September 7, 2015

Grand Canyon; Rim-to-Rim (S->N)

My co-worker, Andy, and I began talking about an overnight rim-to-rim hike a few months ago. That's a good thing, since camping permits become available 3 months ahead of time and the Grand Canyon is a bit of a popular place. We shot off our fax requests early on opening day for a Labor Day getaway at Bright Angel Campground, Andy's was accepted, mine denied!! He reserved 8 permits and I was on my way. We ended up having 7 hikers total, the dynamic riding duo - Jeff & Nancy were game, myself, Andy, his daughter, Addison and two cousins, Caleb & Chrissa.

Next up was figuring out the logistics of transportation. We opted to rent an SUV and carpool from N. Phoenix adding Andy's wife, Adrienne as a second driver. She would then camp at the South Rim with relatives, then meet up with us on the North Rim for another night of camping before we all returned home. The plan was set.

I picked up our loaded Yukon on Friday afternoon and had a good nights sleep in spite of the 3am wake-up call. I just needed to hit the ATM on my way out, but the touch screen at my bank had other ideas. It wouldn't work, so I had to go a bit out of my way to another branch. I pulled up in the drive-thru lane...ATM 'Out of order!'. Really?!? I was about to drive around to the front when the machine appeared ready to go. I gave it a try and it worked!! Cash in hand, I was outta there only 20 minutes behind schedule.

I met the others a bit after 5am, we packed everything in tight and were off. After a quick breakfast/coffee stop in Flagstaff at the Kickstand Kafe, we were South Rim bound. My annual park pass came in handy once again and we found out that Adrienne would get in free at the North Rim thanks to her Native American heritage.

The South Kaibab trailhead is only open to shuttle buses, so we parked along the rim as close as we could get. A mellow half mile trek over to the trailhead got things going.
Addison, Andy, Me, Nancy & Jeff. (The cousins, Caleb & Chrissa got a 2 hour head start)
Classic shot of the upper switchbacks on the S. Kaibab trail.
The trail snakes along Cedar Ridge.
Levitation tread.
Somehow we found ourselves on a side trip to an overlook, i.e. we missed the trail.
The first of a few mule trains. We noted how almost all the tourists weren't smiling.
Jeff & Nancy heading down.
This cobble section gave me fits in April, not today!
I happened to look up and spotted this arch as we neared the Tipoff.
The Tonto trail bisects the S. Kaibab trail just above the inner gorge.
The muddy Colorado River and Phantom Ranch are getting close.
One of my favorite views along the descent.
The final dizzying switchbacks down to the bridge crossing.
I was starting to feel a bit tired by the time we reached the bridge. 
Jeff tying the 'trail knot' under Nancy.
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory had nothing on the Colorado today.
4 Hours after starting we arrived at camp.
We found Caleb & Chrissa cooling off in Bright Angel Creek. It was warm to borderline hot down in at the bottom, somewhere around the low-90's. On our way into the campground we noticed an empty group site with covered alcoves, it looked perfect for us and the minimum capacity was 7. We began to set up camp and wind down for the remainder of the day. I had been craving a lemonade from Phantom Ranch, so we made the short hike up to the canteen and took care of our snacks & postcard mailings.
Plenty of room for our group.
Cool water of Bright Angel Creek felt great to sit in. Also slightly chilled a few beers Jeff lugged down.
The luxury cabins at Phantom Ranch.
A few of the single campsites along the creek.
By 3pm our campsite was entirely in the shade.
Andy was fairly excited to have fresh water.
Rock overhang section below our camp.
Golden hour taking hold.
Our co-worker, Shawn, couldn't make the trip, so we brought him along.
After dinner we went to the ranger talk and learned a few things during the Q&A session. The ranger then led a scorpion hunt for those wanting to see the critters firsthand. It was fun watching people's reaction when the black light illuminated them.

We turned in early as talk about leaving camp at 4am crept in. I wasn't so sure about that, but I figured if I was awake, I'd go. It was a mild night and I slept really good, no surprise there!!

I heard the others stirring early the next morning, but I wasn't ready to get up. Andy finally stopped by to let me know they were heading out and to leave a radio with me. Jeff & Nancy had already hit the trail at 4am, with Andy not far behind at 4:30. A few minutes later I got my butt in gear and was ready to hit the trail. I left camp at 5:30.

I was really looking forward to the hike out. It would be my first time going past Phantom Ranch and really the first time on any of the N. Kaibab trail. I had some goals on the day: Enjoy the hike, take lots of pictures, do some side trips, knock out more AZT and take note of the trail in general for next April's AZTR750. (Oh, and hope my knees continue to hold up - so far so good!)
My gauge for the day, although the canyon walls wreaked havoc with my GPS constantly adding extra mileage!!
Gentle climbing for the first 7 miles, still 2000' gained by Cottonwood.
One of the many footbridges.
The confluence of Phantom & Bright Angel Creeks.
Impressive rockwork on this retaining wall.
It took a couple of hours to see my first rays of sunlight.
Huge flowers dotted the trail corridor.
This may be a tricky spot with a bike on my back!
A leak in the water supply pipeline turned the trail into a river for a 100 yards.
The depths of the canyon continue their transformation to full sun-baked mode.
I opted to take the longer way, over the bridge via Asinine Hill. It wasn't too bad.
Ribbon Falls tucked into the shadows.
Looking back at the S. Rim, hard to believe we started up there. Trans Canyon Telephone line could be seen throughout the hike, constructed in 1935.
Ribbon Falls.
A true oasis tucked into the rugged canyon walls.
I soaked my feet in the cool pool, but it wasn't hot enough to warrant a full dousing into the alcove.
Great place for a morning snack, had the place to myself except for 5 minutes.
Continuing my trek northbound towards Cottonwood Campground. 
3 hours in to my hike and I was no longer protected by constant shade. Things were warming up.
Two hiker groups passed me going southbound, each warning about the lack of water at Cottonwood & Manzanita!!
7 miles up the canyon from Phantom Ranch sits Cottonwood CG. The hikers were right, only air was coming out of the drinking fountain. I still had plenty of water, plus my filter.
The warm late morning sun made this waterfall so enticing.
This footbridge, leading to the Manzanita rest area signals the change in pitch to the North Rim. Time to get yer climb on!!
I had planned to filter water here since the creek had easy access, but the fountain was able to spit out enough water if opened to max flow. Many of the hikers milling about seemed unprepared for a possible water shortage.
I was now near the halfway point for the day, at least by mileage. My shoulders were a little tired, but a few stops here and there to remove the pack really helped. More importantly to me, my knees felt fine!! I enjoyed a cool snack break in the ample shade of Manzanita then embarked upward at a steady pace. This was the section of trail I was really looking forward to seeing.
Helicopter zooms down the canyon. The others later reported it had landed near Roaring Springs.
Water spews from the canyon wall at Roaring Springs.
Geology was in session on the way up, walk & learn.
I'm glad I didn't make the side trek down. There was only a picnic table and faucet, no access to the falls.
Missing layer of rock??
Trailwork here took some real effort.
The spoils of gaining elevation rapidlly.
A few out of place formations.
A welcomed break to the waterbars & sun: relatively flat trail!!
The final footbridge on the ascent. A popular day hike destination.
Supai Tunnel, complete with a working water fountain. Trail traffic increased from here on out, plenty of day hikers and a mule train farther up.
The upper reaches of the trail were coated heavily in moon dust.
Moar geology!!
I love the perspective of this upper cliff band.
The footbridge no longer in view.
Last checkpoint until the top and I took my last sip of water, oops. Only 0.7 miles to go thankfully.
Hooray for aspens!! The finish is near!
North Rim attained!!
I found the others, minus Jeff & Nancy who were already at the campsite, waiting at the top. Andy & Addison had finished only 15 minutes ahead of me thanks to their siesta at Roaring Springs. We had yet to hear from Adrienne, so we hiked a bit more up the Bridle path to the North Rim CG.
Tame & flat. Nice way to unwind.
As soon as we arrived at the camp host Adrienne pulled up, talk about perfect timing! We found our campsite, gathered a bunch of quarters and made our way to the showers to freshen up. Storms clouds became more menacing and began to let loose barely 30 minutes after we arrived. I'm really glad we finished the hike before the deluge.

So far I had been very pleased with what I packed. I promised myself to use everything I hauled and was able to do that, but as I got ready to jump in the shower I realized I forgot one item: a clean shirt!! D'oh! I opted to rinse out my sweaty hiking shirt. All clean, drip-dried with a damp shirt I was ready for dinner.

The downpour also made be change my camping plans since I hadn't set anything up yet. I decided to stretch out inside the Yukon, less to pack up in the morning too.

After dinner I made my way over to the gift shop and found a cool rim to rim hiking shirt, damp shirt no more!! Win. On my way back to the others, I found Jeff talking to a couple of bikepackers. Turns out we knew one of them, Artec, from Flagstaff was doing our Kaibab loop with his girlfriend, Chase, but they got caught in the downpour and were drenched to the core. We offered to host them at our campsite and they accepted.

My legs didn't feel too horrible afterwards, calves were a bit sore as were my shoulders, but I had a feeling the long drive home wouldn't help things. More importantly to me, my knees held up fine the entire hike!! That really fired me up. Sure enough, the next morning it was a bit difficult making our way back to the North Rim lodge for breakfast. My shoulders felt decent, but my calves felt like I had baseballs tucked under my skin. It would take a solid 4 days of recovery before they felt 'mostly' normal again.

Now that I know what the full Canyon hike is like, I hope I can approach it with a sensible plan. Slow & steady, take short breaks when needed to rest my shoulders and be aware of my surroundings with the cumbersome load. Easy, right? We'll see.

A huge thanks to Andy for taking care of the permits and to Adrienne for taking the time and effort to drive the rental around from the S. Rim. I see a few hiking adventures together in our near future.
The distance is skewed a bit due to the signal bouncing off the Canyon walls. Should be closer to 22 miles total.

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