Anybody Who Hikes The Grand Canyon Rim To Rim Is A Dummy
This is my third Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. One overnighter and two one day hikes. A lot of my friends thought I was a dummy the first time, so I guess I just keep getting dumber(is that a word?). My first time was down the Bright Angel trail with an over night stay at Phantom Ranch. The temperature hit 105 degrees in the shade. The hike out was grueling, but I soon wanted to do it again, but without the overnight stay.
The second time was in October of 2007 with my friend George from Colorado Springs. We went down North Kiabab and out Bright Angel. George hadn't been able to get in real good shape and had a hard time but made it out okay. Our time was 13 hours.
Some friends that didn't think I was a dummy started talking about wanting to do the hike so I planned another in May of 2008 and sent out a notice. I had quite a few takers and some ended up not being able to go, but in the end there were seven of us.
The final list of hikers on this trip was quite a cross section:
Vernile, (me) 61 years old, retired, New Harmony, Utah
Clay, (my son) 36 years old, family practice physician, Rexburg, Idaho
Jay, (my wife's brother) 49 years old, engineer, St. George, Utah
Mitch, (Jay's son-in-law) 25 years old, accountant, Logan, Utah
Lee, (my wife's sister's husband)58 years old, banker, St. George, Utah
Bryan, (Lee's son & my nephew) government employee, St. George, Utah
Jeff (friend) about 48 years old, contractor, Kamas Utah
I was the only one that had done this hike before so I was kind of looked on as the team leader. Or maybe it was out of respect for my age. I encouraged everyone to get in shape by doing as much hiking as possible. I knew the younger guys would make it okay, but I also knew an older guy really needs to be in shape.
Three weeks before the hike Jay discovered he had a hernia. Two weeks before the hike he had it repaired. three days before tha hike his doctor cleared him to go.
I made reservations for four cabins at the North Rim about four months before the hike. The only place to stay on the North Rim is at the Grand Canyon Lodge and Cabins, or in the campground. Either way, reservations are required and should be made well in advance to insure you have a place to stay. When George and I hiked I couldn't get a room so I reserved a camp spot. Two days before the hike I checked and a cabin had become available so I took it. I ended up paying for the camp spot reservation because it ws too late to cancel it, but it was worth it.
Myself, Clay, Jay and Mitch us met up in LaVerkin and drove through Zion National Park and played nine holes of golf at Mount Carmel. We met Jeff in Kanab and Lee and Bryan in Fredonia. We pooled vehicles from there and drove on to the North Rim.
One of the real problems with this hike is getting back to your vehicle. There is a shuttle that runs once a day at a very inconvenient time and last time I checked it cost $75.00 per person. Rental cars do not exist on the North Rim or the South. We were lucky in finding another group that was hiking the opposite direction the day after our hike, so we made arrangements to return their vehicles to the North Rim for them. We agreed to buy the gas which cost around $200.00, but that's a lot cheaper than $75.00 per person.
We all ate dinner at the Lodge shich also requires reservations. The food is a little pricey, as expected, and what it lacks in quality is made up in atmosphere. The view from the lodge is incredible, especially right about sundown.
Breakfast and lunch on the day of the hike was everyone for himself. There isn't much open at the hour we planned to leave, so everyone brought whatever they wanted. Muffins, juice, oranges, bananas, boiled eggs, and yoghurt seemed to be the most popular.
Water is a big factor and everyone was encouraged to be able to pack around 140 liters. There are several watering spots along the trail but you never know for sure if there will be water or not. On this trip the spigot at the Supai Tunnel was dry.
Hydration is extreemly important when hiking in the desert. This means drinking plenty of liquid and eating as you go. Salty foods are recommended, along with carbs for energy. When you get hot and sweaty you really don't want to eat, but you must force yourself. If you don't, you will loose electrolites as well as fluid, and heat stroke and or dehydration will result and you could die.
We were a little later than I wanted getting off and finally hit the trail around 6:30 am local time. It was daylight by then so we had no trouble following the trail. Just to give you a flavor of the weather, there was frost on the grass as we left our cabin, and within a few hours we were in 90+ heat.
We split into groups based on speed. I am always raring to go and was usually in the first group. We decided on several places where we would wait until the entire group had arrived before proceeding, just in case anyone got into trouble. the fiorst stop was at Supai Tunnel, about two miles down into the canyon. Those in the first group waited almost twenty minutes for the last, but encouraged them to walk faaster if they wanted to be out of the canyon before midnight.
The North Kiabab Trail begins at around 8,000 feet and winds its way down through the pines, but the vegetation quickly changes to more desert as you descend into the canyon. At five miles down you get a view of Roaring Springs, a huge spring on the side of the hill spews a gushing cascade of water into the canyon. This is where all the water for both the North and South Rims comes from. There is a pumping station here and a pipeline all the way across the canyon.
A couple of miles beyond Roaring Springs is the Ranger Cabin. There is a water spigot here and a picnic table as well as a heliport for emergencies. We waited around fourty-five minutes before our entire group made it, but thus far everyone was in good shape. I took the time to remove my shoes and socks and cool my feet under the tap as well as eat some snacks.
The next rest stop was Cottonwood Campground, which is seven miles down, half way between The North Rim and Phantom Ranch. By the time you reach here the terrain is mainly desert and has leveled off considerably. One of my favorite attractions when hiking in this area in the spring is the Utah Aguave, the sword like plant that sends a bloom as many as ten or more feet into the air.
After you leave Cottonwood, the trail follows Bright Angel Creek all the way to the Colorado. Seven more miles of pretty easy hiking and you arrive at Phantom Ranch. There is a bunch of cabins, some for families and some dormatory style, a cafeteria, which is available only by reservation, a ranger station and stables. Phantom Ranch was once a thriving resort with swimming pool, restaurant and the works. Rich folks were transported in via pack mules for a fairly exclusive vacation a long ways from the traffic. We rested here for about an hour after everyone arrived, so for some of us it was more like two hours.
From Phantom Ranch you go on down Bright Angel Creek for less than a mile then cross the Colorado River on a suspension foot bridge. From ther the trail follows the river downstream for another mile, then heads out of the canyon. I think this section of the hike is the toughest, and others must also because a section of it is called "The Devil's Corkscrew". The trail climbs fairly quickly, zig-zagging up a dry and dusty sidehill and you will probably hit it at the hottest part of the day. Be sure you have plenty of water when you leave Phantom Ranch because it is quite a ways without any.
As you come out of this section of the canyon the trail levels off for a ways then comes into a veritable oasis called Indian Gardens. There is tap water here as well as picnic and camping facilities and a ranger station. It is six miles from here to the South Rim, mostly at a pretty steeep grade, with water usually available at two intermediate rest stops. We were late enough in the afternoon that we had shade most of the rest of the way. the first of our group maade the South Rim at around 8:30pm, others straggled in for the next hour.
We barely made it to the cafeteria at the Yavapi Lodge, but we had a good meal then settled in for the night. Jay and Mitch got up early and met the folks with the vehicles and we were all up and heading back to the North Rim by 7:30 am, this time in air conditioned comfort. It is about a 4.5 to 5 hour drive from South Rim To North Rim. We traded the vehicles we drove around for our own and headed for home. Even Jeff who had to drive all the way to Kamas made it at a reasonable hour. I think Mitch stayed in St. George and went home on Sunday.
It will cost you $25.00 per vehicle for park access. Camping at the rim or in the canyon requires a permit which must be reserved well in advance. Lodging at the North Rim is scarce because there is only one Lodge/Cabin area so reservations must be acquired well in advance. There are about five different lodges/hotels on the sSouth rim so it is easier but should also be made in advance. You are not allowed to stay in the canyon overnight without either a reservation at Phantom Ranch or a camping permit.
The North Rim does not open until May 15, and not a minute sooner we learned by sad experience on our first hike). The trans-canyon shuttle runs from May 15 through October ?? depending on weather, and north to south leaving the North Rim at 7:00am. It runs south to north leaving the South Rim at 1:30pm.
There are many campgrounds in the canyon, three along the route I have described. The first is Cottonwood, the second is on Bright Angel Creek near Phantom Ranch, the third is at Indian Gardens. There are many others on different trails and routes for those wantiong to see different parts of the canyon. Camping is by reservation only and I think it costs about $12.00 per night. There are also campgrounds at both rims.
Watch Out For
There are several things you need to look out for when hiking in the Grand Canyon. There are rattlesnakes, scorpins and mountain lions. You will probably not see any of these, but don't mess with them if you do. If you leave them alone thay will probably try their best to get out of your way.
I think the most important aspect of hiking the Grand Canyon is hydration. Temperatures can reach 120+ in the summer and you cannot replace water as fast as your body uses it in those conditions. I do not recommend hiking this area in June-August. regardless of when you hike, DO YOUR HOMEWORK and be prepared. People die of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion in the canyon every year, even people who are in great shape. Don't be one of them!
The best website Ihave found for park information is the official NPS site found at http://www.nps.gov/archive/grca/grandcanyon
Another good site is http://www.grand.canyon.national-park.com