Doing as I suspect a lot of newbie hikers do, I found the downhill portion of the Bright Angel trail too easy to take a gentle walk. Inspired by the ease and by necessity to get as far as I could, in the space of the two hours I’d allotted myself, I pretty much jogged to Indian Garden (at around 4.5 miles). Starting at 7am helped keep me cool thankfully and I took the precautions of a hat, sport drink, and a couple water bottles in my backpack.
Arriving at Indian Garden, I realised how tired I was actually getting at this point but doing well for time and with plenty of overage to put on returning rest stops, I just decided to push on to Plateau Point.
Weariness aside, what happened at the point made the return journey more than worth every inch of pain. Like planes swooping into view from a WW2 movie, five Condors blessed me with their presence. Two of them landed, no more than 20ft from where I was stood on a rock outcropping and as the others flew about 30ft above me, I could hear the slow and heavy down-draft as those immense wings forced the air. For this single experience here, I feel I’m truly blessed (although running out of camera power, didn’t score points). I want to return to this point another time when I have longer and can meditate a while, with new friends. I wasn’t worried in the slightest by these huge wonders, but as a precaution, stepped back slowly to make sure we both had space. Noticing the display board on the way out, it mentions not to approach Condors, or for them to approach you; with the talons the size of my hands, I can see why.
Not wanting to spend longer than was necessary at this end of my trail, I headed back on the six mile journey out. Realising again that I was tired at this point, it wasn’t until I reached Indian Garden again after only 1.5 miles of flat, that I understood how much more than tired I had actually become.
I eventually crawled out the top of the trail, 3.5 hours later (as opposed to the two hours going down) and could hardly breathe or walk. I had literally stopped every two minutes on the way up to take a ten minute break, because I felt faint and my legs would hardly move. It’s something I’ll never be forgetting and I’m lucky to have made it out on my own, but next time, I’ll take it easier and be much better prepared in terms of food and liquids.
I still have to take a detour through Sedona on my way back but it’s on from here, toward to the airport now. My spiritual road-trip is over, leaving me a better person I think than when I had arrived. I also have that wandering itch, that will only be scratched when I return again.