Creek CG, Plateau Point, Indian Gardens, Bright Angel CG
It took us longer to break camp than we anticipated. Tom and I enjoyed two cups of coffee and we all leisurely cooked an oatmeal breakfast. By the time we were finished and started packing up Richard was ready to hit the trail. It ended up taking us just short of 2 hours once we woke up to the time we pulled out of Horn Creek. No problem, "It's not a race, it's an experience." I made it clear that the Plateau Point side hike was optional. This rim-to-rim thing was new to all of us and I didn't want to push anyone. This would add approximately 2 miles to the days total. As far as trail psychology goes, it was early in the day and we were all still pretty fresh plus we were going to drop our packs off and just take water, snacks, and cameras. Everyone was a go. While we were taking off our packs at the junction a man in his 70's blazed past us on his way back to Indian Gardens from Plateau Point. I yelled out, "How was the view?" His only reply was, "Same as it was 17 years ago." Minutes later he was around the bend and out of sight. We learned that you can tell a lot about someone by the way they answer a question. What exactly we learned about this man I'm not sure?
The Plateau Point overlook was well worth the trip. We especially enjoyed the hiking without our backpacks, which ranged in weights up to 45 pounds. This was our first real view of the Colorado River. As most visitors know, the trail out to Plateau Point is visible from several views along the South Rim so it is pretty cool to be down there looking up. Actually, it is not easy to locate the lodge area from down there, even with binoculars. I pointed out Devil's Corkscrew to Tom and Richard, which can be seen to the southeast of the overlook. We would encounter that section of the trail in about four hours. A few river rafts could also be seen floating down the Colorado River. We were pretty sure we saw one of the California Condors that we had seen earlier along the South Rim (see photo), but it was too far to get a good look. Plateau Point is typically an evening hike for campers coming from Indian Gardens (1.5 miles) so we were happy to have the overlook to ourselves. Here is a 360 degree VIDEO (1mb) from Plateau Point. We got back to the junction, loaded up our backpacks, and headed down to the trail back to Indian Gardens.
We arrived at Indian Gardens just in time to meet a mule train. The mule train leader was treating the hot riders to a spray down from a water hose. It must have been grueling riding those mules. The main place to congregate is around the water source. Eventually, everyone will end up there whether they are coming, going, or staying. Most all the backpackers make small talk about the trail and politely pry for any bits of information that may be beneficial. You definitely meet some interesting folks. I sat next to a women in her mid forties who was sipping on a 16oz bottle of water. It was about 10 am and she was telling me how much she wanted to hike down to see the Colorado River. I noticed that she didn't have a pack and I talked the prospect over with her. She would have to hike 5 miles down with no water source until she reached the bottom, then hike the 5 miles back up to Indian Garden with the same circumstance, after that she would have 4.5 miles to the rim with water at the 3 and 1.5 mile rest stops. At best she would reach the rim around 9 pm (and she didn't have a flash light) Without being rude, I strongly urged her not to take this on. She had already eaten her only granola bar so she would do all this with no food. I think she took my advice? Richard and Tom talked to a solo hiker in his early 50's who had been hiking throughout the canyon and had already logged in about 57 miles. He had a topo map and was traveling very light - obviously he knew what he was doing. Soon the talk turned to Pierce Brosan, Bond - James Bond.. Evidently he and a small group came through Indian Garden traveling down the Bright Angel Trail to catch a rafting tour. Our solo hiker had sat next to him and didn't make notice until he heard him talk. The strangest fellow that we saw passed by us shortly after we left Indian Gardens heading down. He was carrying a pack that I guessed weighed around 50 pounds and he was doing it barefoot! Tom surprisingly said, "You don't have on any boots!" The guy didn't miss a step and trudged on never looking back. We were able to track his foot prints down the trail for some time. I still shake my head at the thought....
Devil's Corkscrew was our next key landmark and we were hoping to make it to the downhill side by lunch. Just as we approached the screw a mule train made their way towards us so we found a nook along the trail and allowed them to pass. There was a lady telling her mule how much she loved her as they turned on one of the switchbacks with a huge vertical drop. It was getting past lunch time and we were all feeling the need for a break. We could see a smidgen of shade on one section of the trail. Basically the sun was just barely behind a section of the cliff, which offered a thin line of shade in the middle of the screw. We parked it (leaned against the cliff), ate some trail mix, and watered up. The one good thing about Devil's Corkscrew is that we were going downhill. The folks we passed going up were looking pretty tired. In the back of my mind I guessed that is pretty much what we would look like on the North Kaibab Trail. After we made it to the end of Devil's Corkscrew we were desperately looking for a place to stop for lunch. Tom was in the point position and Richard and I told him to stop at the first sign of shade (note: the Grand Canyon offers little or no shade during mid-day). Tom managed to locate another cliff with a small stretch of the cool stuff. As I ate my lunch(tuna fish and crackers all four days), I had to move around the cliff and follow the shade. The temperatures in the canyon increase considerably the further down you hike and I was thankful it wasn't July or August. We later saw a thermometer at Bright Angel CG that read 105 degrees in the sun. Devil's Corkscrew photos; Richard, Tom, Sean.
Just past our lunch spot the trail ran along side a creek with ice cold water. We saw a few younger guys cooling off and I asked them how it felt. They replied, "Great. Hey, Pierce Brosan in down there." He added that there were two Yankee players and the producer for Girls Gone Wild. You can tell a lot about someone by how they answer a question. What we learned about this young fellow I'm not quite sure? Somehow, I couldn't get the thought of a movie star down here out of my head. I came here to experience the Grand Canyon not the red carpet. We made our way down the trail and saw an emergency house known as the river rest house, which I did not know existed on the trail. I was thinking water, but I thought we had plenty to get to the Bright Angel CG. The house was across the creek, which we would have to cross by rock hopping so we stopped and discussed if we wanted to go. A decision was made - why not? We scrambled across and I leaned up against the structure just under an open window and glanced up to see Pierce looking out. There were a few guys sitting on a bench in the rest house and an attractive model type female. Tom and Richard went in to check on water, but there was none available. The river house is used primarily as an emergency phone station. A few swigs of water later and we left. So much for the red carpet. The Colorado River was visible from the river rest house so we knew the end of our 9 mile day was drawing near. The next few miles were up and down a few hundred feet above the Colorado River (view 1, view 2) along a cliff that eventually led to the Silver Bridge. We also saw more rafters as we hiked along the trail. Tom had inadvertingly drained his camelback (a drawback to not being able to monitor your water level) and wanted to get to the water source at the BA campground so he hiked ahead and Richard and I stopped for a longer break. I still had 16oz left and tried to get Tom to take some of mine, but he passed on the offer. We figured out that Richard was running out of gas beyond the 5 mile point and this was a few miles past that. We found a nice angled cliff and set back in the shade. Two hikers came by and we mentioned the heat. They replied jokingly, "But it's a dry heat." I guess everyone who goes to Arizona ends up saying that at some point. The quote of the day was about to occur. I asked Richard if he was ready to go. He said in a tired voice, "I'm ready to get there, but I'm not ready to go." We both laughed and he said that he had never said that before in his life. He reached for his camera and took a picture to mark the occasion while still comfortably seated in the shade. We got up several minutes later and made our way across the Silver Bridge towards Bright Angel CG. I mentioned to Richard about the cold beverages at Phantom Ranch and I threw in that it was only a one mile round trip from the campground. He immediately made up his mind that he would not be making the evening trip to Phantom Ranch. Richard's lack of conditioning (as in zero) was taking it's toile. I took a side trip east to the Black Bridge (view 1, view 2)and the Anasazi Pueblo ruins along the river and caught up with Tom and Richard at the campground around 3:30 pm.
We settled for a nice campground along the Bright Angel Creek. The roaring sound of the creek was pleasant and access to the cool water was invaluable. Again, it was nice to take off our packs and relax. It was early enough in the afternoon to truly do so. Richard pulled out his sleeping bag and settled in for nap. I somehow wanted to get in the ice cold creek water, but it was moving fast and I just couldn't make myself get in. So, I filled up my REI collapsible bucket with water and carried it up to camp. There was a big rock at the edge of our campsite and I got Richard to stand on it and pour the bucket of water over my head. In a word, refreshing.....I changed in to my comfy shorts and camp sandals and began washing my day 1 and day 2 hiking cloths with plans to wear them for days 3 and 4. The collapsible buckets worked out great for this task. Tom and I both had one so we set up a wash and rinse station and hung everything to dry. The wind picked up and was blowing something fierce. If it wasn't weighed down it was blowing away. Tom and I were both patching a few blister hot spots with variations of mole skin and duct tape throughout the day. After a few trials, we discovered that the thinner mole skin worked better than the thicker style. Richard did not have any blister issues, which surprised us both. I figured it was just a matter of time.
Two strange looking lizards occupied the big rock at the edge of our campsite and entertained us for quite some time. The picture shown is the rated "G" version. We ate dinner and Tom and I went to the amphitheater at Phantom Ranch for the ranger talk over the California Condors, which we had seen and photographed the day before our hike. It was very informative. I did speak to an off duty ranger who said the hike to Cottonwood was a pretty easy one except for a piece called Asinine Hill - that didn't sound good. We opted to pass on the black light scorpion hunt for the canteen at Phantom Ranch. We relaxed and sent off a few mule train delivered post cards. I was able to visit with a man and his wife who had just came from Cottonwood CG. He advised us to not get there early because there was no shade. I didn't know what to do with this information since we were leaving around 8 am? I figured it out later. I also talked to the solo hiker (late 40's) camped next to us who was going to hike up the North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls the next day and then back to Bright Angel CG for another night and then hike back to the South Rim the following day. His hiking partner had injured his leg the day before their hike so he decided to go it alone. Tom and I used our headlamps to make it back to camp around 9 pm. It was a great ending to day two of our adventure in the Grand Canyon.
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