Dec 2009:On a cold winter’s day…..

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Plateau point has been an elusive goal for me for quite a while — say 18 years. I wanted to hike down to that trail you can see from the rim the 1st time I peered over the edge behind Bright Angel Lodge 18 years ago ( we aborted the feeble attempt to hike down cause it was Dec and it was cold — not to mention that we were in street wear and did not want to get our tennies dirty!) ….

Many 100’s of canyon miles have come and gone, I have been blessed with great trail buddies – seen amazing nooks and crannies of the canyon, made great memories but a trip to Plateau point was just not to be. So earlier in the year I picked up permits at the BCO for a couple of nights — Bright Angel Camp @ Phantom Ranch for Christmas day and at Indian Gardens for the day after ……and to Plateau Point I was going! Watching the temps plummet and since it was XMAS – I scored some last minute bunks + a BF and sack lunches at the Ranch and we were now warm & fed for at least a day …that just left a freezing night at Indian Gardens.

Over the AZH Christmas party, Tom & Tracy also wanted to join in so Guru & I skidded into BCO to get a permit extension. I made it with 1 min to spare & yes BCO is open until 5:00 pm Christmas Eve. Running up to counter – the ranger said they usually have people skidding in at the last minute on holidays so they make sure they stay open. Permit in hand we hit up our rooms and later touristed with a beautiful white mantled canyon – serene and silent! (right behind Bright Angel Lodge!). This was a good year for Guru in the canyon — he completed his quest to walk all sections Tonto Trail with out hike over Thanksgiving so we decided to have a celebratory dinner at the AZ Room and then wandered back to the room. The canyon looked rather bright in the moonlight due the white snow coat that extended cleardown past the Supai and the north rim was gleaming as well – reflecting even more light into the canyon. It sure was getting rather chilly!

Christmas morn greeted us cold and clear. Guru – I think poked his head up and decided it was too cold and we enjoyed our nice warm rooms a little longer. A peek at the cell phone told me Tom & Tracy were’nt making it to the canyon so there went my excuse to be on time ….So we took our time, breakfasted at Maswik, packed a sandwich for lunch and finally got to the TH at about 10:30 am — after all we were wandering down BA to a warm bunk.

BA was beautiful – glittering in the early morning sun – the snow banks looked to strewn with diamonds. The complexity of the canyon simplified under the blanket of white – keying you in onto the distant buttes and fins! The trail was deep snow making for a nice hike down – especially with our Yaktrax. We made quick time down with little traffic on the trail – we passed a mule train on the way up. Yaktrax were on to just about the 3 mile rest area. From then on we enjoyed every wee bit of sun on the trail and made it down to IG and the beautiful fall colors there…we had the place to ourselves. Heading in the light was amazing …

Lunch done — we headed past the creek and down Devil’s corkscrew after spending some time trying to get a decent shot of the waterfall right before the trail drops off. No luck — the angle of light just did not work Sad We headed down and soon were at the river at Pipe Springs Beach — over River Trail and across the Silver Bridge we head into Phantom Ranch.

Merry Christmas from Phantom Ranch!

We check in, downed some hot chocolate and headed to the bunk house to snag our crash pads for the night. Again an upper bunk. It was good to get into the warmth. Dinner was Mountain House that we hydrated on the benches between the bunkhouses — a ringtail kept us company coming right onto the table to see what he could snag. Shooing him away only sent him over to the next table…and soon he returned & this went on. No fear and expects to be fed — so much for wildlife. Reminded me of or ringtail encounter on South Canyon some years ago!

Some of the gals in the bunkhouse were venting about numerous things so I laid in my and let the conversation wash over me ( it was too darn cold outside) — I had very little to offer by way of sympathy or opinions. Guru had got me some fleece socks for Christmas and I loved them – warm toes!
Later that night we headed back to the Phantom Ranch mess hall after they cleared up their Christmas dinner. I tried to angle for some left over pie from dinner — no luck there: the staff wanted it all & would not sell or share Sad I have dined there before on holiday dinners ( Thanks Giving & Christmas) and they sure do a phenomenal job hosting the dinner! If you have never had a chance try it once — its great and pricey! Phantom ranch becomes a full service white table cloth place for a few nights a year! We did some shopping, mailed out some cards and headed back for the night.

A few gals headed out for the early breakfast but I think I slept through all of that and Guru had to come wake me for my 7:00 am breakfast at the mess hall. I impressed myself getting ready from sleep to at the table presentable in about 5 mins…..Breakfast was good as was the coffee. We picked up our sack lunches and headed back to the bunkhouse to pack and head out. Photo stops from ranch to Silver bridge took about 1 hr & we caught the mule train coming down on River Trail heading over to the Black Bridge so they could cross over.

More photos. Finally we made it to the other side and headed over to Pipe Springs. Guru wanted to reconnect with his 1st foray into the canyon — down to Pipe Springs on a hot summer’s day so we wandered down there. This trip was a rare luxury for us — no hurry at all, no worries about water, no worries about miles to cover, light packs — there’s that cold but we were well prepared. We made it up Devlis Corkscrew after a few more photo stops to see if I could get anything worthwhile of some of the smaller cascades — a gentle breeze made it difficult combined with the angle of light —never had good light where I wanted it Sad We powered up Devil’s corkscrew ( we had to put our heads down and hike at some point) and stopped by the waterfalls again. Photos were not happening …but I was amused by rather daring squirrel that wanted to investigate my gear and pack. NO FEAR..he was sitting there trying to unzip my pack.

We beat feet to IG – scoured the camp for Tom n Tracy and then picked the spot closes to the trail so they could see us if they came in late — but something told us they weren’t. We borrowed some abandoned gear from the ranger ( a Slumberjack quilt sleeping bag) for some extra warmth, set up the tent and critter proofed the camp. And off to Plateau point we went…it’s a nice flat walk that goes quick. Found a coffee press as trail booty. Left it there and decided to pick that up on the way back if it was not already claimed. We spent about an hour at the point — enjoying distant 360 views and taking some pictures.

There was not much of a sunset but the views are nice and the solitude was great! Nice enough for a do over…As the sun’s last rays disappeared over the rim, we headed back to camp to cook dinner and turn-in and try stay warm. Marine Cuisine Pasta Primevera was awesome and I got to try out my Christmas Party Gift — collapsible bowl & cup — AWESOME! Thanks to whoever got them for the gift exchange. We had a few more rounds of warm chai and then turned in. It was a COLD night — I saw 19F on my temp gauge inside the tent at about 10PM — Yikes. This was my 3rd ever zip up my sleeping bag night ( other than at Everest Base Camp hike & Kilimanjaro upper reaches) … I slept really well –but then I like to sleep cold. Morning brought some company — a few other hikers had trickled in over the prior evening and I visited with some of them. We ran into the girls we met hiking Tanner over Thanksgiving! They were headed west out on Tonto to Hermit. We traded trail beta and stories for a bit!

We watched the sun get closer to camp and at 11:00 am we decided we needed to head up so that we can exit at a reasonable time and not freeze. Up the trail we went, photographed some snow, some mules, some hikers and some non-hikers, a cat, a dog.

One cold kitty
The trail up from 3 mile was more busy and there was trail candy to keep us amused….we answered the usual ” You hiked ? Down the canyon?”; ” Was it cold?”, ” Can you take my/our picture?”.

We topped out — checked Kolob Studio to see if there was any thing new there ( nope!) and then with a bad coffee from the Bar at Bright Angel Lodge we headed back to PHX …stopped by for an awesome dinner (Indian) at Flagstaff. Got home to freezerbox house — my AC had died over XMAS ….Went to bed reminded of the days of past when you wore flannels and snuggled up a pile of comforters. This was augmented buy Dog heat…I am sure Silver n Skye saw heaven that day. They got to get on the bed!!!

I can now say I have been to Plateau Point … Very Happy
PS: I think I want to be some place less cold next year!!! Confused

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