Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Grand Canyon: Corridor Trails - Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens and Out.

Leaving Bright Angel Camp
Another world exists at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I've never felt so wild as I did in that place, despite the people. It's the place that does it too. The canyon itself. Its unfathomable enormity. Its abysmal depths. You recognize it from the top, but you don't feel it until you reach the bottom, and look back in wonderment at where you came from. The only way out is up. Way up. Nearly 5000 feet through some of the most rugged landscape on earth. Leaving Bright Angel camp on day four was bittersweet. The prospect of exploring new country is thrilling, but the planned climb to Indian Gardens meant that our trip was nearing an end.

Following the Colorado River
The Colorado River stokes my imagination more than an other river I've seen. Paralleling its banks, I imagined what it would have been like for the early river runners. Imagine running the Colorado through the canyon without any notion at all of what would be around the next bend. Talk about a heart pounder! Leaving the river we came to a seesaw of steep switchbacks as we climbed higher and higher. We passed a mule train of tourists bound for Phantom. We passed a group of foreigners attempting a rim-to-river-to-rim in one day. It's a feat that the park service highly discourages. They weren't wearing backpacks, and each carried a plastic water bottle in their hand. We warned them about the heat and lack of water. To us backpackers they seemed ill-prepared for such an undertaking. Of course, they didn't speak a lick of english and just looked at us with smiles on their faces as we warned them to turn back. "Ok" they said, nodding up and down and grinning foolishly. They kept going.


Flattening out on the approach to Indian Gardens
The terrain flattened as we approached Indian Gardens. Cottonwood trees and shade appeared. So did the mule deer. We saw them everywhere. On the trail. Near the trail. Lots of does, but not a single buck. As a bow hunter, I was struck by the differences of this game animal's behavior within the boundaries of the park, and deer I encounter elsewhere. We passed within a couple feet from some feeding trailside, and they never spooked.

Indian Gardens
Mule deer at Indian Gardens
Indian Gardens turned out to be my favorite camp site. It certainly had the best views. We had the place to ourselves (more or less), and were treated to an amazing sunset. From Indian Gardens at night, you can see lights from the buildings on the south rim. The deer were everywhere at camp too. They fed all around us without a care in the world.

First snow
Next morning we got an early start and climbed out of the canyon. The snow and ice were still present near the top, so we again had to don microspikes. As we neared the rim the amount of day hikers increased dramatically. We saw tourists in dress shoes hiking across ice on narrow trails that, if you slipped, could result in falls of hundreds of feet. Their nonchalant attitudes made it appear as if they had no idea they were courting death. 

The rim in sight,

Almost out,
I'm afraid now that this will be my last Grand Canyon adventure ever. I have a four day backpack in Paria Canyon on the horizon, and after that I will be relocating to Bend, Oregon. I'm excited to have a new state to explore, but I'll sure miss the desert.

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