Friday, January 29, 2021

A Grand Adventure - June 2019

"It's like trying to describe what you feel when you are standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or remembering your first love, or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it's like." - Jack Schmitt

The morning after I hiked the Grand Canyon from south rim to north rim I went for a walk. It was early. Very few campers, hikers, and visitors were out. I rounded a corner and came upon the edge of this magnificent national park. The sun was just coming up over the rocks painting the sky beautiful shades of oranges, pinks, and blues. It was an incredible site. I became overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. Before I knew it my eyes were filling up with tears. I simply could not believe I had just had the experience of hiking through this sacred land. She was a bit of a beast at times, but she was kind and forgiving and she shared her beauty.

I was fortunate to hike the rims with two Grand Canyon enthusiasts. My friend Erma and her husband Rob have hiked the canyon several times over the past twenty years. They have it down. They prefer south to north and enjoy staying on the north for a couple of nights. They knew how early to begin, where to fill up water, and when to break for snacks. They pointed out key landscape highlights and stopped to take pictures whenever I wanted. They were great tour guides!

We drove to the south separately because I had decided I wanted to come home the day after we hiked. (Whereas they were staying two nights). After sleeping one night at the south rim lodge we met the following morning at 4:00AM to catch the 4:30AM shuttle to the South Kaibab trailhead. By 5:00AM we were heading down the trail. The sun was rising to greet us as we began one of my favorite adventures!

It was the end of May and the weather was perfect. Arizona had an unusually cool, wet spring which attributed to the perfect weather. On the day we hiked, clouds covered the skies and we even received a few light showers. (The thunder rumbling through the canyon was one of my favorite things. Ever).                Please note, a good portion of the hike has full exposure on those sunny days.

Lovely black butterflies floated around us at the bottom, a large hawk dodged around us as it tried to get to it's prey, and the sweetest song bird sang us a melody as we slowly made our way up the north rim. Once home, I dug through my books and found the butterfly to be the Kaibab Swallowtail. The hawk was a Rough Legged Hawk and the song bird was an American Gold Finch. (Yes, I'm a bit of a nerd and a "wanna be" birder).

The north rim was breathtaking. The air was different. Cool and pine filled. I was in heaven. However, I was pretty fatigued and ready to get to the edge of the rim! I finally turned to Erma and said, "You're lying! There is no top to this canyon, is there?!" But we just kept putting one foot in front of the other and before we knew it I could hear cars, and finally, I saw our friends. (Rob and Erma's friends drove our luggage from south to north and greeted us at North Kaibab trailhead to take us to the lodge). They were cheering us on those final steps. They gave us hugs, high fives, and cold beers!

We did it! 21 miles. 11 hours and 45 minutes. Lots of happiness!

The North Rim Lodge is old, quaint and books up a year in advance. (I've already booked for fall 2020). We checked in, showered, and met in the little deli to grab slices of pizza and soup. We sat in the lobby with spectacular views of the canyon as we laughed and rehashed the days' adventure. After all of our stories and a glass of wine, we visited the gift shop and bought the required R2R stickers and t-shirts. And then it was time for goodbyes. I gave lots of hugs and thanks and headed back to my cabin. I couldn't wait to go to sleep! 

Early the next morning, I started with some coffee and a walk and then caught the 7:00AM shuttle to the south rim. The shuttle was clean, friendly, and very convenient.

Now that I have done it I may try things differently next time. If I were to hike rim to rim again I think I would hike north to south. I would drive to the south, take the shuttle to the north and spend the night there. It cuts the travel time home in half. (Driving from south to Phoenix is only 4 hours. The shuttle from north to south is 4.5 hours. Or maybe I would hike rim to rim to rim! I would definitely rest and sleep at the north if I did this.  But. What I REALLY want to do is backpack and camp at Bright Angel campgrounds for a night or two and then hike out. As much as I loved hiking straight through I feel as though I missed some of the magic. I want to live in the moment for a while...take it all in. It's the journey not the destination, right? With that said, backpacking is a bit tougher because you have to carry all of your gear, so you are trekking up that canyon with 40 extra pounds! However, I love backpacking and feel empowered having everything I need on my back.

Things to know:  Whichever way your want to do it have fun and enjoy! There are so many trails throughout the canyon. You can spend a lifetime exploring her grandness! 

  • Be sure to plan in advance. North Rim and campgrounds fill up. Phantom Ranch cabins (at the bottom) are available via lottery.  
  • There are a few places along the trails to fill water, but check in advance. (Sometimes water is shutdown). Drink water AND electrolytes. 
  • Eat salty, high carb snacks. 
  • Pace yourself. 
  • Smile.