For Spring Break, we took the kids on a 30 mile backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. This was the 4th trip for the girls, and the 3rd trip for the boys. We hiked down the South Kaibab Trail 7.3 miles, with about 4,800 feet of elevation drop, from the forested South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. We stayed at Bright Angel Campground for two nights. The second day, we day hiked 12 miles round trip up the North Kaibab Trail to Ribbon Falls. Day 3, we hiked about 5.5 miles up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden. This trail crosses the Silver Pipeline suspension bridge (one of the two footbridges we crossed over the Colorado River), skirts along the river cliffs and then climbs up the Devil's Corkscrew to Indian Garden. Stayed the 3rd night at Indian Garden. Day 4, we climbed the 4.5 miles up the Bright Angel Trail back to the South Rim. We keep the packs manageable. I've purchased lighter gear over the years, and after many, many trips through the Grand Canyon over the past 23 years covering somewhere between 700-1,000 miles, we have it down to a science. Pack weights (with water): Joe - 30 lbs, Brandi - 26 lbs, Annie - 26 lbs, Emmy 24 lbs, James - 20 lbs, Matt - 10 lbs. The kids' packs get lighter as the trip goes on since the food gets eaten along the way. We wear trail running shoes or really light low-top hikers, and the kids are able to move at a pretty good pace.
James and Matthew on the hike out. We have great kids. They're really great to be around and willing to be adventurous.
Annie is our speedhiker. With some effort, Emmy can keep up with her, but Annie is pretty aggressive on the trails, especially the climbs. I told her last year I had never climbed out from Indian Garden to the rim (4.5 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain) in less than 2.5 hours. So, she hiked out with Emmy in 2 hours. This year, she left with Brandi and Emmy with the goal to hike out in 1:45. Brandi said Annie wouldn't even let them stop for water - "No snack or water breaks!" Annie and Emmy topped out in 1:50, and Brandi was 16 minutes behind them. James, Matthew, and I took 2:45. I gave the boys each a Tootsie Pop the last 1.5 miles and told them to try and make it last (just to take their minds off the sun and achy legs). It mostly worked. Matthew's lasted right to the rim.
At the trailhead about to hike down the South Kaibab Trail. I first did this exact trip with my dad and brothers, John and Daniel, back in 1991 when I was 18 years old. I remember my dad was going to hike down in some leather house slippers before we talked him out of it. On that trip, my dad packed the food, which consisted of Beef Top Ramen, pancake mix, and lemon-lime Gatorade.
James and Matt.
I was always hiking with James and Matt, so most of the trail pictures are of them. Heading down the South Kaibab. The temps were in the 50-75 range the entire trip with no rain. However, the hike down was in high winds. The upper trails are along cliff edges, and with the 40+ mph winds, it made Brandi nervous. She stayed with us to hold Matt's hand the first 5 miles, and then left us to hike with Emmy.
James and Matt hiking down the South Kaibab.
On a cliff ledge looking almost straight down at the confluence of the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek. Our camp is along Bright Angel Creek in those light green trees middle right. I love Bright Angel Campground - a true oasis.
About to enter the tunnel leading to the Black Suspension Bridge to cross the Colorado River.
James reading in camp. Last year, I discovered these REI backpacking chairs that weigh 1 lb. I bought a second one this year. Makes camp so much more comfortable.
Brandi and Annie slept in the tent (background to the right). I slept out under the stars with James, Matt, and Emmy. I did set up my Walrus Trekker Tarp the first two night in case of rain. I slept under the lunar eclipse Tuesday night, waking up as it progressed each hour.
Matt waking up.
I love hiking in the spring as the desert flowers are in bloom. The agave or century plants were sending up shoots all over the place. Matt and James near one on the way up to Ribbon Falls.
Brandi reading along the Colorado River as the kids play in the water and on the beach.
James in Bright Angel Creek with a mule deer right behind him.
James hiking along the river on the way to Indian Garden.
Me and the boys.
James and Matt hiking along the river.
James at Indian Garden as the sun set.
Annie is our pickiest eater. The rest of us eat Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal with hot chocolate or hot cider for breakfast, but she won't eat that. So, we bring her pop tarts. But she even picks off the edges of those (anything without frosting on the edge gets picked off). For lunch this year, we had packets of salmon and tuna and crackers. We also had ramen as an extra or second helping. For dinner, we use freeze dried meals - the kids had spaghetti or lasagna while Brandi and I had Backpacker's Pantry meals: Pad Thai, Pad See You, and some kind of rice and curry. We really liked the Pad See You meal. I plan out each meal and all of the trail snacks for each day of hiking. I also have a miscellaneous snack bag for camp - this year it had extra fruit snacks, bubble gum, Tootsie Pops, ginger snaps, and trail bars. By Day 4, after breakfast, we had two ramen packets, 1 packet of tuna, 2 packs of oatmeal, a few packets of hot chocolate, and the trail snacks for the hike out. Less than 2 lbs of food left over. Pretty good planning.
Eating lunch at Ribbon Falls. I didn't want to do the 12 mile round trip hike, but everyone else wanted to. My legs are tired from marathon training, so I just wanted to lounge around camp. But we went and had fun. We leave Bright Angel Camp and hike along the creek through the tight canyon up the North Kaibab Trail. It takes about 2.5 hours to get up and the same to get back. The trail is a very gradual climb, so it's easy walking. I carry the only daypack loaded with snacks, lunch, and water. I have a Steri Pen for treating water along the way or at the falls. With Phantom Ranch right next to Bright Angel Campground, you can go into the cantina there and buy lemonade or snacks. I bought 6 fresh apples (for .90 cents a piece), and hauled these up on our day hike to the falls to go with our salmon, crackers, jerky, and trail bars. Phantom Ranch is the only inner canyon facility. It's an old rustic camp with small cabins from 70-90 years ago. You can only get there by hiking in or riding the old Grand Canyon mules. It's this little, rustic, hidden oasis miles and miles from anything. I love this little canyon along the Colorado holding the small ranch and the campground. A true oasis.
Emmy is always happy. Always.
We all read a lot. I took down Buried in the Sky - a book about climbers dying on K2. Brandi takes her Kindle down.
We took our backpacking chairs into Bright Angel Creek and soaked our aching feet in the cool waters while we read.
Emmy and James climbed into the cave of Ribbon Falls and popped out the portal above.
Cactus in bloom everywhere.
The Devil's Corkscrew taking us up from the river to Indian Garden.
Playing along the Colorado River.
The kids did the Junior Ranger programs at Phantom Ranch and Indian Garden. They get patches and badges for doing the programs down "below the rim."
Matt at Ribbon Falls.
Spring in the inner canyon is beautiful. Bright Angel Campground sits along the creek. I sat in the creek for hours.
Brandi hiking down the South Kaibab. We came down that ridge in the background from the top rim. Up there, the winds were pretty high and made for nervous hiking along the cliffs.