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Welcome to my long-awaited, and much anticipated hiking tour of the Grand Canyon, from the South Kaibab trail, down to the Colorado river and Phantom Ranch, then up the Bright Angel trail to the top.  This hike was done on the 16th of April, 2008.  The weather was perfect for hiking, 30s in the morning, then by the time you hit the Colorado river, it's in the 60s, then going up Bright Angel trail in the afternoon it was still in the high 50s.  Remember, it gets hotter as you descend into the canyon.  At the bottom by the river, say Bright Angel campground and Phantom Ranch, the temperature is about the same as what it would be in Tucson or Phoenix.  At the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village, the elevation is 7000ft (2134m), so there's about 4500ft (1372m) in elevation change, and around 20° (7° Celsius) temperature difference.  Do not do this hike in the summer months, like June through August, it's just too hot. 

The hike is presented on two pages, each with nearly 40 pictures.  I've heavily compressed the pictures so dial up users can view them without waiting an hour to load.  Each page is approximately 3.7mb.

I've been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for several years now, so I decided to do it this year.  I wanted to experience both trails, which are vastly different, in one hike.  I also wanted to do it in one day, because I don't really like camping out all that much.  My hike started at the Backcountry information center, which is where you pick up the hikers express (early morning) shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trail-head.  There is no parking at this trail-head, you either have to have someone drop you off, or you can park in one of the Grand Canyon parking lots and get a shuttle bus.  I chose the Backcountry information center as a starting point because there is a nice big parking lot where you can park all day for free, and it's a close walk back from the Bright Angel trailhead at the end of the day.  It's also where the hikers express shuttle bus originates.  I took the 8am bus, but, depending on the time of year, you can get it earlier, or later.  There're no fees for a day hike, or the shuttle bus, it's included in the $25 seven day pass you buy at the gate.  The entire hike is close to 18 miles (29k).

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This gives you an idea about where the trails are and where they lead.

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This is the South Kaibab trailhead, elevation 7200ft (2195m).  On my visit there were about half a bus load of hikers that left the Backcountry office at 8am.  It gets bunched up in the beginning of the hike, but it thins out quick.

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You start descending right off the bat, and begin one of many switchbacks, especially near the top on both trails.  I'm out of the gate at 8:28am

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As you can see, the view opens up fast, and stays open nearly the whole trip down.

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This is what I mean about getting "bunched" up.  I had to yell at these people to get out of my way.  You can't really see it here, but there's a Park Ranger farther down ready to give a speech about the canyon etc.  We're now about half a mile down.

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This is the point where the view starts to get spectacular.  There's also a nice red/orange tint to the soil to make it interesting.  It was hazy in the morning, but it cleared off a couple hours later.

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This is the basic view for the next hour.  I think the wind and haze helped the colors out this morning.

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I like the last shot and this one the best.  As you can see, there're still a few people to meet on the trail.

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That's O'neill Butte sticking out to the right.  You pass around it on the way down.  It was named after the the famous Buckey O'Neill, a bold individual and lover of the Canyon.  While serving in the Spanish-American war, Buckey was shot in the head and died instantly after declaring "the Spanish haven't made a bullet that will get me."  It really says that in the South Kaibab trail guide book I bought.

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This is Cedar Ridge.  I didn't see any Cedar trees around, maybe Juniper.  There is no water here, but you can tie up your mule is you want.

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Here's the commode if you need it.  Also note the thermometer on the other side of the shed.  This day it read 50° (10° Celsius).  So far, we've come 1.5 miles (2.4k) in 32 minutes and descended 1200ft (366m).

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A nice well-groomed trail heading towards Skeleton Point!

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Skeleton Point is 5200ft (1585m) in elevation, so we're down 2000ft (610m) from the rim.  We still have about 3.4 miles (5.5k) to go before crossing the bridge at the river.  Skeleton Point is so named because pack mules occasionally fall off the cliff from switchbacks below this point, and bones are visible from time to time.  Again, I'm not making this up, it's in the Trail guide book!

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More switchbacks, but nicely groomed.  I think this is called the "red and whites" section, referring to the limestone walls.

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This is the Wrangler.  When you meet up with the mules, you're supposed to go to the inside of the trail, stay quiet, and obey the Wranglers orders!  The mules scare easily and disaster will ensue.

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We're now on the Tonto platform, were we meet true desert conditions.  The area in the distance is called the Tipoff, here you can relieve yourself, or make an emergency phone call.  There is no water.  This is also the intersection of the South Kaibab trail and the 95 mile (153k) Tonto trail.  Indian Garden is 4.6 miles to the left, or west.

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After we leave the Tipoff, we start to descend into the deep granite gorge, 1600ft (488m) below.

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This is the first view you get of the river.  The green trees in the background are from the Bright Angel creek and campground.

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The next several shots show my favorite section of the hike.  It was like some of the Mars Rover pictures.

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Hikers traveling along the ridge-line.

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The first good view of the Colorado river.

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More crazy colored soil, it makes a mess of your socks and sneakers.

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This time of year and at this elevation, you'll see a lot of yellow Brittlebush flowers.

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I let these people mosey along in front of me for a while because I wanted to show some scale in the pictures.

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Here's a 504mm telephoto shot of Phantom ranch/Bright Angel campground, you can see the north bridge over Bright Angel creek.

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I think this is Panorama Point.  I also think it's pretty much a panorama all the way down.

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Here's a full telephoto of the Black Kaibab Bridge, or Black bridge.  It's not as close as it looks here.

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You'll see a lot of choppers in the air.  You can take a ride in one if you have some spare cash burning a hole in your pocket.

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It's steep going down to the bridge, with endless switchbacks.

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This image shows the layout of the campsites and Phantom Ranch in relation to the Kaibab bridge.

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This is a telephoto shot of Bright Angel campground and lower Phantom Ranch.  You can also pick out the Silver suspension bridge over the river.  We'll be crossing over on this one to go up Bright Angel trail, but the trail there is actually called the River trail.  There's also a chopper landing pad close to the building by the river in case you can't make it up.

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If you don't want to cross over the river, just take the river trail, to the left, it'll meet up with the Bright Angel trail and save you a mile or two maybe.

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Now we're close to the bridge and our descent is nearly complete.

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You go through a tunnel to get to the bridge, maybe 50ft (18m) long or so.  The cable anchors are above.  The bridge is 440ft (134m) long.  Each of the 8 main cables is 550ft (168m) long, and had to be carried down the trail on the shoulders of men.  This bridge was built in 1928.

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This is your view as you come out of the tunnel.  This is also the bridge the mules cross, as the Silver bridge doesn't have a solid bottom and is only for human foot traffic.

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This is looking back to where we entered.  There's no tunnel on this side.  When I actually started across the bridge, the wind was blowing like crazy, and some people behind me were having trouble crossing, so I turned around to take a picture (with my Olympus SP-550) as they were holding on for dear life, and wouldn't you know my camera batteries died at that very moment, and I couldn't even get the lens to extend in so I could put it in my waist pack.  I had to hold on to my hat and camera as I stumbled along to the other side.  Next time,  I'll check my batteries before I try for a shot of a lifetime.  I had my little Panasonic FX100 in my backpack, but I wasn't about to fetch it 'till I got to solid ground.  The reason I was holding on to my hat was so it wouldn't fly off in the Colorado river and be gone.  Without it, out in the sun, the top of my head would look like beef jerky by the end of the day. 

It took me 2:29 minutes to get to the bridge, 6.3 miles (10.1k) with no breaks, and I probably used a quart (litre) of water.  Keep in mind the temperature was nice and cool, and I was descending; going up will be different!