ALL HIKERS

JUNE 2004 RIM TO RIM HIKE
LORRIE

My plan was to walk across the Grand Canyon: one night on the North Rim in the campground, one night at Cottonwood Campground, one night at Bright Angel Campground, one night at Indian Garden Campground, and a final night at the South Rim at Bright Angel Lodge.  I have been walking and exercising for the last six months preparing for this trip.  All of the information I had obtained recommend a lot of both.  Also, I read everything I could find about the Grand Canyon on the internet.  I felt that at last I was ready. 

I'm a 45 year old grandma.  Before leaving on this trip, I went to the doctor for a checkup.  I was concerned about the drop and rise in elevation, and how or if it could affect my heart (it's not real good).  He told me to go ahead, changed my meds and told me to have fun.  By the way, I never like to talk about my health.  My family forgot along time ago about my heart and my friends never know.  My grandkids love to play with me because I'm the most active out of all their grandmas.  I'm just adding this because at the time it was important. 

I left home in mid June and drove down to Flagstaff, Arizona, and spent the night.  Before I went to bed I, sorted out my stuff and moved a few things from my suitcase to my pack.  I was pretty excited that night and had a real hard time sleeping.  The next morning I woke up after the sun came up, and hurried to load the car.  Since I didnít have to meet the shuttle until one I wanted to explore the south side as much as possible.  I took highway 180 from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon.  The road was quiet with very little traffic.  The closer I came to the Grand Canyon the more scared and excited I became since my goal was to walk across the Grand Canyon by myself.  Once I almost turned around because I started thinking about the what ifs.  But instead I pulled off to the side of the road, and said a short prayer asking for any and all assistance I may need.  Afterwards I felt a calm feeling and I knew that I was in for an exciting trip!

I drove around the south side until I found a parking spot near the Bright Angel Lodge.  Then I went to see the view of the rim from the Bright Angel Lodge.  My first view of the Grand Canyon was really overwhelming.  The canyon is huge! The river looked so far away and the north side was even farther.  I could see Plateau Point, Indian Garden and Phantom Ranch way down below.  Some one pointed out Cottonwood Campground in the distance.  As we watched we could see a mule train between Indian Garden and just below us.  It looked like tiny ants moving along the trail!

There were 5 Condors flying around just off of the rim.  They drew quite a crowd of watchers.  There were also several squirrels running around begging for food.  And they weren't being disappointed.  This was the only place that I where squirrels were a problem.  I asked a couple of kids to please not feed them.  I also explained to them that they were not helping the squirrels.

Since it was getting close to shuttle time, I went back to the car and brought my pack up.  It felt really heavy, so I carried it back to the car and removed about five pounds of stuff from it, which was a really good idea.  Some of the things I would miss later (my toothbrush and sandals), but at least it was lighter.  The shuttle finally came and we loaded up for the 5 hour ride to the north side.  There were six men in one group from Jersey.  They camped near me in all of the campgrounds except Indian Garden.  There were also 2 guys returning to the north side for their cars, and I asked every question I could think of.

When we got to the north side, the sun was almost down.  I barely had time to set up my little tent and walk up to the store.  My tent was on the rim and the view was almost wasted in the dark.  Right before dark the wind started blowing and it got cold.  My tent was short and down in a hole so the wind blew over it, but there were several other tents in the campground that were blown away and tipped over.  It was a little chilly that night but it wasn't really bad.  I slept in my clothes and in my flannel sleeping bag.  I kept waking up, but it was because I was excited and a little scared.  This adventure was a huge event for me! 

I got up Tuesday morning at 4:30.  It seemed to take only a few minutes to pack my tent and supplies.  Today I would use my camel back to carry water in.  There is water on the North Kaibab Trail, but only if the pipeline is working.  I was almost skipping as I headed for the trailhead.  There is a walking trail that is a half-mile long or else I could have followed the road a mile to the trailhead.  As I reached the trailhead the sun was up far enough that I could put away my flashlight.  For the first couple miles or so it was still too dark to take pictures.  The walk down the trail into the canyon seemed to go really fast.  I kept getting glimpses of the canyon through the trees and bushes.

Dropping down through the red wall was beautiful.  All around me everything was either a deep red or a dark green color.  I could see the trail way down below where it weaved back and forth like a lazy snake.  The trail behind me was steep, and I was happy I wasn't coming back up it.  I had already forgotten looking down the Bright Angel trail from the rim.

I met a  family who was also moving down the trail at a fast pace.  They were planning on spending a couple nights at Phantom Ranch.  It was fun to listen to them as they viewed the canyon also for the first time.  They turned off the main trail and dropped down to Roaring Springs while I skipped it and went on down the trail to Bruce's house.  I met my first and only Ranger on the trail here.  We talked for a few minutes before he went up the trail and I went down.

Just before Bruceís house, I kicked a large rock in the trail.  The park service put these huge rocks or logs across the trail to help control erosion.  When I was to look off the trail or even up at the sky sometimes, I would kick these.  This would cause extreme pain in the area of my toes!  Over the next several days I would kick many of these barriers and I would also reward my feet with a rest in the nearby creeks.

By the time I got to Bruceís house, I was limping.  I took my first long rest and ate lunch after changing my socks.  I also took a couple of Motrinís to help with the pain.  At Bruce's house I could hear a strange whirring sound.  After a few minutes of searching I traced the sound to the rock wall.  It seemed to be singing!   

I got to Cottonwood Campground at 10:15.  It's hard to get a camping spot here because there are only 11 tent sites and two group sites.  I was very lucky to get any site.  It was already pretty hot so I picked out a site with some shade, and then went down to check out the creek.  I spent the rest of the day either in or around the creek.  I had met several people here and enjoyed talking to them as we lounged in the creek.  There were people camped here from Connecticut, England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and many other places.  That night it was hot.  Some one said it had been 120 at Phantom.

For supper I finally got to try out my sterna can cooker.  After a meal of freeze dried spaghetti, which was awful, I was already looking forward to dinner tomorrow night!  I wandered back down to the creek to visit with my new friends.  They pointed out to me where the lodge on the north side is located up above cottonwood campground.

There were some Boy Scouts camped here who were in the process of earning quite a few badges.  They were doing a south rim to north rim to south rim trip. 

When I got up the next morning, it was still hot, but there was a cool breeze.  AT 5 or so I was on the trail again, and about 10, I was at Phantom Ranch.  The last half-mile was tough in the box.  When I got to the Bright Angel campground it was 120.

Today I decided to rest my back a bit by only filling my water bottles up since I would be walking along the creek. 

About a mile below Cottonwood Campground is the trail to Ribbon Falls. Ribbon falls was great!  The sun was just coming up, so I could see.  I dropped my pack on a ledge toward the bottom and went to play in the water.  I ate a muffin and drank my coffee.  This is one place that I really could have spent more time at.  The water cascading down from the top and onto the cone was beautiful.  And the water was so cold!  All of the squirrels must have slept in since I didnít see any.  After I left I went down to the creek.  The water wasnít very deep in one spot, so I just jumped in and waded across.  I went a mile or so down the trail before I stopped and changed my socks.

The box was beautiful.  I sure felt small with huge mountains of rock towering about me.  This is one place where I wouldn't want to be in either a flash flood or earthquake.  I kept stopping to look around in a circle to try and see it all.  I stopped once and used my filter to fill my bottles with the cold water from the creek and got going again.  I met 3 kids who had run out of water, so I took another break and used my water filter again.

I met 3 girls between the metal bridges.  They had just seen a rattlesnake in the trail.  It had struck at one of the girls and had missed her.  I never saw the snake, but warned people about it.

Phantom Ranch is like a tiny city.  The first stop I made was at the cantina for lemonade (but they were out), and then on down the trail to the Bright Angel Campground.  I picked a site in the shade behind the water tap, and near the restrooms.  I mixed up a power drink and sat in the creek in the shade to drink it.  The water felt great on my poor injured feet. After I got my tent set up and my food stored in the boxes, I wandered down to the Colorado River (it was 120 in the sun) to checkout the Kaibab Bridge and the Indian Ruins.  The black Kaibab Bridge was hot!  I was wishing I had an egg to try to see if it would fry on it.  I didn't walk over it because the heat was really intense!  After that I walked back to the Bright Angel Creek and talked to some river rafters in the shade.  I climbed in the creek again while I visited with them. 

While I was there, a mule train came by.  The people riding looked like they were ready to get off and climb in the creek with us.  After a bit I decided I needed a nap so I went back to my tent and took a nap in the shade.  Everyone else was either resting or soaking in the creek.  The heat was really intense. 

After awhile I took my book and went down to sit in the creek.  I wish I had taken a picture of all the others doing the same thing.  Before long it was time to head to the cantina for dinner.  This was one meal I had looked forward to for days!

The steak dinner was better than I had hoped for, and I ate every bite!  Afterwards they brought us these huge slices of chocolate cake.  I really recommend this meal, but be sure to make a reservation before entering the canyon.  I felt bad for the people who showed up for dinner and assumed the would be able to eat too.  I had initially reserved a stew dinner, and had called about a dozen times before I could upgrade to the steak dinner.  Iím glad I kept calling.  Afterwards I wandered back down to river for some pictures of the silver bridge and the Colorado River.  Then I went back up for the ranger talk, but it was about bats, and after that she was going to talk about sore toes.  But I was tired and I knew the next day was going to be long.

The first day I walked down hill, the second was more over a level area, and the next two would be all uphill.  Before I forgot I went back up to the Cantina and bought a Phantom Ranch T-shirt.  I also canceled my breakfast for the next morning.  Mine was for the 5:00 setting, but I wanted to leave early so I could take advantage of the shade as much as possible.

After I got back to the campground it was still 110 in the shade.  I spent some more time in the creek and then went back to camp and heated up my knife, and well after that my toes felt better.  After I got home I lost 6 toenails.

The next morning I again started out early.  For the rest of the trip I would have to use my camel back.  Today I'll follow a couple creeks but the water isn't safe to drink even filtered.  Over half the campground was up and moving around.  It was around 95 degrees.  At the river I took pictures of some river rafters.  At first my body did not want to go up but by the time I left the river I was walking at a good upward pace.  I was told there was water at the river rest  house, but there wasn't and probably had never been. I had plenty.  The devil's corkscrew was rough but even at this time of morning I could see where the heat could be deadly in the afternoon.  I took my time and enjoyed looking around. 

At the top of the corkscrew it goes into a canyon with a small creek with some cottonwood trees for shade. I found a nice spot off the trail and once again took my boots off and waded in the creek. It was a good spot for some lunch and a power drink. I probably spent at least a half hour here. It wasn't too far from here to Indian Garden Campground.

After I snacked and rested, I ran into a couple who were having problems.  I spent some time with them and then I left and went on up to Indian Garden Campground.  The last little stretch was in the sun and it was getting hot.  I was looking forward to relaxing in the creek at Indian Garden.  Near the corral, there were about a couple dozen people resting in the shade.  Some were from the top and also some were from the bottom. 

At the campground the Ranger met me as I came in and he directed me to a good spot.  I told him about the couple.  I hung up my pack on the pack pole (the poles are really tall here), then went down to the creek.  By now it was 107 and hot.  The creek was great and in the shade, so I settled in for the afternoon with my book.  The ranger met everyone coming up and guided them to different places in the creek, and warned everyone about waiting until after 4 to leave.  People coming down kept telling him about a woman on her way up (between the rest houses) who was stranded on the trail.  He couldnít go help her because he had too many people here that needed him.

The people at Indian Garden were nice and funny.  I enjoyed laughing and talking with some of them.  I didnít make it out to Plateau Point at this time.  I felt that it was more important to rest and eat the majority of my foodstuff.  Some of the people in this campground had also been in Phantom and in Cottonwood, so it was almost like talking to old friends.  Also there were new people to meet. 

Around suppertime we all headed to our little sites and prepared ourselves for the next day.  I fixed a freeze dried dinner of mashed potatoes and chicken breast which was really good.  During the day I tried to eat most of my food.  While I set up my tent, I was already thinking about next year.  I went to sleep planning my next trip.

I was already feeling sad about leaving the canyon and dreading the trip up.

The next morning I got up early and prepared to leave.  Everyone else was also up and moving around.  I felt as though I was preparing to enter the twilight zone or something.  I was happy and sad at the same time.  I really enjoyed the peace and quiet in the canyon.  And I knew that I was going to miss this place.

I was almost to the base of the mountain before the sun started peeking over my shoulder.  The higher I climbed the higher it climbed.  I knew by the 3-mile house that I would not win the race to the top.  The 3-mile house is pretty the way it sits on the edge.  I spent some time there resting and eating a quick snack.  Also I changed into dry socks.

The next part seemed to be pretty steep.  And it felt like I was never going to reach the 1-Ĺ mile house.  The mules had left huge holes in the ground where they had stepped over the logs.  It was hard for me to climb over these and I became tired.  It was around 10 when I got to the 1-Ĺ mile rest house.  By now I am hot and tired and there isnít any sign of a creek to wade in.  I changed into my shorts and also changed my socks again.  It was still hot, but also it was cooler that it was at Indian Garden.  In the rest house, I soaked my hair and t-shirt and sat down for a few minutes.  There were quite a few kids standing around talking and laughing.  They had just come down from the top.

After awhile I felt well enough to go on.  I thought the hard part would be over but it wasnít.  There were only a few places that were still in the shade.  On the switchbacks I rested on the left turn and raced up to the next left one.  Okay considering how steep it was I didnít quite race, but I did go up!  Up, Up, Up, then it leveled off some and I could hear the people on the rim talking.  I thought I may be getting closer to rim, but then I just kept walking up.

Then there were people asking if it was far to the bottom, or if it was hot, or something else.  Anything they could think of to get me to stop, and talk to them.  By now I didnít want to talk, all I wanted was to check into my room and get a shower and take a nap.  Well, maybe lunch and a cold drink!

Finally I had reached the top and I was grinning.  I stopped a woman at the trailhead to have her take my picture.  This is the worst picture possible of me and later I couldnít believe I had asked to have it taken!

I had reached the top around noon.  It had taken 7 hours for me to climb out, which really wasn't that bad considering my feet.  My pack weighed 30 lbs when I had started and Iím guessing that is was down to 25 lbs or so.  The hike out was hard.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  And yes next year I'll do it again.

Later after the my shower and a short rest in the room I went back out on the rim and looked down and grinned like I had a secret.  I really felt a huge sense of accomplishment. 

Someone had told me the night before at Indian Garden that they came to the Grand Canyon to find themselves.  I felt as if I had also found myself.

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