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In the third part of this diary I will attempt to share something of what it's like hiking out of the canyon via the River and Bright Angel Trails. The photographs were all taken by me.  They have been altered from the originals in size only.

     Looking up to the South Rim from below on Bright Angel Trail

After spending two nights on the bottom of the canyon at the Bright Angel Campground near Phantom Ranch you might not want to leave. However the back country permit system allows only that many nights and you'll need to move on. I like to get up before sunrise have breakfast and pack up by headlamp. The mule wranglers will be getting the mules up for breakfast on the other side of the creek. You'll see the lights on over there in the barn by the corral. Starting the hike out at or before first light keeps you out of the direct sun for much of the trip.

     Deer and Mule encounter at Phantom

Hike on past the big orange rock if you want to see more.

It's around 9 miles and 4500 feet in elevation gain hiking out on these trails.
Hiking out from the bottom of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail offers an opportunity to spread your trip out over two days by camping at Indian Gardens.
I prefer the two day option for this trip. That 40 pound pack gets heavy after a while.
As you leave the Bright Angel Campground area on your way to cross the silver bridge you pass by the old NPS corral and barn.
This facility is not used much these days as the mule rides and supply runs have been "privatized" to the company that runs the phantom ranch and other hotels in the park.
The helicopter only comes down for medical emergencies or transport of VIP's.
The employees hike in and out.

     Helicopter Pad and Mule Corral by Silver Bridge

     On Silver Bridge Looking Back Towards Bright Angel Campground

The next five photos are from the River Trail between the Silver Bridge and the Bright Angel Trail. In this first one you can see an exposed section of the pipe line that brings water from Roaring Springs over on the North Side across the silver bridge and up to the South Rim.


     Looking back upstream at the Silver Bridge




When you reach the Bright Angel Trail you will see the River Rest House.

They built a new bathroom near the rest house in 2009.

The next six photos are from the Bright Angel Trail between the river and Indian Gardens Campground.


     This photo is part of some switchbacks called The Devil's Corkscrew



It feels really good when you arrive at Indian Gardens Campground.


buck at ig

My favorite camp site at Indian Gardens. I prefer to use a four season tent in the canyon due to possible high winds. One morning after a really windy night in a three season tent at Indian Gardens I woke up with about 1/2 inch of sand in my tent and gritty eye balls.

The tradition when camping at Indian Gardens is to take the short ( 1.5 mile ) hike out to Plateau Point for sunset.


You cross the Tonto Trail on your way there.



The views are incredible.

     Bright Angel Trail you came up

     Looking upstream

     Looking downstream

I have spent a few sunsets alone at Plateau Point. You might get a visit from some California Condors if not too many people are around.


Here are some photos from an evening when I was the only human there to wait for sunset.





When you are headed back to Indian Gardens you might see some deer on the trail.
deer                    _on_way_back

The hike out from Indian Gardens Campground to the South Rim is when the real climb happens. It is 5 miles with 3000 feet of elevation gain. That qualifies as very strenuous. I do not have as many photos from this part due to leaving in the pre dawn darkness and head down trudging to get up the hill. Here are some shots.


     Looking back to Indian Gardens in the pre-dawn light

    Looking back to Plateau Point at sunrise

You might see trail repair crews working at any time.

This photo shows the rock layers well.

A short way past the two mile marker sign above the trail there is this large rock with Pictographs.


Mule riders by the 1.5 mile rest house.

When you get closer to the rim you might see a Mountain Goat Kid bighorn sheep.

Remember the Mom will be nearby.


When you see the second tunnel your within 15 minutes of the top.

When you make it back out of the canyon after 4 days of solitude and nature's beauty you can receive a shock from the concentration of tourists on the south rim near Bright Angel Lodge. They might even walk between you and your camera set on timer.

The hot shower waiting for you at Mather Campground is going to feel really good.
Get extra quarters for removing that four day patina you've built up.
I hope you enjoyed my photo diary. These images do not truly capture what it's like to hike these trails. Thanks for looking.

Originally posted to jbob on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks, Backyard Science, J Town, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Pink Clubhouse.

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