We made it to the Grand Canyon early in the day and amazingly found a parking space next to the Bright Angel Lodge. We kept that for the next 3 days and used the park buses to get around the South Rim.
The Grand Canyon is always an amazing place because of the number of foreign visitors it gets. On the rim, there are huge numbers of Asian tourists, each with cameras in hand, each taking pictures of everything - every view, every squirrel, every tree. Once you drop below on the trail, there are more Europeans than American tourists, and the further you get from the trailhead, the fewer Americans you see. We spoke to people on the trail from Holland and from Finland, from Colorado Springs and from Alexandria, Virginia. Very little English was heard; it was mostly French and German.
A highlight for me was talking to the leaders of a Boy Scout Troop from the Chicago area, near where I grew up. These dedicated guys were taking a group of boys from the South Rim to the North Rim (24 miles by trail) then back again to the South Rim. They had parents on each rim to provide support. And they do this every five years and use the trip as a recruiting tool. In other years, they go on long bike trips during the summer with the boys. They said that a writer for Boy's Life Magazine had joined them for part of their journey, and a future issue will chronicle the event.
We stayed the first night in the Bright Angel Lodge, about 100 feet from the edge of the South Rim. The room would not be available until 4PM and we arrived at 8 - normally not an issue at the Grand Canyon, but the weather was pretty rainy and the clouds at times obscured any views. So we rode the buses looking for views, then rode the buses to find lunch, then rode buses to the museum, then back to find more views, then we picked up our National Park Passport books and headed to the Park HQ to get them stamped before Will decided he had to earn his Junior Ranger Badge. Basically, this killed the day.
We were on the trail by 8AM local time the next day, headed to our overnight at Indian Gardens Campground. Indian Gardens is about 4.75 miles down the Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim and is a wonderfully verdant oasis in the desert. Surprisingly, not all campsites were taken and the campground never filled. We made it down in time for lunch and to hang around camp for a few hours resting up. After dinner we hiked the Plateau Point Trail to a vista overlooking the Colorado River, a trail that is visible from the rim and one that I have always wanted to experience. To Will's credit, he was game for the trip despite a long decent earlier in the day.
We started back up the next morning at 6AM, and I was figuring on a 6 hour trip to get back up. Will surprised me by completing the ascent in 4 hours 45 minutes.
It wasn't an easy hike as I carried a substantial amount of gear to compensate for Will's capabilities and we brought too much food and water.
But we trudged along and got back up. Above is a shot of Will looking back on where we hiked. The lines below are the trails we took. Will did an incredible job coming back out of the canyon!
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