Twig Adventures

GC Day 6: Phantom Ranch Reset

Saturday, February 24th 2024
Lower Cremation Camp mile 87.7 to Granite Camp mile 93.8
6 miles, elevation 2365′

A stop at Phantom Ranch, Mile 88, is pretty much mandatory for most raft trips, since this is the most feasible location to switch personnel. Understandably, it’s hard to commit to 3 or more weeks on the river, so some opt for an abbreviated schedule, either Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch or Phantom Ranch to the end. Laura had just received a new job offer that she couldn’t pass up, so she was sadly only able to join us for 6 days. We pushed hard to make it to Phantom Ranch in this time frame…other groups typically do it in 9 days. But we were glad we were able to accommodate Laura’s tight schedule and it was a real pleasure to have her along.

We shoved off from our campsite earlier in the morning and were at Phantom Ranch by 10 am, hopefully giving Laura plenty of time to hike up to the South Rim. That’s right, anyone leaving or joining a raft trip here still has to hike about 7 miles and 5000′ in elevation change. It’s not as easy as simply showing up. This also complicates what a person can bring on the trip. Laura previously made arrangements with Rob and Lucas to carry her gear back to Miami, leaving it on Charlie’s raft to hang out for the rest of the trip. Otherwise she would have needed to lug a lot of heavy gear up the side of the canyon! As a backpacker that’s hiked the same trail on both the Arizona Trail and Hayduke, I can attest: it’s a lot of miles of stairs, pretty straight up! Another person was originally scheduled to hike down to take her place, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it. So our group became 12, even though we had food for 13+.

We had planned on only spending a few hours at Phantom Ranch but ended up spending almost half the day. Most made the long trek to the concession stand to buy some snacks and beer (I’m not sure why since we had so much food and beer back at the rafts). In fact, I was trying to give away leftover lunch items to all the passing hikers. I got some takers but still couldn’t get rid of everything. Honestly, having so much leftover food was really starting to give me anxiety. I hated wasting the food, especially thinking back to all the times that I’d been starving on my hikes. I wished we could have convinced a hiker or 2 to join us for some meals and miles on the river, but it was too early in the season to be encountering Hayduke and AZT hikers.

I did only one thing at the concession stand, and that was feverishly write 12 post cards. I’d read that one can mail the postcards from the bottom, which then have to be carted out by mules. I loved the novelty of this, so I came prepared with a whole postcard booklet. I meant to write and address all the postcards beforehand, but my pen ran out of ink on Day 1, so I had to wait to borrow one from the concessionaire. Afterward, I couldn’t even remember all the people I sent postcards to, so it was funny to get back weeks later and unexpectedly receive messages from them. I personally stamped each postcard with the “Mailed by Mule” stamp and in my fervor, accidentally stamped my hand.

We had lunch before leaving, still trying to pass off food on hikers. I was surprised by how many people hiked by in the time we were there. There were the usual backpackers but also lots of trail runners and day hikers. The ‘Rim to Rim’ is a very popular hike. Finally we shoved off to begin our next two weeks on the river, during which we intended to SLOW DOWN and take a few layover days. We certainly had plenty of time to cover the remaining 138 miles.

We came to Horn rapid, a class 8, that looked pretty intimidating. I can’t even recall whose boat I was in at this point but everyone made it past the 2 big rocks and holes just fine. We stopped short of running another Class 8, Granite Rapids, because it was already getting late in the day and the campsite just above was very nice. This was our shortest day yet by far. I had time to go down the rivers a ways, where I met a backpacker camped nearby. He had come in from the Tonto trail and was the first I’d seen, other than around Phantom Ranch. I couldn’t convince him to come over for dinner but it was nice chatting with him. That’s was about it for the action this day.

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