August 30, 2011

Grand Canyon Second Attempt

On this attempt of the Grand Canyon we visited Mamas in Williams, Arizona.  By pure luck we happened to intersect mamas on a separately planned road trip.  Mamas and Bill with their two road trip companions Mary and John were staying 30 miles west from where we were in Flagstaff.  On 2nd stab at the canyon we made a detour to see Mamas in Williams.  

After catching up on each others trip at the hotel, we agreed to meet at the Grand Canyon the following day.  Now it was time to set up camp for the night.

I woke up early, around 5 am, to start my attempt at running from the south rim to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  Because it was summer and we were at altitude I tried to get on the trail as early as possible so that I would not bake in the desert sun.  Before I even made it to the Bright Angel Trailhead I saw my first elk of the trip.

The Bright Angel Trailhead was quiet at 5:30 am as I plunged towards the Colorado River.
Restroom / water stops were strategically located every mile for the first couple of miles.  Huddled inside each rest stop were tired, thirsty and scared tourists who were pondering their ability to keep going.  Each one of them held a secret desire to see the Colorado River but one by one they would turn back.
Most hikers would not make it because the trail descends almost 5000 feet to the Colorado River before climbing another 5000 ft to the north rim.  The switchbacks were fast and fun as they cut down the canyon.  

I descended very quickly and before I knew it I was dipping my head into the cold and violent Colorado River.  

From there the trail skirts the Colorado for another 3/4 of a mile until you can cross.

Eventually the trail turns into sand which was a nice change but not very fun to run through.  

Almost out of nowhere, a huge, steel suspension bridge appears.  As I was approaching the bridge I watched it sway in the wind, seems safe...

I documented my first traverse of the bridge.  

The landscape completely changed when I crossed the bridge.  I thought for sure I was hallucinating from the heat.  How did I go from desert canyon to lush, green forest?

The sudden decrease in temperature and increase in greenery was a nice relief.  Its too bad I was about to head back into the dry, arid desert.  

With all the picture taking and water bottle refills it was starting to get later into the day.  Meaning that the sun was coming out and Lisa was starting to worry about my whereabouts.  Unfortunately I didn't quite make it to the south rim, just a mile shy.   I was starting to dread what was coming up next - the ascent..

After crossing the Colorado again I came upon the infamous mule train.  The mule ride didn't appeal to me but for most people, this is the only possible way down the steep canyon.  Everyone had on cowboy hats and put on a smile for the camera.

Well, it was now clear that 5am was not early enough.  The clouds moved South leaving me to bake in the sun.  Not to mention the 5000 feet of uphill.

Being inside the canyon provided stunning views.  I took a lot of pictures on the way up, probably because I was dying.  

Looking down on the Bright Angel trail where I was running just half an hour ago.

On the way back up I passed some of the people I met earlier in the morning on the trail.  They thought for sure I was dead and were ecstatic to see me shuffling back up.  So ecstatic that they offered me sports gels, pretzels, granola bars, you name it.  Finally, after six hours I was back at camp with Lisa.  BUT, right as I was turning into the tent site I met my friend mr elk.  He was a little too close for comfort but not interested enough to stop eating that evergreen tree.

After a quick shower we met mamas by the train station, avoided the swarming crowds and had a wonderful lunch on the rim.

Sadly, we said goodbye to mamas and headed to the car for a long trip up to Hurricane, Utah.  On the way out we got to meet some of the mules that take visitors down the canyon.  

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.