Grand Canyon Day 3: Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens

Colorado River

As the sun rose on the third day of my Grand Canyon rim to rim hike, I could think of just one thing: it was time to go up.

After two days of hiking downhill to the very bottom of the canyon, it was time to switch gears and head uphill for the last two days. I felt rested from our relaxing day at Phantom Ranch, but I also knew that as soon as the sun was all the way up, the heat may get unbearable. Although we were awake again by about 3:30 a.m., we did not manage to leave on time by 5:00 as planned. While it didn’t bother me so much the previous day, this morning my frustration was increasing.

Of course, I was also worried about my toe, which I hurt the previous day, stubbing it on a large rock at our campsite. I didn’t know at the time whether it was broken or not, but an afternoon of rest and icing at Phantom Ranch didn’t seem to help much. The toe was red and swollen, with the nail purple, when I awoke and it hurt just as much on day three as it did at the end of day two. Greg taped it up with moleskin for padding as I hiked, but even the act of putting my foot into my hiking shoe was excruciatingly painful. The ibuprofen I was popping didn’t do much good either. I was afraid I may be in for a long, hot, painful hike.

A few of us finally started out by 5:30 as Drew and Greg finished gathering everything at camp and we were soon treated to some deer hanging out next to the path. Deer seemed to be everywhere in the canyon and were completely unfazed by all of us humans roaming around. They just did their thing and ignored us.

Deer

It wasn’t long before we reached the Colorado River and crossed the Silver Bridge to begin our ascent toward the South Rim. While the bridge looked much sturdier than the many suspension bridges I crossed in the Himalayas, with 11 of us walking across at once, it swayed quite a bit, making me almost as nervous as I was crossing all those bridges in Nepal!

Silver Bridge

The early part of the hike followed the Colorado River on a slight incline, alternating shade and sun. The hardest section was a series of switchbacks which brought me back to hiking on a scorching hot day when I was in Tajikistan. That day nearly two years ago was miserable, going up and down incredibly short, steep switchbacks covered in red dirt with no shade aside from the umbrella that my host mother insisted I carry. By comparison, these switchbacks were easy-peasy – not too steep and with plenty of shade to balance out the sunny sections.

River path
Steps
Grand Canyon view

We arrived at Indian Gardens, our campground for the night, before 10:00 a.m. After an early lunch, we realized that Jessy, the teenage girl in the group, was suffering from some sort of heat exhaustion. She was dizzy and shaky and even threw up. It was quite scary. We realized later that she may actually have been suffering from hyponatremia, when drinking too much water leads to the dilution of sodium in the body. She drank nearly 3 liters of water during the hike in an attempt to avoid dehydration, but without food or electrolytes to go with all that water, it had the reverse effect.

Late in the day, I took some time to wander around the campground to take some more photos. It was much greener than I had anticipated, with a plethora of flowers adding even more color.

Cactus flower
Indian Gardens view
Flower and bee

After dinner, we hurried out to Plateau Point for the sunset. Unfortunately, we didn’t get an early enough start to catch the sun lighting up the canyon before it dipped behind a peak in the distance. I was really disappointed because I had been looking forward to some great lighting and colors for photography, but in the end it was okay.

Canyon sunset
Canyon sunset 2
Canyon sunset 3
Plateau Point

Sitting up on the plateau looking over the canyon really gave me perspective on how far we had come in just three days – and much of the canyon remained for us to cover. On our walk back to the campsite, we could see flickering lights far in the distance and realized that was our final destination – the South Rim.

Stay tuned for day four of my Grand Canyon rim to rim hike with Wildland Trekking…or go back and read about day one or day two!

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