Earlier this year William (Bill) Stewart obtained a backcountry permit for six people to hike and camp below the rim of the the Grand Canyon in September. He extended the invitation to several members of the younger generation of his family. The five cousins who accepted the challenge were his son, Matt Stewart; three nephews, Caleb Crites, Brian Moriarty, Jon Blunt; and one niece, Tara Crites.
This was not the first such trip for Bill, who will turn 76 years old in November. Two years ago he and his son Matt, daughter Sara, and nephew Brian made the hike to the bottom of the canyon and back over three days. The hike this year was to be a little different because he planned for them to hike down on Monday, Sept. 24, do some additional hiking at the bottom, and then hike back to the rim on Friday. The preparations started months in advance as the group began getting in shape by doing a lot a local hiking and acquiring the necessary supplies.
The hikers met at the Mather Campground on the south rim of the Grand Canyon to camp for three nights before the Monday backpacking trip below the rim. Four additional family members joined them in camp as sort of a support group. The non-hikers were Bill’s wife, Pat Stewart and three of his sisters Beth Herreid, Jeanne Daniels, and Carol Crites. All of the hikers and non-hikers are children or grandchildren of the late Jess and Marie Stewart, past owners of the Farmington Press.
On Saturday, the hikers did a shake-down hike to Horseshoe Mesa on the Grandview Trail, a difficult six mile round trip. After a day of rest on Sunday, they began their hike down the South Kaibab Trail, seven miles to Bright Angel Campground and the Colorado River. After a night at the campground, the second day was a strenuous nine mile hike on the Clear Creek Trail. There is very little shade and no water on this trail until arriving at Clear Creek. The hikers’ water supplies were nearing empty as they arrived at the camp. Water on this perennial stream had to be filtered before drinking. The water was very refreshing as they were able to relax and cool off in the creek.
Day three was spent retracing their steps nine miles back to Bright Angel Campground. By this time, the hikers were very thankful for the training they had done leading up to the hike.
Bright Angel Campground is adjacent to Phantom Ranch where there is a canteen for refreshments so they made good use of that after the hike.
On day four, they made their way halfway out of the canyon. They hiked five very steep miles on the Bright Angel Trail through the Devil’s Corkscrew to the campground at Indian Garden, an oasis with lots of greenery and a creek running through it. That evening they hiked a relatively level three mile round trip out to Plateau Point to watch the sun set. The hikers reported that the views of the inner gorge and the surrounding side canyons were well worth the walk.
The morning of their final day in the canyon was spent hiking the last five miles to the rim, another steep, continuous upward hike. As they neared the rim they were met with cheers from the four non-hiking family members who had spent a few days in Sedona while waiting for them. Bill and the Stewart family hikers spent a total of five days and four nights in the Canyon and hiked a total of about 44 miles.