Suddenly, exclamations will be heard from the riders in front as they round a knoll in the trail. The Silver Bridge across the river can be seen in the distance, stretching from canyon wall to canyon wall. It is a long, high suspension bridge, and some will probably wonder how they could ever build it in such a remote location. They know this isn't their route, but they can't help but say something when they first see it. As they approach the bridge, it is even longer and taller than it first looked, and the large steel mesh floor allows the river torrent to be seen clearly beneath one's feet. Wow ! A long ways beneath one's feet! As they file by the end of the bridge, most will be glad they are not crossing the river here, but now the more forward thinking riders will be wondering what the next bridge has to offer, and may even ask their wrangler as much.
As they continue to follow the River Trail to the bridge on the Kaibab Trail, they will begin to realize that they are climbing back up, and that once again the trail has become a narrow ledge on the side of a solid rock canyon wall with a vertical drop that is difficult to ignore. While it may be only a few hundred feet to the bottom this time, the sights and sounds of the powerful Colorado River directly below them add yet another sensation to be remembered.
As they approach the dark entrance to the tunnel, it more resembles a cave than a passage through the rock. Like a giant tube, it curves around just enough to obscure visible light from the other end. Somebody will probably make scary noises in the dim tunnel. The other end of the tunnel is a vertical rock wall with the Kaibab Bridge connected directly to it. One step on the solid rock tunnel floor, the next step on the suspended bridge, with the river directly below them. A long way below them. Is there no end to this adventure? At least this bridge has solid matting on the floor, which comforts mules and riders alike.
Now the hard part really is over. Historic and rustic Phantom Ranch awaits them just up the trail in yet another cozy, cottonwood shaded oasis. After dismounting, the cantina will be the first place the riders hobble to. The cantina is comfortable and inviting and, after they check in, they will sip on cold drinks and begin to share their impressive recollections. These will be private exchanges and they will be quite certain that no outsider could fully appreciate their descriptions. But no matter the beauty they have seen or the magnitude of their adventure, they will be happy to get out of the saddle. Some will probably already be concerned about the probability of discomfort in the morning, on the long ride out of the canyon. It won't be as bad as they may fear.
Phantom Ranch is nestled in a small draw on the North side of the Colorado River, where the Bright Angel Creek has decided to join the big river . The people are friendly, the food is excellent, and the beds are conducive to deep sleep. The wake up call will come too early for most, but their excitement will begin to rekindle as they step out into the cool morning air. If they can resist overeating the five star breakfast provided to them in the cantina, they will be cheerful and ready for whatever comes. The nervous exuberance of yesterday will be absent today, they are old hands now. When they arrive at the mule corral, few of them will realize that the wrangler has been at work since before daylight rounding up, feeding, and saddling the mules. There will be a few comments as their backsides hit the saddle, but their enthusiasm is again high.
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