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Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch experiences record dryness, high temps

Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon, experienced its driest summer to date with sustained temperatures above 100 degrees common. (Photo/NPS)

Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon, experienced its driest summer to date with sustained temperatures above 100 degrees common. (Photo/NPS)

GRAND CANYON — During July and August, the hottest months of the year in northern Arizona, temperatures at Phantom Ranch can soar well above 100 degrees.

And while the campground nestled at the bottom of the Canyon didn’t match its record-high temperature of 120 degrees — set Aug. 7, 1981, according to the National Weather Service — it did experience several days above 100 degrees and set a record for the driest monsoon season on record.

Lucy Grand and her husband, Russ, hiked from the South to the North Rim this summer, stopping for one night at Phantom Ranch. The Grands, visiting from Southern California, have spent time at Phantom Ranch before, but Lucy said this is the first time the couple have visited in high summer.

“We’ve hiked rim to rim before in the early spring and it was pretty warm, but our vacation just didn’t line up this time,” she said. “I knew it was going to be hot but I didn’t know it was going to be so bad.”

The Grands began their hike July 30 and reached Phantom Ranch about 5 p.m. It was hot, but Lucy said she and Russ didn’t have any problems — they had plenty of water and rested often along Bright Angel Trail.

“We like to take our time and just relax,” Lucy said. “We’re in our 50s now. It’s not a race to the bottom.”

They spent the evening without any issues. The couple packed up their gear, filled up their Camelbacks and headed for the North Rim the next morning, but Lucy said it wasn’t long before the heat began catching up to them. They slowed down considerably and Lucy said the heat through an area known as The Box was stifling.

“It was just oppressive,” she said, recalling that she became worried about her husband sweating profusely even as he drank more and more water. “We’ve been through the canyon before but this time it felt like it was never going to end. I could see Russ just dragging his feet and I remember thinking that maybe we should just turn back and ask for help.”

The Grands reached the North Kaibab trail and were able to regain some of their energy, hiking out of the Canyon without any further issues. Lucy described the gentle breeze blowing across the North Rim as a godsend. She said they will return to the Canyon, but not during the summer months.

Although July 30 falls during the height of the region’s monsoon season, the 2019 season was one of the driest on record. According to the National Weather Service — Flagstaff, it set a record for the least amount of rainfall. Phantom Ranch received just 0.45 inches of rain this year, which is about 85 percent less than normal.

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