This had been a long held dream. No way could I ever hike to the bottom of the canyon and get back out, but as a horseriding family a mule trip to the bottom seemed well within reach. 13 months before departure I booked this trip of a lifetime - getting through to do the booking was time consuming and non-too-cheep when calling from the uk.
We read the literature and brought the appropriate clothes. In addition we took neck scarves that are pre-soaked in water; these stay damp all day and do give some relief from the heat.
On checking in AND just before the trip departs you are given dire warnings about the difficulty. Well my husband does not have vertigo (he went up the Eiffel Tower), but neither is he fond of heights. Although I am a rider, the joints are getting a bit stiff and I can't hop on & off a horse as readily as I used to. So the warnings were scary & it did cross my mind to withdraw. I am so glad we did not, what an experience.
On the way down I did find my joints aching. I was very glad that I was used to being on horses and trusting them. We did not get saddle sore. Western saddles are more comfortable that European saddles. The mules are steady sensible animals and I fell in love with mine (Susie Q). At the lunch stop (Indian Gardens) we all took advantage of the water hose and literally soaked ourselves. This certainly helped us through the hottest part of the journey at the bottom.
Unless you go to the bottom you can have no concept of how deep it is. So often as we came off a plateau to a cliff edge I thought now we will see the bottom, just to see another plateau below. When we got to the bottom we were tired, but also elated.
Phantom Ranch was a welcome spot. Our own cabin with a small river/big stream behind. We cooled off in the water & had a beer/lemonade in the Ranch. There were deer on the lawn; they were guarding the fig trees! An early Steak dinner and a great breakfast were provided. My only complaints would be: (a) I would have liked the option to have the stew instead of the steak dinner (b) The meals were served & cleared very quickly, I like to linger a little more. These are very small niggles and do not detract from this fantastic experience.
The return journey started early to avoid the heat of the day. Going up was much more comfortable on the joints. My husband thought it was more scary on the way up, but everyone coped easily and without complaint. There was a family in our group who had never ridden before, but they did really well under the expert guidance of our guides (Jack & Ed). The guides were really caring, careful and informative.
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