Happy Campers - June 30 - July 3, 1996 - Eric and Rick
Rim To Rim...
It had a nice ring to it, but would we be allowed to hike it? Floods closed the trail last year, preventing us from hiking rim to rim. Now, one week before we leave, I hear a report of three fires in the Grand Canyon - two on the North Rim and one on the South Rim. Fortunately, they did not affect us, and the trail was open for hiking.
Our itinerary was as follows:
We left Anaheim at 12:30 A.M. and arrived at the Bright Angel Lodge at 9:00 A.M. thanks to the increased speed limit in Arizona (75 MPH). Fortunately, we were able to find a parking space in front of the lodge. Getting a parking spot in front of the Bright Angel Lodge is almost impossible in the summer.
We had reserved two hikerís stew dinners at Phantom Ranch about four months in advance for July 2, so we had to inform the people at the Bright Angel Lodge that we would be down there. Otherwise, the food would not go down on the mules. Even though all steak reservations were filled four months prior, I (Eric) figured it would not hurt to ask if there had been any cancellations. To my surprise, we were able to exchange our stews for steaks. At only $28 a person, how could anyone resist? The main reason we changed dinners though was because the steaks are served at 5:00 P.M., while those eating stew have to wait until 7:00 P.M. This would allow us to go to sleep earlier, which I figured would be a big plus considering we would be hiking out early the next morning.
We had also reserved two sack lunches. I figured we would pick these up around 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. on July 2, but the receptionist informed us that lunches are picked up at dinner time. I still do not understand this policy.
At 1:30 P.M. we took the TransCanyon shuttle the 220 miles from the South to the North Rim. This way, our car would be waiting for us (or, so we hoped) upon completion of our rim-to-rim hike. We arrived at the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim at 6:30 P.M.
The North Rim is a different canyon compared to the South Rim. The view is more spectacular with more colors in the rocks and more trees on top. The pictures I took at the top proved to be some of the best of the trip.
We checked into our log cabin for the night, but found out we could not eat at the restaurant until 9:30 P.M., as they were booked solid. Since this would mean staying awake for nearly 24 hours straight, we decided against this option. Therefore, we ate at the snack bar, instead. In addition, we decided to buy a couple of submarine sandwiches and store them in our cabin to eat as breakfast the next morning, since the snack bar would not reopen until 7 A.M.
We took our complimentary bag of ice, poured it in two ice buckets, and placed one sandwich on top of each bucket. This kept the sandwiches from spoiling, and I recommend this to anyone wanting to eat breakfast before 7.
The night of June 30 brought rain and thunder, which we hoped would not ruin our trip. We took the 6:00 shuttle (already an hour off schedule) to the trailhead and began to hike on the North Kaibab Trail.
We felt confident that we were prepared for the trip. This was our third hike into the canyon, but the first on the North Rim. We had already suffered the mistake of trying to live on Power Bars and trail mix, and on both occasions, I had run out of film. This trip would be different. We had a 35 pound pack which we would share, complete with tent, stove, powdered food, and 120 exposures. I was afraid I would not be able to take all 120 pictures, since we would not take pictures climbing out on the South Rim, but better to bring too much film than too little.
The trail going down was a breeze; the temperature was about 60 degrees F. I was snapping pictures all the way down, including a great picture of some mule poop. "This picture will show everybody what we had to go through to hike the canyon," I told my uncle. Rick, however, was convinced I had wasted a shot.
We turned off the trail about 5 miles down at Roaring Springs - it looked smaller than the massive waterfall we saw from the trail. I pressed onward while Rick stayed in the smaller spring to soak his feet even longer. Rickís decision proved to be the wise one, since I could not find the springs and had run out of trail to continue. Anyway, we got water, and that was all we needed. We then stopped at the lemonade stand, but the lemonade was pretty weak. I guess it tastes a lot better for those hiking up.
We reached Cottonwood Camp about 11:00 A.M. The shuttle driver advised us to get to the camp early since only two or three sites have shade, but 11:00 did not prove to be early enough. The best site available had a six-foot bush and was close to the Bright Angel Creek and the helispot. We spent an hour or two huddled under the bush during the afternoon, but most of our time was spent in the creek. This was the best spot that we had in the canyon for a number of reasons:
We both agreed that people would pay a lot of money to be able to lay in this cool water and look at the grand sites of the canyon, if this were available in their backyard.
We set up the tent that night, and I went inside around 7:30 P.M., while Rick slept on the picnic bench before climbing in around midnight.
We left Cottonwood around 5:00 A.M. after a hearty breakfast of macaroni and cheese with garden veggies. We had seen about 10 people on the trail the first day, and we would see even less today. (The hike across is made only by those who plan to hike rim-to-rim or a greater distance.) We took the side trip to Ribbon Falls after about a mile of hiking. To those who plan a similar hike, my advise is to KEEP THE PACK WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES WHILE HIKING. We took the pack off just before Ribbon Falls to climb over a five foot rock. The falls were lovely--so tall and so beautiful. There was also a little alcove off to the side, where we found stalagmites and a more lovely view of the falls, not to mention a "Dangerous: Go No Farther" sign which I just had to go behind and get my picture taken to satisfy my rebellious side.
We stayed at the falls for 15-20 minutes as we filtered more water for our Gatorade and protein powders. When we got back to our pack, a squirrel was having a feast. That fat squirrel had eaten a hole in our pack. Fortunately, it got very little food. But we would spend the next three days wondering how much extra we would be charged for bringing back our rented backpack with a big hole in it. If you go to Ribbon Falls and happen upon a squirrel, be sure to throw a few, heavy rocks at it for me. Make it pay for the $10 damage it, or one of its relatives, did.
The rest of the hike on the bottom was hot, as to be expected, but the canyon got lovelier with each step. We were in the Box where the walls were closing in. Rick, who is crazy about echoes, thought this would be a perfect opportunity to let out a few yells, but he received very few echoes. We found that the best echoes occurred about 3 miles down the North Kaibab Trail. (They could have omitted some of the geology stuff and mentioned this in the trail guide.)
With prickly pears and other cacti surrounding us, coupled with the 100+ degrees temperature, we knew we had reached the bottom. I had the honors of carrying the backpack the second day, as Rick had carried it the first day, but we were both feeling great. We reached the Phantom Ranch Canteen around 12:00 P.M. and got some real lemonade. We were also pleased to find their shirts in packages slightly bigger than a wallet to allow for easy carrying. We left about 12:30 to get a good campsite.
We set up camp and ate some eggs for lunch. Those eggs were supposed to have been our breakfast for the next morning, but since the sack lunch would now be our breakfast, the eggs became our lunch. After a dip in the creek, our plans called for a day hike on Clear Creek Trail. Since it was 2:00 P.M. after the dip, the temperature was close to its daytime high of 112 degrees. Therefore, we decided hiking in the direct sunlight to see sights comparable to what we were seeing now would not be worth the trip. Plus, we now had less time to hike since we would be eating at 5:00 instead of 7:00.
Our alternative was to hike down to the Colorado River, since we did not get in its water the last time we were here. The sun was beating down on us and the river, but somehow the river managed to stay 34 degrees, while my body temperature was much hotter. The water was too rough and too cold to dive in, so we just soaked our feet and shirts in it. Iím sure my body was wondering exactly what the temperature was since it was 112 degrees and I was soaking myself in 34-degree water.
We went to the canteen around 4:00 for the "Ask a Ranger" program, but it was canceled that day. The much-anticipated steak proved to be very tough that night. My teeth had never worked so hard to chew up some meat, but with two days of powdered food in my stomach, I was determined to eat the entire steak. The rest of the food was good, along with the two pieces of chocolate cake. The fact that about one-third of the people did not eat their cake is still a mystery, but that just meant an extra piece for me.
Excitement struck our campsite at 7:40 P.M., as we noticed a three-foot Grand Canyon Rattlesnake in our campsite. Rick ran to the rangerís house (he was off-duty by now) to convince him to remove the snake. I stayed put, watching the snakeís every move. The ranger was afraid the snake would die if it was moved, so he refused to move it. Rickís statement that it was better for the snake to die than him finally inspired the ranger to come out to remove the snake. By this time, it was dark and the pictures taken by us and other campers had already scared the snake away. In hindsight, I guess it was better that we left the snake alone, but I would have had a couple more hours of sleep that night if I knew that the snake was dead.
We were on the trail with flashlights at 3:20 A.M. after eating the sack lunches for breakfast and repacking every item that we had to place in the squirrel-proof boxes the night before. I think it was still about 90 degrees in this, the "cool of night", but we knew it would only get hotter. Having hiked Bright Angel Trail out before, we knew that a long, grueling, uphill climb was to be expected.
Rick carried the pack up to Indian Gardens, which is the place where I totally lost any civilized behavior remaining and concentrated merely on survival. I was to carry the pack from Indian Gardens to the 3 mile resthouse and from the 1 Ĺ mile resthouse to the top. Therefore, I started pouring water all over.
We had put on no deodorant for three days, so I was stinking so bad that I could smell myself. Thatís why I just didnít care anymore! These last 4 Ĺ miles meant we would see at least two hundred people, and some of these people with their cameras and 32oz. water bottles had the audacity to think that I, a rim-to-rim hiker going uphill with a 35 pound pack, should stand to the side while he or she, the tourist going downhill, moseyed on down. Let the record show that not once did I step aside to let somebody through. I was going up without detours; however, I was smart enough to stand aside for the mules.
Since I was slower than Rick when I was carrying the heavy pack uphill, Rick often talked to other hikers going up or down. He had lost his civilized behavior by shouting out random statements, such as "The old manís doing it," and "Donít count the old man out." He also happened to mention to others that we were hiking rim to rim, so we had our own groupies in the last 1 Ĺ miles.
At the 1 Ĺ mile resthouse, I poured a gallon of water on my head, while Rick poured water down my back. We were crazy, but we were going to make it to the top. Just before the top, we saw a wild goat on the hillside, and one of our groupies took a picture of us by the goat. By 11:00, we had made it to the top, and a groupie took our last picture. We had taken 120 pictures, and I could have easily taken another 20 or so. Exhausted and hungry, we staggered to the car, which was still in the Bright Angel Lodge parking lot. By the time we put our pack in the car and headed to the restaurant inside, about four motorists had asked if we were leaving.
Yes, we were back in civilization, with no injuries or discomforts suffered during our journey. We went inside and ate what they called lunch. (It was our fourth meal of the day.) We found out that the Grandview trail is very steep and rocky, and a thunderstorm was coming to top it off. In fact, lightning caused a power outage while we were eating. We decided at this point that rim to rim was enough, so we headed home. I kept thinking about the thousands of people, many from Europe, who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to the Canyon, yet missed most of the Canyonís beauty by staying on top. They traveled many miles but stopped a few miles short of the grand beauty of the Grand Canyon.
1) Chicken and dumplings with peas, 2) Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, 3) Macaroni and cheese with garden veggies, and 4) Scrambled eggs were the four meals of powdered food that we ate. All turned out well except for the pancakes. My recommendation is to eat for breakfast the meal that takes the least amount of cooking time, since you want to start hiking as soon as possible (at least, you do in the summer). For us, this was the macaroni and cheese with garden veggies. I also recommend eating the sack lunch for breakfast the next morning. This way, you do not have to cook in the dark, you can start earlier, and the meal you have should be reasonably tasty.
Our snacks consisted of Mt. Baldy trail mix, turkey jerky, and beef jerky. These were adequate snacks, and we knew from last time not to get the trail mix with chocolate. Eating chocolate in the morning did not set well with our stomachs last year. Power Bars were also left behind this year. Ever try a Power Bar at 2:00 A.M.? Sadly, I must say that I have.
We also brought along powdered Gatorade and some powdered protein mix that I obtained at a nutrition store. Again, these were excellent choices. If you decide to purchase the protein mix, make sure it mixes easily with water. This means you should get whey protein not egg. Since we mixed our drinks in the plastic bottles with pull-top caps, the opening was too small to pour the mix in. Therefore, we brought along a funnel. You have to have some patience to get all of the thick, protein powder into the bottle, so be aware of that when you are planning your provisions.