I divided day 4 of our trip and day 1 of our rim to rim hike into 2 posts because it was a long hike and I had hundreds of pictures. I originally planned to divide the post at Cottonwood Campground because that is the halfway point for the hike, but probably 80% of the pictures I took were from the North Rim to Roaring Springs, so I decided to divide the posts at Roaring Springs. See Part 1 of the day at: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 1: North Rim to Roaring Springs)
As you head from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch the surroundings make two significant changes. The first happens just before Roaring Springs. The steep canyon walls spread out and the trail is no longer right against the wall of the canyon. It is also drier with less vegetation, although there is actually a creek along the rest of the trail to Phantom Ranch.
The second change happens a few miles past Cottonwood Campground as you enter a long and winding slot canyon for most of the rest of the hike to Phantom Ranch (see the picture at the top of the post).
My least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail is between Roaring Springs and the start of the slot canyons. It is not as visually spectacular as the first part of the trail and for us it was also the hottest part of the hike. We started at the North Rim just before 6 am and got to Roaring Springs just before 10. Five miles in 4 hours is a pretty slow pace. We had definitely been camera happy hikers! We also spent way too much time at Roaring Springs. We did not leave Roaring Springs until around 11:30. I’m glad we took some time to look around as I’m unlikely to hike down that part of the trail again, but it cost us time and put us right in the hottest part of the day for this part of the trail!
A regular water stop is less than a mile past the turnoff for Roaring Springs at the Pump House residence.
We arrived there around noon and stayed for a snack and some Gatorade. The water was working when we got there but stopped working a couple of minutes later. There were some very disappointed people once the water went off. We had fully filled up at Roaring Springs so we knew we would be good for the rest of the hike if necessary. I also had a filter system we could use to get water from the creek if there were no other options. After a short break we got back on the trail.
Cottonwood Campground is less than 2 miles beyond this point. Although it is dry and my least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail there was still some interesting parts of the trail.
There is a small waterfalls on Bright Angel creek not too much further down the trail. I’ve taken pictures of it both times I’ve hiked the North Kaibab trail.
However, when you take a picture of this falls from the trail (above the falls) it does not show the true scale of the falls. It looks much smaller than it is in most pictures. I used a Google image search to find a a picture on another WordPress blog that shows the true scale of the falls and you can check out the whole post here.
A little further down the trail this overhang provided some shade…
but most of this part of the trail was in full sun and hot!
We ate lunch at Cottonwood Campgrounds.
The main watering point in the Campgrounds was not working, but there is a second watering point between the picnic area and the creek. We were able to top off our water containers there. There was a lot of air in the pipe though so the water looked cloudy for about 30 seconds after filling the containers, but eventually cleared up.
We also splashed creek water on our hats and shirts. The heat was taking a toll on all of us, but on my wife especially. Her face was red, and she was noticeably tired. We had trained in 90+ degree temperatures, but it was now well over 100. We spent about 30 minutes at Cottonwood and then hit the trail again. The trail starts to head uphill a little ways outside of the campgrounds. At this point Jenny said that she was feeling nauseous. I wanted to go back and cool off some more but she wanted to keep going. I agreed but let her know we would be finding some shade by the creek when we came back down the hill on the other side. By the time we got over the hill we were all overheated. After about 5 minutes by the creek Jenny wanted to get moving again. I think she wanted to get it over with. I wanted to be sure she was cooled off and safe. At this point in the day it was going to be getting cooler, not hotter as time went by. I suggested we wait at least 30 minutes, stay in the shade and splash lots of water on our clothing. I got a little bored and took this picture of a dragon-fly. I didn’t notice until a little later that my camera had accidentally been put in a mode that took pictures with a sepia tint!
We all felt much better after we cooled down. We were also only about a 30 minute hike to the entrance of the slot canyon part of the trail and the shade!
We arrived at this point around 4:00 PM. We still had about 3.5 miles to go, and we needed to be at Phantom Ranch by 6:30 for our stew dinner reservations! I was more than a little concerned. We didn’t have a back up plan for food! Jenny was feeling and looking much better. Not sure what got in to her, but as soon as we got to the shade, she just took off!
Every time I stopped for a picture I had to run to catch up! She was a woman on a mission! I did manage to get her to take one picture of us guys…
but then she took off again.
I was happy to see her back to normal, but didn’t want to blast right through this part of the trail without any pictures. There was one familiar place not too much further down the trail.
I took a couple of pictures at this point. One of the pictures was only about 5 feet before a place where my friend Dave took a picture of me in 2010.
I had to run after this point and caught the group at the first bridge in the slot canyons.
Although we were tired, the shade was helping and the trail was once again spectacular. My laryngitis had worsened and I was having a hard time even whispering, but that didn’t get in the way of my excitement to be here! As I approached the bridge I was starting to catch up, but paused long enough for this shot. The view was as invigorating as it is beautiful.
Just around the next corner a large overhang above the trail was equally inspiring.
The trail rose a little ways above Bright Angel Creek and I paused for another picture.
Although I wanted to catch up to share my excitement, I didn’t want to miss any good views, so I settled in to being behind the group for much of the rest of the hike. The trail crosses from one side of the canyon to the other on a series of bridges in this section of the trail.
It started to become more challenging to get good pictures as the shadows started to deepen on the walls of the canyon.
Some of the pictures, when the higher walls of the canyon were brighter than the walls below, needed a little help from Photoshop Elements to remove the shadows and reveal the details as we could see them. When this happens I usually make sure the bright parts of the picture are properly exposed because the pictures turn out much better. Removing the shadows turns out well, but it is not possible to recover the details from an overexposed part of the picture. As the shadows deepened, this is about as good as the camera could do.
But the details are not lost in the underexposed areas of the picture. Lightening the dark areas with Photoshop Elements reveals all the details we could see with our eyes.
I had warned everyone that although the slot canyons offered shade, a fairly level trail, and terrific scenery, it would seem to go on and on forever. I started playing a game in my mind trying to remember how and when it ended. If the canyon started to widen…
I would take that as a sign we were nearing the end. But then the walls would rise and narrow again!
I would try to remember at each bridge if it was the one “I remembered” to be the last bridge.
I started to realize that my memory of this part of the trail was not that good. Just when I started to think that it would go on forever, and that this bridge probably wasn’t the “last bridge”…
and that this widening of the canyon couldn’t be the one I remembered just before we got out of the slot canyon last time…
we finally turned that last turn in the slot canyon and emerged into a much wider part of the canyon! I knew this meant we would be seeing Phantom Ranch very soon. I was very glad when the Phantom Ranch sign just ahead on the trail confirmed to me that my memory had not failed me again.
We passed the dorms we would be sleeping in a few minutes later…
and headed right to the dinner room for our stew dinner! We dropped our gear and made it to our seats by 6:40, only ten minutes late. After a 15 mile hike (including the 1 mile detour to the Roaring Springs water stop) we were done for the day. I’ve never had a better tasting stew in my life. Jenny had two helpings! We shared stories with the other hikers at our tables, spent a little time talking about what to do after dinner to make sure we were settled in, and made a basic plan for the morning.
The dorms are segregated by sex so Jenny would be in a different dorm than us. We planned to meet at the picnic tables in front of the dining hall at 5:15 to have a quick breakfast, pack the bag lunches we had ordered for our day two lunch, and do any last-minute organizing of our packs.
After dinner we settled in to our dorms, put on some sandals and headed to Bright Angel creek to soak our feet. The last time we did the rim to rim hike we camped at the Bright Angel Creek Campgrounds right next to a great spot to soak in the cold water. It was later this time because we got in later and then dinner and settling in took even more time, but it still felt great!
My cousin Mike wasted no time getting in.
I was a little slower and more tentative, but decided to just have a seat in the water!
It felt great on my feet and legs.
I had a nice view up Bright Angel Creek to the bridge…
and the view in the other direction was pretty cool too.
Jenny and Sean soaked their feet on the banks of the creek.
After about 20 minutes everyone else was ready to go, I could have sat there for much longer! But it was time to head back to the bunk houses, take hot showers, get somewhat organized for the morning, and then get some sleep. The dorms have evaporative cooling systems, so it was nice and cool all night long. It took a few minutes to go to sleep, but once I was out slept very well until the alarm went off at 4:30 am!
On Day 1 we had hiked from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab trail. We walked 15 miles, dropped 5800 feet in elevation, and experienced a 50+ degree increase in temperature. Day 2 would be the hike out on the Bright Angel trail. The trail covers 9 miles and a 4400 foot increase in elevation.
Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 5-6 – Phantom Ranch to the South Rim)
List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)