Photo of the Week 9/16/19

Fuller Lake

It Sure Is a Grand Canyon

After an awesome time on last year’s trip I wanted to experience it again with the knowledge gained during that trip. I put in for a permit for the second weekend in September, hoping it might be a little cooler, but not really caring. It ended up being just as hot. Fortunately it was decently cloudy again for our hike down.

I work in the restaurant business in Phoenix, so I need to take my vacations in the summer, hence the warm weather Grand Canyon trips.

Just like last year we would hike down South Kaibab Trail on a Thursday, stay 2 nights at Bright Angel Campground, hike to Indian Garden via the Bright Angel Trail, camp there and then trek out Sunday morning. Unlike last year we got a nice early start Thursday morning, leaving Phoenix by 6am. We picked up our 3rd in Flagstaff and got to Grand Canyon by 10:30 am.

It was great knowing exactly where to park, which buses to hop on, and what to expect. We had no problem getting to the trailhead, the 2 bus drivers were super friendly and pretty humorous! Once we made it out to the South Kaibab trailhead we took a few pics, shouldered the packs and headed out for our adventure!

View from the South Kaibab Trailhead
Looking up the trail from Ohh Ahh Point

Like always the first few miles of the trail are pretty crowded with day hikers and people just going to the first view points. Once you get past Cedar Ridge you see very few people on the trail and can really appreciate the serenity!

South Kaibab is an impressive trail, following a ridge line directly down into the canyon. Because of this the views are amazing, but it can most definitely get hot, and there is no water and very limited shade.

View from the Tip-off

When you work your way all the way down the switchbacks, you come to a dark tunnel blasted into the cliff. It’s super cool, as you walk out of the tunnel, you walk right onto the black bridge and over the Colorado River!

Walking through the tunnel on to the black bridge – South Kaibab Trail
Our campsite at Bright Angel

We got to Bright Angel Campground about 3pm, and scored a great campsite! As backcountry campsites go, BA is pretty ritzy! There are picnic tables at every site, flush toilets, and (if the pipeline doesn’t break) water! Not to mention the Phantom Ranch canteen, about a 5-10 minute stroll away, where they have cold beer! While the beers are $7 or $8 a can, they sure do taste good, not something you normally get to enjoy while backpacking. We determined that the best deal out of everything they sell there was the 75 cent packages of Oreos!

One campground improvement was the new food storage boxes. In the past each site had 2 big, old metal ammo boxes for food storage. You were supposed to flip them upside down when you left camp, so you were always treated to that banging around at 4:30 in the morning as people get ready to head out. The new boxes close up tight and hold far more than the old ones.

Anti-squirrel boxes

Friday, after a relaxing morning in camp, we headed out for a hike down the North Kaibab trail. My friend’s knee was a little sore from the hike in, so we only went around 3 miles out. We were hoping to make it to Ribbon Falls, but that was not happening.

I really want to explore The North Kaibab trail. Next year I’ll want to switch things up a bit, so I think a Rim to Rim is in order!

The work that has gone into making and maintaining these trails is impressive. The National Parks Service really does a great job, there seem to be miles and miles of the stone retaining walls seen in the picture below. I can only imagine what it took to build all of them!

North Kaibab Trail

After getting back to camp we felt like hiking around a little more, so we explored the River Trail. We crossed the Black Bridge and up a few of South Kaibab’s switchbacks, until we got to the River Trail junction, after that it’s a super cool rolling trail along the cliffs right above the river, and it leads right to the Silver Bridge. It was only about a mile and a half but it is totally worth it!

Bright Angel from the River Trail
The Black Bridge from Boat Beach

After hiking, it was time to cool off in the Colorado River, and it was fantastic! The water was pretty cold and super refreshing. We hung out on the beach and in the river for a good portion of the afternoon, a few sips of the Old Forester bourbon, chilled in BA Creek while we hiked, made it all that much better!

While we were at the river we saw a few of the rafting trips come through in their motorized rafts. We got to see the loading up and safety briefing from the Wilderness River Adventures group, who seemed like they’d be fun to run the river with!

Sunset from Boat Beach

After cooking up some food and one last visit to enjoy a few beers at Phantom Ranch, we sacked out to be ready for the hike to Indian Garden the next morning. It was a little warm for sleeping, taking the rain fly off the tent was key, and the stars were amazing to look up at!

We got up around 6ish the next morning, cooked up a little breakfast and packed up. We were kind of aiming to start hiking around 7, and ended up heading out about 7:40.

The hike is so cool, cross the silver bridge and look right down the Colorado River, hike along the River Trail, and head up the canyon. Most of our hike was in the shade, and we were able to get through a decent part of the corkscrew while it was still pretty nice out.


Most Amazing Thing

Last year while hiking to Indian Garden we ran into an old neighbor of mine, who I hadn’t seen since they moved about 4 years ago. This year in about the same place who did we run into? You guessed it, the neighbor!


We cruised into Indian Garden and were able to grab what has become my favorite campsite there. The real bummer was seeing the the huge tree that shaded the main area was not standing anymore. Does anyone know what happened?

Looking down at part of the Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

After setting up camp and hanging out for a bit, we headed out for the 1.5 mile hike to Plateau Point. If you’re at Indian Garden and feel like you’re up for it, this quick hike is a must. The view of the river, canyon and major buttes is awesome. It’s a flat hike, there’s a water spigot as the trail is right along the cross canyon pipeline, there’s even a California Condor who has a nest right below.

Plateau Point

After the Plateau Point hike there was some serious chilling out until dinner, a small stroll above the campground, a little conversation with our neighbor who was doing R2R, and watching the highway that is Bright Angel Trail. I’m pretty sure there are people moving up and down that trail at all hours of the day, it’s pretty cool to see all the different people that come by.

We hung out on a bench at the far end of the campground after it was quiet time, checking out the stars and such and then crashed out. It was definitely cooler at Indian Garden, but once again it was windy there!

Up a little before 6, brew some coffee, have some food and pack up. We did a little talking with our cool campsite neighbor and headed out for my favorite part of the hike.

It’s 4.5 miles from Indian Garden to the South Rim. Looking up at the rim from Indian Garden you can’t believe a trail goes up that way! The trail heads up a small valley and then pretty soon you’re into the switchbacks, which pretty much go on for the rest of the hike.

There are 2 rest houses along the trail, at 3 miles and 1 1/2 miles. They are nice little stops with a small rock house, water and bathrooms, they are also great milestones along the way besides the opportunity to relax.

View from 1 1/2 MIle Resthouse – Bright Angel Trail

As you get closer to the rim you start to see more and more people, by the time you into the last mile it can be a constant stream. It is a solid climb the whole way, but you can just put it in low gear and cruise your way up! We topped out about 9:45 am and hopped the bus back to the Backcountry Information Center parking lot.

Almost to the top
Right after topping out

Grand Canyon is an amazing place, if you’ve never hiked it, you should at least once. Around every turn is another unbelievable vista, and the trails, bathrooms and campgrounds are top notch, especially for backcountry travel!

Ready to Roll!

Packed and ready for another adventure! 36 pounds fully loaded, with water. Grand Canyon here we come! Stoked to head into the canyon tomorrow!!

Less Than 2 Weeks until Grand Canyon!

The final countdown is totally on to my last vacation of the year! While that is a little sad to type, i’m super stoked to be headed to Grand Canyon again. This year is pretty much the same as last years trip, just a few weeks later in the year (hopefully it’ll be a little less hot).


Grand Canyon National Park is 100 Years Old!


Thursday, September 5th we’ll wake up early, meet up, and hit the road. Who doesn’t love the driving towards adventure, thinking of all the cool experiences to come?

Hopefully we’ll make good time and be able to start hiking before noon, last year we started at 4pm. The only real bummer about the late start was doing the last part and arriving at the campground in the dark. Looking forward to walking out onto the black bridge in the daylight!

It’s nice having the experience from last year, knowing exactly where to park and which buses to hop on to get to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

We’re going to hike down South Kaibab to Bright Angel Campground, and spend 2 night sthere. The day we hang out at the bottom I’d like to do a decent hike up the North Kaibab Trail, last year it got pretty hot during the hike, hopefully it will be slightly nicer this year 🤞. After our hike last year we enjoyed sitting in Bright Angel Creek to cook off. The cool water and a few sips of bourbon made for a nice afternoon.

Relaxing in Bright Angel Creek

We’ll get up early on Saturday, hike up Bright Angel trail to the Indian Garden campground, chill out there for the day and the hike out the next morning.

Bright Angel Trail on the way to Indian Garden

It’s getting close enough that I’m starting to look at the extended forecasts, not that it really means that much this far out, but I can’t help myself.

Just got a new sleeping pad for the trip, and while my old Therm-a-rest has served me well for many years, you can’t beat the size and weight of these modern air pads!

NEMO Astro Lite Air Pad vs. Therm-a-Rest old pad

This will probably be the last time for a while I do this particular hike, would like to go Rim-to-Rim-to Rim sometime, and I’ve heard the Thunder River/Deer Creek loop is pretty amazing.

What great hikes have you done in the Grand Canyon?

Summer Backpacking Trip

Every year I look forward to my backpacking trip, usually to Southern Colorado. Putting on the pack and walking into the mountains is always such a great way to mentally escape the stresses of life.

This year we choose the Conejos River area near Antonio, Co for our backpacking adventure. We hiked from the Three Forks Trailhead to Blue Lake. As I’m sure you know, Colorado got a lot of snow this winter, and it’s still hanging around up high! This meant that 2 of our 3 stream crossings were cranking pretty good.

The gravel road out to the trailhead is about 25 miles, overall is in good condition and a sedan should have no problem getting out there.

After we parked and loaded up, off we went on the trail, passing through fields of wild flowers and sub-alpine meadows, and into the forest. After the second steam crossing, that was thigh deep and cold, we started running into snow drifts that blocked the trail. The last third of the hike entailed navigating around these, trying to keep the boots dry.

Trailhead to Camp
Meadow near Conjenos River
2nd Stream Crossing

We got to Blue Lake in the late afternoon, found a campsite and got set-up pretty quickly. It’s always nice to get the tents set up, take off the boots, relax and take in the beautiful views.

Blue Lake

The next day we planned on hiking somewhere else, but my friend’s boots did him no favors on the hike in and his feet needed some rest. Hanging out, a little fishing, exploring the area right around the lake, and a nap. Not a bad way to spend a day. The rain started about 6pm and lasted almost all night, the volume was impressive sometimes!

A Fine View, recommended in the morning with coffee

After our leisure day and 12 hour stint in the tents hiding from rain, it was time for a hike! Blue Lake is right next to the Continental Divide Trail, an easy decision on what to hike!

The trail was super cool. So many hikes we do in the mountains are up-up-up for hours and then down-down-down. This trail, not surprisingly, was a rolling trail with saddles of alpine tundra and amazing views.

We got in about 6 miles, a nice relaxing hike. Someday I’d really like to do a decent distance, point to point hike across an awesome trail. I’ve not yet been able to organize that, but it’s on the list for sure!

Continental Divide Trail Hike
Snow on our Continental Divide Hike
Continental Divide/Fish Lake Trail Sign
Beetle devestation

The damage to the forest by beetles is terrible. So many dead trees, I’m very worried when this area goes through a dry spring/summer.

Campsite

The day we hiked out we had a relaxing morning and slowly packed up. Pretty sure I had 2 cups of coffee that morning. It’s great to be able to have a laissez faire attitude about packing up!

The hike out overall was pretty nice, except the streams we had to cross were cranking because of the rain.

Three stream crossings was a bit much. One is cool, but it’s such a momentum killer. Take off the pack, take off the socks and boots, put on the sandals, put the pack back on, cross the stream, and then sandals off, dry the feet, boots and socks on, pack on. All just to go a 100 feet, even writing it kind of makes for a run on sentence😁.

Fonzy liked this stream!
Camp to Trailhead

I enjoy these trips so much, the simplicity of your worries while being in the backcountry is very freeing. Shelter, food, as much fun as you can have. Here’s to more adventures, please feel free to share any of your favorite hikes!

stuff I use and RECOMMEND

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Photo of The Week 7/22/19

A fine campsite in the Colorado Wilderness

Loading Up!

Got started gathering the gear and loading the pack for the quickly approaching Colorado trip!

This always starts the buildup of excitement before a cool trip. I hit up REI for some food and fuel, but really didn’t need to get much this year. Really trying to get down just the stuff I need, which of course includes my french press coffee mug. I’ve got the pack loaded with about 90% of my stuff, came in a 27 lbs with no water. Pretty happy with this and intent on avoiding the weight creeping up by throwing in things at the last minute that are not needed. I know better but sometimes keep making the mistake.

I usually rely on the freeze dried foods like Mountain House. There are some dinner entrees that I really like. Not sure if they taste so good because of the energy you’ve expended by the time you eat them, or if they’re actually good. I guess I’d have cook one at home and eat it. Doubtful I’m going to do this, and why know that they only taste good because your super hungry, in this sense it’s better to just believe! 😁

I tried the Scrambled Eggs and Bacon breakfast once, it was the complete opposite of good. Fortunately for me I love having oatmeal for breakfast, sometimes at home, almost always while backpacking!

If you’d like to try out some Mountain House entrees, here’s our Amazon Affiliate link for one of my favorites, the Beef Stroganoff!

Have any great backpacking tips? Feel free to share!

Going Down the Trail is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I personally use.

Photo of the Week 7/8/19

Oh Be Joyful

1 week until the Colorado backpacking!!

This Summer’s Adventures

Working in the restaurant industry in Phoenix necessitates taking vacations during the summer. While it can be a little warm in Phoenix, I’m still able to do a decent amount of outdoor activities and get away for some cool backpacking.

One of the first escapes should be a few days car camping with my wife. I just recently got us a 6 man tent, for excellent comfort in the campgrounds. While I enjoy the backpacking experience immensely, some comfy car camping is fun as well!

Only place in the yard I could try to set up the tent

After that comes the Colorado backpacking trip, usually the highlight of the year for outdoor adventures. The past few years, for various reasons (impressive volumes of rain and wind or serious lack of precipitations), we haven’t been able to have a campfire. Really hoping for a few small campfires to sit around this time. Heading to an area around the continental divide, moving between some lakes. After a long hectic season of work the simplicity of backpacking and the beauty of the mountains help recharge the spirit. I feel like I can live pretty comfortably while backpacking, the REI Co-op Double Shot Press Mug doesn’t hurt (apparently it’s not available anymore, but I bet you can something similar). A real cup of coffee sure makes mornings in the mountains exceedingly nice.

This was my view for 12 hours 2 years ago waiting out a torrential downpour

Then in early September it’s back to the Grand Canyon! There will be four of us this time, should be a fun group. We’re going about two weeks later than last year, but it’s early September so it will probably still be pretty hot! As usual, i’m sure we’ll challenge ourselves. So we’ve got that goin’ for us , which is fun. The canyon is such an amazing place, around every turn is another incredible picture!

If I mix in some SUPing out at the lakes around Phoenix, it should be a good summer.

Who else has some sweet summer adventure plans?

Grand Canyon Backpacking

In the 20 years that I had lived in Arizona I had been to the Grand Canyon once, and didn’t venture below the rim. I had heard such cool stories and seen many amazing pictures. I knew that I needed to experience it for myself, Fortunately, I was easily able to convince 2 friends to come along.

I applied a little late in the application time frame, but since it was an August date, not too much of a problem. We all live and recreate outdoors year round in Phoenix, So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

This was an awesome trip. Headed out from Phoenix around 10am, I love the excitement of leaving town for an adventure , you feel the city melt away! It’s about 4 hours from Phoenix, it’s a cool drive as you pass from the desert to high desert to mountains and back to high desert.

Approaching Skeleton Point

I Love This Sign

.The Heat Warning Sign

This sign is posted around the National Park Corridor Trails, it warns people of the challenging, extreme conditions hiking in the canyon can expose you to. While the warning is written in a few languages, I love the visual they gave to get the message across to almost anyone…

The Hike

We could not have gotten luckier with the weather, we hiked in the around 4ish. We parked at the Backcountry Information Center and had to hop 2 buses over to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It’s amazing the number of foreign visitor the canyon gets. On the second bus I didn’t hear a single word of English. The first mile or so of our hike we were surrounded by a group of younger Italians, after Cedar Point we saw very few people, just us and the awesome canyon views!

The Tip-Off
Bright Angel Camground

It was dark by the time we got to Bright Angel Campground, we quietly set up camp, around many sleeping people. We strolled over to Boat Beach to chill for a bit, so as not to make too much noise. The only bummer about the campground is how close the sites are to each other, but flat space is pretty limited down there. One huge highlight, a flush toilet!! Here’s my Garmin track from the hike in.

The next day we hiked up North Kaibab Trail for a ways, just exploring around and enjoying being in such an amazing place. After that we headed back to the campground and cooled off by sitting in Bright Angel Creek, sooo nice!

Bright Angel Creek

A little later we walked over to the Canteen at Phantom Ranch and enjoyed a couple beers, not something that happens too often while backpacking. We started talking to the guy working the counter there. Pretty interesting guy who lives in upstate New York. He had been retired for 5-6 years, his wife had retired just a few years ago and told him he needed to get a job, so he did… at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

The Black Bridge from Boat Beach

We woke up pretty early the next morning, packed up camp and headed out for the Indian Garden campground about halfway up the Bright Angel Trail. This trail is completely different from South Kaibab, as it winds its way up through the natural weaknesses. Here’s my Garmin track from the hike to Indian Garden.

Bright Angel Trail

The hike to Indian Garden was a lot easier than I had expected. I suffered some at altitude in Colorado, apparently the altitude really kicked my ass because this entire hike felt relaxing. Indian Garden is another excellent campground. With ramadas and picnic tables at each campsite, it’s living in luxury!

Indian Garden Campground

We hiked out to Plateau Point for the view and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately for me the wind was kicking up and it looked like rain. I left my rain fly off to let the tent air out a little, so I got to run the mile and a half or so back to camp to get my rain fly on, good fun, I’m a genius!

After another even earlier wake up, we packed up and headed for the rim! The trail looks impossible when viewed from the campground but winds its way up though the weakness. The 3 rest-houses on the trail are great, nice little stops with water. Here’s my Garmin track from Indian Garden to the Rim. This was an amazing trip, and I can’t recommend it enough. I liked it so much I just faxed in my application for this September!!

Bright Angel Trail in switchbacks from Plateau Point