On January 20th, many of my best friends and hiking partners were celebrating with "Tarzan," our token male member, Ron Brown. Ron had just completed hiking all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and officially became a member of the "900 Miler Club." During our socializing, a few of us tossed around the idea of taking a trip to the Grand Canyon "one of these days." I must admit that I took the bit and ran with it..
Three days later when Southwest Airlines when offered a bargin rate it took less than 5 minutes for Terri Cox, Anna Marie Stefanick and myself, Pat Bolz to book the March 19th flight to Phoenix. This was the closest date that coincided with Anna Marie's spring break schedule. Unfortunately as we quickly discovered it also put us in competition with thousands of other spring breakers.
No reservations...no plans...but lots of time! With my background as a travel agent I hit the World Wide Web and began scrambling.
I started by attempting to secure backcountry reservations; our number one priority. Although I had hoped for sites along the main routes, corridor sites as they are called, there were none available. I tried for sites in the either the Hermit Trail area or the Clear Creek area. Clear Creek sites were available for March 22nd , 23rd, 24th, and 25th. I immediately grabbed them! Clear Creek Use area is a camping at large area. Camping is allowed two miles up the trail; just north and east of Phantom Ranch past Sumner Wash.
Knowing that Terri and Anna Marie were much stronger hikers than I am, I was sure we could add the additional 2 miles of hiking to our trek down the South Kaibab trail if it became necessary. Although we were willing to camp for the entire trip if necessary, I was fortunate to find lodging at Bright Angel Lodge for our first three nights on the rim. I called periodically trying for cancellations either at Bright Angel campground or Phantom Ranch for Wednesday March 21st.. On one of those calls, I discovered 3 steak dinners for Sunday evening March 25th. I grabbed them also! To be able to enjoy dinner at the ranch might mean we would be hiking back up the trail 2 miles after dinner but it would be worth it. We continued to be hopeful we might still be able to get a cancellation somewhere on the bottom for Wednesday and/or Sunday evening.
I scoured the Internet for information and accounts of trips to the Clear Creek area. The three sites I found to be the most useful were:
Denise Travers site at http://www.hitthetrail.com/clear.htm
Denise has conducted the Women's Clear Creek hike for the Grand Canyon Institute for many years. I requested some more specifics from Denise and she promptly replied with advice and information ASAP!
Cheech Calenti's Grand Canyon Hiking pages... http://manta.fm.arizona.edu/canyon/gc.htm
We also asked Cheech for a more detailed description of some of the areas and and he was able to give us some very valuable insights into the area. He has made numerous trips into the backcountry of the Grand canyon and has written trail diaries and descriptions that are very interesting and informative. Great Pictures also!
Bob Ribokas's Grand Canyon Explorer site at http://www.kaibab.org
Bob has many detailed trip accounts and we found his maps to be fantastic. One can download any and all poarions of whichever trail one might want to hike.. Bob did not answer our requests for more info...perhaps he was away on another adventure!