The "Grand" finale

by Gillian Larson | posted: May 29, 2017
Shyla and Gillian on the South Rim

Today marked my last day on the AZT as we rode out of Cottonwood Camp and across the Colorado River, then up the South Kaibab trail to the top of the South Rim.

walking with Shyla toward the river

It got hot quickly at the bottom of the Canyon, reaching close to 100 degrees as we made our way towards Phantom Ranch. Several times we stopped to wet our shirts and hats in the river near the trail.

I also got to see lots of reptiles while we were at the bottom, including desert spiny lizards and a large chuckwalla.

desert spiny lizard


I cracked the glass cover on my phone screen while digging the chuckwalla out of a rock pile. Sometimes the little kid inside of us comes out, and for me that's always with reptiles. I used to drive my mother crazy while we were riding when I was a child because every time I saw a lizard or horny toad I had to jump off my little Arab gelding, Sparky, and catch it. Some things never change . . .

walking toward Phantom Ranch

I spent a lot of time walking for the first 8 miles or so as we made our way down to the crossing of the Colorado River, as I knew that Shyla would be working hard to carry me back up out of the canyon and I wanted to give her whatever kind of break that I could before then. There's over 5000ft of elevation gain between the river and the south rim, so it's pretty much nothing but up, up, up all the way.

bridge over the Colorado River

Once we passed through Phantom Ranch we took the South Kaibab trail over a narrow bridge over the Colorado River and through a rock tunnel.

tunnel on the south side of the river

Then it was 6 VERY steep and waterless miles up to the south rim.

climbing South Kebab Trail

The views were incredible and got more dramatic the higher we went.

We were also stopped several times by hikers asking where they too could rent horses. It's funny how often I get mistaken for a wilderness ranger or outfitter in National Parks. "Nope, I'm just a tourist who brought along her horses," is usually my response.

Takoda and my mom following us up the trail

When we did get to the North Rim we were right by a mule pen that had a large water trough inside. I made about 4 trips to and from that trough before the horses had their fill of water. They must have each drunk 10 or more gallons in that one rest break. They worked hard climbing out of the Canyon and did so fairly quickly too. I was so grateful to have had them so that I could really appreciate the views. It's days like this when you appreciate all that your equine companion does for you. From there it was an easy 6 miles to where I had left the rig on the 20th. My mom, the horses, and I were all very happy to reach the rig. It was a wonderful way to conclude my ride across Arizona and I hope I can come back to the Canyon with my horses again. After all, someone has to whip this place into shape when it comes to horse folks riding and camping here!

overlooking the Grand Canyon


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