We planned our hike for a year and decided to do it in 2005 on my 50th birthday. We planned and planned. There was the planning of what to take, what backpack to use, what food to take, and how to get there. We shopped for equipment (we had nothing, as we had never done this before), we planned our food, and decided how we were going to get there.
We packed our backpacks and a suitcase with clothes for when we finished and decided to fly to Las Vegas and rent a car to take us to the Grand Canyon. We arranged for a room at the lodge for the night we got there, and also for the night when we got back.
Everything went well, and we arrived at the lodge and spent the night. We got up the next morning and loaded our suitcase into the rental car and boarded the bus to take us to the trail head. We decided to go down on the South Kaibab trail, spend the night at Phantom Ranch, hike up Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden, spend the night, and hike out the next day.
The bus dropped us off at the Trail Head of the South Kaibab trail at 6am. It was around 40 degrees when we started down the trail. The views were spectacular with many a photo-op to be enjoyed. As we went further down the trail it got progressively hotter. The heat was oppressive and made for very difficult hiking. We could see the Colorado River, but it didn't seem we would ever get there. My wife was having a very hard time in the heat, and had even resorted to pouring Gatorade on her head to cool off. I tolerate the heat much better than the cold, and I was not feeling any real ill effects. We finally made it to the bottom after 10 hours of hiking. When we got to Phantom Ranch, there was a thermometer on a tree that read 128 degrees. My wife immediately dropped her pack and went in to the creek running through Phantom Ranch with all her clothes on.
Once we had cooled off and recovered, we began to look for a camping site. We found a good spot and set up our tent, and tried to relax before dinner. You have to reserve dinner up to a year in advance. You dont just show up at Phantom Ranch and order dinner, there is only food for the ones who reserve. Dinner has only two meals: Beef Stew, and Steak. They are pricey, $26.00 a person, for whichever meal you choose. You can also reserve breakfast, and a sack lunch for the hike out. Expect to pay around $60.00 a person for all three meals.
The reason you have to reserve your meals and they cost so much, is that the only way to get food to Phantom Ranch is by mule train, so supplies are limited to how much the mules can carry. We also sent post cards from Phantom Ranch, which say "delivered by mule train".
We awoke early and went to breakfast. We finished breakfast and made ready to hike up Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim. Standing on the trail you can see lights from the lodges on the rim, and you wonder how you will ever get back up there.
We started up the trail and hiked to Indian Gardens where we spent the night. We got up early the next morning to make our last few miles to the top. As we got closer to the top, we started passing people who were on the top looking at the views and decided to walk down the trail a mile or two. Those clean, fresh smelling people only made us appreciate more what we had accomplished. There are millions of people who visit the Grand Canyon, but there is only a very small percentage who actually set foot on the trail, let alone hike to the bottom. We enjoyed the experience so much that we created a new life. We were now at the age of 50 and 45 "Backpackers".