Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon One of the Seven natural wonders of the World
by Larry Berle
The date is 11/1/11. There are 4 dates this year that have all the same digits and this is an unusual phenomena. We have just arrived at the South rim of the Grand Canyon. If you think that Arizona is all just one big hot desert, think again. The overnight low in Grand Canyon Village, tonight, is 30 degrees and they are predicting snow showers in two days. But we are planning to leave tomorrow morning to hike 7 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We will be descending almost a mile in elevation, through 5 different climate zones to stay at Phantom Ranch on the banks of the Colorado River.
There are several places to stay here in Grand Canyon Village; we are staying in Maswick Lodge, just a couple hundred yards from the rim of the Canyon. The accommodations are rustic but all we need. Very clean, plenty of heat– newly remodeled and just right….
The next morning
We descended the Kaibab trail where we are passing through a geologic timetable of almost 2 billion years (the bottom layers of the canyon are almost 2 billion years old and the top layers are a mere 270 million years old). Every step up or down the trail, we are stepping through 60,000 years of geologic history. Imagine that! Every turn of the trail and every hour of the day–the view keeps changing, the beauty more awesome, until in the last hour we finally see the Colorado River.
We arrived at Phantom Ranch around 3:00, to find bunk houses (male and female) with showers and ranger talks and even a few cabins that sleep 4 on bunk beds. There are 2 dinner seatings, ours is at 5:00 with a very welcome family style steak dinner. “You can eat as much as you want except only 1 steak per person,” the head cook informs us.
The hike in and out of the canyon is very challenging and I wondered weather this is a good family activity. But if you are an active family, this could be for you. We met the Chapman family, from Minnesota; 3 generations, from 10 years old and up, who were there hiking on Grandpas 80th birthday. This was grandpas 15th hike to the bottom.
We also met a family from San Diego. Every year their kids have to take a hike: 1 mile for every year, their 10 year old had done a 10 mile hike this year.
The next day is was a hike up Bright Angel trail. 9 miles, less steep, both beautiful and exhausting-especially as the top which is the steepest part and we are at over 6000 feet of elevation. If this all sounds too exhausting you can ride to Phantom Ranch on a mule.
The demand for lodging at Phantom Ranch is very high– they open reservations on the first of the month for 13 months later. Call them for more information.
Even if hiking down to the bottom isn’t your thing, the Grand Canyon may be, because of all the visitors that visit the Grand Canyon every year only 1% stay overnight in the canyon. The rest stay at the rim. There are plenty of rim hikes, day hikes into and around the canyon ranger programs. For example there is Trail of Time, a 1.3 mile stroll that shows you how the canyon was formed.
There is also the Hopi house, where you learn about the lifestyle of the Hopi Indians who inhabited parts of the canyon in the 1500s.
Most people think the Grand Canyon is named for its grand size, but The Colorado River was originally called the Grand River, till the state of Colorado came along and changed its name to plenty of opposition. However prevailing wisdom says the Grand Canyon was named by John Wesley Powell, the man who discovered it.
You can drive to the Grand Canyon or take the Grand Canyon Express train from Williams.
Larry Berle is a travel writer who writes on all forms of travel, most often golf. Visit his book website www.GolfersDreamBook.com