This is long, but not as long as it could have been.
The Grand Canyon is an incredible place. There just can't be many places on earth which have the in-your-face geology, the soaring vistas, the diversity of flora, the recreation opportunities. It is a never ending wonder. For my latest visit I chose to take a corridor trail camping trip over 5 days and 4 nights. I've wondered if there was anything I could add by reporting my trip. There are many others who have hiked the canyon and shared their experience and knowledge. I am not sure that I have any great insight to add. However a longer trip into the canyon is less reported so I thought maybe I'd just offer it up as an option.
I'd hiked from the south rim to the river in a three day trip about 9 years ago. I'd also taken a full day Mule trip down the North Kaibab. So the only part of the trail I planned that I had not done before was on the North Kaibab trail between Roaring Springs and Phantom Ranch. It did help that I knew what I was getting into.
There had been some talk about an October TA group hike a year or so ago and I guess that planted the seed. I knew I wasn't getting any younger (late 50's at this point), so I decided to try for a hike I felt I was capable of which, at the same time, would give me as much time as possible in the canyon.
I was lucky enough to get my first choice for camping permits. Mid October for the cooler temperatures, just as the North Rim was shutting down. Starting from the North Rim heading down to Cottonwood Camp at about 7 miles for the first day. From there to Bright Angel Camp (about 7 miles) for two nights and a layover day. Then up 5 miles on the Bright Angel trail to Indian Gardens Campground for one night so we could enjoy a walk out to Plateau Point (3 miles). Then 5 miles up to the rim, for a total of 27 miles.
I was shocked that I'd received the permit during this busy time and didn't know if it were really possible for me to do it. I'm not super fit, have put on too many pounds, and I'd also gained a few physical problems which would be an issue hiking. I wasn't sure which of my family would be able to go with me. I finally decided I better start walking and be ready just in case it all worked out. I worked up to walking 4 miles a day with elevation gain (easy to get near my house). I took a few longer weekend hikes, all with elevation gain (grew up with the Wasatch mountains as my backyard. Elevation gain comes with the territory.) One thing I discovered in all this is that I'm not a gym person. I kept trying, but I'd just as soon take an hour walk.
I was hoping my brother would hike it with me, but in the end he decided he couldn't. Instead his 20-something son volunteered and my brother decided that he and his wife would be our shuttle. I was more than pleased with that since it helped us avoid having to camp at the North Rim in freezing temps and then carry all that extra clothing with us.
I had never spent any real time with my nephew, but he is an easy going guy and I knew I would enjoy hiking with him. He is an eagle scout so I assumed he knew something about hiking, but even for him this was a long hike. What I didn't know, until we were hiking, is that he had never been to the Grand Canyon before. He had no idea what he was getting into. I'll have to say having those extra days to hike helped him just as much as they did me. Without the shorter distances, especially on the downhill portion, and the layover day at the bottom he would have been hurting.
You have four months after that confirmation comes to get ready. And there is much to get ready for. Preparing physically by training, deciding and booking somewhere to stay on both rims, booking the shuttle ride (which I cancelled), planning trail meals, deciding what to wear (will it be cold? hot?). Taking five days for the hike allowed me to experience all of the major sights along the way-- Roaring Springs, Ribbon Falls, Phantom Ranch and the area at the bottom, and the hike to Plateau Point, along with providing me time to do the hike. I am slow. I stop often. I needed extra time to make the hike. Of course camping four nights meant extra food, extra clothing, some heavy clothing for the colder nights and in case the weather changed, meaning a heavier pack and an even slower pace. But that was okay. When you go slow you do see more. And as one old man asked as we left him to continue at our own pace, "Why are you going so fast? Is it a race?" The answer of course is that it doesn't have to be.
And pictures: http://tinyurl.com/d3zkgwn
I make no pretensions to being a photgrapher. The quick group download only gives the smaller size pictures. So sorry about that. And there are too many, but I've already culled it down from about 800, so wade through if you like.