When the sun rose overhead, we hunkered down in siesta mode and waited out the heat of the day, migrating with the shade around the base of our juniper tree. Temperatures rose to 100F in the shade, and 120F in the direct sun. No matter how much I drank, I still seemed dehydrated. Our bodies were sweating water out as fast as we could replace it. Gallons upon gallons. Productivity was futile, and laziness reigned. Whiptail lizards scurried over my motionless feet; the afternoon buzz of cicadas rang deafeningly in our ears.
At the Bright Angel corridor, we soon encountered pack trains of tourists heading up to the canyon rim. People pay good money to see the canyon, without ever setting foot on the ground. Few people were enjoying themselves, most as sad and miserable as the heavily burdened mules themselves. We were glad to see the trains leaving early in the morning, though I still consider it cruel and unusual punishment to have to haul a fat Midwesterner out of the Grand Canyon.
We crossed the Black Bridge of the Colorado and reached Phantom Ranch, a literal oasis in the desert. Tall stately cottonwoods lined a wide clear flowing creek. Deer walked the pools feeding on the lush willows, oblivious to people near by. Phantom was a bustling hub of activity - river runners came in from the river to purchase ice for empty coolers; packers delivered goods from the canyon rim and loaded their mule trains up with mail; rangers tended to dehydrated tourists; exhausted day hikers rested and purchased sack lunches for the 5000ft climb out. We spent the day relaxing and people watching, and managed to secure dinner reservations at the Cantina for an all-you-can-eat meal. It was a feast of garden salad, buttered corn bread, hot beef stew with real potatoes and veggies, and chocolate cake! We ate for an hour until they literally took our plates away.
We soon reached the junction with Roaring Springs Canyon, where a massive torrent gushed out of the canyon wall at the Muav/Bright Angel interface. This single source on the North Rim provides water for both sides of the canyon. Due to the agreements made in the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the law allocates the entire flow of the Colorado River for cities downstream. Essentially, the Canyon acts as stone aqueduct, piping water to the thirsty desert metropolises of Phoenix and LA. Instead of pulling water from the river, the park pumps water from Roaring Springs at 5200ft, 3000ft down to Phantom Ranch, and back up again another 5000ft to the South Rim – a marvel of engineering. No wonder the pipe breaks periodically.
|North Kaibab Trail|
Section mileage: ~38 miles