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Happy Campers - October 13 - 19, 1996 - Debbie and Laura

October 13 - 19, 1996
Debbie and Laura
North Kaibab and Clear Creek Trails

- Day 1 -

Early breakfast at the lodge. Stop at the Ranger Station and spoke with Ranger Rick. Decided to forgo the Ken Patrick Trail to Roaring Springs and kept with our original North Kaibab Trailhead start. Enjoyed our descent with excitement of being back in the canyon. Lunch at RoaringSprings. Four leisure hours to Cottonwood were we enjoyed our first night under thousands of stars. In our minds we questioned the sanity of the rim to rim runners we encountered that day. Seemed to us that they were missing the essence of this "grand place".

- Day 2 -

Left Cottonwood and headed to Ribbon Falls for mid-morning rest and snack. A beautiful place. Hiked up behind the Falls and back down and up the opposite side to sit and contemplate for an hour or so. Our feet were sore from the down, down of day one and our leg muscles were trying to adjust to the physical activity difference of running and tennis to backpacking. Muscles fared better then the feet! Hiking along the Bright Angel Creek was peaceful and pleasant, again a leisure 4 hours. A soak in the creek when we reached Bright Angel Campground was heaven. It was fun to again see a campground from our previous trip even though it is a busy place. We met a couple from Seattle who we enjoyed chatting with as we sat along the Colorado River late in the day. We listened to the evening ranger talk and watched the many bats in the sky.

- Day 3 -

In retrospect we would have started this day differently. We leisurely had breakfast and broke down camp arriving at the trailhead at 9:00am. This later than average hiking start time caused us to spend many hours in the hot sun while on the Clear Creek Trail. The weather was unseasonable warm. The trail has few places to rest which are in the shade and we were drinking plenty of water (of which we had just five quarts between us). We underestimated our water as we should have had a gallon apiece. We were slow due to blisters on feet from day one. Needless to say the day became very long under the circumstances. Six hours into our hike we were ready to be "there" but didn't know how much further "there" was. We did not expect to see anyone coming from Clear Creek at that point in the day as it was late afternoon and Bright Angel was a ways behind us. However, around the next bend (of which there seemed to be many) came a party of five heading to Sumner Butte for the night. They had just spent four days at Clear Creek and informed us that we would be the only ones at a spot they referred to as an "oasis". They said we had about an hour left until descent in the creek bed and generously offered some water having somehow known to ask us how we were on water. Although we could have made it with what we had it was reassuring to have some extra and more so to know how much furter we needed to travel. God works in mysterious ways and somehow the Canyon makes this vivdly clear. We made it to the oasis but took eight long, slow hours to get there. To pooped to heat up a meal, although in need of one, we snacked and went to sleep.

- Day 4 -

The next morning, with a full day ahead of us, was delighful. Regretably, we did not travel far from camp but instead used this day as a day of rest and body recovery. It was bittersweet, as we wanted to explore but we also wanted down time. We did not get to use the rope [to get past the falls on the way to the river], nor to explore the ruins. We did enjoy the solitude and beauty of this trail off the beaten path. We also gave thought to the return journey and decided to get up before the sun and take the proper amount of water. I question whether Clear Creek should be talked of as a day trip. Personally I feel that anyone with the gusto to do it in a day would be teased to have to turn around after a look-see. Even spending the night to return the next day seems a tease. A minimum of two nights is my opinion. Anyone only used to corridor trails would be crazy to attempt Clear Creek as a day hike.

- Day 5 -

This is referred to as our "patriotic day". Having left camp with plenty of water and before the sunrise, we were well on our way toward Bright Angel when dawn came over the mountains. It was very befitting to sing songs about our country and its wonders, particularly the wonder of the "Grand Canyon". An early, fresh start to this trail, with spirits high, was quite the opposite of our hike in. Before I expected it I rounded a turn to sight the Colorado River and the suspension bridge. An hour and a half later we were at the Phantom Ranch Canteen where we drank cold beer, it was barely noontime and the whole day was still ahead of us. That time of day is relatively quiet as the mule trains and hikers have not yet arrived. A long, leisurely swim in the cool creek was delightful as was lounging at our campsite. Our feet were still sore and "Canyon toes" were evident. We decided to have the pressure under some of our nails released by a minor proceedure done by Ranger Pat. It was painless and helped to ease the discomfort. Thank goodness for second skin and moleskin. No hiker should be without. We made a few comments to Ranger Pat regarding the rim to rim runners of which there was an unofficial event that weekend. Unofficial because you are not allowed organized activities in a national park. How unofficial is the question as there were runners wearing "official" t-shirts. Anyway, Pat was direct with his comments that many of these runners needlessly waste tax payer dollars as they often need to stop by the first aid station at Phantom Ranch in need of assistance (free of charge). He quoted some as saying that they might not be doing this sort of thing if it wasn't for the first aid available at the Ranch. Running rim to rim is not my idea of a Grand Canyon experience, but to each his own. I would only suggest that these runners refer to some unwritten etiquette that states "he with backpack on, not he who is light on foot, should have the right of way".

- Day 6 -

Enjoyed the return trip to Cottonwoood from Bright Angel Campground. We encountered mule deer as well as runners. Body and feet feeling good. Good hike. Refreshing swim at Cottonwood. Quiet afternoon reflecting on most of our trip now behind us. Last night in the canyon cause for even more reflection. What a place this place is to think and think and think....

- Day 7 -

Last day is definitely bittersweet. A long, hot shower is not far from reach, but a journey enjoyed in planning and execution is almost over. Encouragement from day hikers that "you are almost there" was not necessarily met with a positive response. I did not necessarily find myself in a hurry to get "there" because I did not necessarily wish to leave "here". Met three nice hikers from Iowa as they finished their six day hike. Offered them a ride to the showers of which they were very grateful. Spent a quiet hour alone on the rim near the campground. Almost every emotion is wrapped up in this place known as the "Grand Canyon". That it stay with mewherever I go is my challenge. Laura and I enjoyed another dinner at Grand [Canyon] Lodge. Our journey now a memory.

- Day 8 -

Early to rise for return home. Decided to again take the longer route to St. George for another opportunity to pass through Zion - beautiful! Surrounded by people at airports, I try to keep the Canyon close and the masses at a distance, at least until I land in Boston and grow excited to see my family.

Debbie enjoys a soak in Bright Angel Creek
Debbie at the Ribbon Falls trail junction
Upper and lower Ribbon Falls
The inner gorge along the Clear Creek Trail
Another shot from the Clear Creek Trail
Laura climbing out on the North Kaibab Trail

* * * Text and images copyright © Debbie French, 1996 * * *

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