Grand Canyon - Day 7 (5/28/2005)
Today was our last day. Everyone was up early so we could get going before it got too hot. We packed our backpacks and had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and toast. The groover was very busy this morning. We all assembled on the beach with our backpacks loaded and our sleeping kits packed. It was amazing to see the different sizes and weights of the packs. Eric had this huge camouflaged backpack. It looked big and heavy. On the other side, it looked like Bruce had the smallest and lightest backpack. I envied his light pack. My pack wasn't very heavy, so I wasn't worried.
We loaded up the rafts for the last time. We said our good-byes to Larry, Nikki, Chad, Michal, Cheryl, and Michael. The were taking two oar boats down to the Phantom Ranch. They had plans to relax and enjoy the restaurant and other facilites there.
So into the rafts for the last time. We were a mile or two from the trail. Along the river we hit two small rapids before pulling in. We off-loaded our backpacks and collected our lunches. Didn't realize last night how heavy the lunches were. We said our good-byes to the remaining guides. Everyone then started up the trail. Kristina needed some last minute adjustments to her pack, so were were one of the last groups to leave. Bruce, Hollace, Andrew, and Cathy were behind us when we started up.
We took off at a brisk pace. I slowed down when we hit the river rest house. Andrew and Kristina passed me. I settled into a slow steady pace. Just like I learned on Kilimanjaro. My plan was to hike for one hour and then sit down, take my pack off and rest/eat for 5 minutes. I carried a water bottle in my hand so I didn't have to stop to take a drink. I would take a swig every 5 to 10 minutes. Andrew and Cathy passed me after a bit. They had a plan similar to mine. Their pace was just a little faster.
At 4.5 miles from the top you hit a spot called Indian Gardens. There is a stream that flows through here so it looks like an oasis. Lots of trees. There is a campground here as well as rest areas, bathrooms, and piped in water. Everyone was there lounging on some benches. I headed straight for the water, filled my bottle with water and had 1/2 of a sandwich. After 5 minutes, I wet my shirt and hat down and continued up the trail.
Along the way I was passed by 5 or 6 mule trains going down to the river. When the mules come by you get on the high side of the trail and stay put until they pass. The mules are pretty big and fill up the trail. The next mile stone is the 3 mile rest house. Along the trail I kept leapfrogged with a bunch of people in our group. I felt like this was the classic hare versus the turtle race. I poked along at an even steady pace, never stopping. The others would race ahead and then have to stop to catch their breath. It was very amusing. I was not really racing, I was just curious which strategy would work best. I knew I did not want to bonk, and this strategy would prevent that.
At 3 mile rest house I was the first to arrive. As the name implies, it's 3 miles to the canyon rim. This rest house was structure that provided shade, a place to sit down, and water. I stuck to my schedule and rested and ate. I then followed Larry's advice to wet my entire body down before hitting the trail. So I just ducked my entire body under the water spigot. Bad idea!. Water ran into my boots. I should have been more careful.
I headed up the trail sloshing in my boots. I hiked about a mile and decided I needed to put on some dry socks. So I pulled over and dug out some socks from my pack. I drained the water from my boots and then got them and the fresh socks back on. Jeff, Mike, Andrew, and Kristina passed me why I was fixing my socks.
At the 1 1/2 mile rest house, Andrew and Kristina were there when I arrived. I headed up for a quick bathroom break and water. Wow a real (well sort of) toilet. I was back on the trail in 10 minutes or so.
I passed Mike and Jeff again. I was now hiking past a lot of tourists from the top. Lots of them were ill prepared for the desert. Little water, flip-flops, and incredibly overweight. Man are there a lot of stupid people out there.
I ended being the first to reach the top. I started at 7:30 a.m. and reached the top at 1:00 p.m. Jeff and Mike were about 2 minutes behind me. I waited for Andrew and Kristina. They ended up being about 10 minutes behind me. A pretty impressive show from us folks in North Carolina. Once again the turtle beat the hare.
The trail was well marked and the grading not terrible. Doing stadium steps at Duke University's football stadium really helped prepare Andrew, Kristina, and I.
Once at the top we headed for Bright Angel Lodge. It was weird being around so many people. The place was crawling with tourists. We made our way over the the ice cream shop for cold refreshing sodas. We then hung out on some benches in the shade. We took turns going to the restrooms to clean up a little and use a real flush toilet. While sitting on the toilet I had to pee and I instinctively looked for the yellow bucket! I broke out in a chuckle.
We checked our packs at the hotel. We had four hours to kill. The vans were supposed to arrive at 5:00 p.m. The sky was getting dark outside and it started to rain. We cruised the gift shop for souvenirs. I bought a bunch of t-shirts. We were hungry so we headed to the hotel restaurant. The sky opened up and it started to rain very hard along with lightning and thunder. Our waiter took forever to take our order. Once he did show up, we ordered and got our food quickly. Andrew and I both got bacon cheese burgers. Why is it that the first thing I want after one of these trips is a burger? Kristina had some fries and bread sticks.
After lunch we checked out the hotel bar to see if anyone from our group was hanging out there. Some of the group was in there having some beers. We opted to go outside and check out the California Condors and other sights. We could see a big storm over the canyon. You could see lightning strikes. The temperature outside had dropped a lot after the storm had passed. We checked out the Condors and another gift shop that had nice views of the canyon. We then headed back to the bar for a quick beer. Shortly thereafter, the van driver came in and found us. So we went to get our packs from the bellman. The first group got their packs and then the fire alarm went off. We had to leave the building. The wait seemed like forever. At least 10 or 15 minutes before they let us back inside. Once we retrieved our packs, we headed to the vans.
We loaded into the vans and headed back to Flagstaff. Everyone was tired and ready for a nice hot shower. In the van they had water and snacks for the ride back. When we got back to the Radisson, our luggage was waiting for us. We decided if anyone wanted to go out to diner we would meet in the lobby at 8:00 p.m. So we checked in and headed for our rooms. I called home and checked in with Karen and Wyatt. Then I had a nice long hot shower.
At 8:00 Andrew and I headed downstairs. Kristina was too tired to go out. We me Dave and Laura downstairs. Looks like everyone else bailed. We decided on a Thai restaurant in town. We phone Chilla who was staying at a hostel across the street from the restaurant. Laura and Dave had driven from Texas to Flagstaff, so we piled into their car and headed out to eat. The Thai restaurant was excellent. We decided to get 2 appetizers and 4 entrees to share. We had a good time and after dinner said our good-byes to Chilla. We arrived back at the hotel and said good-byes and went to bed. I think you could call this a very full day!