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(May 10th - Grand Canyon, Arizona)
I delayed lunch a couple of hours today, I was so anxious to stand on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In the morning the trail worked west for several miles before finally turning north again just short of Highway 180 near Tusayan and the South Rim entrance station. The trail entered the Park west of the entrance station at a gate in a barbed wire fence (hiker’s aren’t required to pay an entrance fee).
Once in the Park, I kept walking until finally reaching Yaqui Point on the South Rim a little before two in the afternoon. Fantastic! The Canyon looked magnificent as always.
The Canyon at Last!
I did not have a permit for camping in the Canyon, so my plan was to spend the night on the rim at Mather Campground and then walk all the way to the North Rim the next day. As busy as the Park was, I assumed there would be no way that I would luck out and get a camping permit for Phantom Ranch or Cottonwood Camp along the North Kaibab Trail.
None-the-less, before checking in at Mather Campground, I took the bus from Yaqui Point to the Backcountry Office and stepped up to the counter inquiring about permits for Phantom Ranch. “Sorry,” the ranger replied, “there are no spots available tomorrow at Phantom.” “What about tonight?” I asked. After a few seconds pecking away at her terminal, the ranger announced “There is one permit left.” Wah-hooo! “I’ll take it,” I replied.
With permit in hand, I caught the next bus and headed back to the top of the South Kaibab Trail at Yaqui Point. By 4 o’clock, I was happily descending towards Phantom Ranch.
The South Kaibab Trail
Though I have certainly enjoyed walking the moderate terrain and cool forests since the trail reached the top of the Mogollon Rim, the steep walk down to Phantom was glorious and exciting. I had missed the long views and dramatic relief that one finds walking rough, up and down country. Late as it was in the day, the walk to Phantom Ranch was cool and comfortable. I took my time, enjoying scenic overlooks, stunning views, and the dramatic vegetation changes as the trail plunged into the Inner Gorge.
It was nearly dark when I reached my campsite just outside Phantom Ranch and made camp. After dinner I walked a dark trail to the Phantom Ranch Canteen to buy some ice cold lemonade and a candy bar. Dozens of bats swooped past my head during the night walk, and an uninterested deer just three feet off the trail didn’t even raise its head to stop grazing as I walked by.
Satisfied and full, I dozed off to the roar of Bright Angel Creek rushing by the campground.
The Inner Gorge
- Dave Baker