Grand Canyon was the centerpiece of #TerryTreksUSA. I had always felt strange about traveling the world, but never seeing this wonder in my own country. I had spent the last six days rafting the Colorado River, but after hiking out via the Bright Angel trail, I was finally in the place our guides jokingly refereed to as “rimworld,” seeing the amazing views with my own eyes.
After my hike in the rain up the Bright Angel trail, I spent most of my first day trying to stay warm and dry in the Bright Angel Lodge. Many people only come here for a couple hours. I decided long ago that I would stay for three days so that I could thoroughly explore this incredible place. I had time, so I wasn’t too worried that this day was spoiled.
Eventually it came time to set up camp. A couple nice folks from my rafting trip took pity on me and drove me to my campsite in the pouring rain. I had left my car back at Lee’s Ferry, so I would be car-fee on the South Rim. It turns out that the South Rim is an overdeveloped car-centric suburban town full of parking lots. It’s so spread out that walking anywhere would take too long. There’s a bus system, which helped, but it drops you at the entrance to the gigantic campground. Walking from the entrance to my campsite takes twenty minutes. Luckily my friends took me right to my site, and helped me set up my tent in the rain. Then it was a nice night to do laundry and take my first shower in a week.
The weather was nice for my three full days on the rim. I spent a day starting from the visitor center, and walking the rim trail towards Hermit’s Rest. This is a completely flat, paved and accessible trail. That sounded pretty good to me after the rigors of climbing up the Bright Angel trail. The South Rim is a very crowded place, but the people are all concentrated in the viewpoints. All it takes to get away from the crowds is to walk a couple feet down the trail. There are some nice views from the rim rim trail between the viewpoints. At one point I thought I saw dozens of condors. It turns out they were just turkey vultures, but it was still neat to see them.
No Rest For Hermits
After my easy day of walking on the flat rim trail, I decided to go down into the canyon via the unmaintained Hermit’s Trail, which leaves from Hermit’s Rest at the end of the road. This was quite strenuous, and empty. It was pretty easy to follow the switchbacks down, but I spaced out at one point, and somehow missed one. The strange thing was there were rock cairns set up off the trail, so I was following those. Where did they lead? Who had set them up? Eventually they petered out, and I realized I was way off the trail on the side of the cliff. The terrain was rugged and full of plants, and I couldn’t find the cairns. I actually started to worry? What if I got lost? I shouted out “hello!” a couple times, and there was no response. I was alone in the wilderness.
Luckily, I saw a group of hikers go by below me. I made my way back to where they were. The trail was rough and unmaintained, but it was clearly visible, and I had no excuse for missing it. I resolved to be more careful, because this would be a very bad place to get lost.
Going down the Hermit’s Trail was strenuous. Eventually it reached the bottom of a red canyon, and continued along a dry riverbed. I followed the trail along the side of a spectacular canyon to woody area toward my destination of Dripping Springs. This may be a desert, but it is full of life, with scrubby trees and plants everywhere. I had lunch in the cool shade of the Dripping Springs, where I met a small group of hikers, some of the few people I saw on the trail. This trail is a great way to get away from the crowds on the rim.
The way back was hard. It was an in-and-out route, rather than a loop, which always makes it less interesting. It was also all uphill once I got back to the bottom of the red canyon. This trail is a hundred times harder than Bright Angel, because it’s not maintained. There are rocks everywhere, and it’s hard to find footing on some of the steps. But it didn’t have any exposure to nights.
When I was done huffing and puffing my way up to the rim, I was pretty tired. I used the oportunity to accomplish another long-held goal of mine: taking a nap on the rim of Grand Canyon. A grand way to end my explorations of a grand place!