Monday, October 3, 2005

Phantom Ranch

The first thing you do when you get to Phantom Ranch (at the base of the Grand Canyon, just across the Colorado River) is get off your damn mule.  The second thing you do is drink some ice cold water they have conveniently supplied for you.  This is also the third thing you do, and the fourth thing you do.  Once suitably hydrated, you collect your small bag of belongings (which, most likely, got there in somebody else's saddle bag) and go to your cabin.

Phantom Ranch is billed as an oasis nestled at the bottom of the canyon, and that's pretty accurate.  Kathy and I had our own cabin, which contained two bunk beds (we both chose to sleep on the bottom bunks -- for my part, I didn't think I was capable of climbing the ladder), a small table, a toilet, and a sink (cold water only).  Our cabin was located right next to the shower building.  (I actually had my first hot shower in days at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Go figure.)

We arrived at Phantom Ranch with plenty of time before dinner.  Kathy decided to walk down to the Colorado (it was about a three-quarter mile hike).  My knees were hurting quite a bit (and had not recovered within the first half-hour, as they had at the rest stop), so I decided that hiking was a bad idea.  So I slipped on my swimsuit and went for a dip in Bright Angel Creek -- which runs alongside the ranch (and feeds into the Colorado).  The water was clear and cool and beautiful.  I found a conveniently placed rock and just sat there, enjoying the cold water and the warm sun.

(I here omit the details involved in dressing for dinner.  Let's just say that, with the extremely limited amount of stuff I had shoved in my small plastic bag, it turned out to be quite serendipitous that I'd brought a pair of underwear in the exact same shade as my sarong.)

The meals at Phantom Ranch can be described in one word:  hearty.  They serve a dinner of steak, corn, potatoes, veggies, bread, and chocolate cake.  (I understand that they charge hikers $31.95 for it, to which I can only reply, "Location, location, location."  The steak itself might not be a $30 piece of meat -- but when you realize that the steak-- like everything else you get at Phantom Ranch -- had been carried down there on a mule, well, the price sorta seems justified.)

After dinner, Kathy and I walked around the premises a bit.  We ended up on a bench near the creek looking up at the stars.  They have amazing stars out there.  There's no ambient light around there at all, so you can see zillions of them.  Every time we looked up, we saw hundreds more.  Eventually, we even saw that faint cloudy stripe across the sky that is our view of the damn galaxy.  This was, y'know, astonishingly cool.  We must have stayed out there for a couple hours, just chatting and looking at the sky.

We went back to the cabin and turned in for the night at a reasonable hour.  I wrapped my knee in one of them ThermaCare things I'd brought with me, and went to sleep.  (Memo to the nice folks at Phantom Ranch:  get a mule to carry a box of ThermaCare wraps down there.  They'll sell.  Trust me.)  The materials for the mule ride tell you not to plan anything too strenuous for the day after your mule ride.  Problem was, given the overnight nature of our trip, we'd planned another mule ride.

1 comment:

rgwindland said...

How beautiful is that!!! I'm jealous (except for the mule ride, I think). Rhonda