For starters, the reservations for a group at Phantom Ranch are hard to get! At the time we got them, it was a small miracle. On the first day of the month they take phone reservations and online reservations for 13 months ahead. After I researched it, it sounded like hardly anyone ever got an online reservation. Phone calling on several phone lines was the best way. We also wanted to go at a time when it wouldn't be too hot, so that makes it April/May or the fall. So March 1, 2017 I got on the phone with several lines calling in continually, and after 45 minutes got a recorded message that all reservations for April 2018 were full. I stayed on the phone to talk to a live person and they told me 100,000 people were calling in at the same time so chances of getting through are slim, but to keep trying next month. I decided to try one more time in April, and asked my son to help by calling in also so we had 5 phones calling in that time, and he got through! He was on hold and texted me on his other phone line. I was jumping for joy!!! (As of Jan. 2018, they have changed to a lottery system on PR reservations, so I'm not sure how hard it is anymore)
Our physical preparation was walking several miles at a time with weighted backpacks and climbing flights of stairs in a tall building with a backpack. If you can hike for several hours with a back pack, that's great. But you also need to be able to do lots of stairs to simulate the trek out. We did this for a couple of months, mostly on the weekends. During the week we did our regular workout routines.
SO, BACK TO THE TRIP:
We drove to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix in our rental van. It was breezy and overcast when we got there. Time for a quick look along the rim and then dinner in the Bright Angel Lodge Harvey House. No sunset viewing tonight - it was overcast. You can see the rain in our picture. We had everyone come to our room and make sandwiches and pick out food for their backpack. We planned to meet at 5:00 a.m. to start our hike down to Phantom Ranch.
We awakened bright and early to see that it was snowing! What?! But we were prepared! We put our suitcases in the car, then got on our hiking backpacks. We had shoe tracks if needed for ice, but these were big fat wet flakes, so they weren't necessary. It was beautiful and about 38 degrees. In this pic we are waiting under the canopy while The Hubs goes to check out the trail.
About 45 minutes into our hike, the snow turned into rain and we were just dodging mud puddles.
The sun came out around Indian Gardens rest area! We literally were wringing out our gloves.
View of the trails below us - still a long ways to go!
The Colorado River!
After 10 miles of crazy weather hiking, we made it to historic Phantom Ranch! We immediately sat down at the picnic table outside the canteen and ate our lunches.
The afternoon was leisurely with dominoes, cards, piddling around the camp. The boys saw some kind of raccoon-like critter. We settled into our bunkhouses and talked to strangers about hiking and all kinds of things. Almost everyone at Phantom feels like a friend and there's a common bond about making it there and enjoying the canyon.
We saw many blooming cactuses and got to eat the famed "Hiker's stew" for dinner. It was really good - served family style and we shared our table with Francisco, a hiker from Mexico. The canteen opened back up at 8:00 p.m. after dinner was over, and we went back in for a while and chatted. I had met a delightful lady in my cabin from Chicago. This was her third time visiting PR. We headed for our beds before 9:00 p.m. Another great thing about PR is that everyone's ready to go to bed!
A 4:30 a.m. knock on the door of our bunkhouse signaled time to wake up and get ready for breakfast. We got ready and were all in there by 5 a.m.! It was another family style meal with eggs, meat, and pancakes. Perfect fuel for our long hike out!
Ready to go - just outside of camp we were on a ledge and saw a deer below us. We started singing "As The Deer" and it just stood there and listened. May sound corny but to me it was magical!
Back over the Colorado River! The kids on the black bridge
Our oldest got this one of us on the black bridge.
Francisco, our dinner table friend, took this photo of us and it's one of my favorites!
Here we are at the last bathroom hut, I think about 3 miles from the rim. The last time I took a photo in this spot, I was really mentally and physically wiped out. This time wasn't so bad! Most of the time on the hike out we were singing songs with the kids. One song led to another and the funny thing was we kept coming back to the church hymn, "He Bore it All," especially the pain and agony part. :) A mantra that was repeated several times was "Three miles shorter!" referring to the crazy steep steps on Kaibab, but less distance than Bright Angel trail.
Pictures don't do this place justice!
The artistic photo is one my son took. So thankful he took some since I'm such a picture fanatic! We hiked out of the canyon (7 steeper miles up) on South Kaibab trail in 6 hours! I admit, the last hour for me was pretty grueling. I kept my head down and just kept going, very slowly. We let the kids go ahead of us. It was about noon, though when we got out, and unfortunately we had to walk another quarter mile or so to catch the shuttle bus because the park roadway was under new construction. Grrrrr!!!!! Also, there was still snow that had been piled up on the sides of the roads.
Once the shuttle was back to Bright Angel Lodge, we got a reward at the ice cream shop and the kids got some souvenirs. We drove to Mather campground where we used the coin-operated showers to clean up. Then we were on our way to Sedona!