Sunday, September 25
Start: Indian Garden Campground
Stop: Cottonwood Campground
The campground is slow to quiet despite the 8pm quiet hours and to my utter surprise the camp is rumbling at 5am. I was keen on getting an early start but damn. Those folks headed for the South Rim are no doubt hard core. I’m on trail by 6:30am and have the trail to myself for a mile or two. The deer browsing near the trail are not concerned by my presence. The only sound that breaks the silence is Indian Creek rushing towards the Colorado River. Soon I’m meeting day hikers who’ve left from Phantom Ranch. One old gentleman even tells me that my pack looks heavy. I chuckle because I can’t help but wonder if my pack is actually lighter than his day pack.
The swaying suspension bridge sets my stomach to caution. The muddy Colorado River rushes underneath while I click across the sections. Some are not secured and they clack down when I step on them. My most powerful thought is: Do not drop your cell phone. But I’m lucky to have the bridge to myself and seep in the spray of the river. I roll into Phantom Ranch to find Phil at a table next to three ladies. They’ve caught wind of my PCT treks and pepper me with trail questions. This is their second time going Rim2Rim, the first of which they did in one day. I tell them they’re badass and they seem to like that. Phantom Ranch sells things you can only get there like shirts and beer. I get one of each. I sip my scrumptious beer while I write a postcard which will be mailed by mule. The beers, all the souvenirs – they’ve been brought in by mule. Thank you mules!
It’s seven miles until Cottonwood Camp and I push out in good spirits. It’s warm and verging on hot through The Box. I blast a few tunes and the miles slip by quickly. I find Phil and stop for a break that gets cut short by the encroaching sun. My hungry stomach rumbles but I push on. I find Phil at a trail junction and he tells me that he will trudge on to camp. I opt for an off trail destination, Ribbon Falls. I take the first trail junction to the falls which is a slightly abandoned route. That means that I have a river ford and bushwhack. But it’s all worth it because my direct approach means that I arrive about five minutes before the rest of the crowd. Just being in the presence of this waterfall oasis brightens my spirits and cools the body. I get some sick pictures before the crowds mob the scene. I finally give in to my hungry stomach, inhaling food and water. I collect water directly from the waterfall and drink. Fingers crossed! I climb to the top of Ribbon Falls and the wind sprays heavy mist on me. Yesssssss. Refreshhhh. In that moment it’s hard to believe I am in the middle of a desert.
The 1+ mile from Ribbon Falls to Cottonwood Campground is a grind. Leaving the cool spray is hard to do in the heat of the day plus I’ve eaten too much and my stomach is pissed. But I push through and drag myself into Cottonwood. I hear “Lion Heart” from the trees and I find Phil in the perfect campsite. Part shade and part view of canyon walls. Bright Angel Creek is in the distance and provides a constant headache hum. All I know how to do is hike. This hours in camp thing is kinda unknown to me. I shoulda brought a deck of cards or something to pass the hours. Phil hits the hay about 7pm and I follow soon after.
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