After a great evening at the North Rim Lodge and a cool night in the North Rim Campground, day 3 was a descent back down the North Kaibab trail and back to the Bright Angel Campground.
There was an overcast sky the evening before so it held the heat in for a while, but at some point during the night, the skies cleared and temperature dropped to 45-50F. I got up about 4:30 and got my breakfast started and I think I woke Daryl about 15 mins later. I did not rush my breakfast and took time to enjoy the sunrise from our campsite while I ate.
We had a .7 mi hike back to the trailhead and we got there at about 6:30. Two hours to eat, pack camp, get ready, and walk .7 mi to the trailhead, but who’s counting anyway. Just over 10 mins later, we were at the Coconino Outlook and met three Chinese hikers that we would encounter over and over during the next two days as they were on the same plan as us. One of them took a photo of us, but couldn’t compensate for the backlighting. Crappy camera.
I didn’t take a lot of photos during this day because the views were the same as the previous day. In a similar manner, Daryl didn’t take much from his GoPro during this day because he was short on battery power. Because of this, not only do I not have a lot of pictures, but I’m also not able to recreate the times at which we arrived at some of the landmarks. As regards the upper part of the trail, I know that we arrived at the Supai Tunnel at 07:15 and at the high bridge by 09:30. I think we arrived at the Pumphouse Residence about 09:45, but I can’t recreate the times for the second half of the trail. Here are some photos for the upper half of the North Kaibab.
As I said earlier, I don’t know what time we reached Cottonwood Campground, but I’m thinking it was around 11:00 because I remember we were not even thinking about lunch yet. In fact, we were pushing the last half of the trail to have lunch in Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground. By the time we arrived at Cottonwood, the sun was blazing and it was very hot. A Ranger told us later it was over 100F, but not sure how much over. I soaked my shirt at the Pumphouse Residence and at Cottonwood Camp and, after that point, anywhere we got near to the creek. The evaporative cooling effect really, really helps on days like that. Somewhere along this point, we encountered the same Ranger that was telling everyone the day before to soak their shirts. Daryl’s GoPro caught a picture of her…
BTW, just a note to the ladies. If you’re hiking through the Grand Canyon during the heat, you are advised to wear a sports bra or some underlayer you’re not shy to strip down to because the women as well as the men were advised to pull off their shirts and soak them.
Cottonwood Campground is about halfway of the 14 mi hike. The good news is that this part of the trail is a gentle descent (or ascent, of course, if you’re headed north). The bad news is that this is the hottest part of the trail and there is no fresh water. My bladder officially holds 3L of water and I can overfill it to 3.25L or 3.5L. I filled it up completely at Cottonwood Campground and was completely out by 3/4 of a mile from Bright Angel. This hike was the toughest day for me. My feet really take a pounding on the descents and then we force-marched through the box during the hottest time of the entire week.
Regardless, we made it back to Bright Angel Campground and set up camp. I then hit the restroom for a cowboy bath in the sink and then we both hiked back to Phantom Ranch to spend a couple of hours in the Canteen. We must have arrived there about 2:00pm because it closes at 4:00pm to prepare for dinner. It is air-conditioned and sells great lemonade so we spent all the time we could in there socializing and reading.
The Canteen is very busy. Not only do you get people who are staying at Bright Angel or Phantom Ranch, but there are tons of the rim-to-rim day hikers and the rim-to-rim-to-rim trail runners trying to cool down, fuel up, and, in some cases, recover from heat or dehydration.
Upon leaving the Canteen, we joined a presentation wherein a Park Ranger informed us about the California Condor. He presented the history of the Condor, which was nearly extinct in the 80s, and gave excellent instruction on how to identify them, even from a great distance. This would prove very valuable on day 4. Stay tuned. This presentation was really fascinating, in no small part because the Ranger presenting was very dynamic and personable.
The presentation was over about 5:15pm and we headed back to Bright Angel to get started on dinner. In fact, I believe I held off until close to sundown, but we both ended up having a full dinner that night. After dinner, we were really beat so we set out the routine of getting everything ready for the night and then ducking in the tents.
We had left the flys off of the tents like the previous stay and were looking forward to another warm night under the stars. However, the wind had kicked up late in the day, which wasn’t a big deal while we were sitting at the table for dinner. However, once I crawled into my tent, I discovered that the wind was blowing sand through all the netting and now the entire floor of the tent and my sleeping bag was covered in that fine, Grand Canyon sand. I was able to shake out the sleeping bag and pad, but the tent was already staked down and, since it was dark, I chose not to take it up and shake it out. Since the wind would not stop, we had no choice but to put the rain flys on, which made it very, very hot. I slept on top of my bag sweating most of the night and only cooled off about 3:00am enough to get in the bag.
Stay tuned for the final part of this series; Day 4. Meantime, here is a video of Day 3. As I said, I didn’t shoot that much on this day.
Start: North Kaibab Trailhead
End: Bright Angel Campground
Distance: 14.0 miles
Elevation (start): 8241
Elevation (end): 2480
Elevation (net loss): 5761 feet