Very early Saturday morning, as the mercury plummets to below 20 degrees F, Todd and I pull into Mather Campground after a very long drive from Las Vegas, post AAOS. The frozen ground crackles under our feet as we step out of the car. Brad had arrived several hours ago, and Corey, Rob, and Seth just turned in a little before we did. Under the glow of headlamps, we pitch our two-man tent and quickly fall asleep.
Before sunrise that same morning, I get up first. The rest of the crew comes out of the tent, one by one. After sharing some bagels and cream cheese, most of us wash it down with soymilk. Rushing to the Backcountry Office, we arrive just a little ahead of the non-stop bus that is to take us to our trailhead. At the South Kaibab trailhead, under blue skies, the winds bite through the layers of clothing. We quickly descend below the Grand Canyon rim to escape. Mule droppings blanket the ice and snow layers during the first part of the hike, and it gives us some traction as well. During the hike down the numerous switchbacks, we sometimes catch glimpses of the opaque green Colorado River. At the river’s edge, we cross over to the north side on a suspension bridge. We set up camp right next to the Bright Angel Creek in a site that is more developed than I had thought it would be.
The temperature is pleasant at the river. Going to bed early, I wake up before dawn and hike to the river for solitude and photography. The river, which was greenish the day before, churns like light chocolate milk. Returning to the campsite, I join the rest in a breakfast of scrambled eggs with tortillas. We hike out through a level area along the shore before starting the grueling ascent to Indian Garden. With persistence, we climb out of the canyon by mid-afternoon. Corey, Rob, and Seth drive home that evening. Brad, Todd, and I go back to Mather Campground and set up the tent. After the pay-showers, we take in the sunset and spectacular views from Yavapai Point. We then drive to El Tovar to treat ourselves to a well-deserved dinner.
Sunrise this morning is rather bland, with very little clouds to add interest to the monotonous sky. Nevertheless, we get some good pictures of the canyon. Our Phantom Ranch Bright Angel campground is easily seen from the Yavapai vantage point. After packing up, we drive to Williams and again treat ourselves to a nice meal at Denny’s. Here, Brad parts ways with Todd and me. The rest of the drive home is uneventful, except for the incessant nagging of sore thighs and calves.