I will never forget my first ever “real” backpacking trip. I definitely did not go Mickey Mouse on this first one. I went all out and went to the “big ditch”….The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It was a personal right of passage for me in my mid 20’s. The Grand Canyon has always been a special place for me, the bowels of the Colorado Plateau, where the mighty Colorado River really churns and grinds its way thru.
So when planning a family friendly trip for the wife and kid, what better than to take our 14 month old daughter all the way to Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, especially since the wife hadn’t been down there either. Also, at 14 months old, our daughter was still relatively light at about 22 pounds. Hence, the wife would carry her and a few items in the Osprey baby carrier, whilst I be the sherpa, carrying the 65 pound pack filled with most of the gear and diapers. We picked late October of 2019, hoping the weather would be just right, neither too cold or hot.
We planned for a total of 3 nights/4 days, with 2 nights in Phantom Ranch and 1 night in Indian Gardens. We hiked down the wonderfully scenic South Kaibab Trail on a cold late October morning. The temps were in the low 30’s Fahrenheit at the trailhead on the S. Rim with a brisk wind chill. For this trip, we had also invited my wife’s cousin, aunt, and uncle. They are relatively fit hikers, albeit slower due the weight of extra years of life. We proceeded down with the understanding that we would go down as quickly as possible so that our daughter would spend as little time as possible in the carrier. Having started at around 09:45 am, we made it down to the Bright Angel Campground by around 2:45-3ish, completing the 7 miles, 4 thousand foot descent in about 5 hours, including about a 1.5 hour break. By far, this is one of the most breathtaking trails in Arizona. Hiking down it, it is hard not to marvel at all the majestic viewpoints granted by this trail that apparently was blast carved onto the rock. The temperatures by the Colorado River were about in the 80’s, significantly warmer as expected. My wife’s extended family made it down about 3 hours later, nearing sunset.
Having made it down uneventfully with our daughter, it was nice knowing we had two nights here at Bright Angel Campground, for I will admit that I was a little sore and was looking forward to a layover day to just relax by the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek. Needless to day, we did just that on day two. We made our way to the canteen at Phantom Ranch in the morning to relax and read. At around noon, we made our way to the beach by Colorado River near the Black Bridge. It was at this moment that our 14 month old insisted on going for a dip in the cold, 54 degree waters of the Colorado. At first we were hesitant, thinking it too cold for her, but her cry’s made it apparent just how serious she was about getting wet. Hence, I stripped down to my boxers to oblige, thinking she would change her mind once she felt just how cold that water was. I was incorrect. This child was impervious to that cold water, and essentially went all the way in. She was officially baptized in the Colorado River, the mother of the Southwest.
On the third day of this trip, we packed our belongings and parted from Bright Angel Campground, making the 5’ish miles, 2500 foot climb up to Indian Gardens via the Bright Angel Trail. Having left at around 9am, we made it there in about 3 hours, arriving around noon. We even took the time for a break and snapshots along the river. Vanessa’s extended family arrived about 3 hours after us. This was my second time camping at Indian Gardens. It is very idyllic with all the cottonwood trees growing along the creek.
The fourth and final day entailed hiking 4.5 miles with about a 2500 foot climb. Or was it 3000ft? I don’t recall. Either way, it was not particularly difficult for myself and my wife, even with our daughter on her back and the extra weight of dirty diapers on my back. It was significantly colder this day, as a cold front had moved in overnight. It was windy and cold overnight at camp, and at times, I was concerned our tent would fly away with us in it. Either way, mission accomplished. We took our daughter on her first ever Grand Canyon Trip, and we even got to baptize her in the Colorado River.