Grand Canyon


By: Dick Farrar



Three years ago on April 1st I did a day hike down the S. Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch and back up to the south rim via the Bright Angel Trail. Ever since then I wanted to try a rim-to-rim day hike, south to north. The north rim doesn't open up till the middle of May and by that time the river bottom can get excessively hot. I planned my hike for May 28 and made reservations to stay at the Maswik Lodge at the south rim on the 27th and at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the north rim on the 28th. I was in Phoenix on the 26th and did Camelback two different ways for conditioning.

My main concern was the heat at the river bottom and I had thought of starting well before dawn. Unfortunately, there was a new moon due on the 28th so I was also concerned about darkness. However, the weather turned cool and the high at the river bottom on May 27 was a mild 83. I decided I didn't need to start too early so I got under way from the S. Kaibab trailhead (7260. ft) near Yaki Point at 4:45 am. There was plenty of light with sunrise at 5:15. Since the S. Kaibab follows ridge lines, there are excellent views of the canyon on the way down. I crossed the suspension bridge (2400 ft.) Just before the first mule string leaving Phantom Ranch and arrived at the ranch at 7:45. The distance from the trailhead was 7.1 miles. The store didn't open until 8 am, so I didn't pick up any extra food, but tanked up with 2 quarts and 2 liters of water. There were some scales hanging from the eave of a building. With extra clothing and plenty of food, my pack weighed 20 lbs and my canteen belt weighed 6 lbs. The next water hole was at. Cottonwood Camp 6.9 miles up the North Kaibab trail. After leaving Phantom Ranch the trail goes up the Bright Angel Canyon through a gorge called The Box. It is quite shady for at least three miles. After that it becomes more exposed to the sun, but on that day the temperature never exceeded 85 deg. I took a break in the shade of a rock for some energy food and drink. Along came a ranger lady who made sure I was all right with plenty of water. I still had over 3 quarts. A little later I came to an unexpected fork. The left fork went over toward Ribbon Falls which I could clearly see to my left. However a sign pointing to the right fork said "Ribbon Falls by bridge" so I took it. It was the main trail and after about two miles I reached Cottonwood Camp by 11 am. I had a leisurely lunch in the shade, refilled my canteens and was off before noon. From this point on the trail begins to steepen and the temperature drops. There is a succession of very interesting views as the trail proceeds past the narrows of Tapeats sandstone and a confluence with a canyon called the Transept. It then goes by some private residences occupied by operators of the power station Just. below the Roaring Springs Falls. A sign indicated that water was available. There is a side trail to a day-use picnic area at the base of the falls. From here the trail steepens even more going through "the eye of the needle", over "the bridge in the red wall", and finally through the Supai tunnel. At the far end of the tunnel is a classic chrome-plated water fountain and spigot, probably for those descending to that point by mule train. I continually heard voices from a mule train ahead of me and could often see the mules moving high above on the switchbacks. They had frequent. stops but, I never caught up with them. The trail winds along a narrow ledge and the views looking back at it are spectacular. By this time I needed a sweater and the weather was threatening. However, there were only a few scattered drops of rain and I didn't need to haul out the poncho. I soon reached the trailhead at 8241 ft. at 4 pm. The distance from Phantom Ranch was 13.8 miles and the overall distance from the South Kaibab trailhead was 20.9 miles. The net gain was 5841 ft but with a few ups and downs along the way the total gain must. be at- least 6000 ft.

This hike was indeed a memorable one from the standpoints of spectacular scenery and physical challenge. Fortunately, the weather cooperated to make it a most rewarding experience.

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