Map 2, Pictures 39-101
The map at the left shows the detailed view of the second part of the virtual hike. The pictures are numbered to indicate the locations where they were taken. Most of these locations are fairly accurate, but there are some that I must admit are just "best guesses."
Click on the map to view it full size.
Click here if you want to see the entire map (845k) showing the entire route with the pictures marked.
One of the spectacular views on the South Kaibab is a look down at the long switchbacks just below Skeleton Point. These are killers for anyone attempting a climb up the South Kaibab! This is the first spot on the trail where you get a look (though just a glimpse) at the Colorado River. For all practical purposes, Skeleton Point is about the midpoint of the South Kaibab. Looking back up at the switchbacks you'll notice that they really blend in. In picture 045 (just above at the right) you can see the backside of O'Neill Butte. Even in the close-up view the trail that traverses it is completely invisible. From this angle it looks like you would fall right off into the canyon below!
When you reach the bottom of the long switchbacks you've arrived on the Tonto Plateau and the trail flattens once again. At the left is the father-son team of Craig & Ben which I passed at this point. Craig wrote to me soon after saying, "You ran past me and my son a week ago Sunday on the South Kaibab Trail and then stopped to take a picture and ran backwards while telling us where we could go on the net to see your photos." Running backward? I'm pretty sure the park service really discourages this! What kind of fun were they having? Craig wrote, "Ben and I were having the time of our lives there."
The Tonto Plateau ends at a point known as The Tipoff. There is a rest house and a hitching post, but no water. We have traveled 4.4 miles at this point, just over a quarter of the total distance. At the right you see a spectacular bird's-eyeview from a lookout point less than a half mile into the Inner Gorge (a.k.a Granite Gorge) known as Panorama Point. The pictures dramatically show the steepness. You can easily miss this because this viewpoint is a little off the trail. I myself went right by it on my first two trips down this trail and only found out about it because of pictures hikers had posted on the net!
The picture on the far right shows Silver Bridge on the left and Bright Angel Creek flowing into the Colorado. You can click here or on the close up picture to see the trail marked with an index of pictures. The picture on the near right shows a closer view of the middle section. That one shows the helipad, the picnic grounds, and the Bright Angel Campground.
As you can probably tell from the photos, the trail in the Inner Gorge is a fine reddish dust that gets on your shoes and socks. Visitors taking the mule trip on this part of the trail often dawn their handkerchiefs. This part of the trail can feel pretty lonely, especially in the early morning when it is still in the shadows. Also, for the first time you'll also appreciate the shadows when you get them. If it hasn't felt warm, that feeling will begin when you hit the inner gorge.
In picture 068 you can see the tunnel opening that will lead onto Black Bridge. Picture 070 shows the River Trail turnoff. You could turn left at this spot and get over to the Bright Angel Trail, but I don't think many take this option. Just a little farther down and you're at the river.
Arrival onto Black Bridge (a.k.a. South Kaibab Suspension Bridge) is always something special. It is the end of the grand descent. On several hikes this has been my turnaround point and headed right back up the South Kaibab. This not only violates the rule of never do a day hike to the river and back, but also the more serious one: don't go up the South Kaibab!
Your first chance for water is less than a quarter mile from Black Bridge from the well seen in the picture on the left.
Now that you're at the bottom, the atmosphere is very different in three ways. First, there is the noise of the rushing river which seems to fill the gorge. Second, you can really feel the warmer temperatures. And third, there is considerable vegetation on the trail.
The picture on the left (082) shows the end of the South Kaibab. To the right (as the sign says) is the North Kaibab Trail, Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch. To the left is Water, Toilets, and the Bright Angel Trail.
The path to the right (technically the North Kaibab) takes us along the beautiful Bright Angel Creek and it's beautifully clear running water. On the other side of this creek is the Bright Angel Campground. This will take us to Phantom Ranch.
Phantom Ranch is an oasis at the bottom of the canyon; a gorgeous setting against the cottonwood trees and other greenery that the nearby creek make possible. Phantom Ranch is not a five star resort. The cabins are small, there are no bellhops, and no valet service unless you're riding in on a mule! But as in all real estate it has the three most important essentials: location, location, location. There seemed to be very few people about, but I did not have enough time to really explore and enjoy the area. The heat also weighed on my mind as it was anywhere from 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit (35-38 C) so I was anxious to get back on the main trail which would lead me out of the canyon. Here is an excellent map of the area from an excellent website: www.hitthetrail.com.
|YES!||I'm still doing fine. I want to continue the tour...|
|NO!||I'm exhausted. I'd like to take a mule ride out of here and back to the home page.|