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Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip -- November 21, 2015

November 21
Indian Garden Campground: too early to get up

Backpack Day 6. Saturday -- Indian Garden to South Rim

Up early again to the sound of the iPod, we managed to get out of bed by 6:15 AM even though here in the canyon it was still dark enough to need a flash for photos. The night had been windy, but by dawn it was only breezy, and the breeze served to dry the tent and ground cover before we packed them up after an otherwise damp night.

On trail at 7:50 AM, we started up the Bright Angel Trail along the gentle grade of Garden Creek. We had our daily strategy set, but Jim thought it might be overly aggressive, despite how well Liz did coming up from the Colorado River. We arrived at our first rest stop, the base of the Redwall Limestone at 8:40 AM, sooner than we expected. We stopped to rest and snack. It was cold, and we only stayed long enough to let a mule train go by before Liz was ready to carry on.

Climbing Jacob's Ladder, a steep series of tight switchbacks, we climbed through the Redwall layer with barely more than a moment's stop here and there. Taking photos, Jim stopped more often than Liz, and we arrived atop the cliffs at 3-Mile Resthouse at 9:20 AM. Only 30 minutes and Liz had climbed all the way through the Redwall! Things were looking good, but we still had 3 miles and thousands of feet to climb.

Link to Map.

November 21
Bright Angel Trail above Indian Garden

After what seemed like a long, cold rest, we felt ready to go and departed 3-Mile Resthouse at 9:40 AM (only 20 minutes rest). Powering up the trail in slow-gear, Liz just kept climbing through the Supai Group, a mix of layered sandstone and mudstone. On the way down, we had slogged through mud in this area, but now the trail was dry, or seemed to be dry although we occasionally saw ice crystals in the mud.

Liz powered on, and by 11:10 AM we arrived at 1.5-Mile Resthouse where snow from our Monday storm had been pounded by so many feet into snow-ice on the trail. We stopped here to rest, snack, and recycle the last of the coffee, but it seemed very cold here, and by 11:40 AM we were back on the trail.

November 21
Bright Angel Trail at Jacob's Ladder in the Redwall Limestone

Fortunately, as we left the 1.5-Mile Resthouse area, the snow cleared from the trail and the temperature seemed warmer. Climbing towards the base of the Coconino Sandstone, the big layer of vertical cliffs, Jim recalled seeing a bobcat here in 2006, and keeping an eye out, we saw several bobcat scats along the trail, so it was nice to see they were still around. We also saw a coyote scat, so the kitties better watch out.

We arrived at the base of the Coconino Sandstone at 12:00 noon and Liz kept powering along, taking only 20 minutes to climb all of the switchbacks and cross back through Second Tunnel. We had been told by a ranger at Indian Garden about clearly visible ruins near the trail just below the tunnel, but as hard as we looked, we saw nothing and kept climbing upward.

November 21
Bright Angel Trail at 3-Mile Resthouse

By this time, we were encountering more and more snow-ice on the trail, and even icicles at seeps along the cliffs, and by about 12:40 PM we found ourselves with serious slippery ice on one of the steepest parts of the trail. We carefully negotiated the worst of the ice, but often that meant walking on the very outside edge of the trail where a slip over the edge would surely be the last. We passed the steep section without incident, and the rest of the trail was either clear or much less steep. We were glad to have our trekking poles, but wished we'd brought our instep crampons.

November 21
Bright Angel Trail in the Supai layer

By 1:10 PM, we were passing through First Tunnel accompanied by what turned out to be three bus-loads of Asian tourists. The icy trail was a bit crowded, but we continued upward, and Liz crested out onto the South Rim at 1:15 PM. Jim was amazed that we'd come all the way up in only 5-1/2 hours when he was afraid we might be coming out in the dark, and surprisingly, neither of us felt tired or sore.

We checked off our bucket-list item, got a double-scoop of ice cream to share and celebrate, and hit the road. Driving pretty hard, we make it home by about 7:30 PM, successfully completing our grand adventure.

November 21
Bright Angel Trail at 1.5-Mile Resthouse
November 21
Bobcat scat
November 21
Bright Angel Trail in the Coconino Sandstone
November 21
Icy trail
November 21
Bright Angel Trailhead: we made it!
November 21
Ice cream on the rim: it takes two hands to handle a whopper!

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