I've been wanting to do a Grand Canyon crossing for a number of years, but the biggest problem was all the planning and travel necessary to accomplish it. I would need to schedule an overnight stay somewhere and hire a shuttle to take me back to my car, or else have my wife or a friend drive around. And then we would still need a place to stay overnight.
Then Julius posted a message in February asking if anyone had any alternative ideas, or might be willing to do a car swap. It took me a couple of days to figure it out: THIS was my chance!
So three month later, and with some planning and preparation, the trip worked out without a hitch. The biggest part in getting ready was to make two hikes in Yosemite. The first was easier: the Panorama Loop via the Four Mile Trail. Second was hiking from the valley floor to Clouds Rest and back, with a side trip up Half Dome. That hike's mileage was equivalent to Grand Canyon's, and the elevation was greater. Two days later, my quads got pretty sore, but I was READY for Grand Canyon!
The highlight of the Clouds Rest hike was seeing this Blue Grouse courting a hen, at the base of the half Dome sub-dome, just as I was starting my shortcut descent:
Driving: The day before the Grand Canyon hike was the long drive day. I started off at 4 AM, which was good preparation for the hike, since I'd be starting that hike at a similar hour. I met Julius and family in Barstow at 8 AM. We shuffled our gear around, switching packs into opposite cars, food and supplies into opposite coolers, then traded cars. ...unusual operation!
Here we are, gear swapped, ready to go:
We then set off, I headed via I-40 to Needles, Kingman, Williams and the South Rim. They left on I-15 for Las Vegas, St. George, Pipe Spring and the North Rim. I arrived about 3 in the afternoon, so took some time checking out the spot JAGCHiker had recommended to spend the night, passed by the airport with more helicopters than I'd ever seen in one place:
There were a bunch more than these:
I drove around the South Rim, enjoying the tourist overlooks, and souvenir shops -- my daughter loves her stuffed condor. (I considered carrying it across the canyon, but wisely put it into the box to mail home.) I stopped by the Backcountry Information Center to make sure where the water stops were on the trail. It was fun relaxing and being a tourist: seeing a condor soaring over the canyon, photographing the sunset shadows, watching the elk graze on the manicured lawn. Dinner was a chicken sandwich from a Wendys in Tusayan, then quickly to my camping site. I think I got about 6 hours sleep.
At 4:30, "JAGChiker" John found me at the agreed upon parking spot, and he ferried me the three miles to the trail head. A quick farewell, and I was off. I almost forgot to activate my SPOT unit so my family could see I was progressing and all was ok. On the way down, I was not alone. There must have been 20 people doing the rim-to-rim, and they all started early, some an hour later, but they all passed me by the time I got to the Colorado River.
But I was really enjoying the views:
A mule train passed me halfway down, and was returning before I got the the river.
The bridge crossing the river is quite amazing. It carries the pack trains and horseback riders as well as hikers. There are two bridges, the second is about half a mile down the river.
After crossing the bridge, I felt the call of the sandy beach. I wanted to experience the Colorado River. I remember all the years ago when I hiked to the river, jumped in, and then headed back up the trail. This time, I encountered a sign prohibiting swimming. Aw shoot! So I compromised and just waded. Mercy, that water is cold! I couldn't stay in long. I put the boots back on and headed up to the Phantom Ranch canteen.
Back in February when planning this hike, I inquired about getting a meal here. I was told breakfast was available only at 5:30 and 6:30 AM, and that it was fully booked. I thought it was pretty curious that they didn't offer anything later. And another thing: No soft drinks, only beer and lemonade. Who runs that place??? I would think hikers would really enjoy a later breakfast, but maybe they have found that everyone hiking out wants to get an early start. And I found that rim-to-rim hikers aren't much interested in stopping and eating at that point. All the other r-2-r hikers barely stopped in. Most just flew on by!
But anyway, I thought I'd enjoy a beer in the Grand Canyon. It was consumed -- at 9 AM! Earliest beer ever for me.
But then several hours later I couldn't understand why I had a headache. Ah -- the beer! A dose of ibuprofen took care of that.
The trail from Phantom Ranch to Ribbon Falls is long and tiring. It just seems to go on forever, with the temperature is rising, and sections in full sun. I think it took me 3 hours to go the 6 miles with only 1200' elevation gain. This was definitely the longest stretch of trail.
Nice flowers along the way, though.
Julius and his wife and I had agreed the day before that we would both take the side trip to Ribbon Falls. It's only a 15 minute walk, and well worth it. At the falls, people can climb to a bench behind the waterfall where it is always shady and cool, due to the overhanging rock formations. I was eating lunch there when they showed up -- the 7-year-old leading the way! What a sparky kid!
We rested a while, talking about the trip, and exchanged our keys:
They were planning on resting for several hours before continuing on down to their campsite by Phantom Ranch, and they urged me to get going, saying it was still a long way to the North Rim. Time flies when you're having fun. I think I spent over an hour on the Ribbon Falls side trip. But it was well worth it.
Moving on up the trail, next came Cottonwood Campground, with a water and a number of campsites for backpackers. Many with no shade -- not pretty in the mid-afternoon when I walked through. I met many backpackers coming down later who were planning on stopping there. Later would definitely be better. My hike continued on to the "Pumphouse Residence", a house by the trail. There is also water and a restroom at this point. I rested and ate a snack, tried to drink as much water as possible. The trail was really starting to climb. The temperature seemed to be dropping due to the elevation, and there was more shade due to the steep canyon walls.
From the house to the end of the trail is 5.4 miles, with 3,600' of gain! This section took me 3.5 hours. I think I was getting excited to finish so picked up the pace some.
Climbing steadily, I soon came to the origin of all the water in Bright Angel Creek, and the source of water for both the North Rim and South Rim, including the town of Tusayan: Roaring Springs.
Note the cascading stream below the rock formation here:
There is a power line dropping from the north rim to the pumping facility at the base of the cascade. Here, water is pumped up to the North Rim. A pipeline buried under the trail carries water to the south rim.
The trail from this area up to the north rim is spectacular. It zig-zags in side canyons and moves along at the base of red-wall cliffs. The cooler climate promotes more greenery, so there are ample plants and bushes.
Here's the last picture I took down the canyon. The last bridge is the "Redwall Bridge". Note the trail snaking along the cliff base in the distance.
Soon after this view, I reached Supai tunnel and the last water source. A hiker there thought it would take me an hour and a half more. I took that as a challenge and hurried up the trail, finishing in about 50 minutes. I couldn't have sustained that pace all day, but since it was the end, why not?
Topping out was a great feeling. I spent the next half hour changing clothes, eating and drinking from my post-hike supplies in the car, and stowing gear for the long drive home. I drove the several miles to the North Rim Lodge, thinking I might find a full meal there. Wow, what a crowd! There were hundreds of cars, and maybe a thousand people all around. I walked into the lodge to find people in a long wait for dinner in the huge dining room with formally dressed staff. I had miles to drive, so just wandered over to the viewing lounge with the massive picture windows. Wow again! It was dusk, but I could still see the South Rim where I had been just the evening before.
I asked a lady where the S. Rim facilities would be and she pointed out the fault that marked the location of the step in the massive rock formations, the same fault that formed the line of Bright Angel creek. She explained how the formations of Zion and Bryce to the north were placed geologically above all the Grand Canyon layers. She was quite a source of information, and I got lucky asking her about the view. It was a good geology lesson.
I wasn't interested in the sparse food available from the deli at the lodge, and learning from lodge staff that the next town was 40 miles away, I decided to hit the road. Driving the distance was amazing! No services, no lights, but often several deer right by the road. And my gps kept telling me to turn off on an unpaved road (I had set it to take me "home"). It must have calculated the unpaved roads were a shorter route.
I did pass by the North Kaibab Lodge, where Julius had stayed the night before. The area is so remote that they don't have an address, except to say: "We are located on Hwy 67, 26 miles south of Jacob Lake and 18 miles from the North Rim (a half hour drive).
" Here are the map coordinates: 36.4141,-112.1334
I arrived at the only cafe at Jacob Lake about 9 PM, as they were closing the kitchen. All they had left was cold sandwiches or pie and ice cream. Guess what I had
. I continued on through remote parts of Arizona and Utah (stopping somewhere for a nap), and finally got to a cheap motel in Mesquite, Nevada, after 3.5 hours. I was close enough to drive home the next day.
This trip all went so well, I can hardly believe it is over. But I came back with what I set out to get: Good memories, some good pictures, and some new friends. What more could one ask for?
All the pictures can be seen here: Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim 5-16-2013
The planning on this hike occurred here: Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim, Car swap
Julius posted his trip report here: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim