It was a quick trip this time. I flew into Phoenix on Friday night, my buddy Justin flew in from Coeur d’Alene, and his brother Jake flew in from Denver. We rented a car in Phoenix and drove 4 hours North to the Grand Canyon. We also met up with 6 other people that Justin work with, but knew the party would likely split off into smaller groups.
Our latest quest: run the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Callie took me backpacking in the Grand Canyon for my birthday last year, but I’d never done something quite like this before. I ran the marathon a few weeks back in order to help prepare me for the R2R, but let’s be honest, there’s not really a great way to prepare for it because not much can really compare.
**Careful with the volume. This video is quiet, but the next is much louder**
We woke up at 3 am on Saturday to make sure we had enough time to get a little food down and double check that our packs were ready. My pack weighed only 7 lbs, but I probably went over my checklist a thousand times in my head. Jake had sprained his ankle a couple of weeks prior to the trip, so he wasn’t sure how far he could go or if he could even run at all. He started on the trail at 3:30 am in order to gage if he would be able to complete the entire trip based on when we caught up with him.
None of the rangers at the Grand Canyon will ever recommend running rim to rim, and are very reluctant to give any pointers for being able to accomplish it, but at the trailhead they were conducting a survey on rim to rim runners and measuring their weight, what they had to eat that morning, how much water they drank, and any other consumables prior to the run. It was of course voluntary and they gave us zip lock bags to put any wrappers or anything we consumed in the bag. Then they wanted us to stop at a second station in the bottom at Phantom Ranch, and then again at the North Rim.
We headed down the trail at about 4:15 am along with some other people, mostly backpackers, but there were a few other runners out there. Once we got down the trail a mile or so, it was awesome to just stand there and look back at Bright Angel Trail leading back up to the South Rim. There were intermittent trails of headlights with the clearest night sky of stars and moon that I’d seen in a long time.
We made it to Indian Gardens pretty quick, but I made it a point to look around there and imagine what it would be like to spend some time there. Callie’s granddad was in the forest service and once upon a time he was able to spend some time with a friend who was a Grand Canyon park ranger and stayed there at Indian Gardens for a little while.
After Indian Gardens it felt like the trail was a little less rocky and fairly flat for a bit. Around that time we were wishing that we had started closer to 5 am so that we could have experienced more of the south rim in the daylight.
We made it to the Colorado River just after sunrise and I thought about Callie the whole time. She told me that she thought it was so cool that we were going to be able to get all the way to the river and one regret she had was not being able to see the river up close.
This is a pretty legit video that Justin made.
We caught up with Jake at the river crossing, snapped a few pictures and pushed on. A little further up the trail after crossing the river was Phantom Ranch. We refilled our water there and looked around for the rangers who were manning the survey tent for the Phantom Ranch section. A couple other people from our party were able to catch up to us in the amount of time we burned, so the group of two (Justin and I) had swollen to 5.
We kept moving and the group started to separate again. It was beautiful, and down in the bottom of the canyon, you’re shielded from the direct sun so it’s pretty comfortable. We took the advise of a stranger and took a “shortcut” to Ribbon Falls, but that turned out to be a bad idea.
He’s either an asshole or a bushwacking connesseur. It was about a 20 minute detour, so by the time we made our way back to the trail, the people we had separated from caught back up with us.
The 5 of us stayed together for the most part for the rest of the trip. We stayed at Cottonwood Springs for longer than we originally anticipated. There was one member of the group that was nursing a bum knee, so we spent time asking other hikers/runners if they had seen him and what state he was in. On a side note, if you’re not 100% healthy, stay home. It’s way too big of a gamble and expensive as hell if you have to get air lifted out.
Towards the end of the run (that had now turn into practically a crawl) it got hot outside and everyone was just trying to gut it out at that point. We got to the North Rim around 12:30 pm, checked in with the last survey station, and rested. We had two people in our party that were quite a long ways behind us–it turns out, one of them had rolled an ankle, heard a pop, but decided it was a good idea to keep going.. That was at Indian Gardens. Again, if you’re not healthy, don’t risk it. We waited for 4 1/2 hours for them to get out.
While we were waiting, we went to the lodge on the North side, grabbed some brews and enjoyed the view. I think I prefer the North side over the South. There’s less people, the buildings are rustic but nice, and the view of the canyon is out of control.
It was a 5 hour drive back to the South side, which sucked. After running for as long as we did, the last thing we wanted to do was be in an uncomfortable van dreaming about showers, flip flops, and cramming cheeseburgers down our throats. What can you do though? It was a grand adventure and I’d definitely do it again.