Well hello everyone! It's been a while since I posted, but I promise you it's because I have been busy with just life. So much as changed in a little over a month, but the biggest highlight of the past month that I can share with you is that I recently visited the Grand Canyon on a trip with my Mom. The activity that we did in the Canyon took the famous mule ride down the Canyon down to the bottom of Phantom Ranch.
This is me a the half-way point at Indian Garden. There are a few things if you want to do this ride from the top of the South Rim.
- Mom and I booked this in a year in advanced. This includes the mule ride down and up and the stay overnight in Phantom Ranch in a private cabin. This is well worth it. In 2018 or 2019 all reservations are going to be on a lottery system. I have no idea how this going to work nor could anyone explain it.
- The views were spectacular. I'll post some more pictures, but the pictures look "fake" compared when you are riding down.
- Stay at the South Rim two nights prior to your Mule ride down/up. We stayed at the Thunderbird Lodge. You can choose this or the Bright Angel Lodge, both are fine, but you want those two days to relax and adjust to the altitude. For those who are coming from the sea level, this is important as you start at 7k feet AGL. You descend into 4400 feet AGL over the entire mule ride. Just like skiing, you are going down and your body needs time to adjust to the altitude.
- The meat option at Phantom Ranch should not be the only choice you consider. Ge the vegan option. It's a hardy chili which we got and seemed healthier and less stress on the body.
- The wranglers on your trip know what they are doing. LISTEN to them, they are there for your safety and enjoyment.
- Tips are 10% to each wrangler for both the ride up and down. If they are even better, 15%.
Some of the problems we found out once we started our little adventure that the reservation vs. front desk vs. wranglers all don't know about or don't communicate with each other.
- There is no phone at the reach. There is one, but it might not work all the time.
- No electrolytes carried by wrangles. Bring power beans.
- Bring extra lemon concentrate or ask for two sets to help clean your water carrier for the first time to get rid of the awful smell. (The original camelback) Over two days we did multiple rounds of cleaning.
- When you are filling your camelback, you can turn the red cap upside down to fill the water so you don't have to aim the water down this little hole.
- Since you start at 6am/7am, you can wear extra layers and take them off mid-trip and designated stops and the wranglers will help pack or put your stuff inside any one of the side carriers. Keep in mind, yours might not be on your mule.
- And with that, you will not have access to your plastic bag during the trip, but the wranglers will place things in general packs among the group.
- Reservations make it seem longer than it really takes. The ride down in October they tell you takes 4-6 hours, but it really can vary based on weather and other factors. We were able to take the Grand Canyon Railway Train back the same day we came up which departed at 3:30pm with plenty of time to spare.
- If you take the Grand Canyon Railway, the ride is not calm or quiet in either direction. This is because it's designed for day trippers to the Canyon and back, but we thought of it as a convenience to stay the night without having to drive. (Really me doing the driving.) Also be mindful that the train might board early leaving during the week even though tickets say 3:15 pm and 3:30 pm sharp departure. They closed the doors 2 minutes beforehand, so that was shocking.
- GoPro should be on a head mount and controlled remotely with Apple Watch or remote. You can not use your phone unless...
- ... You have a strap for your phone if you use it as your primary means to take pictures (still can’t take them while riding). This way it doesn't drop on the ground. They recommended this and you can get an OK one from the gift shop. There are better ones out there I am sure.
- You can pay a cool $78 to bring an up and down a 30lbs pack down to Phantom Ranch via Pack mules which will be there before you arrive and be up by the time you arrive back up at the top. Well worth it if you are spending more than one night at the bottom.
- And... we took our duffel on the train is easier than the transfer Grand Canyon Railway Transfer service ($15) which will take our luggage from the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel to and from your Lodge at the South Rim.
- You can check in your electronics or other bags with the bellman so you have access to them when you get back up.
So those are the tips and tricks of riding a mule down the Grand Canyon. I hope you all enjoy it like I did!