We woke at 6am on Saturday morning and began taking down the tent and packing our bags. We hit the trail around 7:30, hiking to the river and then over the Silver Bridge. We followed the river for some time, going up and down more than our sore calves cared to. But eventually we cut back into the inner canyon. The trail intersected with a stream at several points, and we took immense pleasure in dousing our hair and backs with cool water.
The hike up the inner canyon on the Bright Angel Trail was breathtaking. Because we were still below the traditional (and rim-visible) upper parts of the canyon, it didn’t even seem like we were in the Grand Canyon at all, but rather some alternate fantasy world. I kept imagining that we’d stumble upon a dinosaur around the next corner.
We stopped for an extended lunch break at Indian Garden, the halfway point, and the place where I’d previously taken the fork to Plateau Point. From here on out we could see our destination at the top of the canyon, and it seemed very far away and very high. Surprisingly going up felt easier than going down, stressing our quads more than our calves. We still took advantage of the resthouses every mile and a half to rest, refuel, and rewater.
The last mile was hard. Awesomely hard. Like climbing an infinite staircase. Rhythmic. I used my poles to pull my body up every step of the way. This is also the part of the trail where we ran into a lot of people who were just walking below the rim for a bit to take a few pictures. We regaled and amazed them with our tale of starting at the river that morning and hiking 9.6 miles out of the canyon.
Just before the top we stumbled upon a whole family of Bighorn sheep, walking precariously along the canyon walls. And attracting a lot of attention. And then, almost like clockwork, nine and a half hours later, nine and a half miles later, we emerged at the top of the canyon. Victorious!
That night we drove to Williams and celebrated with a steak dinner. Then we continued all the way to a hotel in Phoenix, exhausted, dirty, and sore, but totally satisfied in our accomplishment.