Bright Angel Trail
On our third day, following the plan, we decided to take up a longer day hike down into the canyon. The Bright Angel trail seemed like a great choice: it was open, not crowded, seemed doable and was also quite scenic.
We woke up at 7am and after all the prep and breakfast were on the trail by 9am, which seriously upset my usually high-spirited travel companion. Well, whatcha gonna do! An hour down into the canyon the grudges were forgotten.
Right at the start rangers warn hikers about dehydration. It’s a real danger there because of the canyon climate and every year some people have to be brought out by the helicopter. The rangers ask some questions about your fitness level and day plan / itinerary.
Our plan was to hike down the Bright Angel trail to the Indian Garden and then turn back and get back on the rim before dark. The hike would take a full day. Of course, the trail goes beyond that – you could get to Colorado river all the way down, cross it and then continue to the North rim. It would normally take a couple of days, but because multi-day hikes were prohibited, that plan wasn’t feasible for us.
Descending into the canyon felt ambivalent. Every step down felt easy (because of the gravity that pushes you down), but also incredibly hard (because of the realization that you would have to climb back every single inch later that same day). Ugh! The beautiful scenery helped those thoughts slowly drift away…
As we were descending more and more into the canyon, the climate and ecosystems kept changing. Suddenly, the trees were different, the grass, the plants, even the insects were different. It was amazing to see how every living thing adjusted to the surrounding conditions. We saw at least 3 different micro-climates along the way to the Indian Village.
Eventually we got down to the Indian village oasis, had a quick lunch in a shadowed shelter and took a nap on the iron picnic benches, exhausted. Waiting out the midday heat was a great idea. Around 3pm we were ready to move – we filled up on water, sunk our tired feet in the cool waters of the Indian creek, and headed back.
Lizards of spectacular colors kept popping up by the trail. Trees with incredible textures were all around. Goodbye, Wonderland!
On our way back around 4pm we stumbled upon a family that was headed into the canyon. “Which way is to Colorado river?” – the man asked. We told them the directions. They were carrying folding chairs and a cooler. The sunset was in about 3 hours…
At the 3-mile Resthouse we filled up on water and won a duel with (not so) wild squirrels trained to rob hikers of their food. And then we kept going up and up and up.
Surprisingly, going back up was easier than I thought. Every step had a newfound meaning – taking you out of the canyon and into the comforts of civilization – in our case a nice cozy tent with sleeping bags and compact camping meals.
It’s on our hike back to the rim in the close of the day, that the coolest things started happening. Suddenly the wild inhabitants of the area started to come out.
A herd of wild Bighorn sheep galloped gracefully down the slope by the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse. They appeared behind the structures and stepped right in front us on the narrow trail.
The leader was standing on a large rock in the midst of a higher ground, watching the move of his team, assessing the situation. Seeing us, he assumed dominance by stomping his hoof on the rock repeatedly. It was intimidating and fascinating at the same time!
As we approached the rim, the mountain goats shared the trail with us.
We made it back at dusk, and set up our stove on top of the rim, overlooking the trail. Wondering at the fate of the family with the chairs and the cooler, we enjoyed our 5-star ramen with sliced avocados, sun-dried tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs. Tiny bright lights were glittering in the darkness of the canyon below us.
Nothing is comparable to a nice hot shower after an exhausting hike. We were dying for one, but didn’t have a hotel room and all the public ones were closed because fo COVID. So, we had to make it happen ourselves.
Here is how it goes:
- Park your car on the side of a giant empty parking lot
- Wait till dusk so people can’t see you
- Strip naked
- Grab a gallon jug of water, heated nicely by the midday sun and pour it over yourself
- Air dry running around or using a towel
- Get dressed real quick, because some unaware family is coming straight your way!