Flashback. May 1st, 2016, 3pm local time. I’m sitting at the phone booking the first accommodation for the 2017 trip. Or at least I’m trying to. For next year I didn’t want to settle for a day hike into Grand Canyon as we did last time with the hike to Plateau Point down the Bright Angel trail. So we need a place to sleep in the canyon and since we both dislike camping, there is only one chance: Phantom Ranch. If you google Phantom Ranch reservations, you’ll find one advice on each hit you get: Book early! Reservation opens on the first day of each month for the full month of the next year so you’ll be able to book up to 13 months in advance. This will change on January 1st 2018 when reservations will switch to a real lottery system. For me it was just the phone lottery. 7am mountain time sharp the phone lines at Xanterra’s reservation hotline opened and I started calling. And calling. And calling. In the end I was sitting there using the land line and two mobile phones simultaneously just trying to get a dialing tone. After about 90 minutes and 170 unsuccessful calls on all three phones I finally got through to an operator.
The lady at the phone was very friendly but cut me off mid sentence after I said the magic words ‚Phantom Ranch‘ – for a good reason. She wanted to secure a date first before we talk about other details. My desired dates where May 18th to May 20th but for these dates all cabins were already fully booked. Since I expected this I asked her to look up the first available two consecutive nights after May 15th (the North Rim opening date). We were lucky there were still dates with two nights and so she reserved a cabin from May 29th to May 31st for us. After the dates were settled I could relax a little bit before we went on with the details: Dinner and breakfast reservations for the two of us. Stew & veggie dinner on arrival day, the late breakfast (6:30am) and another stew & veggie dinner for our rest day and finally early breakfast (5:00am) on departure day. After all info was double checked I hung up and couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I’m pretty sure I literally scored the last available cabin.
Since the dates were now a bit of from my already existing planning, I had to do a complete rescheduling. After some route shifting I came up with this first basic draft.
This draft marked only the main destinations of the upcoming trip. During the next two to three weeks it was refined to include all main and minor destinations and the number of nights we would spend at each stop. With this information finally available it was time to look for flights and start booking hotels for all nights. Booking way in advance (with option to cancel) worked good for us the last time so I didn’t see a reason to change that.
The final schedule
May 06th 2017: HAM – MUC – DEN – Fort Morgan, CO
May 07th 2017: Fort Morgan, CO – Rapid City, SD
May 10th 2017: Rapid City, SD – Miles City, MN
May 11th 2017: Miles City, MN – Gardiner, MN
May 15th 2017: Gardiner, MN – Kemmerer, WY
May 16th 2017: Kemmerer, WY – Vernal, UT
May 18th 2017: Vernal, UT – Moab, UT
May 22nd 2017: Moab, UT – Torrey, UT
May 23rd 2017: Torrey, UT – Springdale, UT
May 27th 2017: Springdale, UT – Grand Canyon Village, AZ
May 28th 2017: Grand Canyon Village – Grand Canyon North Rim
May 29th 2017: North Rim – Phantom Ranch
May 31st 2017: Phantom Ranch – Grand Canyon Village, AZ
June 02nd 2017: Grand Canyon Village, AZ – Mancos, CO
June 04th 2017: Mancos, CO – Pueblo, CO
June 05th 2017: Pueblo, CO – Estes Park, CO
June 09th 2017: Estes Park, CO – DEN – MUC – HAM
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