A year and a half ago, my brother called me and said, “Let’s hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!” Not entirely enthusiastic about spending four days of my spring break driving, I hesitantly agreed. He then filled my in on the difficulty of securing lodging at the one and only place to stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Phantom Ranch.
Phantom Ranch, built in the 1920s, books lodging on the first day of each month, for that particular month, a year in advance and the entire month is generally sold out in two to three hours. So in our case, to stay at Phantom Ranch in March 2016, my brother called the morning of March 1st, 2015, in an attempt to secure lodging. From what everyone we met said, it was nothing short of a miracle that on that morning my brother got through all the numerous other people calling and got us two nights at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. By the way, there is no other way to secure lodging at Phantom Ranch other than the telephone. Sorry internet.
Fast forward a year and my wonderful wife (traveling with me) and my awesome mom (traveling with my brother) met at the Grand Canyon for our epic hike. Mom and my wife were real sports in basically being our support staff on top of the canyon while my brother and I went it alone. I should point out that we were on the South Rim as the North Rim was yet to be opened for the season.
Having never gone on a hike of this duration (not that we were truly roughing it), packing was not terribly easy. March is a dicey month for weather at the Grand Canyon. We were lucky that it was fairly predictable during our time there – cold at night and warm-ish during the days. In our particular case, generally the low was in the 20s and the highs in the upper 50s/lower 60s on top. Being that it is much warmer down in the canyon, my brother and I had to pack for cold and warm weather, knowing all the while that whatever we packed, we had to wear on our bodies or carry in our backpacks. Of course, even in cooler months, water and food is important as well, which also took up space and weight. All that to say, given our inexperience, we did alright on packing.
My brother, being more enthusiastic, had planned the route we took down to Phantom Ranch. He chose the Bright Angel Trail, which according to some was not the best trail to take down, but rather better for hiking up. After the experience though, we both agreed that Bright Angel was better going down than coming up. More on why in a later post. Despite it being (in our estimation) the better trail, it ended up being a nine mile hike which took us eight hours to complete, not that we were exactly hoofing it. We took our time, stopped and took pictures, used the bathroom twice when facilities were available, changed out of our warmer clothes as things began to heat up, and rested/snacked occasionally.
I had never been to the Grand Canyon before, and even though I had seen it many times in pictures/videos, without being too cliched, it was impressive to behold. Before we began our hike, however, I really only had one glimpse of the canyon from the Bright Angel Lodge. I was about to hike down into one of the most inspiring natural wonders and get to know it intimately without having first a larger sense of it.