Saturday, October 14, 2006

A walk in the Park

This Friday I walked across the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim with a fun group of 10 people. We left the trail Kaibab Trail head on the South Rim at 5:50 AM (in the dark) and started popping out on the North Rim just before 2:00 PM. Somehow, I managed to get out first, completing the 20.9 mile crossing in 8:08:20.

For those unfamiliar with a typical Canyon crossing... here are the basics

South Kaibab Trail Head - 0.0 Miles; 7,200'Elevation
Colorado River - 6.4 Miles, 2,400'Elevation
Phantom Ranch - 6.9 Miles, 2,450'Elevation
Cotton Wood Camp Ground - 14.0 Miles, 4,000' Elevation
North Kaibab Trail Head - 20.9 Miles, 8,241' Elevation

The trip is divided into three distinct parts:

1) A pleasant 6.9 mile walk through the cool morning air from the top of the South Rim to the Colorado River followed by a short hike along Bright Angel Creek to Phantom Ranch.

2) An absolutely beautiful 7.1 mile walk along Bright Angel Creek from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood Camp Ground.

3) A strenuous 6.9 mile hike up the North Rim; climbing 4,241' up to the North Kaibab Trail Head.

Since I took a boat load of pictures and I know that's what you really want to see, I've set this post up as a travel log. I hope you enjoy it.

One of my friends follows me down the South Kaibab trail in the dark. Temperatures at the top at 5:50 in the morning where in the high 30s. Just a perfect morning for a hike.

Dawn was spectacular on Friday morning. I've been in the canyon many times at dawn and every day is different. This morning was crystal clear. The canyon walls exploded with color as the sun slowly came over the horizon.

A few minutes later as the sun continue to climb

I am still fresh at first light

Serious down hill! This is a particular fun part of the South Kaibab trail. It is real bitch when you are coming up it, especially in the afternoon with the sun beating on you; but in the early morning light, it was a joy to walk down these switch-backs.

Hamming it up for the camera on the way down. You'll notice that I have none of these shots on the way up.

The facilities on at the intersection of the South Kaibab and Tonto Trails. The National Park Service thinks of everything.

Heading down into the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River. Once we get down to the river, we'll cross over and head north along the Bright Angel Creek through Bright Angel Canyon.

The first view of the Colorado River looking down into the Inner Gorge.

The suspension bridge across the Colorado River. We are almost at the bottom.

The cables on this suspension bridge where carried to the bottom by chain of people walking down the path we just hiked.

Everyone is still all smiles at Phantom Ranch. I arrived at this point last, covering the 6.9 miles in 2:41:19. I never hurry down the hill. It just doesn't make any sense t rush. We rested at Phantom Ranch for 15 minutes and I filled up my Camel Back in preparation for the 7.1 hike up to Cotton Wood camp ground. It isn't a hard hike up to Cotton Wood, but half of the hike is exposed to the sun and I just wanted to make sure I had extra water should anything happen.

The first three miles along Bright Angel Creek are relatively flat and in the shade. The Canyon walls are high and the canyon is only a few hundred feet wide in this area. Things will change quickly in a few miles however.

Bright Angel Canyon finally opens into a much wider canyon with spectacular views. Just after I took this picture, I had to cross a marshy area of the trail where the ware percolates up through the ground. Being a particularly nimble individual, I managed to slip and do a face plant in the putrid water. After I fell in, I just walked up the middle of the trail through the ankle deep water. I knew I had a fresh pair of socks in my pack and only 3 miles to go before Cotton Wood.

Ribbon Falls

Looking back at the South Rim just north of Ribbon Falls. It's hard to believe we were standing on the top of that rim just a few hours ago. I picked up the pace in this area and lost everyone in my group except one particularly hardy sole. I kept my HR at 110 during most of this easy climb and let the pace ebb and flow as the grade changed. I knew I had a much harder climb ahead and didn't want to start pushing the pace really hard yet.

Looking north towards Cotton Wood. I just love this picture. For me, this is one of the prettiest places on the planet and so few people get to see it. As Grand Canyon pictures go, it doesn't have the dramatic effect of the shots from the rim, but I just like the rugged serenity of this area.

Cotton Wood Camp Ground. The real climb begins just around the corner. It took me 2:08:28 to walk the 7.1 miles up to this point. I got here first, but had some major work to do to get my feet in shape to walk up the North Rim. My toes were still sloshing around in my shoes and blisters would not be far off unless the got them dried off.

The temperature at Cotton Wood was just over 70F. The water facet at Cotton Wood Camp Ground is directly in front of this sign, so I sat on a bench and worked on my feet. Getting all the muck off my arms, hands, face, sun glasses, and feet. I also applied a fresh coat of Vaseline to my toes and slipped into a fresh pair of socks. Ahhhhhh ... fresh socks. The entire operation took 20 minutes, during which time, most of my party caught up with me and headed up the hill. But at least I had dry feet again.

The real climb begins shortly after leaving Cotton Wood. As you can see the gentle climb is over and real work has started. It's every man for him/her self after this point.

This is the last picture I took on the ascent. I just didn't feel like taking anymore pictures. I had decided to push my HR up to 150 and let it drift as high as 155 without backing off. This strategy worked real well. I passed everyone who passed me while I was working on my feet at Cotton Wood and never felt tired during the 4,241' ascent. It took me 2:40:22 to cover the 6.9 mile climb out of Cotton Wood. This is my best time ever up this hill.

Still looking fresh at the top 8:08:20 after starting 20.9 miles earlier. The next person in my group out is an aerobics instructor and followed only 7 minutes later. This women is in incrediable shape and would have kicked my butt had we started from Cotton Wood at the same time; but she started up a few mintues after me and stuck with husband for a 1/2 mile north of Cotton Wood. Had she dumped her husband earlier, she would have easily passed me.

Our ride showed up an hour later with the beer. We waited for the rest of the party to get out of the canyon and headed up to the lodge at the North Rim for a hot shower and a few more beers before dinner.

While up there, I took the next several pictures of the Canyon at sunset.

The canyon walls in the last light of the afternoon

Just after sunset looking south along Bright Angel Canyon to the South Rim. It is hard to believe that we actually walked down off the South Rim and up through Bright Angel Canyon. From this perspective, it looks impossible.

After a bit of dinner and good night's sleep, I got up on Saturday morning for a well deserved RECOVERY RUN. I truly understood the definition of Recovery Run this morning. I was beat. On the hike to Cotton Wood on Friday, I'd stepped on a sharp rock right under my arthritic left big toe and then manage to stub the same toe only minutes later. The big toe on my left foot was inflamed and hurt to walk on. In addition, and much worse, my lower back was extremely sore. When I stood, I couldn't stand vertical, but took on the posture of my 90 year-old future self. It had rained all night and was still raining when I got out the door. I settle on 3 miles as my absolute max.

The first few steps hurt; but by the time I'd shuffled along at 10:00/mi plus for a few hundred yards, my back started to loosen up and pain in my toe subsided. I knew I wasn't ready for a 7:40 tempo run, but the prospect of running 3 miles at 8,200' looked like it might actually happen.

Water on the trail. It was impossible to stay dry.

The Wet Dog look is oh so sexy.

At least it wasn't snowing (yet). The temperature was in the high 30's and very wet. As we drove out of the North Rim on the way home, it did start to snow. We would have been in real trouble if it had snowed all night instead of simply raining.

I'll leave you with a few more Canyon shots taking during my run. This was a heck of trip. I wish you could have all joined me. If you haven't had the opportunity to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you've got to put it on your list of things to absolutely do at some point in your life. Everyone remembers the first time they saw the Canyon. It makes a lasting impression on you even if you never hike into it. My sorry pictures do not do it justice. It's just too expansive and the colors too rich to capture with a camera. You’ve got to come here and see it for yourself.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8.1 miles, easy w/ 10x100m strides, 8:58/mi
Wed - 1.7 miles, recovery, 9:55/mi
Thr - Rest Day
Fri - 20.8 Miles, Grand Canyon Hike
Sat - 3.2 Miles, Recovery


Mike said...

This is probably the first post I've read with a zillion photos where I've actually taken the time to look at them all. What a beautiful trip. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Phil, thank you, for sharing my family and I have never been to the Gran Canyon so what a treat. The photos are great and thank you for the details. Very nice, I'm now looking forward to a visit someday. It's just breathtaking.

Hilda said...

woww, certainly you are lucky to be able to stay there and bieng able to watch it and enjoy it!

Feminist Runner said...

Phil, these are amazing photos. What an incredible adventure -- I am awe-inspired and envious and filled with admiration. I was looking forward to this post and with such good reason.
I definitely have to spend more time in the fine Western portion of our nation. I don't know when I became such an East Coast girl, rarely venturing out of the Middle Atlantic and New England. Now I am motivated to get to know the newer rock formations!

Love2Run said...

Wow, great pictures and details of your hike. It's definitely on my to do list now. Thanks Phil!

Anonymous said...

In one word: spectacular.

Those are great pictures, it looks truly amazing. You might wish we had been there, but not as much as we wished we would have been.

I like the new profile pic, btw.

Anonymous said...

Wow Wow Wow!

great post. I loved the pix.

I just don't get out of the valley enough.

Thanks, pat

Jim said...

Nice write up and great pictures. Like Mike, I normally blow through photo heavy blogs but I read this during lunch and enjoyed every picture. Hope you don't mind if I've saved some off for future use as backgrounds on my computer!

Anonymous said...

Wow, those are great pics.
I hope that when my kids get old enough, we can take a trip and hike the canyon. Sounds like a great time.

Anonymous said...

Phil, thanks for the great post and photos. Next time I'm in the vicinity, I'll definitely walk the canyon. Non of this standing-on-the-edge-looking, like before!


Anonymous said...

Awesome job and amazing pics - thanks so much for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

OK - I flipped through the pics last night, as I was rushed for time. Just read your whole blog - it was a great log of your hike! As you mention about not forgetting your first trip there - I will never forget mine as a kid with my Dad and sister (not quite as far tho). I think I was 12, it was so much fun. We went in Nov/Dec - it was cold, but amazing! Good job on the recovery run and hope you were able to work out all the kinks and not be sore.

Runningdoctor said...

Great stuff, Phil. Did the down-and-up from South Rim to Phantom Ranch 10 years ago. As hyped as the Grand Canyon is, it really isn't over-hyped.

Jenny said...

What beautiful pictures. It looks like an amazing place there and what a result to complete the hike in such a good time! I like your new profile picture too :-)

runliarun said...

Thanks for stopping by. You have pretty cool pictures yourself. I went to Grand Canyon once, and it left me speechless. Which is... a telling detail :).