Down Is Optional; Up Is Mandatory

We decided to take on part of the Bright Angel Trail because you can’t really appreciate the grandness of the canyon from just the top. We were welcomed with this warning.

Neither of us ended up on our hands and knees violently barfing, so I’d say it was a success.

The Lower Tunnel was 590 feet down. From this point, most families with little children made their way back up, lessening the crowds.

But we had a lot more walking to do. Our destination was the 3-Mile Resthouse, 2,120 feet below the top. The park’s famous lines,what goes down, must come up, and up is optional; down is mandatory echoed in our ears with every step. But we kept on walking.

The interesting thing is that we never saw the river, even when we were over 2,000 feet down. We would have had to go down another 2,000+ to put our toes in the old Colorado. We saw many people with gear heading down to camp at the river. Unfortunately, we don’t have ultra-light weight gear as we are car camping, so we weren’t able to sleep at the bottom. But if you ever find yourself at the Grand Canyon, we both agreed that’s the way to do it (if you’re okay walking down and then up 9 miles, of course)

The views up (and still down) were incredible once we made it to the 3-Mile Resthouse.

We were halfway down a side canyon and could see the rest of the trail below us.

I was feeling good having a new perspective of the canyon, but I also knew we had some work to do before feeling victorious.

After hiking a mile and a half up, we took a break at the resthouse 1,120 feet from the top and took in the view.

A little friend posed for us in front of a pretty nice backdrop.

As we ascended, we saw the geology of the canyon change from Redwall limestone (340 million years) to the Supai group (~300 million years).

We soon realized we didn’t have a picture together on this epic hike, so we snapped a quick sweaty one before emerging from the canyon. Look at that hiker happiness.

After our feet reached concrete, we realized we probably could have made it to the Indian Garden Campground (down that serpentine road below), but it’s better to end early with certainty in your abilities, especially if the “back” is much harder than the “out.”

Overall, we had a great experience hiking the Bright Angel Trail.

If you’re ever in a crowded park, you can always find a place of solitude amidst the chaos of visitors…you just may have to work a little harder for it.

The next morning was our last one in the park, so we decided to check out the western section of the South Rim to Hermit’s Rest. The red line shuttle acts as a hop on/hop off between stops.

At each stop, a panorama of red and green welcomed us.

The funny thing about the Grand Canyon is that it’s so big that your mind can’t quite comprehend the scope of it all. We heard a
few visitors mention the same thing. It’s as if your brain can only input small sections. I imagine there’s some scientific study on this sort of thing but for our wider audience (myself included), I will just say that the canyon is almost too big.

The sections that our brains can compute are pretty majestic though.

After our fill of vistas, we decided to get just one more; this one would be from the Desert View Watchtower, the highest point on the South Rim.

The tower was designed by Mary Colter, an architect who was enamored with southwestern and native art.

She incorporated all she learned, with the help of local native artists, in its construction and design. It is not meant to be a copy, but a kind of celebration.

We escaped the crowds one last time and headed to our next destination. Interestingly, when I consider the Grand Canyon now in retrospect, I don’t think of the throngs of people, but an infinite expanse of pure natural wonder. Funny what our brains do.

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