Here is a map of the hike for day 2. It’s basically a straight line down from Cottonwood to the Phantom Ranch at the Colorado River. The second half of the hike goes through what they call “the Box” which is a section of steep canyon walls.
We hiked for 7.88 miles and it took us 3 hours and 37 minutes. We went from 4,060 feet down to 2,501 feet.
But here is how the day started. I got up first and I started boiling water for the coffee and our cereal breakfasts. Devin was still in his bivvy reading. Behind him you see our food box, which were available at each camp in every campground to keep aggressive rodents away from our food.
After the morning chores and packing our packs, we were on our way. At the beginning the trail is fairly flat. In the center of the picture, in the very back, you can see first glimpses of the South Rim. That is where we are eventually headed.
A little farther down the trail, you see me, the happy hiker.
Eventually we get close to “the Box” with steep canyon walls on all sides. The Bright Angel Creek is to my right and the trail basically follows the creek all the way down to the river.
A little farther down in the box, here is Devin taking a look. Check out the rocks here. We are down at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon. These rocks exposed here are over 1.7 billion years old. These layers were formed over one billion years before there were any living organisms on earth. Most the walls of the Grand Canyon are older than life itself. Only the very top layers contain fossilized shark teeth. Sharks were some of the very first complex animals to appear in the oceans.
Thinking of these geological time scales almost takes my breath away when I compare it to our short lives. We truly are dust in the wind, and that feeling is overwhelming here in the Grand Canyon.
We’re getting close to the ranch. There is a camp for trail mules just before we get there.
The vistas are dramatic. Tall cottonwood trees cover the ranch area. You can see the first buildings toward the right of the picture. and again, across the center of the photo you see the layer of rock that is almost two billion years old.
There is a canteen at the Phantom Ranch!
It’s just a little store, but you can get cold beer and many other luxuries. We hungry and thirsty hikers bought ourselves a Fat Tire brew and chatted with other hikers on the picnic benches outside. Of course, everything we consume down here was carried in by mule trains. You can guess what things cost here.
There is lodging in cabins available. They are rustic. Two twin beds, a toilet and a sink. And a bench outside. They also have group cabins. A cabin for two people costs about $220 per night. It’s now October 2023. The first available cabins are now being booked for December 2024, and you have to enter a lottery to get them. So there are no guarantees. Here you can see a few small cabins.
This is a view of the ranger station.
There is also an amphitheater. Rangers make presentations there about a variety of topics. We attended a stargazing session. Due to the complete darkness in the canyon the stars were amazing.
Here was the sign guiding us to the campground when we first arrived.
We set up camp in spot #12. It turns out that 12 years ago we stayed right next to this spot, right behind the bushes behind Devin. In the foreground you can see my tent and Devin’s behind it.
Right next to my tent, about 6 feet behind it, looking the other way, I saw a couple of deer enjoying themselves. These deer are obviously used to humans, as they didn’t mind our being there at all.
Here is another one in our camp on the next morning, munching on a tree, just as we were leaving.
From here on, the trail went only uphill. The hard part was now in front of us.