Thursday, December 17, 2015

A 1929 account of hiking across the Grand Canyon

                           The east end of today's Tonto Trail. It was the main trail in 1929.

By Lynn Arave

THE Parowan Times of Sept. 11, 1929 contained an account of three young ladies who hiked rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon that summer.
The account is from Blanche Decker of Parowan under the headline of: "Parowan girl writes of hike across the Grand Canyon."
The three girls left the North Rim and hiked down to Cottonwood and then a side trip to Ribbon Falls. She said "Alter" was another name for Ribbon Falls.
"A clear silver stream shoots out of the hillside and falls in sprays and ribbons upon a massive alter formed of solid gray rock and covered with corrugated moss," she wrote.
She then noted she lost the sole of her shoe and had to get by many miles to Phantom Ranch. The girls apparently had to walk in the Bright Angel Creek stream, as there was no trail for part of the way.
"Through jungles and cougar lairs, over plateaus and through box canyons we walked, until suddenly, as an apparition appears, we beheld a clean green and white ranch house, reposing in a grove of aspens. It was 'Phantom Ranch' and we welcomed it for we were tired," Decker wrote.
The girls spent the night in a white cabin and didn't not sleep well, as there was stifling hear overnight. A Southern Cowboy there, "Bud," repaired her shoe.
They left in the early morning, rising at 5 a.m. They crossed the suspension bridge across the Colorado River.

                         Part way across the Tonto Trail, a desert experience.

"Crossing the Tonto Trail was the most difficult part of our entire hike," she wrote. "It is a barren plateau; the trail is rocky and the heat is stifling that we fell upon the sand exhausted and gasping for breath. It was like trying to breath in a fiery furnace. Once we became so thirsty that we drank water from a stagnant pool and off the backs of wiggling tadpoles, and we were grateful for that," Decker wrote.
Finally, they saw a sign that stated Indian Gardens was six miles. (This leads one to believe that the trail back then was just the bottom part of the North Kaibab and after reaching the Tonto Plateau, it jutted west, over the the Bright Angel Trail, whereas today the Bright Angel  is built to the river bottom.)

                                                     Indian Gardens.

The girls spent the night at Indian Garden. They took a bath in the creek there, slept a while and then were called to dinner. There were buildings at Indian Garden then and the girls helped with dishes; played with some tame antelope nearby and ate apples from a tree, watching the sunset.
They were woken at 3 a.m., given breakfast and hit the trail.

"The trail was very steep. In some places it rose almost straight up. While he truly enjoyed the climb (being rested now) we were glad when, as we drew near the top we heard the blast of an engine whistle and the chugging and puffing of the train as it approached El Tovar," she wrote.
 People on the South Rim were very curious about their hike.
"Sometimes were felt victims of newspaper scandal but it was fun at that," Decker wrote.
The girls got an airplane right across the Grand Canyon to the north and landed at an airport ("Fredonia"?) and got a bus ride back through the Kaibab Forest to the North Rim Lodge.
"Men even lost money over our adventure," she wrote. "They gambled on us and got surprised. Of course, people exaggerate the difficulty of the hike you know ... I am quite happy now that I have seen Grand Canyon from every angle and I know it's Grand," she concluded.

                       Half way up the Bright Angel Trail from Indian Gardens.

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