Sunrise definitely photographs better than it looks in person. Fortunately it was just a prelude to this morning's trek down the Gunnison Route to the canyon floor, from the south rim visitors' center to Oak Flat Trail to the Gunnison Route.
It may only be a mile each way and 1,800 feet down to the canyon floor, but as promised, it's steep and rugged. You will get dirty sliding down the wash that makes up most of the route down, and it is very easy to get off-route, as I did multiple times. Also fortunately, if you're aware of your surroundings, you generally won't get off route by more than a hundred feet or so. Either way, on the way down, take lots of pictures of the trail and landmarks on the trail that you pass so you can minimize your pain on the way back up.
A zillion pictures and a little over two hours later, the view at the bottom of the canyon floor was gorgeous. Definitely the best view of the trip. Passed one group of overnight backpackers on the way back up, but aside from them, it was deserted.
Spent longer than I expected soaking it all in... then it was time for the trek back up.
Immediately passed the first of the late crowd on the way down-- and of course, found myself off trail despite all the pictures I'd taken! Fortunately it was nice to have people coming down, so I could occasionally hear voices, see motion, and get a little guidance on the way back up. There's really only two tricky spots where you might get significantly off course; the ranger guidebook points one of them out, while the other you are warned about in advance and just about everyone takes pictures of on the way. The 80 foot chain definitely saves time both up and down as well, even if my idiot self missed half of it on the way down!
A little under 90 minutes later I was done. Quads definitely felt it the last quarter mile or so-- glad I did this route and not the longer Warner route, especially if the view isn't going to be all that different?
Rest of the trip was a rush back to the hotel to pack up and start the work day, then back on to the airplane.