Stephen and I headed to Arizona on October 4th and made our way north on Friday morning. We stopped by my old stomping grounds in Flagstaff for lunch, and then continued on to the Grand Canyon. By about 3:30, nobody had checked in at the campground, so we went to the Bright Angel Lodge to get a look at the Canyon and the trails that we'd be running the following day.
|First look at the Canyon|
|Obligatory Grand Canyon shot|
Eventually, most of the group trickled in, and we all settled down for dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge. After dinner, we headed back to the camp to make final preparations for the next morning. I laid out the multitude of random snacks that I had brought along for the trail and decided on a random assortment of goodies - my own personal trail run aid station (about 2400 calories in all):
- Clif Bloks
- roasted potatoes
- graham crackers
- potato chips
- beef jerky
- Mars Bar
- sesame cookies (the Middle Eastern kind)
- peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (thanks, mom!)
- Hot Tamales
- extra Honey Stinger chews
The four of us who would be attempting the full Rim2Rim2Rim stumbled around in the dark at 2:45 in the morning, making last minute preparations, and then it was off to the trailhead. Stephen was kind enough to get up with us and drive us to the trailhead so we wouldn't have to add extra miles onto our already lengthy journey!
The plan was to head down the South Kaibab - the steeper option with no water stops. We take the North Kaibab from Phantom Ranch up to the North Rim and back down to Phantom Ranch (which has plenty of water stops from spring to fall, but which shuts down in mid-October for the freezing winter months). On the way back up to the South Rim, we opted for the longer, more gradual Bright Angel Trail, which also has several water stops. I used some of the Grand Canyon maps to put together this handy little map for all of us:
Once at the South Kaibab trailhead, things started to get real. It was cold, but not the 30 degree temps we had been expecting. It was also incredibly windy! The wind was howling through the canyon and through the trees on the rim, so Stephen took a quick picture and decided to get going before we got too cold. Start time, 3:37am.
|Ready to run at the North Kaibab trailhead|
|The trail dropped off to nothing on either side. And I think there's a pair of eyes over there...|
I had seen the headlamps of other hikers making their way up the trail, and at one point I could hear the river. Close to the bottom, I caught back up with Kenny. We ran into some hikers sleeping alongside the trail, and another couple trying to make the trek up before the heat of the day. They asked how long we'd been going, and I told them an hour and a half. "You look like you're going at a pretty good clip," said the guy. I didn't have the heart to tell them that we'd run 6 miles at that point. They had a long way to go!
Shortly after, we crossed the river and then ran alongside it toward Phantom Ranch. As I was making my way down the sandy path, all of a sudden, there were a bunch of other runners on my tail. I picked up the pace as we headed into Phantom Ranch. I chatted with the other runners, some from New York, some from Southern California, as we all refilled our packs with water. I stopped at the bathroom, and then ran back and forth, confused about where the continuation of the trail was. Once I finally got on my way, I headed into Bright Angel Canyon, a long slot canyon that connects the North and South Rims.
|Heading along the Bright Angel Creek all by my lonesome|
I pushed to catch up to him, and we stuck together for a bit, pushing each other through exhaustion (I really recommend getting more than 2-3 hours of sleep before an undertaking like this!) to keep moving up the trail. Sections of the trail were getting steeper as we passed Ribbon Falls and made our way into Cottonwood Camp. I refilled here and had some food. It was also somewhere around here that Rachel and Andy (a friend of hers who started later and blasted his way down the trail) passed us by. Two of the guys I met at Phantom Ranch passed near here too. I was feeling so tired and defeated...I knew I just had to keep pushing. I also knew that I would see my friend Rebecca somewhere near here - I found out on Facebook that she was planning a Rim to Rim on the same day, so I was looking forward to seeing a friendly face on the trail!
|The sun made for some gorgeous views!|
|Me and Rebecca at the Pump House|
|There's Rachel and Andy waaay up there!|
|And there I am, waaay down there!|
|Looking back down the trail and a long drop!|
|Looking up toward the switchbacks and the North Rim|
That treeline is a long, long way away, let me tell you. That last mile was rough, but we finally made it in among the beautiful pine trees and aspens and up over the ridge to the North Rim. We all stopped and refilled our water, made a pit stop, refueled, took some pictures and celebrated our halfway success. We met another runner who was moving at a much faster pace and sent him on his way before we noticed that the mule train was getting ready to leave. You really don't want to get stuck behind a mule train! Just as we headed out, Kenny came up the rim. We said a quick hello and then snuck onto the trail just before the mules. A few minutes later, we saw Enrique on his way up to the top. We took a quick picture and went on our way down the trail.
|Made it to the North Rim! We met the guy on the left at the top - he was insanely fast!|
|Making our way down the trail.|
|Taking a break in the shade|
|Favorite pic of the trip - it was hot, but it was still beautiful!|
|The sun was intense!|
|Me, Mari, and Rachel - SF girls run the Canyon!|
|Enjoying some ice cold Lemonade at Phantom Ranch|
|Just across the river - you can see the two bridges we crossed - |
the farther one in the morning and the closer one in the afternoon
|We came from the trail you see below, and still had to go all the way up to the rim above it!|
We made one last stop at Indian Gardens and then made our way toward the final major ascent. I ate the other half of my Mars bar and refilled my hydration pack and we were on our way. The dark was really setting in, and after we started climbing, we pulled out the lights. We formed a little line - Phil, Rachel, me and Ryan - so I'd have a decent light to see by. My little wind-up light didn't stay charged for long, so I needed some extra help from everyone else's headlamps. Speaking of headlamps, it was fun watching all the people up ahead of us and down below us as we made the neverending climb (about 5 miles).
We kept on pushing up that climb at a good pace - since it was cooler out, we didn't really need any water, so that saved us a lot of time. At one point, we all decided that we needed to take a few minutes to check out the stars - it was so clear out, and you could see the whole Milky Way. We all sat down on the side of the trail together and enjoyed the view. It was so cool to be able to see the lights at the North Rim! We were worried about how we were going to manage to stand back up, but we decided not to worry about it yet. As we sat and marveled at the sky, I saw a shadow move across the rock in front of us (it was probably a little mouse, but I swear it looked like a skunk!). I said, "Oh my God," and grabbed Rachel, who screamed bloody murder. Ryan and Phil jumped up and yelled, and Rachel and I were right with them, still screaming. The bright side was that we didn't have to worry about how we were going to stand up, but I think we scared the entire canyon. I'm hoping the intense laughter reassured everyone who may have thought that one of us had fallen over the edge! They gave me quite a bit of crap the rest of the way up, but I SWEAR I saw something!!! We spent the next bit of the trail apologizing to all the people around us.
|Bright Angel Trailhead - South Rim!|
We managed to slog our way up the last incline to the top, still running! Stephen and Joyce were waiting with beer and high fives for all of us. We were almost in shock to be done, not to mention excited, exhausted, overwhelmed, hungry, and in desperate need of a shower!
|High five - we did it!!!|
Photo by Joyce Pedersen
|Beaver Street Brewery, Flagstaff!|