This was our first backcountry experience and we were both a little bit nervous about it. You have to have a permit to camp in Grand Canyon and we faxed our request back in February while we were travelling in Brazil. When I received the congratulations email to confirm that we had secured camping spots my stomach turned over with excitement and fear. We weren’t confident that we could do Rim to Rim on our own but after doing the rafting trip and several other nights camping we felt we had to give it a shot, it’s hard to get permits and it was an opportunity too good to pass up. We purchased a small tent, sleeping mats and enough food for the 4 days and we looked like we were professional hikers/campers!
We spent the night before the the hike at De Motte campground which is a great little site about a 20 minute drive from the entrance to the parks north rim. The north rim of Grand Canyon is a world away from the south rim, it’s so much quieter and smaller but you still get the fantastic views.
Day 1 – We were up at 4am and on the trail at 6am, it was 6.8 miles down Roaring Springs Canyon to Cottonwood campground. The North Kaibab Trailhead starts in forest and you could think you were in the Rockies not the Canyon. Hiking downhill is tough on your joints so we took it slow and admired the views as we went. We arrived at Cottonwood at 10.30 and spent the afternoon cooling off in the creek, we were ready for bed by 8pm!
Day 2 – All packed up, we hit the trail at 5.45am, today’s hike was relatively flat walking along the Bright Angel Creek the entire way. We stopped off at Ribbon Falls which was like being in an enchanted forest. We arrived at Bright Angel Campground at 10am and set up camp right by the creek. It was so bloody hot at the bottom of the Canyon; it was still 100 degrees at 8pm at night! Time to visit Phantom Ranch and sample some chilled lemonade, which tasted like expensive champagne after the hike. Phantom Ranch is air-conditioned and is a great place to escape the heat, you can also send postcards from here and they are carried out by the mule train, a fun thing to do. We then head to the Colorado River and spent a couple of hours at Boat Beach watching the river, washing our socks and cooling down. We got chatting to a group of river guides at the beach and we relived our rafting trip for a while, one of the guides gave us a couple of beers. Great afternoon by the river, we headed back as we had our steak dinner booked at Phantom Ranch. The steak dinner is served at 5pm and is served family style dining, the dinner tasted amazing after eating trail mix and freeze dried food for 2 days.
Day 3 – Up at 4.30am, moving a bit slower today as we didn’t get much sleep due to the heat. Hit the trail at 6.20am and followed the river for the first 1.8 miles, I love being by the river, there is something very special about being at the bottom of Grand Canyon by the mighty Colorado river. We took our first break at Pipe Creek beach which was where the rafting company dropped us off a few weeks ago. Great to be back at the beach, we spent 50 minutes here, again reminiscing over our rafting trip. Time to start hiking out of the Canyon; it was 4.5 miles to Indian Garden campground, we arrived at 9.30am. Our pitch was in the shade and it was about 20 degrees cooler than Bright Angel Campground, yeah it was time for a nap and a well earned rest.
Just after the sun had gone behind some rocks Richard walked up to the toilet block which was only about 50yds from our tent, he heard a hissing/rattling sound which stopped him dead in his tracks and yes he was 5ft from a Diamondback rattlesnake, it raised up and looked at him so he turned around and reported the sighting to the ranger who went over to look with some other campers, the snake circled around and then went back into the bush, after this we were more careful when we were walking around. At around 6pm we did the 3 mile roundtrip hike to Plateau Point, wow the view from here, you get a 360 degree of the canyon, including the river. What a place to watch the sunset, breathtaking.
Day 4 – Final day of our Rim to Rim hike. Time for the hardest part of the hike 4.5 miles (3040ft elevation) up the Bright Angel trail. We started at 5.30am trying to beat the sun; we rested at each resthouse on the way up and made it to the south rim at 8.50am. The last 1.5 mile is a killer, carrying a backpack in the sun you are like one of the mules. The Crumps had completed rim to rim, how did that happen, very impressed with ourselves. Time to find a shower, ice cream, pizza and wine in that order. The trans-canyon shuttle picked us up at the Bright Angel Lodge at 1.30pm and transported us over the 200 miles back to the north rim to collect our car.