In late September I had the chance to backpack the Grand Canyon and camp for a few nights in the Canyon to celebrate my uncle’s 60th birthday. Earlier in the year my uncle had reached out and said he had a permit and asked if anyone wanted to join – and my Brother-in-Law and I quickly jumped on the opportunity. Neither of us had been before, let alone been presented with the chance to backpack and camp in the Canyon. We had no idea what to expect.
Our trip started with traveling into Phoenix and then driving to the National Park. Tim and Dave picked us up at the airport, we saw cacti with arms and we ate pizza. We arrived at the Grand Canyon and did the normal tourist thing… went to viewpoints and took selfies. And said “holy shit that’s big”. Dave and Tim pointed out some of the trails we would be hiking through the visit. And I smiled and nodded and said “Oh wow! I see it!” (I didn’t really see any of them… this place is huge).
Next we headed to the trailhead we would exit on, to see it. But the weather had other plans. Storm clouds rolled in and we had a pretty wild experience. Thunder. Lightning. Intense fog. Pouring rain. It was awesome! We were really happy that we got a hotel room for the night before we started our hike. So we did the logical next thing and bought beer, checked in and got our gear ready.
The next morning we had an early breakfast and took the shuttle to South Kaibab Trail to start our hike. Initially us newbies were anxious and going into photo overload, but soon we set into our stride and took in the amazing views. I kept remembering what Dave told me the night before: Remember to look up and take in the views. You spend a lot of time looking at your feet when you’re going down.
The group consisted of some hilarious, sarcastic companions (and sometimes liars): Unkie Dave (the birthday boy, my Mom’s brother), Tim (Dave’s buddy), James (Brother-in-Law), Ebay (deceptively quick at hiking the Canyon) and myself (I think I’m really hilarious).
What really caught me by surprise was how far down the Canyon goes. I know it sounds absurd. But I kept thinking we were almost there… to find out we weren’t even 1/3 of the way down. We powered through and kept on truckin’, snackin’, snappin’ photos and applyin’ moleskin here and there (mostly me).
We finished the hike and stayed in Bright Angel Campground for two nights. This is an absolutely stunning location in the bottom of the canyon, where you can look up the Canyon walls and enjoy every minute of it’s beauty. There’s also a Canteen nearby that serves beer… which is essential because I LOVE beer. We set up camp and headed to the Canteen to down some cold ones before they shut at 4 for dinner. We also played Cards Against Humanity. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to play this game with… we all have the same terrible sense of humor that not everyone can appreciate.
We spent a lot of that evening staring up at the sky. If you haven’t seen the stars in the Grand Canyon, you haven’t seen the stars. Amazing!
The next day we went on a day hike to Ribbon Falls. This hike was about 12 miles round trip and included the Unkie Dave-deemed “Big Ass Hill”. It was a beautiful day and the Falls were crowded but also stunning. We all got in and enjoyed a shower/bath in the cool, clear water and also took advantage of some photo ops. On the hike back we all stepped it into high gear in order to make it back to the Canteen before last call at 3:45.
Saturday night I got to take a short yet unique hike over to the Silver Bridge which was a once in a lifetime experience. We stood on the bridge in the dark, listening to the Colorado River (aka Chocolate Milk River, per Unkie Dave) running below us, looking up at the outline of the Canyon walls and the stars. Not only that, we saw some Rim-to-Rim hikers make their way down the Canyon by watching for their head lamps. I will never forget this night!
Sunday we headed over to Indian Gardens Campground for our final night in the Canyon. The day hike took it’s toll on some – sore legs, warm weather, lots of uphill and sand… but mostly the lack of beer. We made it and settled into a nice shady spot in Indian Gardens and admired how unlovely we smelled. Up next was a quick hike out to Plateau Point and a few more group photos. Then we relaxed and enjoyed the sunshine while we took in the beauty of the Grand Canyon. It was also suggested that we come back for sunset, so we hiked back and had some snacks before visiting again for sunset.
Ebay bid us farewell as he had to go back to the real world and the rest of us spent time debating how much food we had to save for the next day vs. how much we could shovel in our faces immediately. Then James and I grabbed some essentials (aka GoPro) and headed back to Plateau Point. The views did not disappoint. We took some “oh shit I’m falling into the Canyon” photos which my sister did not appreciate, along with about 100 photos of the clouds and sunset. Amazing. Relaxing. Everything you expect this beautiful place to be.
On our final morning we packed up camp and finished the last 4.5 miles out on Bright Angel Trail. All of us were feeling great and practically skipping up the Canyon walls. We made sure to take the time to enjoy the view and take it all in. Once we finished, we celebrated with beer (are you seeing a trend here?) while admiring our horrendous body odors. The best part is I made the mistake of taking my shoes off in the car 🙂 Oops! After we were all out of the Canyon and beer had been consumed, we headed to the showers to clean up before driving back to Phoenix. Best 8 minutes of my life… warm water, soap, clean clothes. We were fresh and clean, but out of the Canyon and I was ready to go back in.
I was incredibly lucky to get to go on this trip with an amazing group of guys that were fantastic guides (turns out visiting the Grand Canyon with folks that have hiked it MANY times makes life a hell of a lot easier). The Grand Canyon is absolutely stunning and if you have not been yet… GO. NOW. I am already planning my next visit back and will be making Jenny join me. Not only was it a highly amusing trip, but I forged some new friendships and that makes all the difference. People that enjoy the same things as you are great people to have in your life.
Until next time…