PHANTOM RANCH  April, 2003

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  The Wyant Family's Hiking Adventure  

We dreamed the impossible dream and Dave and Cindy made it happen.

Two years ago Greg, Maggi, Sara, Ralph and I visited Dave and Cindy during Sara's and Cindy's Spring Break. The hike we took at that time, three miles down in Grand Canyon, awakened a strong interest in going all of the way to the bottom. Reservations need to be made approximately two years in advance which would not have been a problem except that it's too hot in the summer and the rest of the year Sara and Cindy are in school. It looked pretty hopeless to ever be able to do that but we made plane reservations to Phoenix and motel reservations at Grand Canyon thinking there just might be some cancellations at the bottom but if not we would enjoy another hike part way down.

Three weeks before Spring Break we all received an e-mail from Dave. "Are you ready to go to the bottom of Grand Canyon?!" He had been calling daily inquiring about cancellations at Phantom Ranch and miracle-of-miracles there were seven, four in the female dorm and three in the male dorm. Just what we needed! There were even more miracles. Dave persisted and before we left home he e-mailed us that he got five of us a second night's reservation at the bottom. Still being persistent the morning of the hike he was able to get two more reservations. Yahoo! All of us had reservations for two nights!
A rented Chevy Suburban
Fully packed.
South Kaibab Trail
We're on our way.

Ooh Aah Point
First stop.
Since our plane didn't arrive in Phoenix until 7:00 Sunday evening and, as our reservations were for the next day at Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch, 220 miles away, some serious planning had to be done. The decision was made for Dave and Cindy to rent an eight-passenger van, pack their things for the hike, pick us up at the airport, and drive straight to Flagstaff where we had motel reservations. That put us about 140 miles closer to Grand Canyon. Thanks to Dave and Cindy the plan went off beautifully. The next day we were able to drive to the Canyon and by 1:00 p.m. start the hike seven miles down the South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch. The weather was perfect.
Oooooh Aaaaah view.
First view of river.
Skeleton Point.
The first rest stop was Ooh Aah point where views were spectacular, the best we've seen them because it was such a clear day. The next stop was Cedar Ridge for a snack break and the restroom. After that it was Skeleton Point, three miles down, and another snack break. This is as far as we went two years ago so now we began to feel that we really were going to the bottom.
Skeleton Point switchbacks.

Tonto Trail Junction restroom.
Taking a break.
The trail going down was a little treacherous because of gritty dirt on the rocks and logs, making them slippery. I slipped and sat down once, Ralph slipped twice and we heard that Greg had slipped and fallen, too. It was very tiring having to be so careful. Greg, Maggi, Sara, and Cindy forged ahead to get us all signed in and to find out where our dorms and beds were. We were grateful for this because it was dark when we got there. This was harder for Ralph and me than we had remembered from ten years ago. We were happy to see that Greg, Maggi, and Sara were doing so well. They seemed to be as strong as Dave and Cindy.

We made it to the bottom.

Here's where we slept.
Inside the men's dorm.
Phantom Ranch consists of a canteen where breakfast and dinner are served, several cabins, and the dormitories where we had our reservations. The dorms each have five bunk beds that sleep ten, a shower, a sink, and toilet for $27 per person per night. Since we were the last ones to sign in we were in the top bunks the first night but the second night we had first choice and, except for Sara, opted for the bottom bunks. These were good beds and we all slept well.
Guys and their dorm.
Gals and their dorm.
Our gathering place.
We were only able to get three breakfast reservations and three dinner reservations so we brought some nourishing food with us to eat outside on the picnic table. The canteen is open to everyone between meals, from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. Since there were pesky little flying insects outside we spent time in the canteen during a couple of those hours. Maggi spotted a guitar and we had fun attempting to sing and tried to make up a song about "At the Bottom of Grand Canyon" to the tune of "On Top of Old Smoky", silly stuff. Since it was April 1, I played an April Fool's joke on the guy behind the counter. He fell for it but it bounced back on me. I knocked a box of assorted tea bags off the counter. Maggi and Cindy helped me pick them up and re-sort them. The guy was a good sport about it and seemed to enjoy our fun. Greg and Sara had a good game of scrabble going which I joined. For awhile we were the only ones in there. Having this adventure with our family was a real memory maker for Ralph and me.
Inside the canteen.

Information board.
We attempted to sing.
It was great to have the extra day to rest and to explore "The Box" or Narrows as it is sometimes called. This is a beautiful magnificent area through Bright Angel Gorge with walls rising hundreds of feet on each side with only room for Bright Angel Creek and the North Kaibab trail going to the north rim of Grand Canyon. At places where there isn't enough room, a bridge crosses to the other side to continue the trail. It was a very pleasant level two mile walk, enjoying the scenery and looking for the "phantom" which we heard about.
Which way do we go?
A walk through the Narrows.
The trail crosses the bridge.
We found the "Phantom".
Our photographer.
Snack time.
After a good night's sleep we started early on Wednesday morning for the long hike out, a little apprehensive about hiking 4400 feet elevation gain in 10 miles. We had hiked down the South Kaibab trail on Monday so the hike out was on the Bright Angel trail, three miles farther in distance but it's supposed to be a little less difficult.
Our wonderful family.

Time to leave.

Silver Bridge across the Colorado.
The first couple of miles followed the muddy Colorado River and wasn't much of a climb until Pipe Creek Drainage where we left the river and started our ascent to the top. This was a delightful lush area of small trees and green growth along Pipe Creek, a contrast to the canyon walls. It was fun rock-hopping across the little stream a few times but soon the real work began at Devil's Corkscrew. Ralph and I were beginning to think that maybe we were too old for this. We weren't having any real trouble and were enjoying the hike but we were slower than the proverbial tortoise.
Part way up Pipe Creek Drainage.
A happy hiker.

The Devil's Corkscrew trail.
After five and half miles and a hard climb we entered another pretty area called Indian Garden. There is a campground here but the thing we were most interested in was the restroom. The young ones were patiently waiting for us and we all had lunch together.
Best looking hiker.
Entering Indian Garden.
Indian Garden lunch break.
It was decided that the young ones would go on out when they got to the top since there were still four and half hard miles yet to go. Greg's stair climbing in the office building where he works really paid off, making him a strong hiker able to keep up with Cindy. Sara's youth made her able to keep up with both of them. Maggi was hiking somewhere in between them and us. Dave stayed back with his Mom and Dad to make sure that we made it. Dave and Cindy had hand held radios that kept us all in touch. Even though we were sorry to be so slow, it made us happy and proud of Greg, Maggi, and Sara to see them doing so well.
Top in view.

Indian Paint Brush.

Getting closer.
Fourteen year old Sara still had enough energy to stay ahead of the mules that were nearing the top and beat her Dad by about fifteen minutes so we congratulate her for being first out of the Canyon. Yea Rah, Sara! Good job!
Slow but sure.

The easy way.
First hiker out of the Canyon.
Another get three rooms at Maswik Lodge at the last minute was a blessing. We were able to get a shower and go to Bright Angel Lodge restaurant for our victory dinner. After a good breakfast the next morning we drove back to Phoeniix for our flight to Indianapolis that evening. It was a whirlwind wonderful trip. Ralph and I felt very privileged to do this with our family, two wonderful sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and especially our super neat granddaughter.

You can check Dave and Cindy's account of our trip on the following website.