We flew out of Chicago early (6:20) and got to Vegas just before 1:00. The only real excitement of the trip being the rebooking of the rental car through Costco to add the second driver and the momentary fear that Avis had charged a $150 fee to cancel the previous booking. They ended up cancelling it with no fee at all, so that was a surprise perk. Also, I’ll make a recommendation for renting through Costco – it was a better rate, on a slightly nicer car and they include the second driver for no extra cost.
As usual, the first day involved getting supplies (including a secondary supply stop for a gas canister when the first Walmart failed us) which is necessary, but not very exciting.
We were slated to arrive at the Grand Canyon Village / Mather Campground around 8:00. From the south, Mather Campground is about 45 minutes from the nearest town. We started that direction under the general intention to camp if camping was available. About 10 minutes into that drive, we acknowledged our very slim chance of finding a campsite and likelihood of having to continue 30 minutes further to to Desert View campground, and decided to turn around and get a hotel for the night. This was probably a good plan as it gave us time to organize (and prevented having to find and set up a camp in the dark), even if the hotel was expensive, as hotels outside big tourist attractions tend to be.
We got up early to get to the Grand Canyon back country office before 9:00 to get in line for campsite openings at Bright Angel Campground in the canyon. We thought the system was a straight first-come-first-served waiting list for a site for that night. It was not…
It was first come first served in a sense, but if there were more people than camp sites, they gave a numbered ticket for your place in line the next day. You showed up (required) the next day and the process repeated. I’m not sure how many walk up sites there are, but in theory your number would go down by that count each day if you showed up. If you didn’t show up one day, your position was forfeit and you’d start over. Slightly annoying, but it seems fair (and I think you can book online months ahead if you’re the more prepared type). When you did get a site, the site was for the subsequent night, which again seems odd at first, but makes sense because they recommend starting the hike at sunrise or before and it would be miserable to start at 10ish after visiting the office to get the campsite that morning.
We got number 2, which meant we had to return the next (Monday) morning and would get a site for Tuesday night. Mind you, we had tried this before and got our pass only to have our plans abruptly changed by a snow storm that came through, so there was a level of determination built into this attempt.
We left with or number and went to the Mather Campground registration office to check on site cancellations. As luck would have it, there was one (maybe a two). Being beggars rather than choosers at the time, we took the site offered. It helped that we were just two people with a tent, so any site accommodations were sufficient.
After making camp, we used the day to hike the rim trail. If you do the full length, this is a 12 mile “hike” (it’s all paved and pretty flat with shops along the way) along the South rim of the canyon with the Grand Canyon Village at your back. We started at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center / Mather Point and walked South to Hermit’s Rest which was 9.6 miles of it.
Last time we did a portion of this trail, the snow storm blew in to wreak havoc on the day and we ducked in to the Southern visitor center restaurant for dinner. This time, we took the buses back to the GC Visitor Center, bought cold beers at the store and went back to camp where we made some tuna and pasta concoction for dinner.