Original Post December 29, 2013
Post updated December 25, 2015
As Christmas neared, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. My husband was planning to visit family in Michigan for the holidays, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to have Christmas dinner at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
The Phantom Ranch Cantina- the site of so many wonderful memories and meals. It is a true oasis in the desert, offering thirsty travelers Lemmy lemonade and ice-cold Tecates. Many a trail tale has been told at these tables. The meals at the Ranch are fantastic, and you don’t have to be staying there to make a reservation.
Once I saw that the weather was going to cooperate, I called Xanterra and booked my Christmas dinner. Ordinarily there is a choice between a steak dinner and Hiker’s Stew, but for Christmas they were going all out with a turkey dinner.
After dropping Brian off at the Phoenix airport, I spent Christmas Eve in Sedona with my dear friend Kimberlie. She has hiked the Arizona Trail and Pacific Crest Trail and has an amazing story and blog at thenewnomads.com. Check it out, she’s awesome.
So nice to not have to worry about hiking in the heat. I stopped by the Backcountry Office and got a permit for one night at Bright Angel and one at Indian Gardens. I had a leisurely start time of around noon. Oh, and here’s my hiking outfit, I was feeling particularly festive.
I used my (matching red) Microspikes in the chimney and shed them once I reached the sun. It was fun to see and hear people’s reactions to my hiking attire. I got called Mrs. Claus by children on the trail. The sparkly red skirt I wore was a gift from my dad, who brought it from India. Speaking of Indians, I felt right at home- because Indians generally don’t celebrate Christmas, they were everywhere at the Canyon!
I got to Cedar Ridge and did a little photoshoot with the new Arizona Trail guidebook. It came out in December 2013 and I am so proud of the finished product. I brought a copy for the Cantina and the Ranger Station libraries. You can buy it here: http://www.aztrail.org/store/at_store.php
Here’s my bio:
So, I have some exciting news- I will be thru-hiking the Arizona Trail in 2014 as a promotion for the new guidebook, the trail, and the Gateway Communities! I will be starting at the Mexican border on March 14th and am scheduled to arrive at the Utah border on May 31st. Along the way there will be 12 events in the Gateway Communities where people can come together to celebrate the trail with food, music, and beer. I will be posting updates from the trail and people will be invited to hike with me for a day or two. Here’s the link to the Arizona Trail Trek!
I was getting ready to leave Cedar Ridge when a young woman, also wearing a Santa hat, stopped to take a break. Her name was Grace and it was her first time backpacking into the Canyon. We hiked together off and on throughout the day and I enjoyed her company. Ever the guide, I shared points of interest as we hiked.
The canyon was very different in the wintertime- summer’s angry heat and bustle gone and replaced by crisp air and a sparsely populated trail. I felt the familiar pangs of excitement upon seeing the Black Bridge, tunnel and Boat Beach below.
The Colorado looked impossibly cold and uninviting. In the summertime working for Arizona River Runners, I’m always drenching myself with the icy water to cool down. Today all that was going in was my hand. Yep, absolutely frigid.
I went to the campground to choose a site and ran into Ranger Della, who I’ve worked with in the past on GCHBA service projects. She has a Christmas birthday and her family was down visiting to celebrate.
Then it was time for dinner at Phantom Ranch. It was amazing. A buffet with a turkey and ham carving station, mashed and sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread stuffing, and three kinds of pie to choose from. All made even more delicious by the fact that I had nothing to do with the prep or cleanup. I sat with a very nice family, the daughter seemed to have been bitten by the Canyon hiking bug, it was fun to see. I predict many Canyon adventures in her future. I am super-lame and left my camera at the campground, but here’s a pic that the family I sat with took.
I visited the Boat Beach at night for stargazing and then went to sleep atop the picnic table. It was chilly! In the middle of the night, I heard rustling which I thought was people getting ready for an early hike out. Only when I opened my eyes, there was a deer chomping the bush right next to me, its body six inches from my face!
The next morning I relaxed in camp for a while, waiting for it to warm up. Caught up with Sjors and Della for a bit, changed my permit to stay another night at Bright Angel. I forget what a draw this place has for me- once I get here I usually want to stay. Back to the Boat Beach for lunch, so nice to have it to myself. When we stop here on river trips there are usually 2 or 3 full trips milling about and we are in a hurry to fill up our water jugs and get moving through the Gorge.
In the afternoon, I wandered up the Clear Creek Trail for a while, until I could see the Coconino cap of Zoroaster Temple. Fall stays late in the Canyon and there were cottonwoods still shedding their golden leaves.
As the short winter day came to an end, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and wrote in my journal for a while. After a fondue dinner, I contemplated visiting the Cantina, but couldn’t coax myself out of my cocoon.
I had a leisurely morning of deer-watching, journal writing and canyon-gazing. I thought about taking the Bright Angel out, but decided on the Kaibab once again. Besides, it’s the Arizona Trail! I took my time, stopping to chat with the mule packers, backpackers, and hikers and take pictures. There is something so special about hiking up through the layers of the canyon, each with their own story. Looking down upon layers that previously towered over you. The exhilarating feeling of seeing the trailhead at the end of a hike out.
The material items I’ve gotten for Christmas will eventually wear out, get lost or broken- but I will always have the time I hiked into the Canyon wearing a sparkly skirt and a Santa hat.
Want to read more about my trips in the Grand Canyon? Click here to explore!
In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, we have released a lot of the animals that we raised since the summer. We’ve had a couple of out of season babies, like a group of baby rabbits and this little guy- a baby barn owl. It’s a couple of weeks old in the picture and quite noisy! We put it in with the adult owl so that it can get used to other owls. The adult is not amused. Thanks to all who donated to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this year!
And to close things out for the year, here’s a picture of my favorite Harris Hawk, who was sent to another facility to become an educational animal. Hope he’s doing well!