Friday, June 4, 2021

Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 5, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Link to Day 2

Link to Day 3 

Link to Day 4

Day 5 was our last day in the Canyon, on Friday, May 21, 2021.  The night before had been very windy, with regular gusts that woke each of us up.  Despite our shortest hike of the week, we packed up and headed onto the trail early that day, before the sunlight hit any part of the canyon walls.

I had hiked this section twice before - in 2008 with a friend after a couple of nights in Bright Angel Campground along the Colorado River, and in 2010 with my then-10 year old son on a single overnight to Indian Garden Campground.  Now 21, he was excited to return to this trail section and explore his memories from the previous outing.  We attempted to recreate multiple photos taken during that earlier trip.  Frankly, I prefer the shots where he looks older, compared to the ones where I look older.

The final day's hike started out on the Bright Angel Trail from Indian Garden at a 9 percent grade, climbing through the open canyon until it hits a series of switchbacks that ascend at a 14 percent grade.  Even hiking to Indian Garden as a dayhike is very achievable for many people, and there are several major landmarks dividing the hike, with Indian Garden Campground, 3 Mile Resthouse, and 1.5 Mile Resthouse dividing the ascent.

The only real excitement to this trip segment was the appearance of a helicopter, which dropped supplies to a hiker that had reportedly spent the night on the trail after an injury.  Later we came across a large contingent of paramedics running down the trail to meet the hiker with a stretcher that had a single thick tire.  We did not envy those folks bringing that load back up the trail!  The hiker was off trail, and I passed that hiker without noticing the makeshift campsite or injured hiker.

The entire hike segment from Indian Garden Campground to the South Rim was:

4.7 miles
2884 feet gained
2:16 moving time
0:32 stopped time

After 5 days below the rim, it was time to hop in the car, drive to Flagstaff and find a Taco place for lunch and a beer before our two groups went their separate ways.  Will and I headed north through a sandstorm to Kanab, Utah, on our way to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 4, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Link to Day 2

Link to Day 3 

Day 4 of our 2021 Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim was my toughest day of hiking.  It really was two separate hikes.  The first was from Cottonwood Campground, halfway up the North Rim to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River.  It was slowly downhill over 7+ miles.  Then, after stopping at Phantom Ranch for lemonade, we climbed up the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground for our final night in the Canyon.  

An early start meant that the the hike to Phantom Ranch was shaded and cool.  I enjoyed this section just as much the second time as I had two days earlier when I first experienced it.

We left camp at 6:40AM, about an hour after sunrise.  It took us 2.5 hours to get to Phantom Ranch, plus about 10 minutes stopped time.  We stayed at Phantom Ranch for about a half hour, then put the packs back on to finish the day's journey.  

After Phantom, the next couple of miles is relatively level.  We crossed the Colorado on a steel pedestrian bridge, and paralleled the river until we reached a side canyon with some privies.  The trail along the Colorado was different than any of the trail we had experienced before.  That is something that always surprises me about the Grand Canyon - there are so many different experiences along the way.

About 2 miles after crossing the river, we came to a canyon with a stream and a building with privies. The trail cut in there and started to climb.  Parts of the trail were relly steep for short sections - my data indicates a 41% grade for about 200 feet as part of the climb.  

You can see from the photo above how exposed the trail was during this climb.

At higher elevations, the trail followed a canyon made by a stream bed.  Lots of birds and trees were in the stream bed below.  Eventually the stream bed rose up to meet the trail, and parts of the trail were pretty muddy from the stream crossing.  

We all made it to the campground at different times.  The young hikers were first and picked out a campsite.  I arrived next and when I arrived, the young guys headed back down the trail to help Mike, while I watched the backpacks and started to set up camp.  Mike was most appreciative of the help, as the trail was even hotter when he made it to the top.

I set up my tent, but had to weigh it down with several large rocks as a wind started to pick up.  That wind never ended, and roared through camp all night - keeping us awake much more than any of us would have liked.  We were all pretty spent, and passed time for the rest of the day re-hydrating and playing multple hands of Hearts card games.  There are fewer photos during this portion of the hike compared with other days - I think it is because this was a tough slog.

The Indian Garden Campground was much more active than Cottonwood had been, and I remembered bits and pieces from when I had camped here with Will eleven years earlier, shown below.

Day 5 description: Link.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 3, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Link to Day 2

Day 3 was our longest hike and greatest climb, but we did it as a dayhike because we had permits for two nights at Cottonwood Campground.  We left our tents up and our extra food in the bear box, taking only what we would need that day.  And there were two water stations along the way, which meant that we did not need to load up on water.  They were not ideally located, however: one was about 1.5 miles from the start and the other 1.5 miles from the end of a 7+ mile hike each way.

The map above is not totally accurate - the water at Roaring Springs was shut off.  But we knew this before we left and could work around that.  The first rest area, Manzanita, came up fast. The climb was pretty negligable and we were fresh that morning.  We stopped here to top off the water bottles, "camel up," and use the privy.  We passed the side trail to Roaring Springs at about the 2 mile mark.

Roaring Springs is a sacred site to me, as I camped here with my high school group on July 4, 1974. (Unfortunately, I have no photos from that overnight.) I had not been back to this part of the Canyon since, and was excited to again experience a trail section I had completed as a teenager. We still had a climb of nearly 3500 feet ahead of us, over a five mile length, and I was glad that this time I was not carrying my tent and sleeping gear.  I hoped when passing here that I would have the energy on the way back down to hike the extra 0.6 miles to the old campsite, which is no longer maintained as a campsite by the NPS.

You can see the younger hikers well above my location, in an area with many switchbacks
that I remember from my 1974 hike.

Here they are at the Supai Tunnel water/privy station.  
I don't remember this spot, though I remember the tunnel.

After Roaring Springs, my GPS went kind of off track - in the same places in both directions.  This is curious, because the canyon was more wide open than it had been the day before.  So my data in this area is not accurate.  Continuing to climb we crossed a bridge before taking on additional switchbacks.

We met the young hikers at Supai Tunnel, which had privies and water.  They were content sitting in the shade waiting for us, as shown in the photo above.  

While I remember the tunnel from 1974, I do not remember available water or privies.

We started to see a lot of people on the trail at this point, most of whom had come down from the North Rim Trailhead, 1.5 trail miles ahead.  The remaining trail was hot and fairly steep, but we knew we were near the top and the views were spectacular.

We celebrated at the top, taking our photos in front of the trail sign.  And we talked with a guy from Colorado who was at the trailhead filling up water bottles.  He ended up offering to take our packs and Mike to the Campground store, which was great! Will and Cole and I walked the 3/4 mile mostly flat trail and met them there.  We bought Gatoraids and sandwiches, along with a beer apiece to carry back to our campsite and chill in the nearby stream.  We ate lunch on the store's porch because there weren't any nearby tables.

We hiked back to the trailhead and I texted my wife - there wasn't sufficient service to actually call.  Then we dropped down the trail to retrace our steps.  

The views were just as wonderful on the return trip!  

The young hikers met us again at Supai Tunnel, about 1.5 miles down the trail.  There, we met a young woman from Culpepper, Virginia, who was doing a R2R2R trail run with her husband.  "Where is your husband," I inquired.  "He ran to the top, but I'm waiting for him because I twisted my ankle," she replied.  Then she told me that they were together going to run back to the South Rim that day.  I do not know if they ever made it, but continuing to the North Rim and then hiring a shuttle to drive her back to the South Rim would have made more sense to me.

We also encountered several women ascending that we had met earlier.  The major character was a 70+ year old tiny woman who had fainted in the Cottonwood Campground the night before.  Her female companion called for help and eventually got most of the camp to help her.  They both wanted to continue that night, despite the utter lunacy of continuing another 7 miles and 4000 feet ascent after one of them passed out on the trail.  When we would ask the woman how she was feeling, her stock answer was "humiliated!"  I tried to convince her that we were interested in her physical, and not emotional state, but it was all about her ego.  (Not to mention her good fortune in passing out in the middle of the only campground over 14 trail miles.) Even the next day, when hiking out, she had little to say and was not at all appreciative of what had been done for her.

At Supai Tunnel, we told the young guys to hike back to camp at their pace and to make sure to get those beers into the stream so they would be nice and cold upon our arrival.  When we went through the tunnel, however, there was Cole - appearing to be getting ready to shotgun one of the beers!  Turned out that dropping his pack at Supai had created a pinhole in the beer can, and despite using Moleskin to attempt to plug the leak, that beer was going to be empty before camp.  So they shared it then, as shown in the photo below.  

Entering the switchbacks.

In the photo above, taken just after Supai Tunnel, you can see the young hikers and the bridge in the distance.  Many of the day hikers descended to the bridge and then returned, but one experienced hiker we ran into pointed out that the view is pretty similar from this photo point to the bridge, so the additional hiking really is not necessary to get the feel of this part of the trail.  We descended slower than the young guys, but still passed a backpacker that we had encountered at Supai on the way up.  He was headed to Cottonwood Campground and eventually made it - much slower than we had hiked.

And I did travel the side trail 0.6 miles to Roaring Springs - surprisingly encountering three other hikers on that short trip.  The trail was in rough shape and the privies were closed (though a ranger later told me he thinks that closure is just for 2020-21).  The area is sloped enough that I'm not sure where my group would have camped in 1974.  The only likely area is a small area once used as a mule rest. (Mules only go as far as Supai Tunnel at this point, so it has been unused for a while.)  Still, it was great to go back there and think about that night in my epic trip from so long ago.  Below are three views of Roaring Springs from my side hike.

Old Roaring Springs area.

The rest of the trip back was uneventful, and we really enjoyed the cold beers when we returned!  We also spent some time in the Roaring Springs Creek, soaking our muscles in the cold water.

Relaxing in the stream.

It was great to re-hike those miles from 1974 - they may have been my first ever backpacking miles as I don't remember ever actually backpacking in Boy Scouts in Illinois - Illinois does not present a lot of backpacking opportunities.  I am grateful for my original trip there and also for this year's return.

Day 4 description: Link.


Rim2Rim2Rim Backpack, Day 2, Grand Canyon, May 2021

This posting has nothing to do with Virginia, and is instead my attempt to document details of a Grand Canyon 5 day backpacking trip I took in May, 2021.

Link to Day 1

Our second day in the Canyon was also the easiest.  And, unlike the first day which followed trail that I had hiked at least once before (parts had been hiked 3 times), much of this day's hike was brand new to me.  We hiked north on the North Kaibab Trail from Phantom Ranch to the Cottonwood Campground.

The mileage on this day was longer, and the ascent was greater, but Day 1 featured a big descent and trail that was beaten up by mule use.  Mules do not currently use this trail north of Phantom Ranch at the very southern end of our journey.

The key to this day's hike is to get through an area known as "The Box" early in the day, before the sun rises to the point that it heats up the dark rock towering over the trail - creating a very hot environment. That section is about 5 miles long and starts shortly after leaving Phantom Ranch.

We followed our plan, which was to pack up in advance of the 6:30 serving of our Phantom Ranch breakfast, carried our packs with us to breakfast, and head north from there just after breakfast was  over.

Day Two was exceptionally beautiful, but in a very different way than Day 1.  Whereas Day 1 featured expansive views of canyon over many miles of distance, Day 2 was through a tight canyon with high walls.  There were few distant views.  But the rocks were beautiful and the crowds were the smallest we would experience the entire trip.  

Packing up at our Bright Angel campsite.

Entering the 5 mile section known as The Box.

Our young hikers ahead of us on the trail.

After hiking out of The Box, the Canyon started to open up.

Relaxing after finishing the day's hike.

Our Cottonwood campsite at the end of our day.

This was not a hard hike, even with full packs.  As a result, we reached the Cottonwood campsite that would be our home for two nights by 10AM.  The young hikers sped ahead and picked out Campsite #10, which is the only campsite with much shade during the day.  I referred to the Cottonwood Campground as "one good campsite and a bunch of crappy ones," though after the sun went down (it happens early in the Canyon), it didn't matter much whether the site had trees.  I think we got the best individual site,  

There was only one other campsite taken when we arrived, though its occupants were not there.  By that night, every campsite except the group campsite was taken.  The group campsite was not used our first night and it was also a really nice site.  It was interesting to me because the itinerary of my high school group outing in 1974 originally listed Cottonwood as our destination, though we did not travel that far to camp overnight.

The campground also had a water spigot, privies, and an unmanned ranger station.  The North Kaibab Trail was closer to the sites than trails connecting any of the other campgrounds - we were five feet from the main trail.

Day 3 Description: Link.