challenge and more challenging than I had anticipated. It reminded me about everything of the Camino and I used my Camino experience to push myself forward through the tough times.
Meeting and walking with Dave and Bill was a blessing. Dave literally saved my ass with those electrolyte pills and it was great to have a camaraderie of fellow long distance hikers. One day I will attempt the North Rim to South Rim trek. I am in awe of how they did it at their age and I aspire to be as mentally and physically fit as them one day.
To the lady I met at Tonto East (which I think is the tip off), I don’t know if we will ever reconnect again but when you spoke to me something you said encouraged me to do it and removed all doubt that I was capable of doing this. Thank you for being there when I doubted myself and thank you for your words of encouragement. You may have not known that your words that such a profound effect but I was in serious doubt of my abilities and you said what I needed to hear at the right time to remove all doubt. If you ever read this by please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Holiday Inn Express in Tusayan was an over priced rip off for one night. But at this point I didn’t care. I took two baths back to back and it felt great. At least the bed was extremely comfortable and perfect for the situation. My dusty clothes are lying everywhere and tomorrow I’m going to have to clean up a lot. But for now I just need rest. As I slept I could help but be reminded of the day before I arrived in Santiago when my legs were shot and tired from walking 34 miles (55 km) and staying in my first hotel on the Camino. Today was a buen camino in the Grand Canyon.
Now it is time for bed.
Hotels: $179.39 (Holiday Inn Express & Suites)