Grand Canyon Mule Ride

April 29, 2009


Photographer: Howard Schwartz
Summary Author: Robert E. Jones

This photo was taken from the South Rim of Arizona's Grand Canyon on January 31, 2009. The mule riders are descending into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. The temperature at the rim was below freezing when we embarked at approximately 8:30 a.m. It had snowed the week before. Shaded areas along the trail head were covered with packed snow and ice. This photo was taken approximately 15 minutes after our descent began. When the mule riders arrived at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the canyon, around 2:00 p.m., the temperature was quite comfortable and several people were walking around in shorts. The adiabatic lapse rate for dry air is approximately 5.5 F/ft (9.8 C/km). Assuming a 4,500 ft descent, the temperature difference from canyon rim to canyon bottom is nearly 25 degrees F (14 C).

The guides told us that the mules are trained to walk along the edge of the trail. My mule seemed to have taken to the training exceptionally well and set out to prove that he could walk closer to the edge than any of his comrades. I was not pleased with his precociousness and did my best in coaxing him to walk closer to the center of the trail. [Revised November 2017]