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Grand Canyon Backpacking with Liz -- November 2015
Grand Canyon

Liz and I spent a wonderful five nights down inside the Grand Canyon, checking off a bucket-list item: getting Liz to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back). We started during a snow storm with 26-degree temperatures, but after the first day, the weather was grand -- if a bit cool. Liz did surprisingly well on the hike, and we hiked out without any trouble or even sore muscles. Link to Map.

November 15

November 15, Sunday -- Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

Departing home in the morning, we drove about 5-1/2 hours to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and got a campsite at Mather Campground. We had some cold rain along the interstate, and there was some snow on the ground with a little more coming when we arrived.

Concerned about trail conditions, we rode the shuttle bus to the South Kaibab Trailhead. The trail was icy, but with the fresh snow, it did not look dangerous, and lots of day hikers were coming up safely.

We were cold, so we ate an early dinner at the lodge, walked a bit along the rim until dark, and returned to the campground with clear skies and hopes that the storm had passed and would be less than expected.

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November 16

November 16, Monday -- Backpack Day 1

The storm came back during the early morning hours to the extent that the side doors on the van were frozen shut and snow was falling fast. After getting out of the van, we got out of camp quickly and drove to the backcountry office to change our permit to the safer Bright Angel Trail.

After breakfast in the lodge, we started down the trail at 26 degrees with the snow flying. We had no trouble with the icy trail, but farther down the snow was melting on the trail and producing a lot of mud, which was a bit more of a problem.

By the time we reached Indian Garden Campground, the storm had passed and we even had bits of blue sky, but it was windy and cold.

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November 17

November 17, Tuesday -- Backpack Day 2

We passed an extremely windy night where avalanches of wind rolled down the canyon at irregular intervals, sometimes hitting our camp and sometimes washing down the sides of the canyon. When we got up, the wind had passed and the sky was clear.

We continued down the Bright Angel Trail from Indian Garden Campground to the Colorado River, where we stopped to eat lunch and celebrate our good fortune: we'd made it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Continuing upstream along the Colorado River, we hiked into Bright Angel Campground, which lies between the river and Phantom Ranch. We stayed up late watching for Ringtails, but never saw any.

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November 18

November 18, Wednesday -- Backpack Day 3

A warm, beautiful day, we laid over in Bright Angel Campground and did two short day hikes.

First, we hiked the River Trail Loop, where we left camp, walked upstream along the river to the Black Suspension Bridge, crossed the river, walked back downstream to the Silver Suspension Bridge, crossed the river again, and walked back upstream into camp.

Second, we hiked up along Bright Angel Creek following the North Kaibab Trail for about 1-1/2 miles to Phantom Canyon. There we turned around, took quick baths in Bright Angel Creek, and returned to Phantom Ranch Lodge for Camper Stew dinner.

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November 19 November 19, Thursday -- Backpack Day 4

Another beautiful day as we started back out of the canyon hiking up the Bright Angel Trail. We departed Bright Angel Campground, crossed the Colorado River, hiked downstream to River Resthouse, and said good bye to the Colorado River.

We hiked up Pipe Canyon and stopped for snacks below the Devil's Corkscrew. From there, Liz hiked all the way to the top of Devil's Corkscrew before stopping to rest for more than a minute.

From there, we continued on to Indian Garden Campground, arriving in time for lunch. We settled in, relaxed for the afternoon, and enjoyed the time together.

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November 20

November 20, Friday -- Backpack Day 5

We laid over in Indian Garden Campground today, and for warmth and entertainment, we day hiked out to Plateau Point. Basking like lizards in the sun, we spent mid-day on the point while day hikers rushed down, took a few photos, and scurried back towards the rim.

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November 21

November 21, Saturday -- Backpack Day 6 and Home

On our last day, we got up early and hit the trail anticipating a long, slow day on the Bright Angel Trail. To our surprise, Liz kept powering up the trail. We stopped to rest below the Redwall and at the two resthouses, but that was about it.

The muddy trail from Monday was dry lower down and frozen higher up, so mud wasn't a problem, but higher up on the steepest parts, the trail was dangerously icy. We carefully picked our way up the trail, sometimes clinging to the outer edge of the trail, and topped out among crowds of tourists on the South Rim.

To celebrate, we checked off our bucket-list item, enjoyed ice cream in the sun, and then drove home. What a great trip!

[details of the day and more photos]

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 161231

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