GCR3 April 26 - May 1, 2006
3 rims for the price of 2! 5 days for the price of 3! NOW HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY!??
Map, with routes marked in magenta. Base trip length is 44 miles,
but with sidetrips my own mileage stretched to 48.
In late May 1998 the Hiking Club did a 3-day rim-to-rim trip. It was a good trip but the things I'd do differently, I thought, would be to go earlier in the year before the inner canyon gets hot; to spend more than 3 days in the canyon, and to only go with experienced backpackers. Since roads to the North Rim don't reopen til mid-May anyway, an April trip would be 5 days to hike to the North Rim and back.
Planning for this trip started last November, with a group of all experienced backpackers. We met for dinner in the El Tovar Hotel, getting our own dining room and everything! This is the best-looking this group will look. We had a good night's sleep in Yavapai Lodge before beginning our hike the next morning.
Starting at the 7200' South Kaibab trailhead.
Just below the rim..
A Quicktime movie I took on a particularly scenic point of the South Kaibab Trail. (1.1mb, no sound)
. . . More views along the South Kaibab Trail
Quicktime movie of a Parks Service Rescue MD900 'NOTAR' taking off from the Tonto Trail Junction (3.3 mb). That's Steve in the foreground. We heard that the passenger was another of the daily victims who collapsed on the trail. And this isn't even a hot day....
As we descend further toward the river, at the Tipoff we can spy Bright Angel Creek and Phantom Ranch.
I still like simple gear, lightweight and cheap: my 1991 Jansport 'Bryce' external frame pack, plastic Coke bottle from Budapest that's long lost its label, $4 thrift shop ski poles. I cook Ramen dinners on my homemade beer-can methanol stove that weighs 1/10th of an ounce, and I sleep on a Tyvek ground sheet. My packweight for this 5-day trip was lightest in the group at 30 lbs, but I have to concentrate on light weight so I can keep up with the others....
. About a third of the drop from the South Rim is in the Inner Gorge. Here you can see the Black Bridge coming into view.
. Crossing the Black Bridge at the Colorado River, I also took a shot of our feet dusted orange from redwall limestone traildust.
Mark's nickname today is the Headless Green Monster. He took some of the excellent photos posted here.
In the group campsite at Bright Angel Campground.
In the canteen at Phantom Ranch, we struck up a conversation with this guy named Laurant 'Maverick' Gaudreau. Last year he crossed the canyon 45 times. In 2006, to celebrate his 80th birthday, he's attempting to cross 80 times. With his 9-lb base weight pack, he spent 3 hours to hike down from the South Rim, compared to our 5. He left Phantom Ranch at 9:00pm to hike the 7 miles up to Cottonwood in the dark. We saw him back in here at 8:00 the next morning, on his way back up to the South Rim. In the summer, he hikes from the North Rim down to Cottonwood to complete the hike. His best quote was, "My goal is to hike for as long as I can, so that the time span between not being able to hike anymore and my death is minimal. Hopefully, no more than ten minutes." Which on second thought sounds to me kinda like a nasty hiking accident...
Morning of Day 2, we're packed and ready for the 7-mile hike up Bright Angel Creek to Cottonwood Campground.
. Hiking north on Bright Angel Creek through the narrows section called 'The Box'. We enjoyed the shade and gentle upcanyon slope.
. Ribbon Falls! A travertine spring somewhere upcanyon caused the accretion of this enormous moss-coated formation. We watched ouzels playing here and ate lunch in the shade. My biggest regret from our stop here was the photo I didn't get. Mike didn't duck low enough to clear the opening at the bottom of the falls, and shortly thereafter emerged bloody from the top of his head to his waist! Nothing entertains the crowd like a scalp wound. Application of a cold cloth stopped the bleeding without a Bandaid.
As we arrived at Cottonwood Camp, we can look back to see the South Rim. A weak weather system passed over this evening but only dropped a few sprinkles.
Dinner in Cottonwood Camp. Steve enjoys some MRE's left over from Hurricane Katrina. Steve had a pretty hard year, so he thought he should take a hard vacation too...
DAY 3: at "The Bus Stop" on Cottonwood Camp's "Main Street", then we're off to hike to the rim, still on the North Kaibab Trail, 4250 ft up and 14 miles roundtrip.
Of all the springs I've seen, aptly-named Roaring Springs is still the biggest I've seen. Out of a dozen or so caves, water pours out that has percolated through thousands of feet of rock. It serves as South Rim's water supply. By gravity alone, a siphon pipeline supplies this water (via a bridge over the Colorado River) to Indian Garden below the South Rim where a pump station pushes it the rest of the way up.
The climb through the redwall limestone is spectacular
. On top of the redwall is Supai Bridge, then we start up into the Supai Group of sandstone layers that you can see above us. Mark shot the second photo of us from this bridge.
. At the top of the Supai Sandstone is Supai Tunnel. A cool breeze blowing through it felt great. Now we can look up to see the blond Coconino Sandstone, which still is below the rim. At the tunnel, Mark, Mike and Jenny prudently opted to rest before turning back for a liesurely hike back down. This is about 1600' below the North Rim, a hike that still took the rest of us about 4 hours to get back to this point.
At Coconino overlook. Behind me is also the North Rim (Cape Royal Point). If you look about two feet above my head, that layer right below the rim is the same one we're standing on. From here up, we're hiking in the top layer of rock.
Looking across the South Rim at Mt Humphries near Flagstaff
ON THE NORTH RIM!!
Quicktime movie at the trailhead, 968kb. No welcoming committee, no free beer, no services, not even a rim view looking out across the canyon; just an empty trailhead and parking lot on the closed North Rim. No surprise there, but still quite satisfying to not be hiking uphill anymore.
...but not satisfying enough to smile for the trailhead sign picture. (Watch out for Uncle Jim, kids...)
Heading back down, we had a good long stop at Coconino Overlook
Movie on the trail, hiking down toward Supai Bridge. (376kb)
Cool movie (424kb). Can you hear Steve's echo off the redwall?
Heading back down thru the redwall limestone
DAY 4: Packed and heading out of Cottonwood Camp; today will be another 13 miles, and everyone's still going strong.
Enjoying a seat and lemonade at Phantom Ranch, we're about as good-looking as we could be for Day 4. Remember when?
160 kb movie of hiking through Phantom Ranch
River crossing. The mile of trail after the crossing follows the south bank downriver; it's mostly unshaded and in sand. Sure glad it's not any hotter.
You can see both suspension bridges in this view from the River Trail, with some hikers about midspan on the near bridge
. . By the time we got to the mouth of Pipe Creek it was good n warm, so we waited out the heat of the afternoon by chilling in the river or the shelter house there. When Steve stepped into the river, the water around his feet BOILED for like 2 minutes just from the residual heat coming off. I swear, I am not making this up.
We waited til about 4:30 to resume the hike up the Bright Angel Trail. Here's walking into Indian Garden, with the South Rim above
. . ...then we hiked out to Plateau Point at sunset
....so it ended up a pretty long day. Supper in camp, then we'll sleep out on the ground tonight
DAY 5: We have a short but tough 4.5 miles to the rim today. Our group disintegrated into pairs so each could walk at their best pace. This photo is from close to the rim.
On the South Rim! "Dang, we were way down THERE?"
Our official South Rim group photo
. Some well-deserved liquid refreshment in Bright Angel Lodge
The four of us guys stayed in Flagstaff that night. We ate dinner at Alpine Pizza (a Flagstaff institution) and payed homage to the Babbitt's outdoor store. Monday morning we said 'bye to Steve and parted ways. A great trip!!
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