The most anticipated day of the year had finally arrived! After lots of research and discussions with the ranger, we opted to hit the trail from the north rim at 4am, while it was still dark.
Day 1 would take us 14 miles down a 6000 foot elevation drop on the North Kaibab trail to Phantom Ranch, with an additional 1 mile detour to see Ribbon Falls. While we were sad to miss the views for the first couple miles, we were so glad we hit the trail when we did. June temperatures in the canyon are no joke. While we were freezing up top early on without our long sleeves, we knew the discomfort would be worth it in the end because for the next 48 hours, we would not think about sweatshirts again. The Hoffpack and Hamiltons, equipped with headlamps and small backpacks (mainly loaded up with water) steadily made our descent down the canyon.
It was everything we had hoped for, with beautiful orange rock walls and gradually declining, well maintained trails and bridges.
We stopped to take several pictures, refill water and take as needed bathroom breaks at Roaring Springs and Cottonwood,
but were conscious of an effort to keep moving with time as our enemy.
Just as the canyon shade started to disappear around 8am, we made a stop at the not to be missed hidden oasis in the desert, the 100 foot Ribbon Falls. Moss covered and rich in minerals, Ribbon Falls is a dream come true… there is truly nothing like it!
The kids were thrilled to discover the cave under the refreshing waterfall, and loved adventuring behind and above the mystical falls.
Our dip in the ice cold water was a crucial cool-down break before entering the most grueling part of the hike inside the infamous scorching box. Thankfully, much of the last portion of the trail was along the Bright Angel Creek, so as you heat up, you can quickly cool your body temperatures down with a dip in the creek.
As the day time temperatures continued to rise, we forged ahead, arriving at last at Phantom Ranch around 11am. We were so thankful to be off the trail and into the welcoming air conditioned canteen after 7 hours on the trail.
Thankfully, our 4 man cabins were available upon arrival, so the first thing we did was take off our boots and relax inside our wonderfully air-conditioned cabins. This is a luxury we don’t often afford ourselves, but because we were taking our 5 children (ages 6 through 13) on this difficult trail during one of the hottest months in the canyon, we pulled out any stop we could to make it easier. We opted to spend 2 nights down at Phantom Ranch to allow for a quick recovery day for all the kids. Breakfast and dinners would be spent eating like kings… steak and stew for dinner, and delicious pancakes and eggs in the morning.
As soon as we cooled our bodies down enough to brave the blistering heat, we trudged across the Ranch grounds to the Bright Angel campground, where my cousins had reportedly parked it after spending the morning helping a volunteer ranger dismantle a dam.
We found them in the only inhabitable place in the campground- the Bright Angel Creek. At last, the 19 of us were all together. We never thought it would all come together, but it did in an amazing way! We spent hours just sitting in the creek, which is really the only thing to do without being inside the canteen or air conditioned cabins in June at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
The shade thermometer measured 118, while the sun temps topped out the thermometer at 140.
Once we had finally cooled off, we took a walk over to the Colorado River.
Just this short walk mid-day was difficult in the stifling heat. After another dip in the creek, we headed back to Phantom Ranch to get ready for dinner, another luxury we weren’t accustomed to… steak dinner at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I’m not sure steak ever tasted so delicious. Our group was split for dinner,
as steak is served at a different time than steak, but we all recollected after dinner for games, stories, and more fun together on our only overlapping night in the canyon.
Once again, we were struck by how great these kids are, and were so proud of accomplishing this great feat together. These memories would surely last a lifetime.
The Mattsons didn’t get much sleep that night, and left early for their trip half way up Bright Angel to Indian Garden. We “slept in” until our “late” breakfast at 6:30am. Afterwards, the staff let the kids feed all the resident mules.
From there, we walked out to the tunnel off the South Kaibab Trail to greet hikers as they arrived.
Some were quite surprised to arrive to a big group of kids singing the Macarena and welcoming them with a human tunnel. A guided group asked if we were a youth camp!
After another swim in the Colorado,
we headed back to the canteen for an afternoon of games, post card writing, and games.
It was so hot by late morning, we baked leftover potatoes on the picnic table.
After an afternoon dip in the creek,
we were able to take showers in the bathhouse, a luxury we don’t often have in most campgrounds, let alone at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The ranger at Phantom Ranch is amazing, and we all sat at the edge of our seats as during his talk about the most dangerous creatures in the Grand Canyon.
Our stew dinner was delicious,
and we continued our evening with the energetic ranger, earning Jr Ranger badges from Phantom Ranch,
hearing about the biggest human mistakes within the GC, and then taking a wild scorpion walk with black lights. We never would have guessed how many scorpions reside at the ranch!
We went to bet early in preparation for our big hike out of the canyon the next morning.
We attempted to cancel our 5am breakfast, but were too late to get a refund, but the hike out was less of a concern temperature-wise than the way down. As we went up the canyon, the temperatures would continue to drop (or at least stay steady with the rising sun).
We were fortunate to see several bighorn sheep along the river.
The kids were thrilled to see our mule friends heading down as we were heading up.
We can never escape the college antics from Brian and Chuck.
The kids were once again totally impressive. Ethan carried the majority of our gear.
The girls were so proud to have done it, and continue to announce to friends that hiking the Grand Canyon was the highlight of the summer.
We were some of the lucky ones, and were able to watch the California condors at one of our water stops.
The way up was very difficult for the last couple miles, but the 9.3 mile Bright Angel Trail was pleasant and quick, taking only 5 hours with plenty or rest stops. The crew was relieved to make it to the top and so very proud of our big accomplishment! (travel dates 6/23-6/25)