I first have to tell you a little about the amazing company I work for, Donan Engineering. I took part in a Get Fit program earlier this year offered by my employer. The program worked like this:
(1) set a goal – mine was to hike, run, walk a total of 400 miles in six months
(2) use the Nike+ and iPod (both provided by Donan) to track the mileage – easier said than done at times, technology is so challenging!
(3) meet set goal in six months – made it!
The reward was keeping the equipment and getting your name thrown in a pot for a chance to be one of eight spots on a trip to hike into the Grand Canyon with the boss and a coworker, who would lead the trip. Yes, I am totally serious here. A rewards trip for getting fit!
When it was all said and done, I had a spot on this trip to hike the Grand Canyon! What a thrill.
I most looked forward to meeting coworkers for the first time and getting to share this experience with them. Donan has about 25 offices spread throughout the midwest, so needless to say, I do not know everyone. Spending three days with 11 other Donan employees would create bonds and camaraderie.
The plan was to hike into the canyon via the South Kaibab Trail, stay the night at Phantom Ranch and then hike out of the canyon the next day via Bright Angel Trail. I would then extend the trip and drive to Colorado to hike my third 14er, and my first solo 14er, San Luis Peak in the San Juan Mountains.
Our descent started at 6:30 a.m. at about 7,200 feet on the South Kaibab trailhead, about 7 miles and 4,654 feet above Phantom Ranch. The trail is full of switchbacks and amazing views.
Still smiling on the way down and taking in God’s glorious creation
First view of the Colorado River
I realized just how big the Grand Canyon is when it took 3 miles, and a descent of 2,040 feet, before the Colorado River was first spotted.
We had a triathlete amongst us. He decided to run part of the trail. Can you find him in the above photo? I promise he is there. Look way down the trail.
We were getting close to Phantom Ranch when we crossed the Kaibab Suspension Bridge over the Colorado River. Phantom Ranch is only about a mile away from the bridge with a sizzling hot afternoon for us. In the sun, a thermometer read 139 degrees! If I remember correctly the thermometer read 115ish in the shade. We spent the afternoon sitting in a creek, in the shade, watching the canyon wildlife. It was a perfect way to pass the time on an otherwise insanely hot afternoon. This dip in the creek also served as our showers due to a pipe break the day before we reached Phantom Ranch, resulting in limited water usage.
Home for the night
I spent the night in a bunk house with other ladies. Pretty nice accommodations for where we were.
The following morning we got started a bit earlier, around 5:30, in order to hike the 10 miles out of the canyon. We crossed the Colorado River immediately and then walked on sand, like a beach, for a ways before heading up up up.
Silver Bridge with Kaibab Suspension Bridge in the background
The beach in the canyon!
One of the pleasant surprises of the Bright Angel Trail is that we were shaded for a huge part of the hike. It was such a blessing. Another pleasant surprise was that we hiked along a stream for miles. The gurgling stream added a nice touch to the challenging hike.
Mules travel the Bright Angel Trail and we encountered a couple mule trains. Those guys work hard to take supplies down to Phantom Ranch and bring out mail and garbage. Thank you mules for the delicious dinner last night.
Waiting at the top for the rest of the group
As members of our group finished, we gathered at the top to greet others as they finished. It was such a high to make it out of the canyon and have others to celebrate with. Overall, the hike was not quite as hard as I imagined, but way more beautiful. Something I will never forget. The shared experience allows for a unique bond with coworkers that is so cherished.
This next stage of the trip I experienced alone. I drove to Creede, CO to camp the night. Let’s just say God was present during this part of the trip, assisting and guiding me.
I camped as close to the trialhead as my little rental car could get me, when I actually found it. It was a chilly night and I started the hike with all the cool weather clothes I had with me, including socks on my hands as make-shift gloves! I was not alone on the trail. I encountered several hikers at opportune times and had a blast watching San Luis get closer and closer, all the while soaking up the scenery of the mountains, ridges, basins and patches of trees.
After enjoying most of the hike, I got up to the saddle and things turned vertical and tough. The Grand Canyon hike did not prepare me for straight up at 13,000+ feet. I was sucking wind, briefly wondered why I like conquering mountains so much, then I made it to the top and I remembered – the views and sense of accomplishment!
A large portion of the trail to San Luis Peak ran along the Colorado Trail (CT), which starts in Denver and ends in Durango, 483 miles away. Apparently, it is a popular trail to hike in the summer months. I ran into several conversation starved hikers on their way to Durango from Denver. I think I had a conversation with every hiker I encountered.
As a matter of fact, the gentleman who snapped this shot of me was hiking the CT. He is from Nashville, TN. So us easterners hiked together for a while.
I took more time on the way back down to look at flowers and try to see wildlife. I knew I wanted to ascend the peak as early as possible to avoid any weather hazards. The day turned out perfect for hiking and so the hike back down was quite enjoyable. There is so much variety in the mountain flowers. As far as wildlife goes, I saw so many pikas, no marmots though. I ended at the rental car 7.5 hours and 13 miles after I started, with tired legs and a huge sense of accomplishment.