We recently took a “day” hike in the Grand Canyon — except that much ofÂ the hike was in the dark. We left Flagstaff around midnight and arrivedÂ at the South Kaibab Trailhead at 1:30 a.m. and began our descent in theÂ dark.
The moon was already past 3rd quarter and had not yet risen. But theÂ skies were exceptionally clear and the stars were brilliant. There wasÂ almost enough light from the stars to hike down. Almost, but not quite.
So we did the safe thing and used our headlamps to light the trail.
Normally, the South Kaibab Trail is quite busy with hikers. The constantÂ low hum of people talking to each other mixes with the normal daytimeÂ sounds of birds and of aircraft flying high overhead (or, sometimes, notÂ so high overhead).
But there was none of that. Just the gentle sighing of the wind and evenÂ that began to diminish as we descended from the rim.
The Orionids meteor shower was nearing its peak (still a day away) butÂ we saw plenty of meteor action during the pre-dawn hours. There would beÂ extended lulls followed by a brief flurry of streaks across the sky. WeÂ spent so much time looking up that we made only slow progress goingÂ down.
At Tip Off Point, we turned onto the Tonto Trail and slowly made our wayÂ westward as the first hints of twilight began to appear in the easternÂ sky. With first light, I began to shoot some photographs of the cliffsÂ of both the South and North Rims and of the side canyons.
As we reached the Bright Angel Trail near Indian Garden, the sun had risen and people wereÂ out and about on the trail heading both up from Phantom Ranch and downÂ from the Rim. The low hum of many conversations permeated the airÂ and the heavenly silence we had experienced over the past few hours cameÂ to an end.
After a short jaunt out to Tonto Point — where we once again hadÂ silence — we finished our “day” hike by ascending the Bright AngelÂ Trail.