Ruth and Tom Dillon
We went to The Grand Canyon in 2000 with our brand new Nikon CoolPix 990 with a 128MB card. So, even though you wouldn't guess it, I took a lot few pictures than I did after I got a PowerBook to download pictures to while on the trip.
The Grand Canyon is visited by over five million people a year. That's around 14,000 a day! It's crowded! But event then, once you step up to the rim, all the people and the rest of the world seem to no longer exist, for a while anyway. It truely redefined "awesome" for me. And even when you start to notice the crowds again, you'll see that it's not like people in a crowded city, each in a hurry to get to a meeting, each with their own agenda. Here everyone is doing the same thing as you are. They're looking at the people at The Phantom Ranch thinking, "Are those people crazy? It must be hotter than a scoprion's ass down there!"
We camped at Mather Campground while we were at the top. Lots of spaces, but it's best not to arrive Friday or Saturday of you want a site. I'm not sure whether or not they take reservations. Check out The NPS Grand Canyon site for more info. (A few years later we stayed at Maswik Lodge for a night and it was very nice.)
Fortunately, the average stay at The Big Ditch is only for a few hours. The vast majority of people get out there, spend a few hours looking over the rim, then leave. Quite a few spend a night, but only a very small fraction hike more than a few feet into the Canyon. So, if you take a little hike into the Canyon, the crowds will fade faster than Matt LeBlanc's career after 'Friends'.
Even if you aren't an intrepid explorer or avid hiker, grab a big bottle of water and hike down a trail into the Canyon just a little ways. You'll be amazed at how different things look even a few hundred yards down a trail. Pick how far you plan to hike before you start,. Bring an appropriate amount of water or sports drink. And leave you dancing shoes in the car. Sneakers are fine, just don't wear your high heals, like we saw one woman doing, about a mile down Bright Angel Trail. She also had an almost empty bottle of water to boot. The biggest problem most people have is not realizing how much water they'll need in the heat and also that hiking back up takes at least twice as long as hiking down. Plan ahead!
If you plan to do an overnight in the Canyon, you need to make reservations with the Backcountry Office in advance. I've heard that to stay at The Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon, or to camp at the adjacent Bright Angel campground, you should call a year in advance. We got lucky and due to the heat wave (109°F/43°C at camp) we were able to get a backcountry pass to camp at Bright Angel and Indian Gardens.
We didn't plan to do anything like this. In fact we had never been on a hike even remotely close to this difficult before. But, we watched the Park Service videos and were able to buy everything we needed at the store and we made the hike down six miles and a bit under 5000 feet vertical (10km/1500m) on the South Kaibab Trail. A mile vertical sounds like a lot. It certainly was for us! We camped at Bright Angel campground when we got down, and Indian Gardens campground about half way out. A highlight in our lives to be sure.
We did a lot of hiking along the rim to. The hike from the Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon Village out to Hermits Rest are spectacular. Plus, you can grab a shuttle at lots of points along the way.
Here are a few pics we took during our stay.