By the half way point at Indian Gardens the skies had cleared and we ate lunch in shirt sleeves under an ancient cottonwood tree that shades long grasses and prickly pear cacti. The next stretch of trail hugs close to musical Garden Creek, where occasional waterfalls trickle down sheer cliffs through beds of bright green moss. By the time we reached the river, everyone was plenty tired. Thankfully the last two miles along the Colorado and up Bright Angel Canyon to Phantom Ranch aren’t so steep. Crossing the Silver Suspension Bridge, I knew I had made it.
The Bright Angel Campground was studded with tents, and Phantom Ranch’s canteen, cabins and dorms looked tidy and timeless as always. When I reached the group sitting around the picnic table by the creek they’d already photographed a bobcat! A very tame resident population of mule deer that browse in the area may be the reason this predator appeared so very well fed. Bobcats weigh 15 to 30 pounds and normally prey on rodents and rabbits. But they are known to take deer if the situation arises.
The next day a few of us hiked up Clear Creek Trail where we oohed and ahhed over more glorious canyon outlooks as well as a multitude of natural gardens cloistered on terraces, cupped in shady corners and even growing from cracks in cliffs. Very few flowers were in bloom yet. We stopped for lunch in a broad drainage where rainfall rushes off Zoroaster Temple to pour thousands of feet to the river below. Two ravens came snooping and a condor cruised past, effortless on the thermals. A nine foot wingspan is fitting in this place.
Toiling up the South Kaibab Trail on Sunday we stopped often to catch our breath and savor the ever changing vistas. We dodged mule trains and peered at tiny purple flowers springing from the dirt. Ravens swooped low overhead to chuckle at our efforts and icy breezes near the top reminded us that winter still reigned.
We took the shuttle back to Bright Angel Lodge where our cars were parked. Grubby and exhausted I gazed around at the tourists on the bus. They looked so clean and comfy. I’m sure they too were awed by the canyon and I realize not everyone is able to hike. But I can guarantee that in this case I did reap what I’d sowed.