Bright Angel Trail–The Muse

A popular trail at The Grand Canyon is the Bright Angel Trail. This trail takes people from the south rim down to the river, where those wishing to continue to the north rim can connect with other trails. I has been used by Indians, miners and tourists.

My wife and I visited The Grand Canyon last week. The canyon itself is spectacular, both in its size and in the variety of geological formations. Our two day visit only served to whet our appetite to see more.

View Below The Rim

At The Grand Canyon, we met my brother and his wife and his in-laws. Because of physical limitations, they only observed the canyon from several locations along the south rim, but we spent the morning of one day hiking down the Bright Angel Trail.

We were awed by what we could see from a limited number of viewing areas on the south rim, and our camera chips now carry may photos of the canyon. Certainly the other members of our party had a wonderful experience. My sister-in-law, who is a writer and poet, should have been inspired by what she saw, but the true muse is below the rim.

HIkers On the Bright Angel Trail

Hikers on the Bright Angel Trail

My wife and I headed down the Bright Angel Trail about 9AM. The average gradient is 10%. Even going down puts a lot of strain on the hikers’ legs. The warm sun drew large volumes of sweat from our bodies, but the low humidity evaporated our sweat so quickly we probably would not have been aware we were sweating were it not for the large volume of water we drank. I consumed about 3 liters of water during the hike. The trip up is even more physically demanding. We took our time, every time we found a spot of shade, we joined other hikers resting in the shade. We only went 3 miles into the canyon, and down only 2000 feet. We returned to the rim at 2PM. It was an extremely demanding hike.

BUT we were rewarded by meeting the best muses. They are the muses who play below the rim.

The Muse at Play

The Muse at Play

The cliffs are fantastic. The rocks change color at various depths into the canyon. Here and there are soaring cliffs of rock. In other locations, the erosion cut rocks into shapes with piles of debris below the shapes. The Grand Canyon is the result of erosion, and the various erosion mechanisms produced different shapes here and there. My wife and I know just enough about geology to recognize and understand how certain shapes had been formed.
Whirl Pool Erosion

Whirl Pool Erosion

The canyon has limited precipitation, but a variety of plants live in the thin soil of the slopes or cling precariously to the rock walls. I am sure that most of the wildlife carefully avoided a trail with so many humans, but squirrels made a point of panhandling treats from the hikers. Small birds flitted around. Ravens and hawks soared over head. California Condors stayed out of sight that day, but the following day from the rim, we saw several Condors in flight. One went right over our heads.

Alas, I am not a poet, or the Bright Angel muse would have inspired several sonnets. I may yet be inspired to write something about the beauty of the canyon, but as you know, I mostly write fiction. So think of all the stories that I can write about hikers struggling back up the steep trail. Many of those hikers wore sandals. I could write about what goes through the mind of an exhausted hiker who has gone too far but must return to the rim.

Many hazards, real and imaginary, lurk on the trail. In addition to the risks of falling over a cliff or tumbling down a steep slope, there is a risk of injury from simply falling on the trail. Exhaustion and heat stroke are common as temperatures in the canyon soar out of the 80’s and to over 100 at the bottom. Any of these hazards could be worked into a story along with the related fears. The story could be about the victim of a catastrophe or about the companion who heroically tries to save the victim.

Signs everywhere advise the hiker how to prepare for a hike, and not to descend below the rim unless fit and properly equipped. Nevertheless, the park rangers grumble about the hundreds of hikers they have to rescue from the canyon each year. With a little research, one could write about heroic rescues, either fictional or real.

Imagine setting a romance on the trail with a backdrop of colorful rock. Perhaps add a few soaring Condors and a squirrel, obviously in milk for her kits, who acts like a clown in an effort to get hikers to share nuts and trail mix with her. How can the heroine not fall in love with the strong, hero, especially if he carries her back to the rim? On the other hand, even Clark Gable or Tom Cruse may lose his heroine if he deserts her on the trail with a thousand feet left to climb.

A quick note about facilities. The park service widened the trail to 4 feet so the risks of falling are minimized. At 1.5 miles and at 3 miles there are rest houses. Complete with toilets, water, an emergency phone, and a locker full of supplies for search and rescue teams. About 6 miles from the rim is a campsite for those with permits to camp over night.

Because of injuries we incurred earlier in the year, my wife and are not in as physically fit as we would like to be. We thought we could go to the 3 mile rest house, or perhaps further. We had a fit of sanity at the 3 mile rest house and reversed course. We were approaching our physical limits when we made it to the top.

We are inspired to return for other hikes. Perhaps longer or shorter, but hikes below the rim. I am inspired to write about The Grand Canyon.

by Reynold Conger

It was a bright and cloudless day as the lovers hiked down the Bright Angel Trail. He looked down the almost vertical slope at the trail below, trying to decide the best place to propose marriage. Suddenly a scream echoed off the rock face. . .

Sorry Muse. I know I can do better than that. Let me try again.



Do you really want to read a thriller full of danger and excitement? Read my book, Chased Across Australia. For information and excerpts, look at or my web site, The book is also available on,, and many book stores.


About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website
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2 Responses to Bright Angel Trail–The Muse

  1. Donna says:

    Wow! Now I know a real writer. Joe & I visited the Grand Canyon July 5, 1996 . It really is an awesome sight. Donna


  2. John Martin says:

    Enjoyed the read. Planning on doing a Rim to Rim hike next year with my daughter.


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