2A:     2006 May 7-8     Phantom Ranch
2B: 2006 May 12 The Adam Tour

     Here's another The-Adam flying-adventure page, another serious hike at the Grand-Canyon, another trip with my neighbor, Greg, and my tour-guide efforts as host for three guests, co-workers coming to an Arizona meeting from our German offices.

     At least this Grand-Canyon page on my flying-adventure list has some actual flying in it. My previous Grand Canyon trip didn't have any actual flying, but I have flown over the Canyon enough times to include that flying in my write-up.

     What makes this trip more fun than a "usual" web page on hiking the Grand Canyon is that I managed to make two trips to Grand Canyon National Park in one week, a Sunday-Monday trip by car to Phantom Ranch and then a Friday trip by airplane with our company guests.




2006 May 7: Hiking Down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

2006 May 7: Hiking Down South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

     This is Phantom-Ranch trip number 29 for Greg. I don't know what he does to get reservations, as most people have to try for years, but he calls the right people at the right time to get us reservations. Part of his secret is that we're willing to take just about any Canyon-hike date they have available. This is only my second trip with Greg and I'm looking forward to more Grand-Canyon hikes with him.

     Like last time, we went down the 10.6 Km (6.6 mile) South Kaibab trail, a descent from 7200 feet (2400 meters, 790 millibars) to 2400 feet (730 meters, 930 millibars). South Kaibab is a big-vista-view experience starting with Panorama Point after a mile (1500 meters). (The Grand Canyon National Park newspaper describes this as "Ooh Aah Point.") There is little shade and no water on the way, so we prefer to take this trail down rather than up.

     After the first mile to Panorama Point The first half of the South Kaibab trail was in really terrible condition with deep ruts between the trail-supporting logs. The park and the mule drivers have a deal, the mules can use the trails and even have right of way on them, but they're supposed to maintain the trails which they clearly haven't been doing on the second, third, and fourth miles going down South Kaibab. Fortunately for our knees, the last two miles, the steepest descent, was in excellent condition.

     A friend at work who has hiked the Canyon a lot gave me a wonderful bit of hiking-technique advice. He said the way to last a long time on a canyon hike is to descend on toes and climb on heels when practical. The usual technique is to come pounding down on the heels and the to climb stair-like on the balls of the feet. This gets fatiguing after a couple of hours.

     Whatever I did in following my friends advice or just being fitter and more experienced at hiking, I felt a lot better this time when we got to Phantom Rance, good enough to go for a 10-Km (six-mile) run up Bright Angel Creek along the North Kaibab trail, three miles out and back. This part along the creek has only modest elevation change.




2006 May 8: Hiking Up Bright Angel from Phantom Ranch

2006 May 8: Hiking Up Bright Angel from Phantom Ranch

     At 17 Km (10.5 miles), the Bright Angel trail is longer than Kaibab and the elevation change is slightly less, only up to 6800 feet (2070 meters, 800 millibars). While a 400-foot difference doesn't sound like much, we would not have appreciated it if somebody put an extra 400-foot climb at the top end of Bright Angel. The climb isn't that much shallower as the first 4 Km (2.5 miles) of the trail follows the river with little elevation change.

     Greg had a chest cold, so he wasn't moving particularly fast. He's the proverbial tortoise, or the post-modern EverReady bunny, able to keep going and going and going. With several stops to enjoy the scenery and three to refill our water supplied, we took nine and a half hours to climb the whole way.

     I decided to take a side trip from Indian Gardens to Plateau Point, a 5.3 Km (3.3 mile) detour on a well-maintained, level path so I could run it. The advantage to me of running rather than hiking is that the two activities use different-enough muscles that one doesn't take away from my ability to do the other. This assumes, of course, that I have enough water. To make the side trip timing perfect, Indian Gardens is halfway up the Bright Angel trail, so it made a perfect break for me while Greg kept hiking up the trail and I would catch up.

     Plateau Point is a viewpoint on the edge of the dark-rock inner canyon, not quite the heart-stopping drop off of Toroweap, but a wonderful vista-view that doesn't require an airplane trip to a now-closed airport. It does require a three-mile-round-trip from Indian Gardens, well worth the extra effort.

     The Bright Angel trail is more sheltered with more shade than the South Kaibab trail. The views are more intimate, less expansive, but still wonderful, well worth the journey.

     Greg's routine is down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel. It seems to work well. South Kaibab is short and steep with little shade, good for going down while catching the morning sun. Bright Angel is longer and gentler in grade with shelter from the sun, the perfect trail for ascending. Also, the more-expansive views of South Kaibab makes me prefer to be descending, facing the canyon.



It's a Tough Job

It's a Tough Job

     My little company, Khimetrics, was recently acquired by a big company, SAP. Now we have to face the job of connecting our Khimetrics retail optimization software to SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Five people came from the SAP offices in Germany (and one from Chicago who did not go the the Grand Canyon) for three days of meetings, Tuesday through Thursday, to work with us on this problem. Our visitors decided they wanted to spend Friday seeing the Grand Canyon.

     If we were going to be good hosts, then somebody from our office was going to have to volunteer to take our eager, energetic, enthusiastic guests to spend a day in one of the most wonderful places on our planet. It's a tough job and, with a heavy heart, I was willing to make the sacrifice. Not only am I, myself, eager, energetic, and enthusiastic about the Grand Canyon, I have also been there recently, as in four days before our trip together.

     Two of our guests decided they were going to hike to the bottom (Phantom Ranch) and back. It was freezing (-1°C., 30°F.) at the top at dawn and getting warm (39°C, 102°F.) at the bottom during the day. I gave our two intrepid hikers the usual "scare lecture" pointing out that going down is easy, coming up is hard, quite a few people don't make it back without help, and some don't make it back at all. I tried to talk them into going down only as far as Indian Gardens and making a same-elevation side trip to Plateau Point instead of going down even further.

     As for the other three guests, I suggested I could fly them from Flagstaff (FLG) to and over the Grand Canyon landing at Grand Canyon Airport (GCN). The two long-hike fellows would drive the rental car to Bright Angel Lodge, we would take a taxi from GCN to the lodge and get the keys from the manager at the front desk.

     Once we have the car, we can do whatever we want for the day. I suggested hiking a mile or two down the Bright Angel trail, having lunch at the lodge restaurant, taking the Hermits Rest tour bus to the vista-viewpoints in the afternoon, and maybe seeing our two brave hikers before I'm driven back to GCN to fly home to Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (DVT). Except for not seeing the two hikers before I left, this is exactly what we did. I found out later the intrepid duo returned later that day, safe and sound and tired.




Flying Over the Grand Canyon

Flying Over the Grand Canyon

     Flying over the Grand Canyon is almost a religious experience, more so in combination with hiking it and seeing it from the rim. Two hikers having left in the rental car for Bright Angel Lodge, I picked up my three airplane passenegers at Flagstaff Airport (FLG) at 6:00 a.m. while it was still cool. Alas, it wasn't as cool as I had hoped, 14°C (57°F) instead of forecast 4°C (39°F). My airplane is not a monster climbing machine, so bringing four passengers to Canyon-viewing altitude on a warm day takes a while. I had us leave from Flagstaff instead of Grand Canyon (GCN) so we would have the extra travel time to climb. The downside of the extra mileage is my passengers spending an hour in a small airplane over not-very-interesting, flat-desert terrain. They remained enthusiastic and their anticipation grew as the Canyon appeared and grew on the horizon.

     The air was smooth, sun with no clouds, and cool enough so we weren't sweating as we flew. As we flew over the Grand Canyon we took lots of pictures outside and inside the airplane.

     I feel the combination of flying over the Canyon and then seeing it up close is richer than either experience by itself. My passengers told others about their trip who relayed their enthusiasm to me.

     There is one downside of flying into Grand Canyon Airport (GCN) and that is the taxicab service. The last weekend the folks at Bright Angel Lodge were concerned that our taxi might not show up, they sometimes go to the wrong place or just plain forget, and that seems to be what happened after we landed. I was even foresightful enough to put in the taxi request immediately after landing and it didn't help. The lady at the airport information desk was terrific and, after the taxi company gave her a hard time, offered us a ride to Bright Angel Lodge.

     I realize taxi service in a place like this isn't going to have the immediacy of hailing a cab in New York City, but Canyon tourists have come a long way and often don't have a lot of extra time. Having taxis show up an hour late, or not show up at all, is a real bummer.




Tourist Hike Down Bright Angel

Tourist Hike Down Bright Angel

     While the view from the South Kaibab trail is bigger, broader, and more breathtaking than Bright Angel, and the South Kaibab trail is less crowded as well, the car was already at Bright Angel Lodge so it involved more travel with at least two more bus trips and the South Kaibab trail is in bad condition. I decided I would take my guests down to the first water stop 2.5 Km (1.5 miles), a descent of 350 meters (1150 feet) as I recall. The views are wonderful, the rock formations are interesting, the climb back is significant, so my guests would be satisfyingly challenged and ready for a good lunch.

     The stroll down was fun and we took lots of pictures. It takes about five or ten minutes of walking down the trail to get the idea of how large the Grand Canyon is. It's a funny thing how just seeing it from a viewpoint is less impressive than seeing it from a moving view while hiking. The Bright Angel trail is the most popular place in the Grand Canyon so there was a continuous stream of people, most of whom were pleasant and not too loud. What sounded like a dozen fidgity kids behind us turned out to be a huge group of 160 well-behaved boy scouts as they passed us.

     With my guests well hydrated and properly coated with sunscreen lotion, and with cooperative weather, we all enjoyed the effort and the scenery.

     I have to admit the last mile and a half of Bright Angel is a whole lot easier without having hiked the previous nine miles from Phantom Ranch as I had done four days earlier. Even so, I was ready for lunch when we got back to the Lodge.




Hermits Rest Bus Tour

Hermits Rest Bus Tour

     The final phase of my Canyon day tour was a shuttle-bus tour of the various south-rim viewpoints. Gawking at viewoints only gives a perspective of the Canyon when one has other experiences that give a sense of scale. The flight gave my guests a sense of dimension and the hike gave them a moving panorama.

     Would the rim views have been better with more hiking experience? Of course, but this gave my guests an overall Canyon experience in a day that they could remember and that would encourage them to come back to spend more time there.

     The buses come every twelve minutes and makes scheduled stops, so viewers get multiples of twelve minutes at the viewpoints, plus 90 minutes on the buses. We picked five stops figuring about three hours for the total trip. There's a kind of tourist urgency about having just twelve minutes, but when a view kept us occupied, we just stayed for 24 minutes instead.





How Did the Bold Adventurers Do?

How Did the Bold Adventurers Do?

     As there was room for only three passengers in my airplane, two of our five German guests decided to do some serious hiking. They drove to Bright Angel Lodge, left the rental-car keys with the front desk, and hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch.

     I gave the all the appropriate scare lectures about dehydration and serious effort and all that. I felt their status as athletes heightened their risk as there's a pride in being physically fit. "I can do this and no silly guide book warning is going to keep me from doing it."

     My warnings may not have deterred my adventurous co-workers, but it coaxed them into bringing a lot of water and drinking it. They made it all the way to Phantom Ranch and back up, not in time to bid me farewell as I flew home, but in time to join their three colleages for dinner.

     At the end of the day, my guests enjoyed the Grand Canyon in different and satisfying ways. Going to the Grand Canyon twice in the same week and having to entertain three energetic, enthusiastic, and eager guests in one of the most beautiful and wonderful places in the world. It's a tough job, but I was up for the challenge.






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