My recent trip to the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the confluence of the Bright Angel Creek and the Colorado River was an incredible journey. The weather was perfect, the hikes — both down and back up — were predictably tough. Our time at the Phantom Ranch was also predictably enjoyable.
I’ll get to the details of the hike in another blog but for now it’s all about the people on this trip.
The group at the Phantom Ranch Canteen
Dove was our REI Adventures guide on this trip. And before you ask, yes that is her real name. A mid-20s, slightly built woman who, after college, spent a few years as a seasonal National Park Service ranger in Arches and Rocky Mountain National Parks. She joined REI Adventures about three years ago.
She out packed, out carried, and out did all of us with her endurance, upbeat attitude, knowledge and enthusiasm. But more than all of that, there was her ability to gently prod us along with her positive energy, even on this, her thirteenth trip into Phantom Ranch this year
. I have no doubt that all of the REI Adventures guides are great, but it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job.
This trip was also a family event for many in our group. There was Kevin, the early 60’s contractor who builds bridges. He prepared for this trip by hiking up and down the hills in eastern Pennsylvania with a pack weighing twice what he carried on this hike. Unfailingly polite, gracious and with a great sense of humor, he also saved me by lending me a flashlight that I somehow forgot to bring.
Along with Kevin was his daughter Kasey, a graphic designer and budding photographer, and her boyfriend Billy, an electrician. Both in their 20’s, they were fun to be around, with Kasey’s sly sense of humor and Billy’s out-going personality and relentless desire to help out whenever possible. On our last night there, on the sandy beach next to the Colorado River, Billy asked Kasey to marry him. And she said yes.
There was Steven, a neonatologist from Syracuse, and his daughter Caroline, an anesthesiologist from New York City. Steven’s youthful appearance and incisive sense of humor concealed that he was the eldest member of our group, and many would guess he was much younger. Caroline's light-hearted needling of her dad, and vice versa, were an endless source of amusement.
Besides myself, another person who went on this hike solo was Andrea, a freelance documentary producer from California. She had many stories to tell about documentaries she produced, and what she learned while doing them. We bonded over authors we both enjoy, and we had plenty of time to chat. A smart, insightful person, Andrea displayed an incredible amount of grit and good humor on the trail.
We were greeted at the ranch by Faith, one of the Xanterra employees at the Phantom Ranch canteen. Her bright smile and stories about the people who have passed through the Ranch during her several years there were interesting and often very funny.
As for the hike, yes, the views were great and the trails were wonderful, but the people were the highlight. We struggled and celebrated together, sympathized with each other, and moved each other along. We shared stories and life experiences, talked about our families, our jobs, our pasts and our futures. It was remarkable how much we were able to bond over the course of just a few days.
It was perfect.
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.