We decided to start with the steeper, but shorter, South Kaibab Trial to Skeleton Point. We have done what I would consider quite a bit of hiking, but the trails in the Grand Canyon have to be the most crowded we have ever seen. There are warning signs all over the Park about being prepared and recognizing that you are hiking down first and it’s hot, but we still saw some pretty unbelievable hikers. How about these:
A group of three (looked like maybe mother, father, and grandfather) who were carrying a small baby in a front pack covered with a blanket with few if any supplies. We were probably three miles down at this point and it was eighty degrees. They were going to have to carry this baby back up the trail for at least three hours.
We saw a couple of hikers that were carrying their water and supplies in a grocery bag. One guy was carrying his water by it’s six pack strap. At least he had enough water. We saw a lot of hikers that had maybe one small water bottle with them.
This is not really that surprising because it isn’t the first time – we saw a couple of hikers in sandals. You’ve got to be pretty crazy to hike a dirt and rock trail in open-toe sandals, but I guess it works for some people.
Interestingly, we also saw what seemed to be guided hikers. One guide was a young, fit, “babe” with a pretty geeky looking guy. They were packed with enough gear to make it to Phantom Ranch (the campground and lodge at the bottom on the Colorado.) The second Guide was a guy who had a middle-aged Asian man with him. The Guide was making lunch on a nice picnic cloth when we passed. I guess if you don’t have anyone to hike with, or you aren’t sure you know what you are doing, you can pay for a Guide.
This was the first time we’ve been on a trail with mules using the path regularly. Everything at Phantom Ranch has to be packed in and out and there are also mule rides for people. They leave plenty of manure on the trail. It was also pretty muddy after the snow. We didn’t pass any mules on the trail but we did see them at the Cedar Ridge rest stop packing out. With so many people on the trails, the National Park Service has put in composting toilets at several places. According to one of the Rangers, the most travelled trail (Bright Angel) gets 300,000 hikers a year.
We got our first view of the Colorado River at our destination – Skeleton Point. That is it – way at the bottom in the above picture. Skeleton Point is named because some pack mules have fallen off the trail below this point. The Park Ranger said that no mules have ever fallen with human passengers. They supposedly pick the best, most sure-footed, mules to carry people.
We enjoyed a nice rest at Skeleton Point before starting back up the trail.
The hike was great – just the right length (6 miles round trip) and not too hard (2,000 feet elevation change.) Alan doesn’t even look that tired at the top.