The Great Southwest Trip 2017

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Thursday, September 14

And now it's time to go back up out of the canyon, riding the same mules we came down on. Normally, the trip back up would be by way of the South Kaibab Trail, which connects to the Bright Angel Trail about half a mile before we reached the Black Bridge the day before; it's steeper and shorter, and ends up at the rim about two miles east of the Village, but there would have been transportation for us back to where we started. But at this moment in time (and for a few weeks previously) the South Kaibab had been closed to mules and horses, and was for hikers only while the Parks Service did trail restoration; that meant that we were going back up the Bright Angel Trail, the same way we had come down. We were leaving at 7 am, and had to have our tiny bags of stuff at the corral at 6:25, breakfast at 6:30, and we left at 7.

Food at the Ranch was delicious, by the way. And they had lots of food that vegetarian Candy could eat (even though the dinners are steak, and there are lots of sausages and bacon for breakfast. Noms!)

They also reversed the order we rode in on the way up, so Chelsea was in front, I was fourth, and Candy was behind me. This means there are lots of pictures of my back and Dudley's rump!

The mules are ready to go...and Candy is on Blackburn. You can see how early it is from the third picture; we got up in the dark, and the sun is barely touching the canyon rim as we leave.
And we're on our way! The morning is beautiful, and we can see the Black Bridge ahead of us.
We stopped by the river, just before crossing the bridge, and Simon told us about the Native American ruins there; there were a couple of kivas built of local stone that were still partially there.

I also got a picture of Dudley's ears, Candy, and the row of mules.

Candy got two pics of me going into the tunnel and then crossing the Black Bridge.
Stopped in a row again, and Candy is stylin' on Blackburn. The second picture is the Devil's Corkscrew, which we have just come up.
And now we are halfway up the trail. We're at Indian Wells, and it's HOT. We stop and have 'lunch', which was just bagels and creamed cheese; after the sumptuous lunch of the day before, I was nonplussed, but whatever. I had been eating trail mix all morning, and I rescued yesterday's Fritos out of the hiker box and ate them. Had absolutely no problems with heat/dizziness, so yay. We all got our shirts sopping wet before leaving Indian Wells, and they were dry within half an hour.
Heading toward the cliffs, which, yes, we are indeed going up there. Notice the blue sky and sun and clouds?

Looking back the way we had come.

I guess we should have expected this, but it was nice; they stopped us and took every group (two pairs, a single and a foursome) and took pictures of us with each of our cameras.
I don't remember the name of the woman in the blue shirt ahead of me, but she was riding Maude, and they were carrying the mail! You could buy postcards at Phantom Ranch that were stamped, Delivered by Mule, and they load the (small) bag of mail onto a mule every day for the trip up to the rim. I mailed a couple, it was nice to see them there ahead of me...!
And then...the heavens opened and it RAINED. And lightninged. And thundered. One minute we were all hot in the sun, the next it was raining gently. Chelsea stopped the group. Do you guys want to put your raincoats on? she asked. Nah, we all said, it's not much rain and it feels good, let's just go.

And the rain stopped after about ten minutes.

And then the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and it POURED. She stopped us again and we had our yellow raincoats on in record time. And my camera (which had already gotten wet at Phantom Ranch) went into a ziplock except for about two pictures.

The lightning and thunder started with the downpour, and I counted the time for the thunder after the lightning got closer and closer to the rim, about 1/4 mile away, then jumped OVER us to Phantom Ranch. It was AMAZING!!!

And you can see in the bottom three pictures: the storm moving down the canyon: the trail (which, although it doesn't show in the pictures, has a stream of water running down it); and then where the storm has mostly passed and the canyon is clear, although it's still in the distance at Phantom Ranch.

And Simon and Chelsea each have a string of mules, and off they go back to the Mule Barn, to a well-earned rubdown and rest. Thank you, Dudley and Blackburn!
And we each got a Muleskinner certificate!

And one more view of the storm in the canyon, it was quite a sight. After that, it blew out and the rest of the day on the rim was lovely.

And what was Douglas doing all this time? He had gotten the same room in the Maswik that we stayed in the night before and after the mule ride; he spent the day hiking and reading and had (according to him) a very good time.

But we got back at 12:15...and, even though I had asked him to be there waiting for us at noon, he was nowhere to be seen. After we got all our stuff off the mules, got down, walked around, and Candy and Linda (the woman we had met on the ride and bonded with) and I had gone off to one side to help Linda get her slightly-too-tight boots off, it was 12:45...and Doug was STILL nowhere to be seen. So Candy, Linda and I went to the Bright Angel bar and had a drink together, and came back an hour later to find him. He had been waiting nearly an hour, must have gotten there right after we left. Someone at the travel desk told him that we wouldn't be back before 1 pm, and he believed them instead of me...oh well.

And the first thing I said to him? You made the right decision, you would have hated that whole trip. And he would have.

A cool sign over the Transportation Desk at the Bright Angel Lodge. A not-so-cool sign from the same place...oh my god. I am so glad we went down the day we did, and that probably explains why we only got bagels and creamed cheese for lunch on the way back, although breakfast was plentiful and delicious. The guy at the desk said this happens every now and then, the water pipes are old and break, and it takes a day or two to get them fixed. I was bemused by these signs. If you are so bereft of English language and western culture to want to drink from a toilet, will these signs make any sense to you?
After we went back to our rooms and changed and relaxed a bit, we went off to try and hike to Shoshone Point, which was something Candy had read about when she researched the Grand Canyon. We started by taking the bus to Yaki Point, which is where this picture was taken. Then we cut across country to a trail/road that is also a mule trail, through a burned section of trees, to where we could actually see Shoshone Point but not get to it...the ranger I talked to the next day says you can't get there by foot, you have to drive past Yaki Point about 5 miles, then up a dirt road, then park and hike a mile or so. But it was a nice hike, about 5 miles total. We met up with a Dutch couple trying to do the same thing; for all we know, they're still looking for it...

Apricot Mallow

Some kind of mullein



Doug on the bus on the way home, and the memorabilia from the original Harvey House, which is where we went to dinner. Below are some of the decorative bits from the Bright Angel Lodge. And we slept the sleep of the tired but happy travelers that night.