After returning to the Colorado River via the North Kaibab trail, the run transitions to the River Trail and then the Bright Angel trail to return to the South Rim. This section is roughly 9 miles with over 5000' of elevation gain.
1 Back at the Colorado River. The run down to Cottonwood Camp was pretty uneventful, the 6000' drop went by fast. The run from Cottonwood back to The Box though was tough and I started to have the first signs of hitting the wall. But the awe of running back through The Box, and now seeing the river again, has me re-energized. Every so often I encounter a hiker or backpacker that asks what hike I did today, and I tell them about R2R2R, and their reaction gives me a good boost.
2 Crossing the Silver Bridge. It was built in the 1960s as part of the project to carry water from Roaring Springs to the South Rim.
3 Looking upstream from the Silver Bridge. You can see the Kaibab (Black) bridge in the distance. Evidently the river is much clearer than it used to be. Something like 90% of the sediment that used to flow through here is now trapped behind the Glen Canyon Dam up river.
4 Now on the South side of the river and ready to follow the River Trail to the Bright Angel junction.
5 The River Trail follows the Colorado River for about a mile and a half. The trail is deep sand in places, which slows my pace. Fortunately, all my beach volleyball has me pretty accustomed to powering through the sand.
6 Leaving the river, the trail follows Pipe Creek for a while. This is the first clear glimpse of the South Rim, and it looks a long ways away!
7 Leaving Pipe Creek at about 3000' and getting ready to head up the Devil's Corkscrew, which is a nasty set of switchbacks covering about 600 vertical feet.
8 Bright Angel seems to be a bit of a cross between South Kaibab and The Box. The views aren't as expansive as South Kaibab or as chiseled as The Box, but they are amazing nonetheless.
9 A good look at the trail winding its way up to the Tonto Platform. View Full Size
10 It's now about 6:00pm and the sun is getting low in the canyon, which makes for some awesome lighting. Hopes of hitting my 14 hour goal are starting to fade though as my pace slows and the clock is ticking.
11 A short video made strictly for the sound clip. Turn your speakers up loud. In the area along Garden Creek, some sort of animal was making these really loud sounds that echoed across the canyon. I'm assuming it was some sort of frog, but it sounded more like sheep. I was actually half expecting to see a mountain goat. One frog would make the sound, and then another one would answer from 100 yards up the trail, and it would go back and forth all across the canyon. It was a bit freaky.
12 A family of deer having dinner. They pretty much ignore me as I take picures.
13 The setting sun is making for some views almost as amazing as the sunrise views that started the day. As always, the picture doesn't do the lighting justice.
14 One of my favorite views from the entire trip. The picture absolutely does not do it justice. In the setting sun, the huge rock formation on the right looked like it was glowing red from the inside.
15 An unexpected waterfall as Garden Creek cuts its own little canyon in the area called the Tapeats Narrows. This looks to me like something from a movie set.
16 A panoramic view from the Tonto Platform looking towards Indian Garden and the South Rim. View Full Size
17 Yep, I pretty much feel like that guy right now. I wonder what the warning sign for "DO NOT attempt R2R2R in one day" would look like?
18 Approaching Indian Garden, a lush oasis in the middle of the Grand Canyon. Similar to Roaring Springs, there are several springs that form here when water seeping through the rock layers hits an impervious layer. This area was farmed by the Havasupai Indians as early as 1300 AD, and was used by prehistoric humans before that.
19 Walking through Indian Garden.
20 The Indian Garden Ranger Station.
21 Getting ready to leave Indian Garden and make the final ascent to the South Rim. The flat trail through Indian Garden has given me a little bit of a second wind, but I still have 4.6 miles and about 3000' of gain to go. Looking at the canyon wall, it's hard to imagine there's anywhere a trail could go up that.
22 A look across the canyon from the end of the Tonto Platform as the trail gets ready to climb the brutal set of switchbacks known as Jacob's Ladder. Similar to the North Kaibab trail, the trail here is only able to make it to the rim by following breaks in the cliff made by the Bright Angel Fault.
23 One of the last views across the canyon before the light gets too dim. It's now almost 7:00pm, but if I really power hike the last 4 miles, I can still make my 14 hour goal.
24 "Down is optional, up is mandatory". Now they tell me! Definitely one of the better warning signs on the traill. I'm now about halfway up Jacob's Ladder at about 4600', and I'm officially hitting the wall. Hard. It's finally becoming clear that I'm not going to hit my 14 hour goal. Hopefully my dad won't be too worried waiting for me on the South Rim.
25 A "Twilight Mode" picture. It's now 7:40pm and it's actually much darker than it looks in the picture. The 14 hour milestone is officially about to pass and I still have over 1000' to climb.
26 One of the two tunnels not far from the Bright Angel trailhead, illuminated by my headlamp. I've slowly but surely past the 3 Mile and 1 1/2 Mile Resthouses and am finally near the rim. There were probably great pictures to take there, but it's been completely dark for almost an hour. There have been a few small groups also coming up Bright Angel with headlamps, and I was determined not to let anyone pass me. Surprisingly, as tired as I was, I passed multiple people and no one passed me all the way to the rim.
27 Made it!! The Bright Angel trailhead at 6860'. The official time is 8:50pm, for a total R2R2R round-trip time of 14:57. Almost a full hour off my goal. But considering the long breaks, sightseeing, and 300 pictures I took, I'm satisfied. I definitely learned a lot of lessons for next time. My dad has been waiting for me for a while now, having succuessfully completed his rim-to-river-to-rim hike. He was evidently worried (he worries too much about my adventures), but I made it none the worse for wear. Now it's time for food and sleep!