Grand Canyon backpacking begins with a three mile boo-boo

If you’re going to make a mistake, do it on the front end.  ~Gretty 2017

Hi, Girlfriends and Guy friends.

And so we did.   Right from the get-go.

We were heading toward the Bridle Path which would lead us to the North Kaibab Trailhead to begin our 23-mile Rim-to-Rim backpacking trip of the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately, we turned right on Bridle Path instead of left.

This was bad news.

A.k.a. oh-crap-we-haven’t-even-started-and-just-added-three-extra-miles-onto-our-7-mile-first day.

The good news?

We corrected our miss-steps and didn’t play the “blame game” for long.  By the time we turned the second switch-back in the canyon and stepped over the mule poop for the fourth time, we replaced our gritted teeth with big smiles. 

It’s happening, Sweetheart

We were finally doing this North to South, Rim-to-Rim Backpacking Trip!  And we snagged five-day permits to traverse one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!

We were descending into the GRAND CANYON!

How we got ready

September 26 through October 7th found us in Flagstaff, AZ, getting our bodies ready.

We accomplished three long hikes in 10 days carrying our full packs.  (Mine was about 30 pounds, Johnny’s was around 45 pounds.)

Here I am on our 12 miler on the Inner Basin Trail.  

Training Upward

Our final training hike took us to the VERY WINDY Mt. Humphrey.  It took all day to summit and return from the highest point of Arizona at 12,633 feet.

Waaaay in the distance (90 miles behind me) is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Weird that in one week we would be standing on that North Rim- seeing Mt. Humphrey 90 miles to our south!      October 7th- We left Flagstaff driving 90 miles north to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we had reservations at Trailer Village RV Campground.  Don’t we look fresh and clean?   Dinner at the famous El Tovar Hotel.  Delicious.

First Courses…

On Tuesday, October 10th, my sister, Margaret, arrived to doggy sit.  (No dogs allowed in the Grand Canyon.)  I am blessed to have a sister who drives from Madison, Wisconsin to stay with Penny!  Sorry no photo of sister or her dog Major.  We were too busy orienting her to all the systems of our Coach.

Here are our packs all ready to go. I LOVE my bright green Gregory Jade 60 backpack!  

Margaret drove us to the Bright Angel Lodge where we hopped our shuttle bus from the South Rim to the North Rim.

A five-hour drive.

Jack, our driver/tour guide, had worked for the park service for 45 years.  He pointed out highlights along the beautiful ride, the Vermilion Cliffs, Lee’s Ferry, and several elusive Bison.  

We treated ourselves to a fantastic dinner at The Grand Canyon Lodge. 

It was a dusty one-mile walk from our campground.

We scored the primo campsite in the backpacking section of the campground.  Yes, our tent was 50 feet from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Not bad for $6 a night!

See the big mountain on the left?  Yup.  That is Mt. Humphrey.  Like I mentioned before, one week earlier we stood on top of that summit looking north 90 miles to the North Rim where we were now camping.


My morning routine.  21 push-ups. Taking in the Canyon before we head down. Heading down the wide dusty trail… Gorgeous…

He hikes…

First campground:  CottonwoodCritter Proof containers for all our food and zip locks.  The deer, squirrels, and ring-tailed cats have associated the smell of zip locks with food.

Ranger Becky checked us in, asking three times how we felt.  They take safety seriously down in the Canyon. I guess we passed the test.

We felt fantastic…except the toes.  The toes were sore, but hey, after 10 miles of downhill, what can you expect?  

Hike from Cottonwood to Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Campground.   Highlight:  Side hike to Ribbon Falls.

Yes, we crossed a “closed bridge”…after watching others cross it very safely.    Arriving at Phantom Ranch.  Spent two nights here.  

The first priority, cool thy feet! Second…nap.Third.  Line up for Steak dinner at the Phantom Ranch Cantina.


We were able to lighten our pack weight by pre-ordering 2 dinners, 2 sack lunches, and 2 hot breakfasts.  When backpacking, every ounce counts!  

Did I mention cooling our feet?! Drying rack for clean socks.

Coincidences in the Canyon

Bonus surprise at Phantom Ranch:  meeting Susan Schmit!

We both grew up in St. Louis, attended nursing schools in St. Louis, graduated from Lutheran High Schools in St. Louis, share the same last name.  (My maiden name was Schmidt.)  Plus, we both drink Chardonnay,  AND both love backpacking.   I LOVE these random surprises that God has waiting for me…even in the Grand Canyon.

The underside of Black Bridge across the Colorado River.

Fair warning for the Rim-to-Rim runners.

Yes, I said runners.

Look where the sausage in our lunch sack was produced! Heading South. Trekking over the Colorado toward the Bright Angel Trail for our upward ascent to the South Rim.

A little freaky to walk this LONG expanse seeing the river through the grates-

but I did it!  

Love the warning signs… Wranglers.  Clip-clop!  

Up and up towards Indian Gardens.

Refreshing water crossings and chances to splash cold water on our faces. Devil’s Corkscrew…

This guy was toast.  Rangers came to help him.

Final glow at Indian Gardens.  

O-dark-thirty.  Sustenance for the final leg!Camp hosts…

Up! Up! Up!

We made it!  John and I both remarked that we were sad it was over.

Time to plan the next trip!

Re-living the joy safe at home…

“Do nothing to mar its grandeur. Keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as the one great site that every American should see.” -.Theodore Roosevelt

Your turn!  Tell me if you’ve been to the Grand Canyon, or when you plan to go!

Happy Trails and tender hugs,


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