In L.A. we stayed with Jim’s friends and then drove through the night to Las Vegas, NV – this photo is from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon as we started down the Bright Angel trail on a whim.
We slept for two hours on the lawn of a casino after our arrival at dawn in Vegas, until the automatic sprinklers woke us up; then we went inside and quickly lost the $20.00 limit we set for ourselves – in this picture we’ve begun our trip down into the Grand Canyon.
After Vegas we drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we just decided to hike to the bottom the next morning; a pretty stupid idea actually, as we had done no planning and lacked any equipment – in this photo we’re on our way down the trail.
We set out down the Bright Angel trail just after daybreak from the South Rim, wearing t-shirts, shorts, our hats and boots/shoes – with a water bottle each…don’t try this yourselves unless you know what you’re doing and arrive prepared.
Down, down, down we went into the Grand Canyon, descending ridges upon ridges like a multi-tiered wedding cake – full of enthusiasm, little caution and no preparation.
We were wearing only t-shirts and shorts, I had my cowboy hat and good boots, Jim had a baseball hat and tennis shoes and each of us had a water bottle…that’s it – and no one knew we were going into the canyon.
If a single ridge is say 500′ high, then there are over 9 ridges to descend through prior to reaching the bottom of the Grand Canyon – and 9 ridges to climb up to get out when you’re tired – it’s like a trap…easy on the way down and really hard to get out of.
We didn’t think about that at the time and had a great time on the way down – here I stand at an overlook on the way down, full of enthusiasm.
Another hiker was sitting there taking in the beautiful view; and somewhere down in the vast black hole behind me, is the Colorado River.
This cropped photo starts to show you the scale of the Grand Canyon itself; all distances in the canyon are deceiving because there is nothing to give you a scale or frame of reference to gauge distances.
The sun angle as it moves across the sky constantly changes the visual perspective of everything in the Grand Canyon; you can’t ever recognize where you’ve been by simply looking over your shoulder.
Springtime in the Grand Canyon was hot, hot, hot…I was at least still fit from moving boxes in Electricraft’s warehouse every day – but Jim was a salesman and not very used to daily physical activity.
There was no end in sight on the way down, and the Colorado River was nowhere to be seen – not even from a ridgeline; you can see the trail in the distance as it winds its way down into the canyon.
The landscape changed the deeper you went into the Grand Canyon, and it was “eerie” knowing how deep into the Earth you were descending without any frame of reference as to where you were.
The Bright Angel trail Is about 10 miles from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River, including all of the extra steps along the way taking side trips from the trail.
Finally we reached the Colorado River, where it surprises you at last – and at the bottom the sunsine is brilliant at high noon…but you still haven’t reached Phantom Ranch yet.
Phantom Ranch was still a mile or so down the river, and I decided to have Jim take my picture at the Phantom Ranch sign to prove that we made it this far.
We were hot and tired but physically fine, and rested at the bottom for an hour and drank a lot of water to rehydrate…and then we started back up the trail again.
Looking up gives you an entirely different perspective of the Grand Canyon, and without any references it was more than a little troubling not knowing how far you have left to go – all uphill – to get out.
I felt a blister on my heel the minute we started up hill at an 18% grade…my boots were very heavy and more suitable for Mt. Everest than the Grand Canyon.
Besides being very heavy, my boots weren’t flexible in the least – but it was during the “Seventies” after all that we had this adventure.
The sun began to set while we were still deep in the Grand Canyon – and Jim developed a severe case of heat stroke.
He was literally freezing in the shade in 100 degree weather, was mentally confused, vomiting, cramping up and wanted to give up and lie down on the trail and stop walking.
We were all alone – no other hikers were around; and I had to figure out how to get Jim out of the Grand Canyon alive as time was running out for us.
We rested, I gave him my water, I encouraged him, I demanded that he go another 100 yards…anything to try to motivate him to keep going; I even carried him for 100′ as a reality check to bring him to his senses…and he was 6′ to my 5’6″.
We finally made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon under the stars – and literally lay there 10′ from the edge for an hour to recover before going back to the motel – luckily Jim was fine the next day…thankfully!