Lost Creek Wilderness {November 2011}

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Backpacking the Grand Canyon {Day Six}

Day Six
For the last time this trip, we disassembled our tents, organized our gear, cooked instant oatmeal, and filled our waterbottles. Actually, I can't remember if we even took the time to cook oatmeal ...

Sunrise from Indian Garden

The Bright Angel is steep from the outset. I had blisters on my feet in unusual spots and my legs were incredibly sore (despite multiple arnica applications), so I had no desire to hurry through the five-mile climb. Austen and Felix had a different idea, and were always a switchback or two ahead of Justin and I. The trail follows a natural route along the Bright Angel Fault and was first used by the Havasupai to reach the glistening water source at Indian Garden and the inner canyon recesses. Now, Bright Angel is the most popular of the corridor trails, and is equally attractive to first-time canyon hikers and seasoned pros as well as mule trains.

We left Indian Garden around 9:00 am, and reached our destination (Bright Angel trailhead) at exactly 12:00 pm. Three hours. Wow ... I thought we were moving slowly, must have been all in my head, but apparently we made great time (as had been the case throughout the backcountry). There's not much to say about the trek upward; I was in a miserable mood and wanted nothing more than to change my clothes, wash my hair, and eat a chocolate chip cookie (we'd left a box in the car). The most gratifying moment was gazing back towards the plateau and the river beyond from the upper section of Bright Angel, knowing that we'd been way down there hours earlier. It looked so far away.

View of the Tonto from the upper part of Bright Angel

The grueling set of switchbacks known as Jacob's Ladder

The upper part of Bright Angel

The last two or three miles of the trail were snow-packed, but crampons were not necessary (to my relief). Finally, I could see the car, and our two companions, waiting for us at the trailhead when we were sidetracked by a fat woman with a southern accent and way too much makeup sitting at the top of the trail ... as if she were debating whether or not to continue. She pointed at our hiking poles and asked what they were called ... I told her they were called 'poles'. She was the last person in the world I wanted to be talking to; all I could think of was taking off my heavy, heavy pack and getting that margarita ...

A final shot of the four of us in full-on backpacking garb

El Tovar's prickly pear margaritas {much deserved}

We packed ourselves and our backpacks into my car and drove the seven miles to Hermit's Rest, where Austen had parked his car. The Hermit/Tonto/Bright Angel route is a loop, however, it requires two vehicles in the winter since the shuttles don't run. I guess we could have hitch-hiked, but it was much more convenient to have our own transportation between the two trailheads. From there, we basically took off - it was five hours to Durango and a warm shower, cozy hotel room, and the promise of Steamworks pizza and beer were motivation enough to get on the road as quickly as possible.

Steamworks Brewery, Durango

Freshly showered and nicely dressed, we were ecstatic to be in Durango eating more food than we'd had all week. If you ever find yourself in Durango, you must go to Steamworks. They have delicious beer (especially the Backside Stout), and yummy food ... even when you haven't just emerged from five days in the grandest of canyons.

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