Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dream come true: Mule Ride down the Grand Canyon

Many of you know that I had been wanting to ride a mule down the Grand Canyon since I was a kid. You usually have to make reservations about a year in advance. And there is a weight limit. The mules are amazing, conditioned animals who are awesome at the task of hauling you down and back out of the canyon, but they need to protect them by keeping the load the bear within certain limits. So I needed to lose a lot of weight. I worked on it for a year an a half. I was so excited when the guy weighed me and said, "you're good". I said, " Can I shake your hand?" I was so excited and I had to high five Cindy. I had lost 123 lbs to be able to go. He said that was a record as far as he had heard.
Once we were issued our mule rider slickers, we had to take pics with them on.

 My friend, Janet Gerla, had also wanted to go. She has had some serious health issues in recent years that have kept her from doing a lot of things she wanted to do. She asked me to write her name on a piece of paper and take her down with me in my pocket. She said that was the only way she would get to go. It was an honor to do so.
We found the stone corral where we were supposed to meet in the morning.

 And I have to say, I was so excited when I saw this in the corral. I wasn't worried about getting off, too much, but was worried if I could bend well enough to get on .
 And this is where we would be starting off in the morning. We would go down the Bright Angel trail, spend the night at Phantom Ranch and come back up the Kaibab trail.
 Cindy and I took the shuttle out to Hermits Rest, late afternoon to take a nice little hike along the rim trail.
 This was a cute little bug who was sitting by us.
 I was puzzled by what looked like a nun and her boyfriend.
 Beautiful views along the rim. So excited that we would be going down in the next morning.
 Flowers and foliage along the rim trail.

lights on the rim, the night before.
A beautiful morning for our ride.

Ready in required apparel

The head guy, telling us the rules and what to expect. If you back out before you get on the trail, he will get you your money back. Once you are on the trail, you are out of luck. You become a hiker.

They line us up to select the best mule for us.

Cindy gets Blanche

I have Delilah. My first view through Delilah's ears.

Waiting for everyone to be mounted.

And we are off. It's down, down and more down.

We stop regularly. We always stop with the mules lined up facing out. I always had complete confidence in Delilah, but it was nerve wracking for some people always being on a cliff edge.

The views are spectacular.

It looks like Alicia is going off a cliff, but she is going around one of a million switchbacks.

Profile of an Indian in the rock.

Alicia was amazing. She knew just how to help me up and down, without making me feel like an idiot. I was very grateful to her.

Cindy getting used to things.

Alicia's mule was in training and very pretty.

Way down there is Indian Gardens. Our first stop and not even half way.

I had to delete a lot of blurry pictures. A moving mule is not a very steady way to take a good picture.

Easing the pressure on the backside.

We are below the level of the rim now.

Still smiling.

One of our lined up stops. There were nine riders and two wranglers in our group. Everyone was very nice.

Lunch stop. When we first got off, my right knee wouldn't work. We had been riding 2 hours already. Thank goodness Cindy was there to be my human cane, and support me. I was a little nervous about that.

Coming out of Indian Gardens, there were some cottonwoods along the stream with some pretty fall colors.

That's Delilah. She had a muzzle to keep her from eating along the way.

Cindy looking good.

This is called Oh Jesus corner. We turn on the mules and that's what you see, straight down.

A few Indian ruins.

You pass a couple of water falls from the stream and then there is the Colorado River. It's wider than I thought down there. But we are still on a pretty high cliff in the inner canyon. And it suddenly feels as hot as Phoenix.

This first bridge is for a water pipe and hikers. Not mules.

We keep going down, down, down.

Not our bridge.

That's our bridge.

Through a tunnel to get to the bridge.

Cool to be on this bridge, crossing the Colorado river. The bridge has been here since 1928.

Finally made it to Phantom Ranch and another stone corral. It's been 5 and half hours of riding. Thank goodness I packed a folding cane in my stuff. I need it to walk. And my backside hurts.

This is what the cabins look like.

Ours had two sets of bunk beds and two hard chairs. The chairs hurt the back side too much to sit on them and the top bunks were so low, you had to lie down on the bed. So lie down it was.

The best thing. Cold lemonade.

Dinner. The people at our table were on the mule ride with us. Across from me was Lela and Ploa, her mom. What a trooper her mom was to do this!

What's for dinner.

People waiting for breakfast.

What's for breakfast

Lily, one of our wranglers, was on her last trip. She was going home to her husband and four year old in Wickenburg afterwards.

Filling water bottles. There isn't any water on the Kaibab trail. The mules can go three days without drinking. They are amazing.

Cindy ready to rock and roll in the morning.

Me, ready, but nervous as I had literally worn off some of the skin on my backside. But they said going up would be easier.

Me, telling Delilah how grateful I was for all her hard work the day before and what she was going to do this day.

View to the top of the inner canyon as we leave in the early morning hours.

Stream that flows through Phantom Ranch.

And we are off.

Coming up to the bridge.

Stop to check our cinches again.


The mules aren't interested.

 The river again.

Back through the tunnel

Lots of stops on the way up to let the mules rest as we go. They take good care of them, but it's hard work.

This was cool to see. Phantom Ranch is completely supplied by a pack mule train, which goes in and out every day. Everything that is used, eaten, there, gets hauled in. And the trash, mail, everything gets hauled out. It was so old west looking.

The pack mules crossing the bridge.

 And it was up, up, up all day.


Always on a cliff edge.

The rests were good opportunities to lean forward and relieve pressure, take your feet out of the stirrups and do ankle circles.

We had two rest stops where we got to get off and walk around that was helpful.

Blanche being Blanche and trying to bite Delilah.

Alicia taking a break.

Since it was Lilie's last ride, they took some pics.

Resting mules.

Resting Cindy

Still in the warm part of the Canyon, but heading up.

And up and up.


Am glad that I wasn't having to climb all these steps and hills myself.

A short flat area.

Lily and Alicia

Starting to see the top!

The views are still amazing

Wearing out, but the end is in sight.

We are on the top!

I look worn out because I am! But so proud of myself and glad I was able to do this!