Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day"

No, we RAN from the canyon rim to the river to the other rim and back again... in LESS than ONE day!

The adventure was organized by fellow Trail Headz Lorraine Gersitz. Here's the gang:
* Double crossers: Shelli, me, Trail Headz Marisa Willment, John Rosmus, Eric Clifton (sporting his colorful JesterWear), Marty, Nils and Steve from Georgia.
* Lorraine, Trail Headz Robbi Woolard and son Nick, Janice Anderson from Georgia, and Old Goats Steve and Annie Harvey all ran routes up to 30 miles.

Headlamps on, flashlights in hand we set off just after 6:00 a.m. from the South Kaibab trailhead near Yaki Point (7260 ft).

About 5 minutes into the descent, off came the first of the layers. As the sun started to rise above the canyon, it started to get warm.

Here we are at Skeleton Point just after daybreak, still smiling.

Then came the steps. I never realized just how many steps there were leading down, down, down....

and across the Colorado River suspension bridge into Phantom Ranch (2546 ft).

Shelli and me taking a well-deserved break at Phantom Ranch before heading up North Kaibab (Roaring Springs) Trail towards Cottonwood (4065 ft).

At Cottonwood campground with Lorraine.

From Cottonwood we climbed up to Roaring Springs Junction (5200 ft), Redwall Bridge (6062 ft), Supai Tunnel (6840 ft) and up to the North Rim at the North Kaibab trailhead (8255 ft). Spectacular views all the way. Creek crossings, waterfalls, desert plants, lush green foliage, wide flat trails, steps, steep dropoffs - you name, it's there to experience.

And finally, we made the North Rim just before 2:00 p.m....

where we bummed water from the rangers working at the trailhead (did I mention there's no water from Roaring Springs to the North Rim in October), changed our shirts, ate a little, rested a little and headed back down the trail.

Unfortunately, we got back to Phantom Ranch after our cutoff of 5:00 p.m. By this time, Shelli and I would both have killed for some of the delicious smelling vegetarian chili the campers were eating but none was forthcoming. We had to make do with yet another meal of trail mix, gu and energy drinks, eaten in the dark by the light of our headlamps.

Tired, hungry and sick from all the sugary energy products we'd consumed all day, we had to make the call whether to spend the night at Phantom Ranch and hike back out the next day or just go for it. After a phone call to my (very worried) hubby and boys, I decided I wanted out of the canyon. Off we set on Bright Angel Trail in the pitch black, stumbling along looking for signposts.

The trail parallels the Colorado River for about 2 miles and then starts the steep ascent to the rim. Again, those darn steps. They rise like Mt Everest out of the dark and require enormous amounts of energy to climb (or maybe I was just exhausted by this point?). Up the steps, over streams, through Indian Gardens (which I'm sure is pretty in the daylight) to the 3 mile Rest House.

Shelli lay down on the bench in the shelter for a well-deserved nap while I paced nervously imagining every kind of beastie lurking in the shadows. Shelli would happily have spent the night there wrapped in her emergency blanket; I saw the marks on the bear box and decided we WERE getting out of the canyon THAT night. So off we set again, one step at a time.

It took 5 hours for us to make that 9.5 mile hike from Phantom Ranch. I saw the lights of the buildings at the rim, then a signpost and I jumped up and down like a child. I was SO happy to have made it. A quick call to hubby (to avoid the cost of a Search and Resue operation), a note left for Lorraine (so she wouldn't worry) and Shelli and I crashed for a couple of hours in the back of Shelli's truck. Too exhausted to move, too sore to sleep but at least we weren't climbing those darn steps anymore. Back to the hotel to get cleaned up and breakfast!

What an amazing experience! A weekend of experiences: a night sleeping in the back of Shelli's truck at a Flying J, my longest run ever both in terms of distance (45 miles) and time (18 hours), sharing the adventure with ultrarunning legends, making new friends, sore legs, blistered feet, total exhaustion, incredulous comments of "you did WHAT!". Would I do it again? Probably.... but no time soon!

See more photos at http://grandcanyonr2r2roct08.snapfish.com/snapfish

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