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Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip -- November 19, 2015

November 19
Bright Angel Campground: packing up last of the gear

Backpack Day 4. Thursday -- Phantom Ranch to Indian Garden

On our last morning in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Jim awoke in the early dawn hours to see a Great Horned Owl fly over camp heading for its roost tree somewhere upstream.

We actually set an alarm and got up about 6:30 AM hoping for an early start on the trail because we didn't know how slowly we would hike back up to Indian Garden Campground. We ate a quick breakfast and broke camp in time to get on the trail shortly before 8 AM -- not bad timing for us -- about an hour earlier than usual.

Link to Map.

November 19
Bright Angel Trail: a spot of sun

Back on the Bright Angel Trail, we crossed the Silver Suspension Bridge into the winter shadows, said good bye to Phantom Ranch and all of the uncooperative ringtails, and headed downstream along the Colorado River. About 1/2-hours out, we got into a spot of sun and stopped to bask for a minute or two, then continued up across the cliffs on the blasted-out trail.

In about an hour, we arrived at the River Resthouse where we planned to stop, rest, and eat trail snacks. We felt fine, so we just recycled some coffee and turned up Pipe Canyon, glancing back for one last look at the Colorado River and leaving the bottom of the Grand Canyon, proper.

November 19
Composting Toilet at River Resthouse

We hiked up along Pipe Creek for about 45 minutes without stopping until we reached the base of Devil's Corkscrew. We had planned our second stop here, and this time we took off the packs and spent a few minutes relaxing. This time, we also noticed a mine opening across the creek, so of course, Jim had to go investigate. The adit ran back about 30-40 feet into the cliff following a narrow vein of white rock. Not sure what is was, apparently it wasn't valuable enough to keep working the mine. This likely was one of the Cameron mines operated not for the minerals but rather to control access along the trail where Cameron charged tourists $1 each to pass through his claims.

November 19
Old mine entrance along Bright Angel Trail

After our 20-minute rest, we started up the Devil's Corkscrew, which starts as a series of steep switchbacks. To Jim's surprise, Liz just kept going and going and going. Jim took a lot of photos, and in doing so, had a hard time catching up with Liz. We finally stopped for a 5-minute break at the upper spring where the cottonwood trees seemed even more yellow than before. This point is essentially the top of the steep Devil's Corkscrew, and Liz hiked the entire way without stopping to rest -- amazing!

From the spring, we walked the remaining 5 minutes to the top of the Devil's Corkscrew, and this time stopped for a short sit-down break and a few trail snacks in the warm sunshine. While there, we looked up to the top of the adjacent cliffs and saw tiny dots moving along the edge. The tiny dots turned out to be people atop Plateau Point (atop the Tapeats Sandstone layer) that looked impossibly far above us, but was actually about the level of Indian Garden. Jim joked that we could just climb the cliff and short-cut the trail, but the joke was more to relieve the tension of thinking that Liz really could hike that far up (even on the trail) without having any trouble.

November 19
Devil's Corkscrew: Liz climbing the switchbacks

Departing the top of the corkscrew a minute or two before 11 AM, we continued up the trail following Garden Creek. We re-entered the narrow canyon with its winter shadows and hopped the stream twice as we worked our way up through the last of the Vishnu Schist to the Great Unconformity and the base of Tapeats Sandstone layer (11:20 AM). We stopped for a couple of minutes looking for a good place to photograph the Unconformity, but we realized that we'd already come up too far and weren't about to hike back down looking for it.

Winding up through the narrow canyon following Garden Creek, we dipped in an out of the shadows, hopped the creek a couple of more times, and suddenly we were above the Tapeats Sandstone (11:30 AM). Without even stopping to rest, Liz had hiked all the way to the level of Plateau Point that had looked impossibly high only 30 minutes before!

November 19
Arriving back at the spring near top of Devil's Corkscrew

We stopped for a few minutes on a rock ledge in the sun that made for a nice bench, then continued up what turns out to be a steeper than expected hike along Garden Creek where it crosses the Tonto Platform (Bright Angel Shale layer).

We arrived into Indian Garden Campground a few minutes after noon and chose a site high on the hillside with nice views of the cliffs and fewer trees to provide shade (which is to say: more sunny than others). Surprised to be in so early, we relaxed in the sun, hung our gear to air and dry out, ate lunch, and generally lounged around for the afternoon.

We wandered about the local area visiting the ranger station, the visitor center, and other facilities, but generally just relaxed. By about 1:30 PM, the sun went behind the cliffs and we bundled up again. We borrowed a book from the lending library about park rangers, and had fun reading about our former life. By 6:30 PM, it was dark enough for some great star photos, but by then it was cold and we went to bed. It wasn't too cold, only getting down to about 40 degrees, but in Indian Garden it was a damp cold. Great Horned Owls called in the distance as we drifted off to sleep.

November 19
Devil's Corkscrew: Liz at the top
November 19
Pipe Creek crossing
November 19
Bright Angel Trail atop the Tapeats Sandstone
November 19
Bright Angel Trail along Garden Creek
November 19
Indian Garden Campground: Jim enjoying the sun
November 19
Indian Garden Campground: our campsite

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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