Three Views of the Grand Canyon, Part Three: From on Top of a Mule

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I’ve always wanted to go down into the Canyon on a mule, but never imagined it would really happen. I had heard that reservations were required 13 months ahead of time, and we’re just never sure of where we’re going to be that far ahead. But I had also heard that there was a day-before waiting list for cancellations, so I thought I’d give that a shot. When I called the reservation desk they said there were also some other openings! Four, in fact, for a few days away. So I snapped one up, complete with an overnight cabin at Phantom Ranch, and began my preparations. (Rick wasn’t so interested so he volunteered for puppy duty. Thank you, thank you, thank you Rick.) 
I found this map of the route we took, with the vertical profile in the upper lefthand corner. Many thanks to the Chronic Climber Chick, who created the map and hiked the whole thing. I knew I couldn’t do that and I was so grateful there was another option. It is a very popular hiking route, but only 1% of the almost five million people who visit the Canyon every year get down to the bottom by any route or means.

loopmap

Well, what does one bring on a mule ride into the Grand Canyon? All mule riders get about a two gallon sized plastic bag to carry anything you want to bring, so one must think very basic. Required is a wide brimmed hat with a chin strap, sunglasses, gloves, a bandana, long pants, long sleeved shirt and appropriate footwear. Obviously sun screen is a good idea, and dressing in layers. At the top it’s a lot cooler than at the bottom. All food and water are provided, as well as bedding, towels and soap. Bathing suit and water shoes are also recommended for a cooling dip in Bright Angel Creek after a long ride down. I took all advice offered.
Two days before the ride Rick and I went to the park to scope out the check-in process and location. Check-in requires getting weighed, as there is a 200 lb. limit for all riders. They also want to give you all kinds of warnings and have you sign all kinds of informed consents and liability waivers. That done, all I had to do was stop at the Bright Angel Lodge registration desk to pick up my rain slicker before arriving at the Stone Corral at 7:50 AM, Monday morning. 

The morning of I drove myself there and had a heck of a time finding parking. For anyone considering this trip, have someone drive you there, or stay at the lodge so parking is not an issue the morning of departure. I arrived late but it all worked out. It turned out there were only three of us on the ride that morning. A typical ride is 10-12.  What a luxury!
(BTW there is no cell phone or internet coverage in the Canyon. Yeah!!! I brought my phone for its…