Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rim to Rim

Rich, Jake, Rich, Wes and me at the South Kaibab TrailheadOut of the blue a few weeks ago, my neighbor Rich asked if I would be interested in joining him and some other guys on a three-day hike in the Grand Canyon. I thought about it for a few days, talked it over with Nan, and decided to go. Hiking the Grand Canyon is one of those big items on the list of things you want to do in your life, and I didn't know if I would get another opportunity.

Rich, his stepson Wes, and Wes's buddies Rich and Jake met me at the North Rim this past Tuesday morning, then we took a shuttle around to the South Rim and started down the South Kaibab Trail. Nan and I had been to the Grand Canyon back in 1994 during a spring road trip and we had hiked a little ways down both the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails, but the experience this time was even more spectacular than I remembered it, probably because we were going to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim.

One vertical mile and seven actual miles later, we arrived at the Colorado River and crossed the footbridge to the Bright Angel Campground, next to Phantom Ranch, our home for the night. Rich had called ahead to get us on the dinner list, so instead of eating freeze-dried meals, we enjoyed steaks, baked potatoes and beer at the Canteen. We were living large!

Spectacular Ribbon Falls in the Grand CanyonThe next morning, we hiked seven miles up the North Kaibab Trail to the Cottonwood Campground. After unloading our packs, we backtracked to Ribbon Falls, one of the prime attractions in the Canyon, to cool down. Then it was back to camp for freeze-dried dinners and an early bedtime. We wanted to get a cool, early start for the almost vertical final day.

The hike up the endless switchbacks to the North Rim was beautiful until we passed through the Supai Tunnel. From there to the top, organized mule trips go and up and down the trail, making it a dusty, stinky, fly-ridden experience. We felt bad for the tourists who only go that far. They miss out on the great hiking and clean trails that we experienced for the previous nineteen miles.

Wes, Jake and Rich crossing one of the bridges on the North Kaibab TrailBack at the North Rim Visitor Center, we bought the obligatory "I Hiked Rim to Rim" T-shirts and talked about what to do next year. I suggested the Chicago Basin in southwestern Colorado, which can only be reached by taking the Durango-Silverton train and then backpacking in on a steep old C.C.C. trail. But it's the only place in Colorado where you can see mountain goats in the wild and it's home to three of Colorado's 14ers, so it would be well worth it. We'll see...

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