Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 in Photos

What to do for 2019's "year in review?"  Chronically behind in blog postings, it didn't make sense to feature a photo from each month.  For 2018's recap I instead chose 12 favorite photos from the past year.  Maybe I should repeat this theme?

However.....2019 was the year of the hike.  I participated in the "52 hike challenge" and successfully completed 52-plus hikes by calendar's end.  Before this, I'd never really counted my hikes, totaled mileage, or kept track of the trails I traversed.  This challenge was a great way to quantify the time spent out on the trail.  In order to get the required number, I had to force myself outdoors during seasons I didn't usually hike - aka the winter months.  Surprisingly, I discovered winter is a great time to be outdoors (heat and bugs are not a problem).  My hiking challenge culminated in November with the biggest adventure of all - a trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again.  Since I'd focused so much on hiking in 2019 I came to the conclusion "why not feature photos from my 12 favorite hikes?"

So this year, dear readers, I'm pleased to present the top hikes of 2019:

Tilly Jane Ski Trail - Ladies ski day

Tilly Jane Ski Trail, January.  My friends and I planned a "ladies ski trip" on a lovely blue-sky day.  We skied up the Tilly Jane Trail to the A-frame cabin and had a wonderful swoosh back down through the trees in fresh powder snow.  Beautiful scenery and great company made this one of my favorite treks of 2019.

Winter hike on Hamilton Mtn

Hamilton Mountain, February.  A Gorge trail I'd hiked plenty of times, but never in the winter.  Traveling uphill on ice-packed trails was a challenge (thank goodness for microspikes!)  But I loved seeing a familiar trail covered in snow - a totally new perspective.  The scenery was so incredibly beautiful I think an annual winter visit is in order.

Wildflower explosion on Memaloose Hills

Memaloose Hills, April.  Normally I like to hit the trails in early morning to beat the crowds.  However, on this day a list of chores meant hiking had to wait until late afternoon.  I almost said "the heck with it" and stayed home.  But seeing reports of the best wildflower bloom here ever, I couldn't resist.  After fighting rush-hour traffic, my efforts were rewarded with perfect evening light, impressive wildflower-covered slopes, and best of all, no people.  Maybe I'll have to change my hiking habits?

Crazy Horse Volksmarch

Crazy Horse Volksmarch, June.  I timed this year's South Dakota visit to coincide with the annual volksmarch to the top of Crazy Horse Mountain.  Convincing my dad, two brothers and nephew to join me made for good quality time spent with family.  One of my favorite South Dakota trails, this huge sculpture is always an impressive sight.

Beargrass bonanza on Coffin Mtn

Coffin Mountain - July.  After numerous reports of massive beargrass blooms in the Central Oregon Cascades, I had to check it out for myself.  Coffin Mountain was reputed to have the most prolific bloom, so I headed there.  I'd never before seen such a huge concentration of beargrass on Coffin Mountain's slopes.  A-mazing!  Totally worth the nearly 3-hour one-way drive.

A different perspective of St Helens Lake from the Boundary Trail

Boundary Trail, Mt St Helens, July.  Every year I hike the Boundary Trail at Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument, but always stop at the Coldwater Peak turnoff.  This year I decided to hike the trail further, and was rewarded with some new views of St Helens and Spirit Lake.  A long day, but worth every step.

Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park

Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park, August.  This is hands-down my favorite trail at MRNP.  Not only did my friend Young and I hit peak wildflower bloom, we also had perfect, blue-sky weather to showcase massive Mt Rainier at her finest.  Totally amazing, breathtaking, magnificent, stunning (and many other superlatives....)  You can see why I return every year.

Indian Henrys Hunting Ground, Mt Rainier National Park

Indian Henrys Hunting Ground, Mt Rainier National Park, August.  Although I normally wouldn't include two hikes from the same place in my recap this one was so spectacular I couldn't leave it out.  At the end of a long, hot uphill trail Young and I were rewarded with grand mountain views and fields of colorful wildflowers.  A new favorite place!

Mt Hood from Vista Ridge Trail

Vista Ridge Trail, Mt Hood, August.  Reaching this trail requires a very long drive over bumpy Forest Service roads - the main reason I hadn't hiked here in many years.  But this August I braved the journey.  The splendid wildflower display, majestic mountain scenery, and plentiful wildlife (I saw pikas!) made me realize I need to visit more often.

Red Mountain Lookout

Red Mountain Lookout, September.  Although I've hiked many trails in Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness, this was one place I'd yet to visit.  It was a winner!  Fall colors, plentiful mushrooms, and a cool lookout tower with great views made this hike memorable.

Sunset at Norway Pass, Mt St Helens

Lakes and Whittier Ridge Trails, Mt Margaret Backcountry, Mt St Helens, October.  I've yet to blog about this one - but I will.  This trek was a doozy!  Probably the toughest hike of the year - fifteen miles, 3500 feet elevation gain, hiking the final two miles in darkness, and a super-scary traverse across Whittier Ridge in the snow.  But the amazing fall colors, mountain views, and spectacular sunset at Norway Pass made it all worth it.  A true adventure!

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails, Grand Canyon National Park, November.   The Grand Canyon delivered, and how!  A rare chance to hike to the canyon bottom, a place that only 1% of Grand Canyon visitors go.  This bucket-list hiking trip totally exceeded my expectations.  Amazing weather, beautiful fall colors, extraordinary scenery, quality time with my sister.  A once-in-lifetime experience!  Hands down my favorite hike of 2019.

The happy couple!

And a bonus - the top event of 2019 wasn't a hike, but my daughter's wedding.  A proud mom moment!  (sniff, sniff!)  Despite the rain, it was a wonderful day and beautiful ceremony.  I'm throwing in an extra photo to commemorate the happy occasion.

So, that's a wrap for 2019.  As always, thanks to my readers for clicking in, leaving comments, viewing my photos and reading my stories.  I've compiled some interesting (well to me anyway) stats on my "52 hike challenge" but since this is getting long, it will have to wait for the next post.  At that time, I'll also unveil my 2020 hiking goals.  Something to look forward to!

In the meantime, wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2020!  (Can you believe it's a new decade already?)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

South Rim Explorations

Hopefully you're not sick of Grand Canyon stories - I have one final set of photos from the day after my sister and I's big hike.  (Then it's back to my normal "three months behind" schedule of blog posts)

Kolb Studio at sunrise

Post-hike, my sis and I were lucky and scored a room in the Bright Angel Lodge, just steps from the Lookout Studio and canyon rim.  Not only were we able to leave our rental car parked the duration of the trip, the rim was right there, totally accessible any time of the day.  Which meant great opportunities to capture the sunrise.  And the next morning, I did just that.

Rock layer close-up

Although the sunrise was sort of a dud that day, it was nice to have the rim trail nearly to ourselves. 

Early morning hikers on the Bright Angel Trail

Peering down the Bright Angel Trail from the rim, I captured a group of early-morning hikers setting off to the canyon bottom.

Looking down on Indian Garden

My sis and I located Indian Garden, surrounded by a grove of golden trees.  Hard to believe just one short day ago we were down there!

Lookout Studio

Although a bit stiff and sore from yesterday's climb out of the canyon, my sis and I knew getting out and walking around would be the best way to loosen sore muscles.  So we strolled along the rim trail towards Mather Point, stopping at every attraction along the way.

Hopi House

My sis and I popped into the shi-shi El Tovar Hotel and gawked at all the finery we couldn't afford.  Then we crossed the street to check out the Hopi House.  Another building designed by Mary Colter, this one was my favorite of her creations.  Modeled after a Hopi pueblo, it housed gift shops specializing in Native American artwork.

Zigzags of Bright Angel Trail

Past the commercial portion of the rim trail, my sis and I thankfully left a large portion of the crowds behind.  Looking back towards the Bright Angel Trail we got a cool view of the sharp zig-zaggy switchbacks traversing the cliffs.  Pointing it out to a nearby man, we proudly told him we'd
 hiked out of the canyon just yesterday (I figured we'd earned those bragging rights!)

Foolish people standing too close

The closer we got to Mather Point, and the large visitor center nearby, the more foolish people we saw standing precariously close to the canyon's edge.  It seemed to be mostly younger people, all wanting to get their Instagram selfie.  My sis and I saw two young women actually duck through a guardrail to get photos of each other perched on the very edge.  Yikes! 

Powell Point

That afternoon I had some unfinished business to attend to.  When I visited the Grand Canyon back in March 2018, I'd wanted to ride the bus all the way out to Hermits Rest, but only got halfway before the sun set.  So my sis and I jumped on a bus and made it all the way out to Hermits Rest. 

Sister moment at Hermits Rest

It was great to finally see Hermits Rest.  My sis and I ran into a young couple we'd seen hiking out of the canyon the day before and they were nice enough to take our photo.  It really was a small world at the park that week - we ran into a few fellow Phantom Ranch hikers that day, including the Oklahoma couple several times. (We saw them so much, my sis said she was afraid they'd think we were stalking them!)

Funny sign

My sis and I had to laugh at the "don't feed the squirrels" signs posted everywhere.  They depicted the squirrels as fierce, biting animals.  Apparently feeding the wildlife must be a huge problem if the park is resorting to scare tactics - they even had "no feeding the animals" warnings on their napkins!  (And for the record, we didn't give food to any critter)

Amazing view from Pima Point

We stopped at every viewpoint along the way to Hermits Rest, and I decided to return to Pima Point for sunset.

More views from Pima Point

It had the most dramatic views and jutting out into the canyon, I could see both east and west horizons.

Waiting for sunset at Pima Point

I set up my tripod and waited for the sun to drop.  As the minutes ticked towards sunset, more and more people gathered around the viewing areas.  I had to be assertive at times to keep my spot.

Late afternoon sun on the canyon

Once the sun began to near the horizon, the canyon's walls lit up in lovely pink hues.

Sky colors are beginning!

It was a beautiful sunset that night.  The sky lit up in lovely shades of pink and orange.

Lovely sunset

Unfortunately, just as the sun was going down, my sister and I were inundated by a large group of young people from another country.  They surged around us, taking over our viewpoint and chattered loudly in their native tongue.  It totally ruined the experience for people like us who wished to view the sunset in peaceful surroundings.

More fantastic sky colors

Once the sun slipped below canyon walls, the young people decided to leave.  My sis and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Then we looked up, and to our amazement, the sky continued to put on a show.  The heavens erupted in color - clouds reflecting bright pink and orange hues of the dying sun.  Oh, it was almost better than the sunset!

Just when we thought sunset was done, the sky erupted in color!

And, just as my sister and I were enjoying this last gasp of daylight, we heard voices babbling excitedly.  Oh no - the kids had returned and were noisier than ever!  They again crowded around us, snapping selfies with their phones.  Ugh!

Despite the interruptions, it was one of the better sunsets I'd witnessed at the Grand Canyon and I was pleased with the images I'd captured.

Sunrise the next morning

The following morning I again, grabbed my camera and made the short walk to the rim to capture sunrise.  This time it delivered - morning clouds continued last night's spectacular colors with more lovely pink and purple hues.  My sis, who'd opted to sleep in, missed the entire show.

First light on the south rim

A final walk along the canyon's rim before leaving, I tried capture as much of the canyon's splendor as I could, knowing it would be some time before I'd return again.

Memorable trip with my sis!

A memorable trip with my sister!  We lucked out with great weather and small crowds.  We spent nearly a week in this awe-inspiring National Park, saw the canyon from top to bottom and back up again, and got some good bonding time to catch up on each other's lives.

Now back home again, it's time to plan next year's sister trip (wink, wink!)

Yosemite National Park?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Desert View Watchtower

Christmas preparations the past couple weeks forced me to put blogging on the backburner.  But with the shopping finally done and off work until the 2nd, I finally have time again to continue with the last of my Grand Canyon photos.

Tower rising from surrounding trees

I'm rewinding to the day before my sister and I started our Grand Canyon trek (see posts of our hike down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail).

Driving into the park from Phoenix, our first stop was at the famous Desert View Watchtower.  Rising up from the surrounding landscape, this unique stone structure was designed by famous Grand Canyon architect Mary Colter.

Hopi art adorns the inside walls

Excited to have finally reached our destination, my sister and I eagerly parked the car and walked up for a closer view.  I'd visited this watchtower on my March 2018 trip, but the place had been so packed with tourists I didn't even bother going inside.  Not so today - crowds were sparse and this time we had no trouble gaining entrance.

Art on the ceiling

The tower's interior was decorated with Native American artwork from the nearby tribes.  Some of the painted images resembled petroglyphs from ancient indigenous peoples.

These drawings resemble ancient Indian petroglyphs

My sister and I climbed the stairs to explore all three levels of the tower.  The very top story was without decoration, but had many windows for visitors to take in the panoramic Grand Canyon views.  On clear days, I was told one could see for well over 100 miles.

Wooden stairs to the very top

Built in 1932, Mary Colter designed the tower from native rock to blend into the environment.  Each exterior stone was selected and carefully placed to ensure the look that Mary Colter had envisioned.  A stickler for detail, she once had a day's worth of stone taken down and re-done because it did not meet her strict specifications.

Canyon view from the window

Looking up

My sis and I were lucky to have arrived on a mostly clear day.  After exploring the tower at length, we emerged to the outdoor viewing area, and gaped at the blue Colorado River winding through the canyon's bottom far below.  Tomorrow we would hike there!

Colorado River and Grand Canyon view

A great introduction to the park, I was glad we'd stopped to explore this area.  But daylight was beginning to fade and my sis and I were eager to get to the South Rim and check into our room for the evening.

Tower close up

There was just enough time to check in and unload our stuff.  Then I grabbed my camera to capture my first Grand Canyon sunset.  Luckily, our room was a mere stone's throw from the rim. 

Sunset near the South Rim village

Once the sun went down, chilly temps came quickly.  My sis and I lingered for a short while, then cold and hunger getting the better of us, we took refuge the nearby Bright Angel Lodge's restaurant for some chow.

I'll have one final post chronicling the day after our big hike, playing tourist on the canyon rim.  Maybe I'll even have some time on Christmas Day to work on it.

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Up The Bright Angel Trail

Warning - photo overload ahead!  Proceed at your own risk (or enjoyment)

"Down is optional - Up is mandatory" - warning sign along the Bright Angel Trail

Tired from hiking down the South Kaibab Trail (read about it here), I fell asleep at the ungodly early hour of 7 pm. Although crammed into a hiker dorm with 10 other women, I slept surprisingly well.  When the 5 pm wake up knock came, I was already awake and ready to go.  I felt better than expected, considering I'd descended nearly 5000 feet of elevation the day before.

Phantom Ranch area before sunrise

But now it was time for the true test - climbing back out of this canyon.  My sister and I shook off the mental cobwebs, flexed stiff muscles, and headed to the Cantina for an early breakfast.  In addition to dinner, Phantom Ranch also served a hearty breakfast in two shifts - 5:30 and 7 am.  Desiring to get an early start, I'd signed us up for the 5:30 am meal.  At this early hour neither of us were very hungry, but we dutifully filled our plates with eggs and pancakes, knowing we'd need the fuel.  After the previous night's terrific steak dinner, I had high hopes for breakfast.  Sadly, it fell short of expectations.

Sign photo op

After breakfast, my sis and I returned to the dorm and quietly tried to ready ourselves for the day's hike.  Half the ladies in our dorm had signed up for the later breakfast and were still sleeping (or they were until we came back).  It was difficult to quietly dress and pack up by headlamp light, but we managed.  The three sisters group, who were staying an extra day, eyed our coveted bottom bunks.  I could see the ladies plotting to snatch them up as soon as we left.

Mules ready for the day's ride

Worried about reaching the rim after sundown, I'd originally planned to begin today's hike before dawn.  But the Colorado River was so lovely, I couldn't bear the thought of hiking in the dark and missing out on the scenery.  So my sister and I decided to wait until daylight to begin our journey.  Packed and ready, we hung out in front of the Cantina and chatted with the three sister group.  We filled our hydration bladders and I took one last potty break.  When the clock struck 7 am and first light began to filter into Bright Angel Canyon, I decided it was time to go.

Friendly mule

Wandering back down the path, I again admired the colorful yellow cottonwood trees framing the red canyon walls.  We strolled past the mule pen, and discovered a half dozen mules saddled up, ready for their morning ride.  Since my sis and I had been too tired to get photos of ourselves by the welcome sign the previous day, we took the time to do this now.  Passing by the mule barn, we encountered a couple of baby deer grazing right beside the trail.  The deer were so tame, they barely moved to let us by.  (I tried to get photos but it was still too dark here)

The trail junction I almost missed

The trail from the river to Phantom Ranch that yesterday seemed endless, today was a mere quick jaunt.  Before I knew it the canyon walls surrounding the Colorado River came into view.  I passed right by the junction of the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails, and if not for my eagle-eyed sister would've continued back up the South Kaibab (yeah, and I was supposed to be the navigator!)  Luckily my sis saw the sign and righted our course.  Okay, Bright Angel Trail here we come!

Crossing Bright Angel Creek

After crossing Bright Angel Creek, we meandered past another mule corral and some admin buildings.  Another group of hikers with huge backpacks passed us, the only hikers we'd see for the next 2 miles.  Then up ahead, I saw the suspension bridge that would take us back across the mighty Colorado River.  Nicknamed the "Silver Bridge" it was the newer of the two hiker bridges at the canyon's bottom.

Colorado River at dawn

Not only does the Silver Bridge transport hikers over the river, it also provides a support structure for the transcanyon water pipeline.  An amazing engineering feat, this pipeline draws water from Roaring Springs, near the North Rim, down Bright Angel Canyon past Phantom Ranch, across the river via this bridge, and the water is then pumped up the canyon to the South Rim Tourist area.  A whopping 500,000 gallons of water a day flows through this pipeline.

Crossing the Silver Bridge

Re-crossing the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge was just as thrilling as yesterday's traverse of the Black Bridge.  I noticed this bridge was much narrower and also didn't have the wooden decking for the mules.  (Only the Black Bridge is designated for mule crossings)

Silver Bridge

The scenery was even more spectacular from the Silver Bridge.  Especially at sunrise.  I was so happy now we'd waited until daylight to begin our hike.

Morning light illuminating the upper rim

The rising sun hit the very top of the canyon walls, illuminating them a rosy pink.  The Colorado glowed a light blue hue.  Absolutely breathtaking!  My sis and I took a break on the opposite side of the bridge just to take it all in.

The trail along the river was a delight

Our trail then followed the Colorado River for the next 1 1/2 miles.  This portion of the hike was a delight.  My sister and I both enjoyed watching the mighty Colorado as it churned through the narrow canyon.  The river bank was lined with lots of bushes sporting autumn hues.  The water itself was a beautiful aqua color.

Sunlight hitting the canyon made lovely reflections

And best of all, sunlight hitting the upper canyon walls made lovely golden reflections in the river.

More golden reflections

Lots of photography breaks were taken!

The River Resthouse - a much appreciated surprise restroom!

Our trek along the river ended all too quickly.  Before we knew it, the River Resthouse came into view.  This marked the point where the Bright Angel Trail turned inland and began its climb to the South Rim.  Happily, there was a surprise restroom here, which my sis and I took full advantage of.

Leaving the Colorado River behind we start climbing through a lovely canyon

Then my sis and I bid a sad "goodbye" to the Colorado and turned away, following the Bright Angel as it began to wind through a side canyon.

By the second day, we were sick of dodging mule poop

It's here I have to say a word about mules, specifically what they leave behind (aka "road apples," "meadow muffins"....)  There seemed to be quite a large amount of mule poop on the trail.  Although it had only been a couple of hours into the day, my sister and I were already getting tired of dodging these smelly bombs.  That's probably the only thing I really disliked about hiking the main Grand Canyon Trails.

Morning light beginning to creep into the canyon

I was really surprised by how beautiful this lower portion of the Bright Angel trail was.  Tall rocky cliffs towered above, glowing pink and orange in the morning sun.  A lovely babbling brook paralleled the trail, lush vegetation covering it's channel.  It was like a little oasis.  So unexpected!

A lone, yellow cottonwood tree

A lone, yellow cottonwood tree made for a great photo op amongst the red cliffs.

My sis admires the rock formations

After enjoying a relatively flat stroll along the Colorado, our climbing began in earnest.  It felt good to be finally going uphill after descending all day yesterday.  The temperatures were pleasantly cool for uphill hiking.  Still a bit of chill in the morning air and for awhile we also enjoyed  shade from the canyon's walls.

An rare, unshaded portion of the trail

Then our trail began winding through open, sunny spots.  Oh was there a temperature difference!  My sis and I both began sweating in the morning sun.

Near Indian Gardens the fall colors were fantastic!

I started seeing more and more yellow changing leaves.  They were so pretty - I was pulling out my camera continuously.  About this time we met our first downhill hikers, a nice man and woman.  The man told us there was a stretch up ahead that was full of beautiful fall colors.  He also informed us that most of the trail from this point would be in shade.  After toiling uphill in the open sun, it was welcome news.

Golden grasses

That friendly downhill hiker was spot-on.  Soon after our encounter, my sister and I came upon a canyon full of golden vegetation.  Absolutely stunning!

Autumn paradise

Progress slowed to a crawl as I attempted to capture it all.

Deep canyons and fall colors

We wound through some impressive canyons with tall rocky walls rising hundreds of feet high.

So beautiful - progress was slow in this area

High, rocky bands of the upper canyon began to come into view.

Winding through this narrow canyon

One portion of the trail was merely a rocky shelf that appeared to have been chiseled out of the side of a cliff.  A tiny waterfall gurgled in the narrow chasm below.

One of my favorite images

The image above is one of my favorites.  The large rock formation above is lit up by the sun, there's golden cottonwood trees in the foreground, and a glimpse of the rocky trail along the cliff.

My sis even stopped for photos!

The autumn color area stretched on for a glorius mile.  According to my gps, we were supposed to be getting close to Indian Garden, our next official rest stop.  By now my sis and I both needed to use the restroom, but there was just enough hikers on the trail that we were afraid of getting caught if we stopped and dropped trou.  So on we trudged - it couldn't be too far, could it?

Indian Garden is up there somewhere

The final half mile to Indian Garden seemed to take forever.  By now I was hangry, had to pee, and needed a rest break.  We hiked through a wet, brushy area, squishing through some mud.  Tall trees made it seem like we were walking though a tunnel.  Would it ever end?  And then, just when I was ready to take a break right where I stood, we glimpsed the rooftop of a restroom building.  Indian Garden - finally!

Saddle-sore mule riders

Indian Garden was a busy place.  There was a large restroom building, ranger station, covered seating area, and a construction crew doing some sort of maintenance nearby.  We saw quite a few hikers already sitting on the benches having lunch.  Dropping our packs, my sis ran off the the potty, while I took a load off on a nearby stump and proceeded to inhale my sandwich and chips.

I wondered why some of the mules wore muzzles

While my sis and I were resting and enjoying our lunches, a mule train arrived from the rim.  My sister noticed one older man seemed to be grimacing as he rode by.  The riders all dismounted from their mules for a break.  The older man and his wife were so saddle sore they could hardly walk.  It was so funny, my sister and I couldn't help laughing as the couple gingerly limped uphill to the restroom.  My sister and I both decided then and there we preferred hiking up the canyon to riding a mule.  As my sis put it, "I'd rather have sore feet than a sore butt."

Perfect timing for fall colors

The food and rest put some pep back into my body and I now felt ready to tackle the final climb to the rim.  So my sis and I shouldered our backpacks and bid Indian Garden, and the mule riders, goodbye.

Rock walls soared to the sky

 As we exited the rest stop, my camera was treated to a final show of autumn yellows in a grove just below the canyon's red rim.  Although already containing dozens of these images, I couldn't resist adding just a few more to my memory card.  I couldn't believe my luck - it appeared we'd hit fall colors at their prime.

Climbing out of the valley

The trail wandered through a fairly flat plateau bordered by towering cliffs.  Gazing up, I realized we had some serious climbing ahead of us if the rim was truly only 4.5 miles away.

How will we get up this tall cliff?

The trail led my sis and I towards an immensely tall wall of rock.  It appeared to be blocking our way.  As we approached, I kept thinking "How are we going to get up that?"

This is how - lots of switchbacks

Turning a corner, I quickly found out how - switchbacks, lots and lots of switchbacks.  Coiling around the side of the cliff we slowly began our steepest climb of the day.

Squiggly trail

However, once I'd climbed a ways, it was kind of fun to look down upon the squiggly trail we'd just ascended.

Warning sign at 3-Mile resthouse

Past Indian Garden, my sis and I began to see our first dayhikers venturing from the canyon rim.  We joked about the distance from the top vs the number of unprepared hikers on the trail.  We both agreed when we began to see selfie sticks, we'd be close (and it was true!).  This ominous sign at the 3-Mile Resthouse warned visitors of the dangers of hiking too far down into the canyon.

Covered seating area at 3-Mile resthouse

After a long, steep climb, the 3-Mile Resthouse was a welcome sight.  A shaded seating area had been constructed from native rock and it appeared to blend into the surroundings.  I couldn't help noticing the thermometer hanging on the outside.  Thankfully heat wasn't an issue today.

More fabulous scenery

Sitting in the resthouse was a group we recognized from Phantom Ranch.  Curious about the cabins, my sister had asked them if we could peek inside theirs.  The group remembered us from the previous night and we had another nice chat during our rest break.  The people in this group were really funny, and we had lots of laughs and entertainment.  (One guy offered to do a few cheerleader jumps in exchange for a handful of my gummy bears)

One of many rest breaks

From the 3-Mile Resthouse was more steep, windy uphill climbing.  Although the trail was dusty and rocky, the scenery was breathtaking.  The layered, multicolored canyon walls were so interesting to see.  And as we climbed closer, my sis and I got some up-close views of the many rock layers making up the Grand Canyon.

Approaching 1 1/2-Mile resthouse

Either my gps was off, or the distances were longer than they showed on the map, because it took an extremely long time to reach the next stopping point, the 1 1/2-Mile Resthouse.  My gps measured nearly 2 1/2 miles to reach this destination, not 1 1/2.  My sis and I were both relieved to see the Resthouse's 2-story restroom perched over a vertical dropoff.  We weren't far now!

Still a long ways to climb

Hot, tired and dusty, my sis and I sat in the shade of some bushes and snacked on the crumbly remains of our two-day food supply.  My potato chips were smashed into small pieces, and my baggie of oreos a mass of chocolate crumbs.  I began to fantasize about the glass of salted caramel porter I planned to order from the bar at Bright Angel Lodge once we finished.

Looking back

For the final three miles, my sister and I had been lapped two older men who'd also spent the night at Phantom Ranch.  It got to be a joke between us, they would pass us when I took a photo break, and then we'd pass them a short time later.  I kept telling the men we'd see them at the bar.

Rare photo of your favorite blogger  :)

Since I let my sister lead most of the way, she was in quite a few of my photographs.  Approaching the top, my sis insisted she take a few shots with me in them instead.  I didn't realize until after she'd clicked the shutter, but the two older men were following behind and walked into the shot.  My sis called out to them "Now you're going to be in my sister's blog!"  (And they are!)

We reach the lower tunnel

From my previous visit in March 2018, I remembered a tunnel on the Bright Angel Trail not far below the rim.  What I didn't realize is that there's actually two tunnels, and the lower one is still a mile from the top.  Thinking we were almost done, I was really excited when my sis and I passed through the lower tunnel.  But it didn't take long to realize we still had a bit more climbing ahead (insert frowny face.....)

The spot of yellow far below is Indian Gardens

Although the last mile was tough, the fabulous scenery helped buoy my spirits.  I was torn between stopping and taking photos and just wanting to get this hike over with.

My sis is ready for a beer!

We began to see more and more people on the trail.  Lots of well-meaning folks tried to tell us we were "almost there." (We weren't)  But when I spied the distinctive rock column that I'd remembered seeing from the rim, I knew we were finally close.

When I saw this rock column, I knew we were close

Through the final rock tunnel I could see the rim itself.  Wow, my sister and I were going to do this!  And we'd made really good time - it wasn't even quite 3:00 in the afternoon.  My fears of finishing in the dark were all for naught.

Trudging through the upper tunnel

Dodging tourists, my sis and I made our way up the final incline to the rim.  Then we walked over to the Bright Angel Trail sign and asked a nice lady nearby to take a few photos.  My sister and I raised our arms in victory.  We'd done it!  I'd read somewhere that only 1% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon venture below the rim to the Colorado River.  I told my sister we were now part of an elite club. 

Now it was time for that beer.......

I was torn between capturing the beauty and just getting done

Knowing after our big hike we wouldn't want to walk very far, I'd booked a room in the nearby Bright Angel Lodge.  We lucked out with a parking space right outside the lodge, so my sis and I walked about 200 yards to the car, dropped off our backpacks, and headed straight to the bar!  The tall, cold glasses of Porter tasted so good, we decided to split a third.  But our waiter, misinterpreting my request for "one more" brought us each a second glass.  After hiking all day and then drinking two pints of beer, my sister and I were feeling a little loopy.  Time to hit the showers, and then get some food.  Which is exactly what we did.  Funny thing, while having dinner later in the Bright Angel Lodge, who should we see but the Oklahoma couple we'd started our hike with the day before.


For something planned over a year in advance, things couldn't have gone more perfectly.  We had fabulous weather, beautiful fall colors, and my sister did great!  Even with our leisurely (aka "lots of photo stops") pace my sister and I were able complete our climb up the canyon in about 7 1/2 hours.  We both agreed that the downhill was much harder than the climb up, and we both thought the Bright Angel Trail was much prettier than the South Kaibab.  My sister and I also both wished we would've stayed another day at Phantom Ranch to fully explore the canyon.  And we decided that next time we're going to try for a cabin instead of the dorms.

Next time?  Oh yes, we're already plotting a return trip for November 2021.  I can't wait to do this again.