Mark one off the ol’ bucket list

Here are the highlights of a conversation I had a while back with my friend Lynn:

Susan: Hiking the Grand Canyon is on my bucket list.
Lynn: Really? That’s such an easy one. We can totally make that happen.

And just like that, we set our plans to hike the Grand Canyon in motion.

Lynn applied for our permit last fall. When you hike in the backcountry of Grand Canyon and most other National Parks, you have to get a permit. We applied for several dates this Spring – before the Canyon gets too hot and close to Lynnie’s birthday – and we got March 28-April 1. Lynn planned for us to hike down the South Kaibab trail and back up Bright Angel trail, with two nights at Bright Angel Campground, near the Colorado River, and one night at Indian Garden.

Trail maps

Just ignore the left half of this diagram.

Lynn, Chris, and I were in, along with James, Sarah, and Aaron – friends from Clemson – and Clayton and Tonya – friends of Lynn from Durango. All we had left to do was make our travel arrangements, figure out our backpacking gear, and try to guess how much food we’d need for four days in the Canyon (all of us save for Lynn are pretty novice backpackers).

Chris and I flew to Phoenix on Wednesday. We picked up the rental car, grabbed James from his arrival terminal, and headed up to the Canyon. It was a long day, including a 2.5 hour drive to Norfolk to catch our flight, a long layover in Nashville (but the BBQ in the airport was amazing), a medical emergency (the passenger in the row in front of me) on our second leg to Phoenix, and a 3.5 hour drive up to the Park. By the time we arrived at 12:30am (3:30am our time – I’d forgotten that AZ doesn’t do daylight savings time), we were exhausted, but pretty pumped about what the next day would bring.

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 1

Still cheerful at the Nashville airport

On Thursday morning we had a leisurely breakfast, picked up a few last minute items, and got our gear all ready to go (an ordeal in itself for most of us). We drove to the Visitor’s Center, caught the shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead, and at about 12:15 we were ready to start on the 7 mile hike down.


Grand Canyon South Kaibab 2

Waiting for the shuttle

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 3

At the South Kaibab Trailhead

The South Kaibab trail is very open, with lots of switchbacks, a steep grade, and tons of amazing views. We stopped a bunch of times to eat, watch the wildlife, snap photos, and take in the awesome sights. I loved the Tonto Platform – the wide open, green section of the Canyon right above the narrower Inner Gorge where the Colorado runs. Back and forth we went, down down down, and after several hours of hiking we finally arrived at the river. We crossed the Black Bridge and made our way over to the campground, where we said hi the Rangers, set up camp, had some dinner, and then headed to the Phantom Ranch canteen to finish off the day with a few Grand Canyon brews.

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 4

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 6

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 8

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 35

I love this photo that Clayton took.

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 9

I brought Lynnie one of the new Lays flavors

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 10

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 16

1.5 miles down…

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 11

… and already trouble with the toes.

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 12

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 13

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 14

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 15

Awesome way to carry your stuff down the trail

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 17

Some Dutch tilt action for my bro-in-law

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 18

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 19

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 20

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 21

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 22

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 23

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 24

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 25

Approaching the Tonto Platform and the Inner Gorge

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 26

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 27

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 28

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 29

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 30

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 31

The roaring Colorado

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 33

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 34

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 38

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 40

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 32Canyon toe, a.k.a., what I’d be dealing with over the next three days

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 41

Enjoying the Canteen

And a couple more gems from Clayton… I need one of those snazzy iPhones!

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 42

Grand Canyon South Kaibab 43

Up next… hiking around the Inner Gorge.

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7 thoughts on “Mark one off the ol’ bucket list

  1. wow lots of very nice photos, thanks for sharing, how long did it take to go down and then back up? why do you need a permit to hike that? never heard of that. can’t believe the wonderful colors and geography of the area. I have visited the grand canyon twice in my life one when I was about 7 and another when I was about 16 never did hike any of the trails and it was very pretty, wish I had had a good camara at the time.

    • Thanks! It took us four days total to go to the bottom of the Canyon and back. You need a permit anytime you spend the night in the Canyon – I believe they do this to control the numbers of people utilizing the backcountry areas of the park.

  2. Beautiful! I can’t believe (okay, I CAN believe) someone brought a suitcase. WTF is wrong with people?!?!

    Also, I was going to make an obnoxious comment asking when Lynn’s birthday is, but I thought I might be the only one to get it. Please tell me you remember that incident…

  3. Yay for the Dutch tilt! It kind of works with Canyon shots…but then again I feel like I am flying when I look at it like that. Nay for the canyon toe! Ouch. Reminds me of when we walked down from Mt. Rainier and my toes kept jamming into the front of my hiking boots…did you have extra socks you could put on? Uncle Jimmy’s extra socks he offered on the Rainier hike down really did help!

    • I had two pairs of socks on, but over the whole day of downhill it wasn’t enough. At least I now know that the key to dealing with my blisters is cutting a hefty slice in them rather than just a small hole with a needle.

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