Took more than 7 hrs drive from Death Valley to the Grand Canyon. Stayed overnight at the Maswik Lodge inside the park. Resort facility was not bad except we chose not to pick the rooms with air conditioning to save a few dollars. In late April, we don’t really need it since the temperature at night in the rim was pretty cool. It was indeed cool when we arrived there at 10:30pm.
It was windy, cool but sunny the next morning. Felt a little chill but could also feel the heat when exposed directly under the sunlight. The strong sunlight hinted us that it was going to be hot in the afternoon and especially when we got further down into the Canyon. Took our lunch, energy bars, and 2.5 liter of water and a wind breaker, we were at the Bright Angel Trail head at 8:30am.
This is my 2nd attempt to hike the Bright Angel Trail. I only did about 1.5 km last Sept and so this time, I’m better prepared to finish the trail up to the day limit.
It didn’t take too long nor too much effort to get down to the 1.5 mile Resthouse. It got steeper after the first rest station and it seemed so much longer to hike to the 2nd station (3-mile Resthouse). We maintained a very slow pace throughout but I didn’t think I could go any faster either. My GPS lost the satellite signal many times while hiking in this section. Sure the Garmin Forerunner 405 fitness GPS I used is not designed for this purpose, but my higher sensitivity Garmin Vista HCx that I put inside my backpack was not getting any better reception either. I guess most GPS units would have difficulty getting reliable reception inside the canyon. After 4.6 miles, we arrived finally at the Indian Garden. Surprised it took us almost 4 hrs already. Shouldn’t downhill be easier but in fact, walking a steep downhill for such a long time wasn’t comfortable at all to our toes and feet, especially some sections were steep along the cliff. Besides, 4.6 miles seemed like a small number, but in fact, our perception of mileage was not apparent to us as we are used to hiking in kilometers.
Indian Garden is the summer day limit. Since late April was still considered Spring, we went a further 3 mile return trip up to Plateau Point, the offical day limit. Though feeling a bit tired after 4 hrs of downhill hiking, all of us were still in high spirits so we continued up to Plateau Point. Crossing a small creek, we came to a small trail on a plain which were totally exposed to direct sunlight. Our legs were getting a relief from a change of gear from downhill to flat surface, but the hot direct sunlight exhausted us further. We maintained a fast pace to Plateau Point at 6.1 mile. My objective was to get to Plateau Point to get a view of the river, but didn’t expect the scenery to be so spectacular there. Sitting on the rocks at the far end of the Plateau Point at the edge of the cliff, we were right in the centre of the canyon being surrounded with mountains and colourful rocks in a circle, while the greenish Colorado River ran underneath.
It was 1pm now, very windy, very sunny and hot. Most people have left Plateau Point to go back up. We were all there by ourselves. There was absolutely no shade anywhere before heading back till Indian Garden. But feeling hungry, we can’t wait so we had lunch there under the direct sunlight with strong wind. An aggressive raven came over and determined to share our lunch. We quickly packed up and hiked back to Indian Garden. It was now 1:15pm when we started to return from Plateau Point.
Indian Garden is an oasis in the hot canyon. There were trees, huge cactus gardens, creeks, picnic tables, campgrounds, benches and a rest station. Finally we could relax and have our lunch in the shade under trees.
We all understood we still have a few hours of climbing up back to the Rim and it was going to be a real test of our strength and endurance now. What’s ahead of us would be hot, sunny and all uphill for the rest of the hike. Checking my water, I still have 1 litre left and everybody else had 1.5 to 2 litre. We should all be ok. But my GPS was running short of battery now. I decided to take off to cover as many kilometers of my returning track as possible.
Not easy to walk fast uphill after spending so many hours hiking down already. Initially it didn’t take too long to get back uphill to the 3-mile Resthouse, but it took much longer to hike the steeper part back to the 1.5-mile Resthouse, especially under the strong afternoon sunlight. Now that my GPS had stopped blank and I had no reason to walk any faster. I slowed down and right away I could feel the exhaustion and the heat now. The final 1.5 mile took me forever. Luckily I got some shade by the canyon’s walls blocking the late afternoon sunlight, and the strong wind gave us some relief. I knew I was getting slower when a number of hikers had passed me. It was around 4:30pm when I finally crawled back to the trail head. Everybody else came back within 45 mins, and we all could felt the strenuous effort required to hike this popular Grand Canyon Trail.
I almost finished the whole 2.7 litre of water I brought to the trail. There were drinking water at 1.5-mile, 3-mile resthouses and Indian Garden. I wasn’t so sure then it was safe to drink at the time. I think I had mixed up the info with the Kaibab Trail where no water was available for the entire South Kaibab trail.
Plateau Point, Bright Angel, Grand Canyon National Park, Indian Garden, Colorado River