I've been fortunate enough to visit Grand Canyon National Park a number of times. As a photographer, it's one of the most visually compelling places to point a camera at. As a hiker, there are many trails around the north and south rims, and of course trails to the Colorado River that winds its way through the bottom of the canyon. Although I've hiked a number of trails on both rims — I prefer the north rim — but, I've never hiked to the bottom. It's not a hike one should do alone, at least for the first time, and I've always visited there in the summer, when the temperatures along the Colorado River can easily exceed 100 degrees.
An opportunity recently opened up for me to take part in a group hike to the Phantom Ranch, located at the bottom of the canyon, and I jumped on it. The end-of-the-month trip will include a 7-mile hike from the south rim down to the ranch, followed by a 10-mile hike back up to the south rim a couple days later. Elevation loss and gain is approximately 4700'.
I hike hundreds of miles each year — I've done almost 550 miles so far this year — and I'm pretty confident that I can do this trip with little or no trouble. But, I want to make sure I'm in the best condition I can be. According to the coordinator of this trip there will be seven of us, plus two guides. Age-wise, at 57, I fall roughly in the middle of the participants, with three others in their 60's, two in their 50's and two in their 20's. Interesting mix, and maybe a wide range of abilities and experiences.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the trip, I'll use this space to describe how I'm preparing both physically and with equipment for the hike.
My preparations so far have concentrated on hikes with steep ascents and descents and/or long distances. Over the last six days since my place on the trip was confirmed, I've hiked a total of 25 miles, with a total elevation gain of almost 7100'. My most recent hike was from the Crags trailhead to the Devils Playground on Pikes Peak, just under 8 miles and 2900' elevation gain.
A long time chronic issue of arthritis in one of my knees has cropped up, and the downhill parts of hikes are uncomfortable, if not a bit painful. Fortunately, a series of injections into the knee of a substance made of, of all things, rooster comb, usually cures the pain, usually for 6 months to a year. I made an appointment this week to get the shots going, and hopefully can get the series done before the trip.
The organizers have provided a pretty extensive list of items to bring on the hike, and although I have everything on the list, I don't have the recommended size backpack, with my packs being either too small, or far too large. I'll be shopping for a new back pack soon.
This promises to be quite the experience, and I hope you follow along.
Now, some local trails news.
The US Forest Service has closed the Crags Campground for the season, and will be closing the Crags Trail (trail 664) while a contractor works to clear trees along Forest Service Road 383, likely by November. The gate on FS 383, just past the Mennonite Camp, will be closed while the work is going on. This will not only effect the popular Crags Trail, but also the Raspberry Mountain Trail and the north trailhead for Trail 704 to Horsethief Park and Falls. The closure includes access by foot/ski/snowshoes, etc. The Forest Service has no set timetable for completion of the work, saying that it is dependent on the weather.
And finally, fall colors along Hwy 67 between Divide and Cripple Creek, to include Mueller State Park and the Crags area, is peaking this weekend. Get out there for great viewing and photos.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.