Grand Canyon Hiking

19-24 April 2003

Jason Barnes, Dave O'Brien, Jani Radebaugh, Rachel Mastrapa, and I did some backcountry hiking at Grand Canyon National Park. We spent 4 days and 3 nights hiking through a small part of one of the largest canyon systems on this planet. We estimate that we hiked about 30 miles with a roughly 6,000 foot elevation loss and then gain. We hiked down the Bright Angel trail, and took a left at Indian Gardens for a little hike out to Plateau Point, and then to the Horn Creek campground for our first night. The next day we hiked along the Tonto Platform to the Monument Creek campground. The third day saw four of us take a day hike down to the Granite Rapids on the Colorado River and back, and then all of us hiked around to the Hermit Creek campground. The last day saw us hiking from the Hermit Creek campground up and out to Hermit's Rest on the rim.

I'm not the only person that took pictures and made a web page. Jason took some pictures with his digital camera, and Jani took some with her little disposable camera. Everything turned out great.


Day 0

On Saturday, we drove up through Flagstaff and saw our friends Windy and Laz, and drove into the park to check in at the backcountry office, and see some of the scenic rim overlooks of what we'd be hiking through in the next couple of days.
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Day 1

On Sunday morning we moseyed into the park and left the Bright Angel trailhead around 10 am. The hiking was good, and the Bright Angel is a well-constructed, well-maintained trail. Our first real stop was at the mile and a half rest house. I took a couple of random pictures of our hikers and the terrain that we came through.
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After a water stop at Indian Gardens, we started our hike out to our first night's campground at Horn Creek. However, at the junction we dropped our packs and took a little hike out to Plateau Point which is a great overlook of the Colorado River. That second shot with Rachel and some anonymous other hikers in it looks back up the Bright Angel fault. The Bright Angel trail exploits this fault and switchbacks down it, so you can see how far we'd come in just a single day.
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Day 2

We spent our first night alone at Horn Creek. It was very different from our day hiking the main corridor, nice and isolated. The next morning we saw some deer, and I took some shots of our campground and its surroundings.
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The second day saw us hiking westward along the Tonto platform to reach our next campsite at Monument Creek. Since we mostly hiked (and stopped to rest from hiking), I didn't take many pictures, but here's one from our first real stop of the day.
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Day 3

Day three was supposed to be an easy day. We were going to leave our gear up in the Monument Creek campsite, hike down to the Colorado river with daypacks in the morning, and then leisurely hike over to the Hermit's Creek campground in the afternoon. Rachel decided that she wanted a break, so she stayed at camp while the four of us hiked down. The first pictures are near the campground, and you can see the monument for which it is named. Once we descended the switchbacks just past the monument, we got into the Vishnu Schist, a very different kind of rock than we had hiked through up to that point. The weather had been spectacular up to that point, but the clouds started to come in that morning. On our hike down, it really started to pour, and we took shelter under various rocks. Jason wasn't happy with the location he had initially chosen and se decided to climb up into a little overhang where I took his blurry picture.
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However, once we got down to the Granite Rapids on the Colorado River, it got sunny again (although you can still see the clouds up on the rim in some shots). We were quite lucky that a river trip was going through the rapids when we got down there, so there are some shots of their rafts and kayaks running the rapids. It was beautiful down there, both with the rapids and the still waters just upstream.
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Our hike back up was mostly uneventful, I got a few more shots of the monument before lunch. After our fabulous lunch of pancakes we packed up and headed for the Hermit's Creek campground. I got a couple of pretty landscape shots during our hike. The trip was a little more exhausting than we were hoping for, and it was starting to get dark as we put up tents and made dinner in the hollow of a convenient rock.
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Day 4

That last night it rained. Stuff got wet, ground was muddy, going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a real pain. However, the morning showed us that while it had rained on us, the rim had gotten snow.
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We left camp a little later than we should have. We were hoping that things would dry out a little bit more, but we should have been more concerned with the time, although we didn't know it then. Dave & Jason were hiking at a faster pace, so they went ahead and Rachel, Jani, and I hiked together. At our first little stop Rachel seems quite amused that Jani is eating the core of her apple.
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We started gaining altitude fast after that stop, and our lunch stop where I took these pictures was right before the portion of the trail known as the Cathedral Stairs.
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I didn't get any pictures of the Cathedral Stairs because I was too busy hiking up them. However, we took another leisurely break, and then ran into Dave who had hiked back to tell us that it was getting late, and asked if we wanted him to take some of our gear for us. He and Jason had worked out an elaborate (and switchback intensive) system for this luggage transfer scheme. However, none of us were willing to give Dave a whole pack, so Rachel and Jani gave Dave some small heavy things and he sped off along the trail.
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Here's a shot just as we were about to clear the redwall limestone, it's a shame I didn't take a picture of the distance that we still had to go, but I did take this one of Rachel at one of our last substantial rest stops. It was at this point that she was starting to have second thoughts about having refused Dave's offer to take her pack.
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Jason first made it up to Hermit's Rest around 5 pm, then went back down, but met Dave halfway up the last set of switchbacks. They took the bus back to Jason's car, went to Tusayan, checked in at the hotel, and got some pizza. Rachel, Jani, and I finally made it to Hermit's Rest around 8:45 pm, half an hour after the last shuttle had left. This picture (which has been enhanced since the various reflectors in the shot goofed up the original brightness balance) shows Rachel in the foreground taking off her boots, and Jani in the background looking for a note that Jason and Dave might have left for us.
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We spent ten or fifteen minutes waiting around at the very dark and empty Hermit's Rest thinking happy thoughts, until Jason and Dave pulled up with a hot pizza for us to eat. We threw our gear into the trunk and headed back to the lodges. We had a celebratory dinner at the Bright Angel lodge restaurant. It was really cold up on the rim, and my poor camera was having problems, so I only got this one picture. It's goofy because it caught part of a cushion in the foreground with its flash, which again screwed with the brightness and tonal ranges of the photograph. That's okay, we were all pretty ragged after four days hiking in the canyon, and the character of this photograph probably matches our state.
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We had a fabulous time, good weather, and great companions. All in all an excellent trip.

-Ross Beyer


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