I began planning this trip to the Grand Canyon around the beginning of 2011. I learned a lot in the process. I had originally planned on doing this Rim to Rim hike in two days and camping in Phantom Ranch at the bottom. That plan did not work out as you must book your stay in Phantom Ranch thirteen months in advance and there are only realistically ten available spots for women and another ten available spots for men, all dormitory style, since priority for all of the best rooms are given to those riding mules down and for those folks staying overnight on a rafting trip.
Once I realized that Phantom Ranch was not a realistic option I made the decision that our group would make the South Rim to North Rim hike in three days instead of two, camping two nights in the Canyon Backcountry. The upside is that we were able to choose one of the best weeks of the year for backpacking. The downside is that a fully loaded backpack can weight twenty or more pounds than a reasonably loaded day pack. (I’ll provide details on the gear I used in a later post.)
We ended up driving out to the South Rim from Phoenix on Monday, September 24 and camping in Mather Campground. We woke up Tuesday and took a van ride to the North Rim and camped. On Wednesday we woke up and hiked our way to the North Rim Trailhead which is about one mile from the campground. We then hiked our way down about eight miles the North Rim to the Cottonwood campground. On Thursday morning we hiked our way about another eight to the Bright Angel Campground. On Friday morning we woke up and hiked our way back up about nine miles to the South Rim. We camped in Mather Campground again on Friday night, woke up on Saturday morning, had a very nice breakfast at the El Tovar restaurant, and started our trek back to Phoenix.
All in all it was a really great week. The group was very laid back and fantastically helpful to each other in so many ways. It is true that the journey is, and in this case certainly was its own reward, but the sense of accomplishment at the end, well, that will linger a very long time.