GC and Phantom Ranch in 10 days

8:56 a.m. on November 25, 2012 (EST)
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Trailspacers- About a year ago you were nice enough to give me some advice on how to gear up for my Grand Canyon trip coming up on Dec. 5th. My 24 yr old son and I will be hiking down the South Kaibab to PR and staying in the Bunkhouses for two nights. On our full day there we will hike to Ribbon Falls and back to PR. We will hike out the Bright Angel perhaps going to Plateau Point on the way up if we have the energy and time. I have just a few questions that you could help me with. We plan on staying on the main trails, but wouldn't mind a short detour for a great view, particularly off the S.Kaibab. If anyone knows of such a trek, please let me know. We are not experts, so limited navigation would be required. Is it practical to hike down the S.Kaibab in the morning and do the River Trail in the afternoon? Seems like we would have the time. Someone reccomended that we bring something to sleep in the bunkhouse, like a bivy sack or sleeping bag. Is that neccessary ? I assume the bunkhouses are heated. Know anything about hiker security ? ie can we leave our packs in the Bunkhouses during dinner or after without worrying about things vanishing ? Is there anything other than the standard things to do at Phantom Ranch that anyone has done in the past ? Short hikes, ruins etc. Finally, is it practical to hike up the Bright Angel, detour to Plateau Point, then up to the Rim ?- we have no time restrictions going up  Thanks for any advice.

1:51 p.m. on November 25, 2012 (EST)
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You asked:

We plan on staying on the main trails, but wouldn't mind a short detour for a great view, particularly off the S.Kaibab. If anyone knows of such a trek, please let me know. We are not experts, so limited navigation would be required. 

When you get to the Tonto Platform on the S. Kaibab there will be some huge rocks standing just off the trail to the north towards the river. It is an easy hike over to them and makes for a great place to view the Colorado River up and down stream.

Is it practical to hike down the S.Kaibab in the morning and do the River Trail in the afternoon? Seems like we would have the time.

Yes, it is an easy hike down the S.Kaibab and this is the best way to see the canyon early in the morning as you get to watch the sunrise over the cliffs to the east and the Grand Canyon getting brighter with each step. And the River walk trail is an easy loop to do during the day, expecially in December when the sun will not be so high as summer. The Riverwalk trail can be done either by going down canyon and crossing the Silver Bridge and over to the mouth of the Bright Angel/Pipe Creek trail and then going upstream on the trail to the Black/Mule Bridge and back to Phantom Ranch or the other way around.

Someone reccomended that we bring something to sleep in the bunkhouse, like a bivy sack or sleeping bag. Is that neccessary ? I assume the bunkhouses are heated.

I do not know about the bunkhouse's, having never stayed in them. But I would assume they are heated in the winter. You should/could contact the Backcountry Office on the south rim before you go and ask? 

Know anything about hiker security ? ie can we leave our packs in the Bunkhouses during dinner or after without worrying about things vanishing ?

Yes, they are safe to leave things there. Just ask about this too when you inquire about what to bring.

Is there anything other than the standard things to do at Phantom Ranch that anyone has done in the past ? Short hikes, ruins etc. 

There are many side hikes to do other than the Ribbon Falls hike. On the way towards Ribbon Falls you will enter Box Canyon just above P.R. about 1.3 miles you will come to the Clear Creek Canyon Trailhead on the right. A short  hike up to the North Tonto Platform will bring you to view points of up and down river from a different perspective than what you'll see on the way down and at Plateau Point.

A short hike back on the S. Kaibab will bring you to a little trail/route from the north end of the Black/Mule Bridge going up river. It takes you to a place where before the bridge was built the miners had to use a cable stretched across the river to transport supplies and even mules and themselves. 

And if you hike downstream on the north side of the Colorado on an old trail/route and look up you will see old driftwood logs at a place very high above the Colorado River. These date back to before the Glen Canyon Dam was built and the river was still a natural flowing stream. The driftwood is obvious very old and long since bleached white and show different highwater marks of the river during flashfloods and rain/snow melt periods.

One last hike/route is up to Utah Flats. To get there go to the north path to B.A. camp and cross the little bridge over the B.A. Creek. Then follow the faint but often well used trail up thru the boulder field to the NW and up onto Utah Flats. There used to be a Big Horn Sheep ram's skeleton on the flats, but I have not been up there in 10 years.

Also on the way thru Box canyon look about 3 miles upstream before you come back out into the wider upper canyon and see Phantom Canyon on the oppsite side of Bright Angel Creek. A short dayhike up this will bring you to a waterfalls and some cascades. A full roundtrip dayhike takes you up to Haunted Canyon where there are some Indian Ruins.

Finally, is it practical to hike up the Bright Angel, detour to Plateau Point, then up to the Rim ?- we have no time restrictions going up  

Yes, it is very practical to hike out to Plateau Point. Actually it is easier to do it after you make camp (if you can or are camping at Indian Gardens?). It is a 3 mile round trip from I.G. to Plateau Point and back. 

If you are staying at I.G. and have more time in the afternoon after camp and on the way to P.P. continue on to Horn Canyon and hike down the drainage to where the other side canyon comes in to the east and hike up this a short way to see a huge boulder wedged in the narrow canyon. 

I spent 20 years hiking the GC from 1983-2003 during the months from October to April, all six months on as much as 28 day hikes and know the backcountry as well as anyone. I did one trip of 256 miles over the 28 day trip in January 1999. I was banished from the park for hiking without a permit twice after they started charging $5 a night to stay in the backcountry. That was because I refused to pay to sleep on natures ground in the BC. I still have 5 more months till I can return to the canyon next may. My favorite months for hiking are Dec/Jan for they are the coolest months and the canyon is the least crowded. Summers get about the most of the 5 million annual visitors a year! I am 56 going on 57 in January and have been a backpacker since 1968 in boy scouts and 1977 on my own. The GC is on of my favorite places in the lower 48 states. 

For reading material about the canyon while hiking or before or after, Read anything by George Steck, Harvey Butchart or Colin Fletcher's tramps in the canyon. Steck and Butchart are well known to the canyon since the 1940s. Fletcher did two books on the GC and the Colorado River. My favorite is "The Man Who Walked Through Time" where in 1963(?) he walked from Havasupai to the Nankorweap route spending 3 months in the GC before Glen Canyon was finished and the Colorado began to back up in Lake Powell. He followed the river itself most of the way swimming back and forth (on a sleeping mattress) and talks a lot about the river and the history of the country. His other book "River" is when he paddled alone down the entire Green River from its headwaters in Wyoming to the dry washes of the Colorado south of Yuma AZ. he spent three months in a two man raft going the entire length.

Feel free to email about anything more about the canyon. See my email at my profile to the upper left.

As Marty Stouffer used to say"Enjoy Our Wild America!"

8:28 a.m. on November 29, 2012 (EST)
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Gary- Thanks for such a detailed and lengthy reply. Your advice and comments obviously come from great experience. Just a couple final questions based upon your experiences. Obviously at this time of year you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather- but how good are the weather forecasts ? If they say there is a zero chance of precipitation, can I leave my hard shell and rain pants in my car on the rim- or can rain/snow happen even in the face of the null forecast. And my question about hiking to Plateau Point is about doing it on the way out of the Canyon ie leave PR to Indian Gardens then go out to Plateau Point then up to the Rim as a single hike- still doable all in one day ? Thanks for you help.

2:45 p.m. on November 29, 2012 (EST)
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how good are the weather forecasts ? If they say there is a zero chance of precipitation, can I leave my hard shell and rain pants in my car on the rim- or can rain/snow happen even in the face of the null forecast.

Generally the weather reports are accurate. Generally on any given day the weather report for weather in Phoenix is about the same for the botoom of the canyon. But carrying your rian gear could come in handy, its not that heavy is it?

And my question about hiking to Plateau Point is about doing it on the way out of the Canyon ie leave PR to Indian Gardens then go out to Plateau Point then up to the Rim as a single hike- still doable all in one day ?

Yes you could do it in one day. The hike out should be started as early in the morning as possible by sunrise at least as its 9+2 miles from PR to the South Rim. The first 2 are along the river trail between the Silver bridge and the mouth of Pipe Creek and the B.A. Trail. From there its 4 miles up to I.G, 3 round trip miles out to P.P. and back, then 5 miles to the South Rim. Or about 14 miles all together. You could leave your overnight pack at I.G. and hike out and back to P.P. with a day pack?

The only water available from P.R. to the rim is at the mouth of B.A. Canyon Trail either filtered from the Colorado River or from Pipe Creek as it flows along by the trail. There is another place at I.G. where the water is filtered and in either a drinking fountain or spigot. After I.G there would be no more water till the rim other than eating possible snow along the way.

 

12:12 p.m. on November 30, 2012 (EST)
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Also, Yes some winters it does snow to the bottom of the canyon, its rare but it does sometimes. Usually if its snowing on the rim its just cloudy inside the canyon. Often tourists who come to the canyon in the winter cannot see the inner canyon cause its shrouded in clouds, as the inner canyon is warmer than the rims it tends to hold clouds on its edges all the way across the canyon rim to rim.

In the late fall and early spring when it snows on the rims it usually rains in the canyon below. 

You should be able to ask I may have said, expect the temperture to rise about 10 degree's for every thousand feet you drop into the canyon and vise versa. While rim is is cold and has 3 feet of snow the Tonto Platform (halfway to the bottom) and along the Colorado River areas like P.R. and B.A.camp will be around 30-40 degrees warmer in the daytime. 

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