Bright Angel Descent

Devil's Corkscrew below

In four trips, the Grand Canyon has yet to disappoint and still I search for words to describe the spellbinding magic of the place. On a towering scale buttes and soaring temples expose layers of multi-colored geological history. The hues of the stones flush brilliant or fade into shadows as sun and clouds stir the light. In sheltered canyons budding cottonwood trees anchor near trickling brooks and small birds forage under twiggy shrubs. The ten mile Bright Angel Trail cascades down from the South Rim for several miles in a series of steep switchbacks and then runs across the shoulder of the Tonto Platform before opening onto lush Indian Garden. A one-railed fence prettily pens back grasses and prickly pear cactus along the trail into camp. Sun-warmed wooden benches where we eat lunch cluster around a precious water spigot. Cottonwood and redbud trees shade nearby picnic tables and corrals. As lovely as it is, we must keep on. Chasing Garden Creek into a gorgeous tree filled canyon, the trail hugs close to a red walled cliff. At Ah-Ha Point stone buttes crowd the horizon, layered in red, gold and brown. We note the trail spiraling far below until it appears as a yellow thread in the distance. We are about to embark on the Devil’s Corkscrew. At the apex of the coil where the trail bends sharply, a pinnacle rising from below is caught in shadow, while the glorious panorama beyond gleams with sunlight. Portrayed in silhouette on top of the shadowy outcropping two ravens nuzzle one another, phantoms too enamored to mark our presence. At last the trail levels off but the way continues rough and narrow. We cross the creek three times, teetering but not splashing as we hop from rock to rock. When knees and feet have conspired in revolt, we finally reach the jade colored Colorado. The water is flat and shiny, stirred with eddies. The route runs east above the river through deep silt. A work crew with buckets and mules patch the path. The river is loud and the sky above is like a blue dome. We cross the Silver Suspension Bridge and hike up the slot canyon that holds Phantom Ranch. Trying to ignore the soreness, I raise my head, I’m a Roman conquistador home from a long campaign. My feet kiss blessed flat ground. Cottonwood trees lining the canyon bring forth sea green buds while fresh leaves already whisper. Along the trail small meadows are studded with sprawling prickly pear and in the distance simple structures promise rest and food.


3 responses to “Bright Angel Descent

  1. Simply beautiful. I am motivated to make the trek, but almost feel it is unnecessary…your description makes me also feel that I was there with you. Nice job on all accounts.

  2. Gail, I have a lump in my throat reading your beautiful words that bring back the lovely memories of our Grand Canyon weekend! I always love to go and loathe to leave.

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