At the interesection of the Tonto and Garden Creek, we stopped for a rest. Drinking water is piped down to this point, and our plan was to fill up enough to allow us to get all the way up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim. All around us were people and buildings and mules. Quite a busy spot.
We were unused to this level of activity. All around us was hustle and bustle; mule guides leading people in for a break or out for the next leg of their ride, barking commands this way and that. Fresh-smelling dayhikers snapping photos of the fat chipmunks and purple Redbud flowers.
Lined up at Indian Garden
After filling up on water and making use of the deluxe washroom facilities, we did some saddling up of our own and started off up the Bright Angel Trail. We had made great time, and it was only 10am. It was about 4.5 miles from here to the rim - a little over 7.5 km. Elevation gain was a little over 3,000 feet - respectable, but not overwhelming. I think Cathy and Mike sensed at this point that the whole adventure was well within their grasp - just one final push!
The southern part of the Bright Angel trail is the probably the most heavily used trail in the Grand Canyon. And it shows. It is dusty, wide and heavily eroded - so much so that the horizontal trail stabilization logs they have positioned periodically across the trail are raised far above the level of the tread. This makes for tedious and tiresome hiking, since it adds an unecessary up-and-down step again and again and again. I often walked on the stones that formed the margin of the trail - at least those were level.
Apart from the fact that it is very eroded, the trail is constructed very well. There are many well-engineered switchbacks, allowing us to easily climb through all of the Grand Canyon's steepest layers with relative ease. As we gained elevation, we slowly observed our intimate 'in-canyon' view morph into the more aerial view one gets from the rim. Still beautiful, but more distant.
We passed three-mile house -- one of the bathroom / water stops on this section of the Bright Angel -- about one hour later, at around 11am. Only 3 miles to go now!
As we climbed back up into the higher elevations, we encountered patches of snow that were still lingering here and there. There was even a lane of hard ice in the center of the trail, packed down by thousands of hikers. However, it was impregnated with a ton of dirt and sand, and was not slippery in the least.