Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Grand Canyon

This last weekend several of us traveled down to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to hike the ~25 mile route through the canyon to the North Rim. As Friday morning rolled around we received a phone call that Nick Berger (the organizer of the hike) had come down with the flu and wouldn’t be able to hike and others might not be coming either. For several moments it looked as it was just going to be Steph’s sister Caryn and me on the trail (some felt a little awkward by this). But, by the time we were rolling down the road there were three of us plus Steph the chauffeur, arriving at the lodge around 8.

We woke up before the crack of dawn and were on the South Kiabab Trail by 5:00am. Our group had grown by six after meeting up with a group that had hiked the North Rim to South Rim previous day. The moon was bright with a cloudy ominous halo as we set out into the darkness with our headlamps. It was an amazing view to everyone heading down the switchbacks of the incredibly steep mountainside. One just had to peer over the edge of the cliff to see people thirty feet down on the next switchback. It was quite surreal looking. In the far distance we could see the small twinkling lights of the North Rim Visitor Center only about 15 miles as the crow flies, our journey would be close to 25.

As the sun began to lighten up the canyon walls we started getting our first awesome views of the canyon. Because of our rapid and steep descent, we were able to beat the rising sun which we managed to avoid until about 11:30.

Around 8:00 we passed over the suspension bridge which spans over the Colorado River near Phantom Ranch, our first stop of the day. Phantom Ranch is an old ranch that is now used as a camp site and lodging for NPS rangers. But after a quick bite to eat and filling our up on water, we were back on the trail. After this point the trail follows the banks of one of the tributary rivers of the Colorado for about 10 miles.

This portion of the trail offered some amazing views of the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I decided to hang back and snap some photos. Some of the best views were along this area of the trail. As we neared our last stop at the “Artists House”, we took a small detour from the main trail to see Ribbon Falls. We had to take our chances rock hopping across or just strip our shoes and socks off and wade through. …wading through was definitely the best choice we made all day. The cold water felt really good on our tired feet.

After making our final stop after the falls, we began the most difficult portion of the journey, ascending the 4,500 ft trail to the North Rim in about 4 miles. As we began going up I decided to kick it into gear and chug it up to the top solo. There is something about the pain of a race or a really good steep hike that makes the journey all the more enjoyable. When you reach the end you have a deeper appreciation for the steps you’ve taken and the sights you’ve seen. Also, I wanted to catch up to Gary, the man who was on his 39th time hiking the canyon. With about a half a mile to go a caught up to him. He snapped the photo of me standing near the top with a great view of the canyon behind me (top photo).

As we reached the last 100 meters of the trail we decided to make a feeble attempt at running to the finish. My legs were burning pretty badly. It probably looked like some of the people who attempt to sprint at the end of a marathon. We made it, arriving at 2:00pm …in exactly 9 hours I hiked the Grand Canyon. One of the top hikes I have done so far.