What time is it?

Packed up early in the morning and conscious that the camp host still hasn’t appeared (with receipt) we set off for a drive of about 20 miles to the Rangers Office inside the park to queue for a permit that will allow us to hike down into the Grand Canyon itself and camp there. On the way we realise we left our grill on the open fire in the campsite. Doh!

Never mind, if we have no luck on the permit front we may well be back for another night anyhow so we can retrieve it then :-/

When we arrive at the Rangers Office we think we are cutting it fine on the lottery timings until we realise that the time in the office is pacific time (Arizona) not mountain time (Utah) and we are early rather than late!!!

There are 3 guys in front of us and they want a permit to “Phantom Ranch” which is right at the bottom of the canyon – a 14-15 mile hike, where the “Bright Angel Campsite” is. As it turns out it’s not possible for them to get one for this because although one is available priority goes to the South Rim Rangers Office and anyone there who wants it.

Which means we dip in and can get permit we want for 2 nights for the campsite half way down (no one else turns up and they don’t want it so no need for a lottery) for the “Cottonwood Campsite”. Hurrah!!!

While we’ve been waiting for the office to open we’ve fired up our stove outside (under the flagpole actually which might meet with disapproval when they come to put the flag up) and cook our boiled egg sarnies and expresso coffee – did we mention our coffee gadget? Great expresso and hardly any effort or mess!!!

So permits obtained, brekkie had, we take ourselves round to the parks campsite shop to see what we can buy by way of food supplies for the trip. We are pleasantly surprised at what they have and even find some OMM-like freeze dried food made by Coleman’s …. the chilli looks worth a try ….

As it seems most convenient we decide to empty the car and sort all our gear out in the car park, we get a few funny looks but getting on with it we soon become oblivious. It is still really early and a campsite afterall.

Then we make lunch for later and return to the shop as it has a coffee bar which, we realise while downloading photo’s from both cameras onto the laptop, also has a little wifi.

A quick check of emails and we manage to leave and drive a short distance to have lunch at a Canyon lookout around 12 and are on trail by 1310 🙂

The ranger told us there is a high risk of thunderstorms at the top, say 80% and a much reduced risk of around 35% at the bottom, fingers crossed it passes us by!! On the upside it will be much much warmer at the bottom, it is a desert down there after all 🙂

Its a dry start to the hike although the weather is quite threatening but is holding up for now. We have the most amazing views all way down the zigzag (switchbacks they call them here) path as we descend through the layers of time. Apparently you can read your elevation pretty accurately from the colour of the cliff walls around you.

It isn’t too busy which is nice, and unexpected, as although you need a permit to camp in the canyon you are allowed to day hike down a fair way without one. We meet day trippers on their return – it is a bit late to be going down, and one group that are also heading to Cottonwood.

Two thirds of the way down we stop at a ranger station for toilets and have a brief chat with a couple sat relaxing on the porch. It is also just starting to rain at this point and we debate waiting it out but bite the bullet and press on …. Someways further down we do end up hiding under a rocky overhang from the rain for 20 or so minutes.

We both take lots of photo’s today, what with the amazing coloured rocks and the ever changing light, as we descend and the sun lowers itself in the sky.

The campsite is really nice, only seven pitches and one group pitch. Holding a maximum of 40 people but there must be only around 18-20 of us here today – even though the Ranger said it was full. We think the permits are given out per pitch up to a max of 40 people, that’s 5/6 per pitch or less if the group pitch is being used. So the fact that what’s here today is mostly couples/twos keeps the overall site numbers down.

Every pitch has a picnic table and a couple of ammo boxes for storing your food in. We pick a reasonably shady and secluded spot. Before we have even got our tent up though we have visitors – collared lizards running around and fighting each other, each about 20cm long, tee hee.

Dinner we just about manage to make before another rain shower makes itself known and forces us to retreat to the tent – our wee tent that we barely fit in and have no possibility of sitting up in, nevermind eating our dinner in :-/

The rain doesn’t let up this time so it’s early to bed, well lying on top for a bit till toilet beckons and we have half a chance of sleeping through the night without needing to go again in the night.

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