Before we start, let me share an additional hydration tip. I call it “cameling up”. A unique characteristic of camels is their ability to go for an extended period of time without drinking water. When water is available, camels tend to drink lots of it. They store it in their humps. That’s the origin of my term “cameling up”.
As we approach each water stop, I recommend drinking all of the water you have left. Next, drink one-half to one full liter of water at the stop. Finally, refill your bottles or Camelbak® as you are getting ready to get back on the trail. Camel up!!!! Note: You’ll see evidence of the Trans-Canyon Pipeline all along the trail, from Roaring Springs down to Phantom Ranch and up to the South Rim. It’s the “life blood” of the Grand Canyon.
As we leave the Manzanita Rest Area, we've already hiked 5.4 trail miles, and we're at an elevation of 5,220 feet. That means we've already descended 3,000 feet. In 1.4 trail miles, we'll arrive at the Cottonwood Campground (elevation 4,600 feet). Drink up and top off your bottles here. It is the only established campground on the North Kaibab Trail, and there is a ranger station located here.
In the general area around the Cottonwood Ranger Station, you can glimpse the North Rim Lodge. Look to the west, and keep looking up until you see it. You have hiked 6.8 trail miles to get here, but overhead (as the crow flies) the lodge is less than a mile up!
Another 1.6 trail miles beyond the Cottonwood Campground and one-quarter mile off the North Kaibab Trail is Ribbon Falls. At an elevation of 3,720 feet, Ribbon Falls is a small waterfall with pools that are very inviting to take a cool dip. However, you may or may not want to visit Ribbon Falls, depending on the time of day you get to this point. Shortly after the trail junction to Ribbon Falls, you will enter the "Box" which is a part of the inner gorge. This gorge of black rock can be extremely hot. Its narrow walls radiate heat as if you were in an oven. Once the sun moves overhead and heats up the rock even more, it can be stifling. So, I recommend that you bypass Ribbon Falls if it's after 9:00 A.M. when you get to the trail junction.
The North Kaibab Trail continues gradually downhill for 5.0 trail miles as you enter and hike through the Box. You'll be fully exposed to the sun now, with no shade anywhere. Welcome to the desert!!
As you exit the Box, you will be in the heart of the inner gorge. You'll notice many rock formations and spires all around you. Many of these have names originating from Greek Mythology. For example, there is Wotan's Throne, Zoraster’s Temple, Cheop's Pyramid, and so on. For me, these stone temples add to the allure of this magical place.
Onward to Phantom Ranch, which is 7.0 trail miles from Cottonwood Campground. Once you reach Phantom Ranch (elevation 2,480 feet), you’ll have hiked 14 trail miles from the North Kaibab Trailhead. Yahoo!!
At the ranch, take a little time to soak your feet in Bright Angel Creek. Make sure you eat lots of carbs, trail mix, and/or energy bars, and don’t forget to “camel up”. Below is some history to take your mind off your tired, sore feet.
The first documented visit to this area by non-indigenous peoples was a river expedition led by John Wesley Powell in 1869. Powell chose this spot for a camp due to the clear running water of Bright Angel Creek, as opposed to the murky, silty red water of the Colorado. Note: The Spanish word “Colorado” translates as “red” in English.
In 1903, the area was named Rust’s Camp. David Rust built a cable car trolley crossing the Colorado from the South Rim side. Ten years later, it was renamed Roosevelt’s Camp. In 1913, after failing to win re-election to the presidency, Teddy Roosevelt visited this site on a mountain lion hunting expedition. Hence the name Roosevelt's Camp. As he was crossing the river for the first time in a cable car, President Roosevelt was heard to say something like "a jolly good ride".
Ralph Cameron was an early pioneer explorer and entrepreneur who also happened to be one of Arizona's first senators. In the early 1900's, he lobbied for a spur-line of the Santa Fe Railway to be constructed, terminating near what is now the Bright Angel Trailhead. The train is still operational to this day. You can see the depot in front of the Bright Angel Lodge in the South Canyon Village.
What Ralph Cameron had in mind next was to improve and commercialize a trail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, ending at what is now Phantom Ranch. The idea for railroaders in general was to build these impressive lodges at the end of the rail line and give wealthy easterners, celebrities, and socialites a reason to ride the rails. A bonus at the end of the rail line was a mule ride down to Phantom Ranch..
The Fred Harvey Company was the concessionaire for the Santa Fe Railway, and the company also took ownership of the area that is now Phantom Ranch. Mary Elizabeth Colter worked for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 until 1945. Colter was originally trained as an interior designer, but made her name as an architect. She is famously known for designing buildings with an eye to maintaining the integrity of the local indigenous people and their structures. She is responsible for nine building designs on the South Rim. Note: Plan to tour Hopi House, Hermit's Resthouse, and the Desert Watchtower to really appreciate Colter’s work.
Colter also designed the buildings of Phantom Ranch. As mentioned earlier, Phantom Ranch was
designed for the rich and famous. Very few people actually walked into
the Canyon. Mule trains were the
transportation of choice. At one time, a swimming pool was located in
front of the dining hall, and a pianist in a tux with tails played a grand
|Phantom Ranch swimming pool pre-1960s.|
In the 1960's, Phantom Ranch was renovated. The customer base was changing, and the swimming pool and grand piano were not relevant anymore. Instead of dismantling the piano and carrying it out of the Canyon, workers placed it inside the empty swimming pool and filled it in with dirt. The piano and swimming pool are still there—underground.
Spending the night at Phantom Ranch is on many people’s bucket lists. However, the ranch is fully booked up to a year in advance. Dave Aeilts, a member of our group and the owner of this blog experienced the ultimate “trail magic” on a recent rim-to-rim hike. As a result of unfortunate circumstances, he needed to spend the night at Phantom Ranch. Due to some divine intervention, I’m thinking, there was space for him in the men’s bunkhouse. He even enjoyed a steak dinner in the dining hall.
I’ve also heard of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who knew someone who had the “keys to the castle”--in this case, the keys to the Phantom Ranch Bathhouse. Only Dave and this unnamed person from our group know how luxurious the hot water is, and how fluffy the towels are. You go Dave!
|Ring-tail cat at Harvest Moon.|
The Harvest Moon was spectacular. As the night progressed and the moon moved east to west, it was so bright that it cast shadows. What an eerie view of the world from the inside of the Grand Canyon. “Moon Shadow”, a Cat Stevens song from the 70s comes to mind. Side Note: With the full moon came the invasion of the ring-tailed cats. These critters live in the rock ledges all around the campground. They are nocturnal, and they were
|Grand Canyon Rattlesnake|
In my next blog post, I’ll give you a break from the hike to talk about some other critters that make the Grand Canyon their home. Some are endangered and others are found nowhere else in the world. Have you ever heard of the Grand Canyon Rattlesnake?