Grand Canyon 2003

Diary of my trip to Grand Canyon which included hiking from the South Rim down to the River,
the Phantom Ranch, and back up to the South Rim with my friend Steve Biro.

10/11/03 Steve, Alex, and I left for our Grand Canyon trip in the 5th wheel at 7:00 a.m. We arrived in Laughlin, NV about 3:00 p.m. We stayed at the Riverside RV Park which is cheap, convenient to casinos, and has really clean restrooms. We walked down to the Casino Belle and had a nice fruit cheese fondue at a micro brewery restaurant and then more appetizers and wine at a sea food restaurant. Retired to bed early.

10/12/03 Got up at 6:00 a.m., showered, and had breakfast at the Riverside Coffee Shop overlooking the Colorado River. Drove to Flagstaff, AZ arriving around noon. We checked in at J&H RV a very nice clean RV park on the edge of town. Steve and I went to see the Lowell Observatory. We took the afternoon tour and really enjoyed it. We saw Lowell’s 24” Clark refractor, a very impressive looking instrument, now only used for public programs. We also saw the specialized photographic refractor telescope used to find Pluto. We had dinner at the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Watched the Sunday night football game and retired early.

10/13/03 Left early at 6:00 a.m. for the Grand Canyon. We came into the park via the east entrance. We stopped in Cameron, the famous Navaho Indian Trading Post for breakfast. Sure would love one of those $20,000 Navaho rugs. Arrived at the South Rim around 11:00 a.m. and got the 5th wheel set up at Trailer Village. We drove to Bright Angle Lodge and got our name on the list for the Phantom Ranch accommodations on Tuesday. We then went to the visitor center where we attended a ranger talk about the canyon. In the evening, Alex got mad at me, probably most likely because I am a Republican. He decided to sleep outside in the cold on top of the picnic table. He apparently felt that I had insulted him when I admonished him for a broken 5th wheel toilet paper rack and a unsanitary situation on the toilet seat. We had also had some spirited political discussions and I had not realized how very liberal his views are. I apologized to him, but I could not convince him to come back into the trailer. He left via bus the next morning for San Diego. He has been a long time friend and his action disturbed me allot. Human nature is a very fragile unpredictable thing.

10/14/03 Steve and I got up at 5:30 a.m. to attend the Phantom Ranch cancellation assignments at 6:30 a.m. We were the last names drawn, but they only had room for 2 females. At 8:30 a.m. they got us two spots for the following day Wednesday. Steve and I did another ranger talk about raptors near the Kaibab Trial. The girl volunteer gave an excellent presentation. We then had a great lunch at the El Tovar Hotel. Watched satellite TV and retired early.

10/15/03 Got up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the Kaibab Trail express bus leaving from Bright Angle Lodge. We left the truck near the outlet trail so we wouldn’t have to wait for buses when we emerged from the canyon. We were on the trail by 7:30 a.m. on a perfect windless sunny morning in the low 60’s. All went well until within one mile of the bottom. It was quite hot in the low 90’s and Steven was really suffering from the heat with a high 133+ heart rate. He made it finally at 1:30 p.m. and we got checked into one of the Phantom Ranch Male Dormitories. It took us 6 leisurely hours to walk the 7.3 miles down. The power was out so I had to take a cold shower, but I really didn’t mind it as it cooled me down. We slept and rested in our bunks until 5:00 p.m. We got up and had a delicious steak dinner in the Canteen. I took a short walk along the Bright Angel Creek where the 95% occupied walk-in camp grounds was located. Stayed up until dark to view the beautiful night sky. The Milky Way was fantastic. Talked with some of our bunk mates from all over the US for an hour and was in bed with the lights out by 8:30 p.m.

10/16/03 The wake up call was at 4:30 a.m. yuk yuk. I had a very good breakfast at 5:00 a.m. Steve had no breakfast to my protest. Picked up our sack lunches for the trail. We took off in the dark at 6:00 a.m. I used my head lamp to help me stay away from the edge. I felt good and was hiking at a good pace, but Steven’s heart rate alarm machine kept beeping on the steep up hills. When the sun came out and it heated up a little Stephen was even doing worse. I had to tell him twice to go as slow as necessary to reduce that heart rate below 133. He slowed way down and we took breaks every ½ hour. The trail up to Indian Gardens 4.5 miles (about ½ way) was beautiful with running creek, water falls, Mesquite trees, Willow trees, and Cottonwood trees. We met some of the hikers we had become acquainted with at Phantom Ranch and we confided with them regarding the rigors of the hike. The temperature was cooling down now, due to the higher altitude. Steven was now doing much better, picking up his pace. I did OK the next 2 miles, but the last 2.5 miles was even steeper and I had been on the trail 9 hours now. I was really getting quite fatigued, going at a snails pace compared to Stephen’s pace. The last two miles I would have paid $100 for a strong mule, but none showed up. We were finally on the rim after 10 miles, 5,000’ of elevation rise, and 11 hours of hiking. We showered, had dinner at the Bright Angle coffee shop, watched MLB playoffs on TV, and was in bed by 9:00p.m.

10/17/03 Got up early and had breakfast at Bright Angle Coffee Shop. We did another interesting ranger talk about fossils. Walked to a fossil site along the rim and saw lots of Brachiopods, Crinoids, Bryozoans, and Sponges. The female ranger was an excellent, knowledgeable speaker. I then rested in the trailer until evening. I did some preliminary packing, and put my telescope equipment in the back of the pickup. We drove to Hopi Point, a dark site along the East exit. The sky was very transparent and clear, but the seeing was lousy. Mars shimmered like mad from the temperature inversion layers of atmosphere. The Milky Way was breath taking much more evident than in San Diego. Packed up about 11:00 pm. and drove back to the camp ground being careful to avoid being hit by a deer or elk.

10/18/03 Left camp ground at 6:00 a.m. for home. I drove to Barstow, then Stephen took over driving all the way to Temecula. We decided to have a gourmet dinner at the Thornton Winery Restaurant to celebrate our Canyon trek. We had corn chowder soup, champagne grapes cheese green salad, scallops, lobster risotto, wine, and a chocolate desert tart all of which was excellent. Any weight I lost on the hike was gained back now. I drove the last 50 miles and we got home safely having a very enjoyable Grand Canyon sojourn.

Last updated on February 6, 2019