We have the 5:00 breakfast at Phantom Ranch this morning.  That allows us to get on the trail early.  We pack our gear, head out, and cross the Silver suspension bridge just after sunrise.  The view looking back at both bridges is fantastic.  The River Trail meanders up and down a little, but there is little elevation change all the way to the Bright Angel Trail.

Silver and Kaibab bridges
4-21-2004 @ 6:50

River Trail
4-21-2004 @ 6:54

Lizard sunning himself
4-21-2004 @ 7:10

     Despite my hurting toes, we make pretty good time on the River Trail and reach the River Rest House about 7:30.  This is the start of the Bright Angel Trail and it is uphill from here all the way to Indian Garden.  After a short break, we are off again.  The trail is easy walking and follows Garden Creek.  We reach the Devil's Corkscrew section in about 30 minutes.  I have been telling Art and Tom how tough this part is.  The trail maintenance crews are still working on this section, so apparently it was the washed out area that caused the mules rides to be suspended.  Although steep, we reach the top of the corkscrew without too much difficulty.  This was the easiest time up the corkscrew in my four hikes here.  Some of that has to do with leaving the bottom an hour and a half earlier than previous hikes when I had the late breakfast setting.  There are some great views looking down at the corkscrew section and up at the south rim.

Devil's Corkscrew
4-21-2004 @ 8:57

South Rim from Devil's Corkscrew
4-21-2004 @ 8:57

South Rim above Devil's Corkscrew
4-21-2004 @ 9:30

     We arrive at Indian Garden before noon, pick out a site, and set up camp.  A covered picnic table and piped water sure are nice.  We place Tom's tent as far to one end as possible to cut down on the loudness of his snoring. 

Indian Garden campsite
4-21-2004 @ 11:49

Indian Garden campsite
4-21-2004 @ 11:49

Indian Garden campsite
4-21-2004 @ 11:49

     After lunch, we head out to Plateau Point.  My big toes are killing me, but Art and Tom need to see the view out there.  The Park Service has put up new signs marking the Tonto Trail west and Plateau Point since I was here last.  The prickly pear cactus, like the hedgehog cactus, are in bloom.

Tonto Trail sign
4-21-2004 @ 1:52

Prickly pear cactus
4-21-2004 @ 1:50

Plateau Point sign
4-21-2004 @ 2:15

     This is my third time out to Plateau Point and I never tire of the great views.  We are about 1300 feet directly above the Colorado River.  If you creep out on a ledge about 15 feet east of the guardrail and peer over the side, you can see a waterfall toward the corkscrew section that is not visible coming up the Bright Angel Trail.  However, the wind has really been blowing this afternoon and buffeting us around, so I am afraid to get too close to the edge of the cliff.  Instead I point my camera over the edge and take a few pictures.  Luckily one of them gets the waterfall.

Plateau Point view
4-21-2004 @ 2:19

Colorado River from the Point
4-21-2004 @ 2:39

Plateau Point View
4-21-2004 @ 2:29

Waterfall below cliff edge
4-21-2004 @ 2:24

Tom and Art by cliff
4-21-2004 @ 2:39

Colorado River from the Point
4-21-2004 @ 2:40

     We begin the walk back to camp.  About a quarter mile from Indian Garden, I have a sudden excruciating pain in my left big toe.  Without looking, I feel that the toenail has separated from my toe.  I can now only limp slowly back to camp.  It is obvious to me that I cannot walk any more with this, much less make the climb out tomorrow.  I take off my boots and socks and inspect the toe.  Sure enough, the toenail has separated on the bottom, but is held firmly in place by the skin on three sides.  The only option is a little self-surgery.  For about 30 minutes, I hack away at the skin on the sides and back of my toenail with my pocket knife.  It is a painful experience, but I am finally able to remove the nail.  On a 1 to 10 scale, my post-surgery pain level has now decreased from 15 to 8. 

Toenail after surgery
4-21-2004 @ 5:19

     Art gives me some antibiotic ointment for my toe.  I bandage and tape it securely.  Hopefully I will be able to hike out tomorrow.  On my last two fall rim to rim hikes here, you could see the North Rim Lodge after dark by looking for the light on the north rim.  Since the North Rim does not open for another month, we are unable to see the lodge.


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